Tuesday, October 16, 2012

INTRIGUING!  I was caught off guard during this week's Hang Up and Listen podcast by the way SI's Grant Wahl kept pronouncing the word interesting with four syllables -- IN-tuh-res-ting -- when I (and I think most people) shortchange clarity in the middle to go with the abbreviated IN-truhs-ting. As The Big Book Of Beastly Mispronunciations: The Complete Opinionated Guide For The Careful Speaker by Charles Harrington Elster explains:
The three-syllable IN-tris-ting is a victim of syncope (SING-kuh-pee), the loss or omission of a sound or syllable from the middle of a word as in FAM-lee for family and KUHMF-tur-buul for comfortable. It is now probably the most commonly heard pronunciation in American speech. The noun and verb interest is also a victim of syncope and is usually pronounced in two syllables, IN-trist, although the older IN-tur-ist is still heard. The verbal adjective interested is often pronounced in four syllables, IN-tur-ES-tid, but the evidence of my ears says the three-syllable IN-tris-tid is more common.

The four-syllable variant IN-tur-uh-sting, once the preferred pronunciation, is now much less common than the syncopated IN-tris-ting. The somewhat overpronounced IN-tur-ES-ting never had great currency. Speakers who normally say IN-tris-ting will sometimes use it for emphasis or ironically, drawing out the syllables, as in the stock phrase very interesting.

Avoid pronouncing interesting as if it were spelled inneresting. The t of inter- must be preserved at all costs! Also don’t say IN-tur-sting, as if the word were spelled intersting. These are both beastly mispronunciations. For more on syncope, see chocolate, temperature.


  1. Ramar7:59 PM

    "The t of inter- must be preserved at all costs!"


  2. lisased7:59 PM

    Fine, as long as we do not use transposed syncope (see nuclear).

  3. Marsha8:00 PM

    This is in-ter-est-ing to me - I never knew this phenomenon was called syncope, which is also the medical term for fainting. Also didn't know that "syncope" was related to "syncopation," though that's very logical nos that I think about it.

  4. Watts8:00 PM

    Is that when you add a sound to a word that isn't in the spelling? Like how people put a P sound in the middle of Clemson?

  5. I do not have fond memories of my first blackberry which was not a phone at all. I got mine with Adam, and it was the technology defining moment thing, so, people would blackberry you at times (like 3 in the morning times) that they never would have called or emailed you, and expect you to be finished with what they had asked for at 6. Maybe that's about why people shouldnt work for big lawfirms as opposed to reminiscing about ancient tech.

  6. My latest bugaboo is people pronouncing groceries "grosh-ries." It drives me nuts! There's an ad for a gro-ce-ry (3 syllables, no sh sound) store on radio rotation that I hear at least once during my commute. It uses the "grosh-ries" pronunciation, and it's gotten to the point that I have to turn the station when it comes on. I live such a sad, little life.

  7. isaac_spaceman8:00 PM

    Because we should all talk like Highlander. "Very interesting" should be "wary inTAIResting."

  8. Watts8:00 PM

    Gosh, I never realized until you said this that I say grocery as a 2-and-a-half syllable word (I just barely manage to get the middle one in.) And I do say it with a "sh" sound. Southern thing? Or class thing?

  9. Watts8:00 PM

    I think Bugs Bunny, Manicurist:

  10. I have no idea where it comes from. It's a pronunciation I've noticed more and more in the last year. Maybe it's making its way to Chicago from the South?

    I guess I shouldn't throw stones. I still pronounce a couple words like the Long Islander I was (Florida-flaarida, almond-aaahmond, orange-arrrng). Most of the New York accent has been masked by living in the midwest for 30+ years, but there are a few I have to hold onto!

  11. MidwestAndrew8:01 PM

    Is this where we voice our complaints about reverse syncope? For example, nu-kleer became newk-you-ler even though it isn't spelled that way or look that way at all. That irks me every time.

  12. Watts8:01 PM

    I had a friend in high school who COULD NOT say the word "idea." It always came out sounding like "ideal." He was smart enough that he knew the difference between the two words, and you could usually figure out which one he meant from context.

    Would that be "reverse syncope"? Or not? Because it didn't really add an extra syllable, just an extra sound.

  13. gtv20008:01 PM

    My pet peeve - integral. I can live with in-TEH-gral, but I prefer IN-te-gral. I cannot abide IN-tri-cal, or IN-tri-gal, which some people have decided to create.

  14. I think it would have been more appropriate if you'd saved this link 'til Wenzdy.