Category: Pronunciation

Hypercorrection

Posted on Tuesday, March 1, 2016, at 5:39 pm

Trying hard is good, but trying too hard is another matter. Hypercorrection is the technical term for mistakes in grammar, punctuation, or pronunciation that result from trying too hard to be correct. Perhaps the most common hypercorrection involves pronouns. We constantly hear things like Keep this between you and I or The Wilsons invited he …

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You Lost Me After “Feb”

Posted on Wednesday, February 3, 2016, at 11:26 am

Feb-yoo-ary. Febber-ary. Feb-wary. Can’t anyone around here say “feb-roo-ary”? It’s time to revisit dissimilation, the labored linguistic theory that purports to explain why so many of us don’t say February’s two r’s. The online American Heritage dictionary has the following usage note at “February”: “The loss of the first r in this pronunciation can be …

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That’s nyooz to me

Posted on Monday, January 18, 2016, at 7:23 pm

Pronunciation changes gradually through the years—that’s evolution, and nothing could be more natural. But nowadays, if an influential public figure goes on TV or the Internet and says a word wrong, millions of people hear it, and the mispronunciation may gain an undeserved legitimacy. That isn’t evolution, it’s weeds taking over a rose garden. Virtually …

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Give the Gift of Pedantry

Posted on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 6:43 pm

If there is a logophile—word lover—on your holiday gift list, you can’t go wrong with What in the Word? by Charles Harrington Elster. Elster is a formidable scholar, but he has written a book that is fun to read, yet packed with information. Scattered throughout the book’s seven chapters are astute quotations, “fascinating facts,” and …

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You Can Say That Again

Posted on Tuesday, September 22, 2015, at 7:35 pm

Because English is so unpredictable, it’s often impossible to infer a word’s pronunciation from its spelling. Dictionaries help, to a point. But dictionaries often seem all too willing to penalize time-honored pronunciations after a word gets mispronounced by a sufficient number of people. So here is another in our series of pronunciation columns. The words …

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Say It Again, Sam

Posted on Tuesday, June 16, 2015, at 12:23 pm

It has been a while since our last pronunciation column, so here’s another group of familiar words whose traditional pronunciations may surprise you. (Note: capital letters denote a stressed syllable.) Antarctica  Like the elusive first r in February, the first c in this word is often carelessly dropped: it’s ant-ARC-tica, not ant-AR-tica. Err  Since to …

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Proper Pronunciation: A Sound Policy

Posted on Tuesday, March 24, 2015, at 7:18 am

Pronouncing words correctly helps convince listeners that you know what you’re talking about. By correct pronunciation, we mean words as you’d hear them enunciated at formal occasions: a lecture by an English scholar, say, or a first-rate production of a play by George Bernard Shaw or Eugene O’Neill. To settle pronunciation disputes, we recommend an …

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Wails from My Inbox

Posted on Thursday, October 2, 2014, at 7:21 am

My fellow word nerds often send me cheerfully exasperated emails. I’d like to share a few of them with you … • My recent aggravation is the mispronunciation of the word “divisive” by many people I respect. They prefer to say “divissive,” with a short rather than a long i. These otherwise articulate people are grating …

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More Ear-itating Word Abuse

Posted on Sunday, August 4, 2013, at 11:07 pm

Although Arnold Schwarzenegger’s star has faded, the erstwhile weight lifter-actor-governor hasn’t quite left the building. Recently, a phonics teacher e-mailed her exasperation with broadcasters who mispronounce the first syllable in “Schwarzenegger,” saying “swartz” instead of “shwartz.” “There IS a difference!” she said. “It’s gotten to the point that it’s like nails on a chalkboard when …

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Pronouncing the Word Blessed

Posted on Saturday, August 11, 2012, at 2:28 pm

We sometimes receive inquiries from readers regarding the proper way to pronounce blessed. The word blessed can be pronounced in two different ways according to its part of speech in the sentence. Rule 1. When blessed is used as a verb, it is pronounced with one syllable (blest). Example: Before we ate, our uncle Tony blessed [blest] the …

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