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Various pronunciations of common words

You say potato and I say ... well, that depends.

On this week's edition of That's What They Say, host Rina Miller and University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan investigate the  various pronunciation of commonly used words.

Cumin, a popular ingredient found in many kitchens across the nation, is a word that has a tendency to catch people off guard with regards to its pronunciation. According to Curzan, historically, cumin was pronounced as "come-in" and is derived from old English. Current usage of the word takes on a couple of forms. While some people may say "coo-min," others might pronounce it as "cue-min." Furthermore, some people may still pronounce cumin as "come-in." Curzan states that most standard English dictionaries will give you "cue-min" or "come-in" as standard pronunciations. 

Other words such as "harassment" and "program" do have alternate pronunciations and Standard English dictionaries will usually provide both forms. Harassment can take on the form "harris-ment" and program can sometimes be pronounced as "progrum."

What words do you frequently use that have alternate pronunciations? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

– Omar Saadeh, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.
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