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October 14, 2019


The [ʒ] sound has long been complicated to indicate in English. Found in words like 'leisure' and 'genre,' it has no commonly agreed upon spelling representation. 'Zh' (perhaps by analogy with 'sh'?) is common (and, to my eyes, sensical), being found in romanizations of Russian and Mandarin, as well as the name 'Quenvanzhane.'

Unfortunately, 'zh' does not have the best recognition. I remember being confused when the character 'Zhao' in Avatar: The Last Airbender was pronounced 'Zao.'

When it comes to casual shortenings of words like 'cas(ual)' and 'us(ual)', the spellings can become even more erratic. And the spelling of 'zhuzh' [ʒʊʒ], a word meaning to make fabulous, isn't agreed upon yet - you can find 'zhoozh', 'zhuj,' 'jooj,' and other variants.

All that being said, the following spelling(s) of 'zh' have truly caught my eye for total lack of consistency:

While TOMS has “tszujed” its designs up since its initial introduction, innovative style and design has never been a brand hallmark.

The 'j' for final [ʒ] isn't uncommon in laymen descriptions (see 'caj' for 'cazh'). The 'z' doesn't even surprise me, as 's', 'z', 'j', and 'h' are often bundled together in a haphazard attempt to capture the sound. But 'tsz' truly leaves me speechless. Is 'tsz' a representation of [ʒ] in some language I'm not aware of? Why the 't'? And much to my surprise, it's not all that new either. There's an Urban Dictionary entry from 2005 with the helpful tidbit:

"It is very hard to pronounce, and even harder to spell, many times often misspelled 'jujj' or 'jooj'. Pronounced "zhuj", by the way."


  1. Is 'tsz' a representation of [ʒ] in some language I'm not aware of? Why the 't'?

    No and no, respectively.

    *nopes outta here*

    1. The worst part is that even though I was utterly confused, I still knew exactly what word they were referring to. I don't even think I've ever encountered that spelling before, so it's not past recognition.

  2. Urban dictionary lists a tonne of spellings...
    #juj #jooj #joodje #joodge #jeuge #juje #tzeutze #tsuz #tszuj #tjuzs #zjuj #tjuz #tjuze #zhuzh #zhush #zhoosh #tjuzi #tszuji #tjuzing #tjzuzed

    This is painful! I think it partly comes from being a word that we say a lot more than we have cause to write it down.

    Wikipedia insists that "zhoosh" is the page where the definitions will sit, while 4 other ways to spell it are listed as 'alternative spellings'. There is at least a pretty convincing etymology on that wiki page:

    Borrowed from Angloromani yuser (“clean”, verb) and yusher (“clear”, verb), from Angloromani yus-, yuz-, yuzh- (“clean”) and yush- (“clear”), from Romani žuž-, už- (“clean”, adjective). Cognate with Hindi उज्ज्वल (ujjval, “bright”).

    As to urban dictionary trying to say there's a "right" or a "wrong" way to spell it in 2005... for me, usage rules. And we are seeing a lot of different usage.

    Maybe us word-nerds should try to popularise #ʒʊʒ and this madness can finally end?

    1. Several of the pages asking "how do you spell cas'" jocularly offered "caʒ" as an option. Unfortunately I don't see taking off, not least because it's not even offered on the extended English keyboards. :'( I can use on a Mac and the thorn on the Android keyboard, but has to shamefully be copy/pasted from the IPA typeit site.

      There aren't that many words in English that end in /ʒ/, for what it's worth. Most seem to be French loanwords. "Rouge." "Balayage." "Mirage." But that spelling won't work with 'cage' and 'uge'. I like the pseudo-French "jeuge" on that UD page, because it's probably the one that people are most likely to pronounce accurately upon reading it! Perhaps we just need pseudo-French spellings for every usage of /ʒ/?

    2. For some reason the ash did not make it into the comment box (but ʒ did?!). Meant to be "I can use [the ash] on a Mac."

  3. Usual protrusion of azure treasured visionary conversion illusions. Too many English vowels and far too many consonants for any easy fit into 26 letters.