The worst part of being within earshot of smart people is having to sound smart yourself. Intimidate all around you with these technically correct but still confusing word pronunciations! Merriam-Webster’s online edition is a good guide here, thanks to its recordings of the preferred pronunciations.
Dour: Meaning “sullen and gloomy,” by all rights this ought to pronounced in a way that rhymes with “sour,” right? And you can . . . if you want to use the second, and therefore less preferred, pronunciation. The first is “door”—not as in the method of ingress, but rather, rhyming with “moor.”
Divisive: Let the plebeians use the most logical pronunciation—the one that makes it sound like “divide.” “Duh-VISS-ive” is also correct, and sure to sound more snobbish.
Derisive: The most common pronunciation is “duh-RY-siv,” but you can also opt for “duh-RY-ziv,” “duh-RIH-ziv” (the i in “rih” as in the i in “city”), and “duh-RIH-siv.” As the weirdest, but still technically correct, I suggest duh-RIH-ziv.
Minuscule: The alternate version of this word is “mi-NUS-kyool,” a fact so little known as to cause immediate consultation of mental dictionaries.
Primer: Preferred pronunciation is “PRIM-er” (as in, “Priscilla is primmer than Gertrude”). Secondary, though more commonly heard, pronunciation is “PRY-mer.” If anyone questions you on this one, you can bust out a fascinating fact: “PRY-mer” is actually the preferred way in the United Kingdom—they don’t use “PRIM-er” at all.
Have you got any similar surprising pronunciations up your sleeve? Please, feel free to share (in the comments section for the blog if you must, but preferably, over cocktails).