THAT’S A MISTAKE, of course. Most people know that the noun isn’t pronounciation, but pronunciation. And they’ll duly write in to Radio 4 in their hundreds every time they hear the word on the radio. The surprising thing is that they’ll write in to complain even when it has been pronounced correctly: they’re expecting it to be wrong, so that’s how they imagine they’ve heard it. 

But some words are regularly mispronounced, even by people who ought to know better. My current bugbear is dissect.

Many people pronounce dissect with a strong i, to rhyme with bisect. I’ve even heard Stephen Fry, scholar though he is, saying it this way. 

But it’s wrong. Bisect is formed from bi-, meaning two, and -sect, meaning to cut. To bisect is to cut in half. 

Dissect, on the other hand, has a double s. It’s formed from dis-, meaning apart, and -sect. It’s a completely different word. The dis should be pronounced to match discover, distinct and disintegrate.

Glad I’ve got that off my chest. 

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