Monday, December 21, 2009

The Great Italian Debate

My husband has long been the source of considerable teasing in our family because of his pronunciation of the word "Italian." See, in the Panhandle of Oklahoma, everyone pronounces it with a long I sound at the beginning, like eye-talian. But for most of the country, we pronounce it with a short eh sound.

This weekend we had a healthy debate whether Mitch's pronunciation is correct, acceptable, colloquial or just downright offensive. To investigate, I consulted both Merriam-Webster, the go-to dictionary for most, and, the free online version. Results below!

Main Entry: 1Ital·ian
Pronunciation: \ə-ˈtal-yən, i- also ˌī-\
Function: noun
Date: 14th century

1 a : a native or inhabitant of Italy b : a person of Italian descent
2 : the Romance language of the Italians


1. of or pertaining to Italy, its people, or their language.
2. a native or inhabitant of Italy, or a person of Italian descent.
3. a Romance language, the language of Italy, official also in Switzerland. Abbreviation: It, It., Ital.

The pronunciation of Italian with an initial[ahy] Show IPA sound (pronounced like the word eye) and often with level stress on the first and second syllables:[ahy-tal-yuhn] is heard primarily from uneducated speakers. This pronunciation is sometimes facetious or disparaging in purpose and is usually considered offensive. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009.

So the debate rages on, I suppose. This would be a lot easier if those dictionary folks could get on the same page!

(Same page, haha, I crack myself up.)

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