Three pronunciation blunders

1. Substantive is properly pronounced SUB-stant-iv, with the accent on the first syllable, not sub-STANT-iv, with the accent on the second syllable. If you listen, you will hear even well-educated, sophisticated speakers commit this annoying error.

2. Homogeneous consists of five syllables: ho-mo-JEE-nee-us. This is the word we use to describe something composed of parts or elements of the same kind — for example, a homogeneous population. Homogenous (without the e) is also a word, but it has a different meaning and a different pronunciation. It is a biological term that means corresponding in structure because of a common origin. It is pronounced ho-MODGE-uh-nus. It is increasingly common to hear — and see — the word homogenous when the speaker or writer obviously means homogeneous. Perhaps the confusion can be traced to the word homogenize, which means to make homogeneous and which sounds more like homogenous than homogeneous. Is the language evolving so that the distinction between the two words may someday disappear? Maybe. But until then (long after I’m gone, I hope), careful writers and speakers must take care to spell homogeneous with that critical e and pronounce it with the required five syllables.

3. Those who insist on using the French term chaise longue should pronounce it correctly as shays-long, not as shays-lounge. Look at the second word: the u comes after the g, not before the n. Decades of misuse may someday lead to broad acceptance of the boorish shays-lounge, but we should conscientiously object at every opportunity. The best path, of course, is avoid the French term altogether. There’s nothing wrong with lounge chair or even (if you find French terms irresistible) chaise without the longue.



Filed under Beastly Mispronunciations, Grammar and Usage Errors

2 responses to “Three pronunciation blunders

  1. David

    Though amusingly it seems that the distinction may have arisen from a misspelling by Darwin of homogeneous.

  2. TK

    Thank you for settling a dispute! Homogeneous! Five syllables shortened to two! It always bothers me too! Invented word pronunciations, coming from well educated people in my circle. Thank you for teaching me about a “shays-long”.

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