Friday, October 26, 2012

Pronouncing and Mispronouncing "Thixotropy"

O.k., I get it. People love to use the word "thixotropy" whenever they can. It's a very unusual word and can sound rather impressive. It's pretty much impossible to figure out the meaning just from the word itself and even from the context in most cases. If you use it incorrectly, I will track you down and correct it, but what I cannot do is make sure that at every watercooler conversation around the world the term is pronounced correctly. So let me do what I can to help. Merriam-Webster has the proper pronunciation while Forvo does not

That's right, just like "kilometer" is not "kilo-meter" but "ki-lom-meter", "thixotrpy" is not "thixo-tropy" but "thix-ot-tropy". You've been warned.


Bend said...

I've heard "KIL-oh-meter" plenty of times. Moreover, I think that it is a more consistent pronunciation than "kil-AH-meter." We don't say, after all, "kil-AH-gram" or "kil-AH-watt."
And thixotropy, coming from the Greek language, the both "o" letters should give the long "o" sound, right.
When it comes to technical terms, you'll find quite a few opinions, even among experts.
Is "azide" pronounced with a long "i" or a short "i?"
Is maleimide "mal-AY-imide" or "MAL-ee-imide?"
Is mesenchymal "mess-en-KIME-al" or "mess-EN-chim-al?" I've heard them all from leaders in their various fields. Do dictionaries list preferred pronunciations for these words? Maybe. But experts are not likely to pay much attention to dictionaries because they know that they are better informed than the editor who made the relevant entry.

John said...

Funny how you never argued that "thixo-tropy" is correct, other than by an indirect approach based on a foreign language. The Wikipedia article on English orthography provides plenty of evidence that that approach is not correct. With English, far more than any other language, pronunciation is based on agreement and not rules.

Bend said...

John, interesting point on English orthography (is that OR-tho-graf-ee or or-THAH-graf-ee?). I'm not really arguing that "THIX-oh-tropy" is correct so much as it's not really incorrect. I've read enough bogus results in the scientific literature to know that not everything in print is true. That extends to dictionaries as well. If oxford says "it's pronounced this way" I'm not going to argue with a rheologist who pronounces it another way. (I'm not arguing against your pronunciation either). How much rheology do the editors of Oxford English dictionary do anyway.
I work with azides and maleimides and I pronounce them the way that sounds best to me (A-zide and ma-LAY-imide) but I don't correct another chemist who works in the same field if he says A-zid and MAL-ee-imide.

John said...

My experiences have been the "thixo -tropy" is what newbies say, and so saying it as "thix-ot-tropy" will set you apart as being in the know.

At the same time, and even in the same field, rheopexy is pronounced "rheo-pexy" and not "rhe-op-pexy". I've never heard it said any other way (and hope I never do!).