Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A primmer primer

This morning on CBC, Andy Barrie said that later they would have a /prɪmɚ/ on something or other (i.e., basic information about a topic). "You mean /praɪmɚ/," I thought. But he went on to say that he used to say /praɪmɚ/ but he had been told by a listener that, in fact, the correct pronunciation was /prɪmɚ/. "That's right," chimed in Jill Dempsey. "Nonsense," I thought, never having heard anybody pronounce it that way in my life. So when I got to work, I grabbed all the dictionaries I could find.

The Oxford Canadian Dictionary gives both pronunciations, with
/praɪmɚ/ listed first. I teach English as a second language, so most of the dictionaries I have on my desk are for learners of English; The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary lists only /praɪmɚ/, as does the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, and the Collins COBUILD English Dictionary, all of which are British. Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary, along with their Learner's Dictionary, gives the American pronunciation as /prɪmɚ/, but also lists /praɪmɚ/noting "chiefly British". The American Heritage Dictionary is the only one I can find that does not list the // pronunciation.

So, dispite the prim listener's protestations about this point, it appears that Metro Morning's host and listening audience have had another incorrection foisted upon them.


Anonymous said...

Do y'all really pronounce it that way up in the Frozen North? Down here in the States a book with basic information is a /prɪmɚ/. A /praɪmɚ/ is a first coat of paint. That might explain why the AHD, basically an USn dictionary, doesn't have the /praɪmɚ/ pronunciation.

Brett said...

I think it must be the cold that has affected our pronunciation :-)