Putting the 'b' in subtle

Posted by Lewis on July 07, 2003

In Reply to: Putting the 'b' in subtle posted by K. Anderson on July 04, 2003

: Hi --

: Can anyone tell me the true meaning of the phrase "putting the 'b' in subtle"? I have seen it used both to describe something as extremely subtle (which seems right to me) and to describe it as not subtle at all (this usage was recently in the NY Times, and they tend to know their stuff). Which is the correct usage?

I've never heard that before, but I rather like it. Think about it - your answer is in your question!
"Subtle" is pronounced "suttle" so the "b" normally has only the slightest of influences on the pronounciation of the word. Whereas if one says "sub-tull" - one is putting the "b" in overtly and destroying the nuance. It works well both ways.