Pronunciations new to me


Just a couple of pronunciations I’ve come across recently that I’d never encountered before:

1) /ˈdiːtrɪtəs/ (Harold Evans, former editor of the Sunday Times, on Broadcasting House, Radio 4, Sunday 31 March 2013)

I’ve heard /ˈdetrɪtÉ™s/ quite often, but never the version from Mr Evans. OED, LPD and EPD give only second syllable stress: /dɪˈtraɪtÉ™s/, but the Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation accepts /ˈdetrɪtÉ™s/ as an American pronunciation (with flapped second /t/).

2) /ˈbɪsɪkl/ (Alexander J Ellis, Early English Pronunciation Volume IV, page 1166, in a section on words beginning with bi-: “When the accent falls on the bi-, we usually have (bi·) [IPA /bɪ/] as bicycle, biparous (bi·sikl bi·pɐrÉ™s) [IPA /ˈbɪsɪkl ˈbɪpÉ™rÉ™s/]. In Ellis’s defence, he was writing in 1873-4, while the OED’s earliest example of the word is from 1868 (Daily News, 7 September, where the  word is spelled “bysicle”), only 5 years before, so that Ellis had quite possibly rarely if ever heard it. I wonder if he changed his pronunciation when this vehicle became more popular?


  1. Like you, Graham, I havent noticed anyone else saying /`diːtrɪtÉ™s/ tho it’s one of my frequent observations (cf my Blogs 049, 348) that people usually have a few words that they seem to say idiosyncratically by reason apparently of having jumpt to a conclusion about their pronunciation on meeting them in reading and not subsequently realised that they hadnt guessed correctly. I have some myself. For instance I dont know why I seem to be the only person I know who habitually stresses apparatus on its first syllable. So I wasnt surprised at this choice of Sir Harold’s. Robert Graves used to accent it that way with /e/ as its first vowel, rather surprisingly when you’d expect such a famous classical scholar to be aware that the middle vowel was long in Latin. It was news to me to learn that the ODP lists a variant /`detrÉ™dÉ™s/. This must be relatively new becoz it hadnt been picked up by the late great Webster specialist on pronunciation Edward Artin at the time (1961) of their big new ‘International’ edition and they dont seem to regard it as very common if we can judge from the fact that it’s not given in their Online Edition. Anyway, no dou·t it’s that that accounts for the Evans choice: he’s even an American citizen these days.
    We musnt be surprised that no-one sez /`bɪsɪkl/ nowadays. After all, nearly everyone now sez /daɪ`sekt/ for dissect.

  2. Jack – Continuing on from your last comment on bicycle, Ellis says about ‘bi-‘: “usage varies. Some insist on distinct /baɪ-/, but others use /bɪ-/when the word has become familiar. Thus /baɪˈnÉ’kjÊŠlÉ™/ used always to be said, but since the binocular microscopes and opera glasses have become common, /bɪˈnÉ’kjÊŠlÉ™/ is often heard. In bisect we hear both /baɪˈsekt bɪˈsekt/ often from the same mathematical speaker, at short intervals.”
    Surely it’s the closeness in meaning of bisect and dissect, and their use by biologists, that has led to dissect becoming /daɪˈsekt/, by analogy.

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