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You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto

The other night we were discussing the pronunciation of “illustrative” and wondering why just adding -ive changes the pronunciation to ill-US-truh-tiv from the more logical ILL-us-tray-tiv. Furthermore, is ILL-us-tray-tiv even considered correct? A modern dictionary did nothing to answer the question, as it included both pronunciations, but in such sudden-death overtime cases I turn to my antique Webster’s Second International, widely considered to be the last “prescriptive” dictionary, i.e., one that takes a stand on correct usage.


The unabridged dictionary in our library. In my dreams. “We shall be two for dinner in the library this evening, Jeeves.”

That settled nothing—both prounciations were listed. Thanks for nothing, Webster. A day or two later, while watching Robert Reich’s first video podcast, I noticed he pronounced “indicative” IN-di-kay-tiv, not in-DIK-uh-tiv. That was a surprise. Since I depend on highly-educated speakers such as Mr. Reich to guide my ear, I’m more confused than ever. Whadda youse think?


Well, that was...illustrative. ;-) Eether/eyether, ant/awnt, etc. Fun to hear...I'm still old enough to say Care-uh-bee-un instead of Cuh-rib-ee-un. I never did get used to the news anchors pronouncing Nicaragua like they were in the Managua barrio....Nee-hah-rah-waw.

Is Zyzzogeton the last word in your dictionary? It was in the only unabridged version I have come in contact with. Zyzzogeton is a genus of South American leaf hoppers.

Rick, yes Zyzzogeton is also the last word in my dictionary.

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