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View Full Version : What is the difference between Steven and Stephen?


CheeseDonkey
07-25-2012, 10:01 AM
That is, why are there two spellings of that name? And how many words have a "ph" that makes a "v" sound?

Exapno Mapcase
07-25-2012, 10:07 AM
Hate to say it, but Yahoo answers (http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080611065844AAdUzzx) has a great, understandable explanation.

The ph(f)-v change is answered with more examples at English Language usage (http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/9772/why-is-the-ph-pronounced-like-a-v-in-stephen-is-this-the-only-word-like-t).

CalMeacham
07-25-2012, 10:11 AM
They are in effect the same name. It's my real-life first name, and I use them interchangeably. (It's derived from my grandfather's name, a foreign version of the same). Ultimately, it derives from the Greek Stephanos, the protomaryr mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, and I have no doubt it was pronounced with an -f- sound, as it is in most of the world. The -v- sound is, I suspect, an English (and later, American sand other colonial) affectation, the same way the English-speaking world voices the "J" in "Jesus" differently from the rest of the world. How this evolved into a -v- sound I do not know, but it's woreth noting that my grandfather's name didn't use an -f- pronunciation, either, so variations of the name go beyond English-speaking eccentricity.


"Steve" seems to me clearly a familiar form based on the -v- pronunciation of the letters in "Stephen". Its dereivation is obvious, and no further explanation is necessary.



As for changes from -f- sound to -v- sound, I can't think of any for the "ph" spelling right now, but it's not unusual for plurals -- the plural of elf, after all, is elves. And the plural of shelf is shelves. And the plural of wife is wives. And of life is lives. Think a while and you'll comke up with others.

dolphinboy
07-25-2012, 10:19 AM
My first name is Steven, and when I was growing up I was told that Stephan was the 'old fashioned' spelling while Steven was the modern spelling.

My best friend and his wife had a child a few years ago and named him 'Stephan'. They keep calling him my namesake even though the spelling is different. When I asked them why they chose that particular spelling they said because it was more 'traditional'.

So modern versus traditional spelling, I think that's the difference here.

John Mace
07-25-2012, 10:21 AM
"V" is just the voiced version of "f". They are the voiced and voiceless labiodental* fricatives, respectively. IOW, a "v" is just an "f" with some voice added.

*lips on teeth

Dr. Drake
07-25-2012, 10:22 AM
"Nephew" has a /v/ in some dialects, though not in mine. The only place I've heard it is Britain.

Nars Glinley
07-25-2012, 10:30 AM
My mother's rationale for naming my brother Stephen was that she didn't want him to be called Steve.

John Mace
07-25-2012, 11:00 AM
My mother's rationale for naming my brother Stephen was that she didn't want him to be called Steve.

Did people call him Steph? :D

WotNot
07-25-2012, 11:00 AM
My mother's rationale for naming my brother Stephen was that she didn't want him to be called Steve.
Well… if that was her main aim, she only picked the second-worst possible choice.

BigT
07-25-2012, 08:16 PM
My first name is Steven, and when I was growing up I was told that Stephan was the 'old fashioned' spelling while Steven was the modern spelling.

My best friend and his wife had a child a few years ago and named him 'Stephan'. They keep calling him my namesake even though the spelling is different. When I asked them why they chose that particular spelling they said because it was more 'traditional'.

So modern versus traditional spelling, I think that's the difference here.

Honestly, that is a little weird, as Stephan is the usual spelling for steh-FAHN, rather than STEE-vehn. (Use fs, as in Steffan, and it becomes STEF-fuhn.)

And, no, I'm not using IPA as it's a hassle to type out and no one will need it.

bengangmo
07-25-2012, 08:54 PM
My basic assumpition or rule of thumb is that V is 'Mercan, while PH is English / Colonial.

Doesn't always work, but does provide a guide.

Other than that, is just like checking the cheque into the check account.

John Mace
07-25-2012, 08:59 PM
My basic assumpition or rule of thumb is that V is 'Mercan, while PH is English / Colonial.

Doesn't always work, but does provide a guide.

Other than that, is just like checking the cheque into the check account.

No. "Stephen" is very common in the US. You might be onto something with the Geoff/Jeff dichotomy, but ever there, I think it's more that Geoffrey is more common in the UK than in the US.

Leo Bloom
07-25-2012, 09:48 PM
I used to wonder about Daedelus.

Full Tilt Boogie
07-25-2012, 09:55 PM
I suspect its usage stems from the British habit of contracting names (e.g. Brendan become Bren, David becomes Dave, Philip become Phil, Stephen becomes Steve, becomes Steven etc.)

even sven
07-25-2012, 10:10 PM
Try saying "stee-fen". It's almost impossible not to say "Steven."

guizot
07-25-2012, 10:17 PM
Try saying "stee-fen". It's almost impossible not to say "Steven."Right, because the first syllable is stressed, with a vowel coda. You can, of course, remove the voicing if you change the name, and say /stƐ ‘fɑn/, which usually just annoys people.

Nametag
07-25-2012, 10:18 PM
As for changes from -f- sound to -v- sound, I can't think of any for the "ph" spelling right now, but it's not unusual for plurals -- the plural of elf, after all, is elves.

Actually, it isn't. Tolkien had solid linguistic reasons for choosing elves and elven over other possibilities, but he deliberately replaced elfs and elfin because he thought them evocative of the wee folk, not his classically tragic immortals.

Thudlow Boink
07-25-2012, 10:36 PM
Actually, it isn't. Tolkien had solid linguistic reasons for choosing elves and elven over other possibilities, but he deliberately replaced elfs and elfin because he thought them evocative of the wee folk, not his classically tragic immortals.Are you sure about that? I do know that the standard plural of "dwarf" was "dwarfs" until Tolkien came along and decided to use "dwarves" in his work, but I thought "elves" was pretty standard pre-Tolkien.

GovernmentMan
07-25-2012, 11:19 PM
I don't pronounce them the same

Stephen to me is pronounced 'steph-' (like stephanie) and '-en'

That's how people pronounce Stephen Curry's name.

pulykamell
07-25-2012, 11:26 PM
Try saying "stee-fen". It's almost impossible not to say "Steven."

I'm not sure what you mean. I actually used to pronounce it "Stee-fen" as a kid until someone pointed out that it's supposed to be said the same as "Steven." I mean, "leafing" and "leaving" are not hard to distinguish and say, are they?

CalMeacham
07-26-2012, 07:35 AM
Actually, it isn't. Tolkien had solid linguistic reasons for choosing elves and elven over other possibilities, but he deliberately replaced elfs and elfin because he thought them evocative of the wee folk, not his classically tragic immortals.

Actually, it is. Tolkien doesn't determine how the plural of the commonly-used word [ui]elf[/i] is done outside of his books. Check the dictionary.

Martian Bigfoot
07-26-2012, 07:47 AM
My mother's rationale for naming my brother Stephen was that she didn't want him to be called Steve.
I think the odds would have been better if she'd named him Joe.

DrFidelius
07-26-2012, 07:48 AM
My mother's rationale for naming my brother Stephen was that she didn't want him to be called Steve.

Well, that doesn't work. In Real Life, my first name is Stephen. Friends call me Steve, coworkers call me Stephen. (Because there were already two "Steves" in the department, one of whom also shares my last initial.) People who don't know me pronounce the PH as an F.

My parents liked the "old-world" spelling variant, and if they were less conservative would have gone all the way to "Stephan." I returned the favour by naming our first daughter "Stephanie." (This also ties in with my Wife's family tradition of having Juniors. I honestly believe there is no more than six first names among all my in-laws.)

Diceman
07-26-2012, 08:00 AM
My dad is named Stephen. My newphew is named after him. If it had been my choice, I still would have named the boy after Dad, but I would have spelled it Steven. Stephen just look...odd. Plus, there's a pretty sizeable number of people who don't know how to pronounce Stephen, and end up saying it as "Stefan."

Rhythmdvl
07-26-2012, 08:00 AM
Originally, the name was pronounced /ˈkoʊlbərt/ in English; /koʊlˈbɛər/ came about much later.

BetsQ
07-26-2012, 09:30 AM
I don't pronounce them the same

Stephen to me is pronounced 'steph-' (like stephanie) and '-en'

That's how people pronounce Stephen Curry's name.

The wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen)article on Stephen/Steven only lists one pronunciation. (Also, I'm pretty sure my father would look at you funny if you said his name with an F sound.)

An interesting thing about that wikipedia article is that they claim that in Middle English the name was pronounced "step-hen". No cite is given. Does that make sense? I'm not sure I believe that.

Polycarp
07-26-2012, 10:26 AM
I used to wonder about Daedelus.

Him? He was last seen going to a funeral -- some bloke named Finnegan.

even sven
07-26-2012, 10:28 AM
I'm not sure what you mean. I actually used to pronounce it "Stee-fen" as a kid until someone pointed out that it's supposed to be said the same as "Steven." I mean, "leafing" and "leaving" are not hard to distinguish and say, are they?

Maybe you have better enunciation than I. When I saw it out loud, it inevitably drifts towards "Steven," unless I am really concentrating on avoiding the "V" sound.

FoieGrasIsEvil
07-26-2012, 10:56 AM
My first name is Steven, and when I was growing up I was told that Stephan was the 'old fashioned' spelling while Steven was the modern spelling.



Me too! **fistbump**

I remember back in the glorious 1970's when being called upon for the first time in grade school being asked if my name was spelled with a "v" or a "ph". Nobody asks that anymore...

:(

I liked the mystery!

Dr. Drake
07-26-2012, 12:49 PM
An interesting thing about that wikipedia article is that they claim that in Middle English the name was pronounced "step-hen". No cite is given. Does that make sense? I'm not sure I believe that.I don't think you should believe that. There are plenty of recordings online of experts reading the Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, where there is a -ph- in line 5 (Zephirus). I listened to one, which confirmed my opinion that it's already -f-. At the very least, this means there's scholarly disagreement, but I think you're right and Wikipedia is wrong.

Blakeyrat
07-26-2012, 06:04 PM
My dad is named Stephen. My newphew is named after him. If it had been my choice, I still would have named the boy after Dad, but I would have spelled it Steven. Stephen just look...odd. Plus, there's a pretty sizeable number of people who don't know how to pronounce Stephen, and end up saying it as "Stefan."

When Steve Urkel in Family Matters was his "cool" alter-ego, he called himself "Stefan".

Proof positive that "Stefan" is a cooler name than "Steven."

Johanna
07-26-2012, 06:23 PM
Wasn't intervocalic /f/ in Old English pronounced [v]? Like it still is in Welsh? (Not precisely, because in Welsh <f> always stands for /v/ and <ff> stands for /f/, while in Old English <f> sounded like [f] except when it came between two vowels when it sounded like [v], IIRC.)

matt_mcl
07-26-2012, 06:28 PM
Random fact: the classical French equivalent of Stephen is Étienne, but in Quebec for some reason Stéphane is much more common.

Dr. Drake
07-26-2012, 06:47 PM
Wasn't intervocalic /f/ in Old English pronounced [v]? Like it still is in Welsh? (Not precisely, because in Welsh <f> always stands for /v/ and <ff> stands for /f/, while in Old English <f> sounded like [f] except when it came between two vowels when it sounded like [v], IIRC.)Yes, Old English /v/ was an allophone of /f/ when between voiced elements, notably vowels. Welsh f is always /v/ in the modern language but the evolution of Welsh orthography is separate from what happened in English and so not really a useful comparison. In Old Welsh, both B and M can be /v/ in medial or final position, and in Middle Welsh U is just as likely to be /v/ as F is.

snooker12
05-31-2014, 08:23 PM
My dad is named Stephen. My newphew is named after him. If it had been my choice, I still would have named the boy after Dad, but I would have spelled it Steven. Stephen just look...odd. Plus, there's a pretty sizeable number of people who don't know how to pronounce Stephen, and end up saying it as "Stefan."

my real life name is stephen and no on in my entire life has pronounced it wrong.

John Mace
05-31-2014, 08:56 PM
my real life name is stephen and no on in my entire life has pronounced it wrong.

Welcome to the SDMB, stef-AHN. It can be a life changing experience! :D

Leo Bloom
05-31-2014, 11:05 PM
...

I remember back in the glorious 1970's when being called upon for the first time in grade school being asked if my name was spelled with a "v" or a "ph". Nobody asks that anymore...
What is 9W the answer to?

Wendell Wagner
05-31-2014, 11:24 PM
Und zo, Herr Wagner, do you schpell your name vit a V?

Rhythmdvl
05-31-2014, 11:34 PM
my real life name is stephen and no on in my entire life has pronounced it wrong.

I know my first name is Steven.

Kenm
05-31-2014, 11:40 PM
Until I was an adult, I lived happily with the plural of roof being rooves (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_plural_form_of_roof_-_roofs_or_rooves). In Canada.

It was rooves in my family and rooves in my neighborhood. However, when I wrote rooves for a paper at work, I was pointed at, laughed at and poked with a stick.

So I shouted, “Fucketh thou off, varlets!”

Roofs be barbaric.

Siam Sam
05-31-2014, 11:49 PM
Try saying "stee-fen". It's almost impossible not to say "Steven."

I can pronounce the F in that with no problem.

I always wondered if Stephen was at least originally meant to be pronounced Steff-en. It is among some Brits I've known who have that spelling. (Sorry if this was covered earlier. I don't see it.)

deacon_troll
06-01-2014, 01:16 AM
That is, why are there two spellings of that name? And how many words have a "ph" that makes a "v" sound?

One of them is a cool guy, and the other is a total dipshit.

...It's up to you to figure out which one is which.

Chefguy
06-01-2014, 09:12 AM
Maybe you have better enunciation than I. When I saw it out loud, it inevitably drifts towards "Steven," unless I am really concentrating on avoiding the "V" sound.

Your name is really Ephen Sphen, isn't it?

Exapno Mapcase
06-01-2014, 12:21 PM
Of course Stephen is pronounced with an "f" sound.

Like Just Stephen King. And Stephen Colbert. And Stephen Hawking. And Steven Sondheim. And Stephen Fry. And Stephen Stills. And Stephen Douglas. And Stephen Bishop. And Stephen Crane.

Though Stefon did change his name when he married Seth Meyers.

John Mace
06-01-2014, 06:30 PM
Though Stefon did change his name when he married Seth Meyers.

Ooooh... Yes-Yes-Yes-Yes.

06-03-2014, 05:08 PM
Did people call him Steph? :DNo, Steph (pronounced Stef) is a common shortened name used for females named Stephanie.

Oswald Bastable
06-04-2014, 05:33 AM
No, Steph (pronounced Stef) is a common shortened name used for females named Stephanie.

I've also known a couple of Stephanies (in the UK) who have used the diminutive Stevie.

OB

Eliahna
06-04-2014, 06:23 AM
My first name is Steven, and when I was growing up I was told that Stephan was the 'old fashioned' spelling while Steven was the modern spelling.

My best friend and his wife had a child a few years ago and named him 'Stephan'. They keep calling him my namesake even though the spelling is different. When I asked them why they chose that particular spelling they said because it was more 'traditional'.

So modern versus traditional spelling, I think that's the difference here.

Not only is the spelling different, but I would pronounce "Stephan" the same way as Stefan (stef-FAHN). I pronounce Steven and Stephen alike (STEE-ven).

Siam Sam
06-04-2014, 10:48 PM
No, Steph (pronounced Stef) is a common shortened name used for females named Stephanie.

It can be used for males too. I've known a couple.

Biffy the Elephant Shrew
06-05-2014, 12:15 AM
It can be used for males too. I've known a couple.

I have a friend whose name is spelled Stephen, pronounced STEFF-en, and he is called Steph for short.

Mijin
06-05-2014, 12:23 AM
My first name is Steven, and when I was growing up I was told that Stephan was the 'old fashioned' spelling while Steven was the modern spelling.

My best friend and his wife had a child a few years ago and named him 'Stephan'. They keep calling him my namesake even though the spelling is different. When I asked them why they chose that particular spelling they said because it was more 'traditional'.

So modern versus traditional spelling, I think that's the difference here.

Is that a typo? Stephan (with an 'A') I would parse as the french/spanish/whatever version and pronounce it "Steffan".
English Stephen is usually spelled with two Es.

sjc
06-06-2014, 03:13 PM
Your name is really Ephen Sphen, isn't it?

Just to be clear, that's a different phonetic environment than the 'ph' in 'Stephen'.

Elendil's Heir
06-11-2014, 02:32 PM
NE Ohioan here. I pronounce "Stephen" and "Steven" the same, but for some reason the spelling of the first just strikes me as a little more classy.

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