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dissect (again)

February 13, 2014

Because of the story in the news recently, about that giraffe that got killed and chopped up in a zoo, I’ve been hearing the word dissect a lot, and of course everyone pronounces it die-sect, which made me think it’s time to re-post my earlier thoughts about the pronunciation of this word, first posted back in 2011:

I was watching a BBC3 programme about dinosaurs the other night, and the presenter kept pronouncing the word dissect with a long i :  die-sect. Well, nearly everyone pronounces it that way now, of course, but why? All the other words I can think of starting with ‘diss’ have the first syllable pronounced like the Norfolk market town: disservice, dissonant, dissolution, dissociate etc. My hunch is that it’s by analogy with ‘bisect’. Actually I remember being taught these words together in primary school, and feeling mildly disappointed that they didn’t rhyme, as, back in 1970, they didn’t. Well, now they do. I’m still continuing to say ‘dissect’ with the traditional pronunciation, but I may change soon; it is starting to sound rather prissy and pedantic and, as Simeon Potter said, a man (sic) can and should change his language habits. Clinging to old pronunciations is a bit like insisting on wearing 1970s clothes.

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