spelling pronunciation--words in -or

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Fri Mar 20 01:44:25 UTC 2009

>making such brave choices as an 'acTOR'.

That faux-pretentious pronunciation has been current in actors'
self-parody for quite some time; I remember it from the 1980s, and I
don't think it was new then. (You can also hear "ac-TING!" and, more
naturally, "ar-TISTE!")

For Realtor and the others, it seems conceivable to me that the
distinction from -er endings leads to the self-conscious emphasis of
the vowel. The speaker doesn't want to be thought to be saying or
intending "educater," "administrater," etc. For Realtor, though,
there's an added impetus in that it's a trademarked designation (you
must be a real estate licensee and member of the National Association
of Realtors) and one that they want to defend as such -- and see
properly spelled, which is an important aspect of defending a
trademark. Emphasis on the -or in that word could, I suppose,
influence the other words.

James Harbeck.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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