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grabagrannie
518275.  Sat Mar 07, 2009 7:37 pm Reply with quote

Mr Fry said this word (dissected) twice on tonight's programme. He pronounced it to rhyme with 'bisected'. I believe that, at the moment, this is incorrect and an appalling lapse on Mr Fry's part. I have to accept that the English language is always changing (that's why I said 'at the moment' - but perhaps I am too late), but I do not want to see the pronunciation of 'dissect' change.
There was a recent 'debate' on Radio 4 about the pronunciation of 'schedule'. I laughed when somebody argued that it 'should' be pronounced 'skedyule' because of the way we pronounce 'school' and 'schizophrenia'. I wondered how he pronounced 'cough', 'bough' and 'enough'.
But, I submit, this is different. The people who mispronounce 'dissect' would probably spell it incorrectly (though I doubt that Mr Fry would be caught out by this test). The only justification for pronouncing this word incorrectly is because of an unjustified analogy with 'bisect'. As soon as 51% of the population pronounce this word incorrectly, the dictionaries will reflect this, and the 'correct' pronunciation will rhyme with 'bisect'. Would Mr Fry issue a correction? He claimed to despise pedants such as myself on a recent programme and was chided by Mr Davies, who had been on the receiving end of Mr Fry's reproofs for similar lapses.

 
suze
518279.  Sat Mar 07, 2009 7:55 pm Reply with quote

I imagine you wish that word to be pronounced such that the first syllable rhymes with "miss". In which case, that is how I pronounce it.

But I fear that the dictionaries are already in the place where you do not wish them to be. For instance, the American Heritage Book of English Usage notes that:

"There are people who still object to the pronunciation rhyming with bisect, although most dictionaries have listed it as an acceptable variant pronunciation for some decades."

OK, so that's an American source. Let us then look at a British source - Professor John Wells's Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. In preparing that work, Professor Wells conducted an online poll in which respondents were asked to say which of two forms they would use for each of thirty words, one of which was dissect.

He found that 89% of people use daɪ- (i.e. rhymes with bisect), so I fear that your battle is a losing one.


Summary of the results of Professor Wells's 2007 survey

 
bobwilson
518285.  Sat Mar 07, 2009 8:06 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
I imagine you wish that word to be pronounced such that the first syllable rhymes with "miss". In which case, that is how I pronounce it.


suze - do you always use the language exactly the opposite way to me? I can see the logic of dissect (rhyming with miss) but I've never heard anyone say it that way. Which makes sense given the 89% statistic. It sounds odd to say d(m)issect.

 
suze
518329.  Sat Mar 07, 2009 9:01 pm Reply with quote

bob, I do it on purpose just to annoy you!

I don't of course; in fact, my pronunciation comes from a science teacher I had in junior high, who was one of those who objected strenuously to the pronunciation rhyming with bisect.

But even before I'd seen that figure, I'd have agreed that the vast majority go the other way.

 
bobwilson
518332.  Sat Mar 07, 2009 9:04 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
I'd have agreed that the vast majority go the other way.


I'm sure Mr Fry will be pleased to hear this ..... oh, you mean on pronunciation ;)

 
andrewtaylor
518372.  Sun Mar 08, 2009 4:57 am Reply with quote

I'd always heard dissect pronounced 'disect', and assumed it was derived from the same prefix as 'dialogue'. But a check in the OED shows a whole range of interesting 'dis-' words I never knew were connected.

I knew 'dis-' can reverse the meaning of a word, but apparently it can also intensify it (although only when the word has some sense of 'undoing' already, which fits nicely with the original meaning of double negatives).

 
Davini994
518513.  Sun Mar 08, 2009 9:05 am Reply with quote

That is indeed interesting, thanks Grabba.

 
Jenny
518681.  Sun Mar 08, 2009 1:27 pm Reply with quote

Hmm - I am of the dissect rather than disect school of thought. I would talk about dissecting a body rather than disecting it, that is if I ever had that kind of conversation, which I rarely do.

 
grabagrannie
518963.  Mon Mar 09, 2009 6:20 am Reply with quote

That's a very interesting document you directed us to, suze. I'm afraid I am not familiar with the pronunciation symbols, but I was able to work most of them out. Some of the results I find amazing and depressing in equal measure. I did not understand the figures attached to 'accept'/'except', but I take it that a significant number of people pronounce these two words the same. This would explain why I found a mistake in a document produced by my head of section (younger than I), and in a letter from Nottingham University, where 'except' had been typed instead of 'accept'. 20% of people pronounce 'mischievous' as if it were spelt 'mischievious'! It explains why the first paperback edition of 'Chocolat' had the word 'mischievious' on the back cover. What happens if this figure rises to 51%? Will the spelling be changed? I find that I can accept differences in opinion on the pronunciation of many words, especially with regards to stress and the pronunciation of certain vowels ('eggo' or 'eego' for 'ego'), but when it flies in the face of logic (I realise that I am on a loser here, as there is no logic in the pronunciation of English), I have to protest. I suppose I had just hoped that Mr Fry would be of 'the old school', and I was surprised and disappointed to find that it is not so.

 
Moosh
518966.  Mon Mar 09, 2009 6:26 am Reply with quote

grabagrannie wrote:
I find that I can accept differences in opinion on the pronunciation of many words, especially with regards to stress and the pronunciation of certain vowels ('eggo' or 'eego' for 'ego'), but when it flies in the face of logic (I realise that I am on a loser here, as there is no logic in the pronunciation of English), I have to protest. I suppose I had just hoped that Mr Fry would be of 'the old school', and I was surprised and disappointed to find that it is not so


People pronounce ego as eggo? I've never heard that and the only time I've seen it in print is facetious. Also, more on topic, do you pronounce "disappointed" as diss-appointed or di-sappointed?

I think Mr Fry is very much in favour of language changing to reflect usage, and indeed of there not being set "rules". For more information I'd recommend his essay on Language available here.

 
Droid
519015.  Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:37 am Reply with quote

After reading this thread I no longer know how to pronounce the word. If I'm using a "dissector" microscope I use "diss" but I keep my forceps and scalpels in a "die"section kit.

 
grabagrannie
519016.  Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:39 am Reply with quote

Moosh, I was deducing from the pronunciation of 'egotistic' on the 2007 survey. What you say about 'disappointed' is exactly my argument about 'dissect'. How does everyone pronounce 'dissatified', 'disseminate', 'dissent', or 'dissemble'? Unfortunately, as I said in my previous post, logic does not apply, otherwise I would have to pronounce 'schedule' as 'sked-yule'. Alternatively, I'd have to pronounce 'school' as 'shool' and 'schizophrenia' as ...well, let's not go there - it just doesn't sound nice. I enjoy the quirkiness of English pronunciation, especially when it conflicts with American. I like to say 'lef-tenant', not 'loo-tenant'. It sometimes just doesn't seem right that pronunciation should be decided by the (ignorant) majority [Sorry, that's a bit harsh, I admit. But it is only out of ignorance that people think dissect should rhyme with bisect, and that people say 'mischievious'.] Since dictionaries reflect usage, it has already happened that the 'di-sect' pronunciation is allowed, at least in American dictionaries (not in my Chambers). If 20% of people say 'mis-chee-vee-us', will that have to be allowed as a variant? No wonder people can't spell (see my point about except/accept above. I am, as they say, on a hiding to nothing. I was amazed that 89% of people pronounce 'dissect' INCORRECTLY. My Chambers was published in 1998, and is obviously out of date.

 
misterchris
519029.  Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:52 am Reply with quote

I don't think I've ever heard anyone pronounce dissect "correctly". It's always rhymed with bisect for me so would never have known that was wrong.

 
themoog
519051.  Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:04 am Reply with quote

I've also rarely heard it pronounced the 'correct' way but it one of quite a number of words I pronounce differently in my head to how I say them out loud. I probably started doing this is as an aid to avoiding spelling mistakes. Anyone else do this?

 
soup
519135.  Mon Mar 09, 2009 12:23 pm Reply with quote

grabagrannie wrote:
I was amazed that 89% of people pronounce 'dissect' INCORRECTLY.


I would say that if 89% pronounce any word in a specific way that is the 'right' way.
I pronounce Dissect to rhyme with Bisect so am in the 89%

 

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