Thursday, June 26, 2008

Apologetic retraction

May I quote myself? Thank you.

I looked up eschew because I thought I'd heard it mispronounced. The first pronunciation listed (the first among equals) was \e‑'shü\; but--and here comes my point at last--the syllabification is given as es·chew. This makes no sense if the sch is pronounced \sh\, but it's the only break that makes sense if the sch is pronounced \s‑ch\. So Merriam-Webster is contradicting itself. It doesn't take a stand on the pronunciation of the sch, but it does take a stand on the syllabification, which means that it does take a stand on the pronunciation of the sch.

And now I quote page 11a of Merriam-Webster's eleventh, with some added emphasis from yours truly.

There are acceptable alternative end-of-line divisions just as there are acceptable variant spellings and pronunciations. It is, for example, all but impossible to produce a convincing argument that either of the divisions aus·ter·i·ty, au·ster·i·ty is better than the other. But space cannot be taken for entries like aus·ter·i·ty or au·ster·i·ty, and au·s·ter·i·ty would likely be confusing to many. No more than one division is, therefore, shown for an entry in this dictionary.

Many words have two or more common pronunciation variants, and the same end-of-line division is not always appropriate for each of them. The division fla·gel·lar, for example, best fits the variant \flə-'je-lər\ whereas the division flag·el·lar best fits the variant \'fla-jə-lər\. In instances like this, the division falling farther to the left is used, regardless of the order of the pronunciations:

fla·gel·lar \flə-'je-lər, 'fla-jə-lər\

My point is that I sure do wish people would do their research before they publish. Especially me. I apologize to Merriam-Webster. (But boy, did it ever feel cool to think I'd caught a dictionary in a contradiction.)

I do get a little bit of vindication from the fact that M-W seems to more or less share my liberal view on this syllable business, sort of.

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