Wednesday, October 2, 2019


From Bryan Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: is it /mi-zuur-ee/ or /mi-zuur-ә/?

The pronunciation of this state name has provoked much strife. Although most Americans say /mi-zuur-ee/, many Missourians say /mi-zuur-ә/. In and around St. Louis, many say /ee/, but /ә/ has traditionally predominated in other parts of the state. Both pronunciations are standard. Yet it is a telling point that politicians running for statewide office are careful to say /ә/ — to seem folksy and avoid sounding like an auslander. But interestingly, the final-syllable /ә/ pronunciation seems to be for insiders only — all non-Missourians being expected to say /ee/. . . .

An early commentator, the noted linguist E.H. Sturtevant, attributed the final-syllable /-ә/ to hypercorrection. It’s a surprising but quite plausible argument: “In the dialect of Missouri and the neighboring states, final a in such words as ‘America,’ ‘Arizona,’ ‘Nevada,’ becomes y —‘Americy,’ ‘Arizony,’ ‘Nevady.’ All educated people in that region carefully correct this vulgarism out of their speech; and many of them carry the correction too far and say ‘Missoura,’ ‘praira,’ etc.” E.H. Sturtevant, Linguistic Change 79 (1917).
In Illinois we have /lәr-nee/ (Lerna) and /lox-ee/ (Loxa) and no doubt /meh-nee/ others.

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comments: 6

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr.Leddy there is a typo in the URL.

Michael Leddy said...

I looked at the post title several times before my wife came to my rescue. The link for the Usage Tip of the Day now works. Thanks for catching the problem, Johannes.

Slywy said...

"Hey Mr.Leddy"

I think you mean "Mr. Ledda."

Michael Leddy said...

Ha! I wish I’d thought of that.

Anonymous said...

Doh. I don't get the joke!
I said Mr.Leddy because your blog sometimes remind me of a teacher I used to have, even though we are probably around the same age.
PS I am sorry if I was not clear enough about where the typo was...

Michael Leddy said...

Johannes, the error was mine. I kept thinking I must have misspelled “Missouri.” Slywy’s joke is on the two pronunciations of “Missouri.”

On the Internets I’m just Michael, but I’ll answer to almost anything. As a teacher I much preferred “Mister.” As my wife says, “A doctor is someone who fixes your knee.”