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Tomato, tomahto ... can't we all just get along?

It’s the kind of thing that can divide a nation.

Or, at the very least, it’s the kind of thing that can bring a perfect date between two grammar nerds to a screeching halt.

Picture it. You’re midway through what has been a nearly perfect first date. Conversation has been interesting, awkward lulls have been minimal and basic hygiene expectations have been met.

Then, somewhere between entrees and dessert, the word "alleged" comes up in conversation.

Your date pronounces it with three syllables, so the "ed" is left hanging on its own at the end. You smile and politely correct him with your two syllable pronunciation. He smiles back and corrects you.

Then, silence. 

Hastily, you start to assemble an arsenal of grammar rules you're certain will annihilate any potential defense he may have for his three syllable pronunciation. This will end here. You clench your teeth and prepare for battle. 

Wait a minute, this is That’s What They Say, not the Thunderdome. University of Michigan English professor Anne Curzan can settle this quickly and without bloodshed. 

Curzan says the three syllable pronunciation of “alleged” is newer and was probably influenced by the pronunciation of “allegedly.” That said, standard dictionaries list both pronunciations as correct.

See? Everybody wins! Let’s see what other pronunciation disagreements we can settle.

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.
Rebecca Kruth is the host of All Things Considered at Michigan Public. She also co-hosts Michigan Public's weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
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