Question of the Week

What word or words do you struggle with pronouncing correctly?

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English teacher at whiteboard gestures to vocal cords.

Learning “proper” pronunciation is no simple matter in a multicultural environment. Undrey/Shutterstock.

Standard pronunciation is a moving target. Lawyers are trained to mind precedent. These two ideas are likely to clash in court, or anywhere attorneys argue their positions.

ABA Journal columnist Bryan A. Garner notes the shifting ground for pronunciation in the October magazine. The Black’s Law Dictionary editor cites legal terms that have acquired alternative pronunciations. (How do you say certiorari? I play it safe and say cert.)

Garner drives his point home with a pronunciation quiz, showing that even common words (mayoral, often) have spoken variants. Still, online commenters took issue with Garner’s choice of the “traditional forms.” Living language has a tipping point, suggested a reader who signs as Shevek, at which point “it makes no sense to say it is wrong. You get outvoted.”

Reader pskent suggests further complications from growing up in a multilingual environment, with differences in home and school teaching. “As a result, I really haven’t a clue. Particularly difficult is deciding which sy-LAB-ul to emphasize.” Question of the Week respondents in the past have noted a dilemma in oral argument: Do you break from the pronunciation delivered from the bench and risk implying judicial error?

This week we ask: What word or words do you struggle with pronouncing correctly? What guides your choice, and have you had to defend it? Answer in the comments.

Read the answers to last week’s question: Who is your legal icon?

Featured answer:

Posted by Becki: “Grady Frank, a lawyer I had the pleasure of working with early in my career. He was a natural storyteller and all around decent person. He maintained good relationships with other lawyers and the bench, and showed me that ‘scorched earth’ litigation wasn’t worth it. The long game was in building relationships, because you never knew when you would need that concession on a deadline or the benefit of the doubt.”

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