Look Smart at Graduate Student Parties: Obscure but Correct Word Pronunciations

Oh crap, is that how you pronounce that word?

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).


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