bookmark_borderThe impossibility of saying “neuf œufs” in French

Day 34: Nine eggs
Originally uploaded by aaocarroll

In an essay by Jurgen Klausenburger called “The morphologization and grammaticalization of French liason”, he quotes Pierre Swiggers (“How to Order Eggs in French” in Folia Linguistica 1985) for the following data:

les œufs [le-zø] “the eggs”
des œufs [de-zø] “(some) eggs”
un œuf [??-nœf] “an, one egg”
deux œufs [dø-zø] “two eggs”
trois œufs [trwa-zø] “three eggs”
quatre œufs [katr-œf] “four eggs”
cinq œufs [s??k-œf] “five eggs”
six œufs [si-zø] “six eggs”
sept œufs [s?t-œf] “seven eggs”
huit œufs [?it-œf] “eight eggs”
*neuf œufs [avoided!] “nine eggs”
dix œufs [di-zø] “ten eggs”

On the same topic, this blog posting states the following:

I had a professor when I was in college — a linguist from Normandy whose native language was French — who was very interested in and amused by such language quirks. He would come to France in the summer and go to outdoor markets to try to get people the say neuf œufs because he thought it was funny.

Almost always, when he asked for nine eggs, the person replying would stick an adjective in between neuf and œufs — neuf beaux œufs, or neuf petits œufs, or neuf gros œufs. He said French people hesitated over the pronunciation of “nine eggs” otherwise.

The blogger who wrote this seems to think the pronunciation of *neuf œufs ought to be [nœv-ø]. This seems also to be the opinion of my beloved wife, who thinks it’s avoided because this would sound very similar to the French word for “nephew”, neveu.

So I’m a little confused. Is the missing pronunciation [nœv-ø] or [nœv-œf]? And why is it avoided?

Also, are Klausenburger and Swigger right in claiming that œufs is pronounced as [œf] after a numeral ending in a consonant other than [-z]? Do French native speakers even agree?