Monday, December 12, 2011

How to Pronounce the Word "Judaism"

I bet you're wondering what on earth this post is about. Of course you know how to pronounce the word "Judaism"! Isn't that a prerequisite to joining the religion?!

I'm not saying there's a correct way, but American English speakers have several very distinct ways of pronouncing the word. I'm somewhat trained as a linguist, and I have a half-decent ear for hearing subtle changes in pronunciation. I kept hearing something different about how some people say "Judaism," but it literally took me five years to figure out the difference. I guess that means I'm not a very good linguist after all :(

"Jew-DAY-ism"
"JEW-day-ism"
"JEW-dee-ism" (Judyism?)
"JEW-dah-ism"
"JUDAH-ism"
"JEWD-ism"

The simple difference in which syllable people stress makes a very different sound. It's not quite as striking as the difference between "advertisement" in American English versus British English, but certainly there. It's also the same kind of difference, "ad-VER-tiz-ment" and "ad-ver-TISE-ment" (AD-ver-tis-ment is also correct for Americans.) If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out this educational video

Now I want to know what creates the difference. Maybe I'm saying it with a Southern accent? 


Apparently I'm on Team JEW-day-ism. What about you?

23 comments:

  1. What about those of us who say JEW-dee-ism (Judyism?)

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    1. Clearly, those people are worshipping someone named, "Judy." When will they learn?

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  2. Don't forget "JEW-dee-ism", the alternative pronunciation that allowed comedienne Judy Tenuta riffed off of in her act in the 1990s! I heard that pronunciation pretty commonly growing up in New York.

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  3. I'm going to chime in with the "JEW-dee-ism" folks here. Maybe it's a midwestern thing? (Born and bred in Chicago, also a linguist!) It always bothered me how people would say "JEW-dee-ism" but "jew-DAY-ick-uh" (judaica)

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  4. Add another for JEW-dee-sim. I'm also from the midwest, bordering on the south.

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  5. Or if you're yeshivish-leaning Orthodox you pronounce it "Yiddishkeit." :P
    Then there's the linguistic phenomenon among some of our Reform-observant brothers and sisters, as well as our friends in academia, who gloss towards "Judah'ism." Again, might be a regional thing, but definitely something I've noticed.
    Love this post. It warms my linguist cockles!

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  6. I typically use jew-DAY-ism, reason being (and bare with me here it's a stretch) is that the term Jew started being used to describe the people of Judah, and in Hebrew the stress is typically placed on the last syllable of the word. Since the suffix -ism simply refers to the aforementioned noun to refer to the "religion of those in Judah (i.e. Jews)" then it really isn't the last syllable of importance. I could just be thinking that out way too much though.

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  7. Who is "judy" and what is her "ism?"

    Then there is the related "judaica" with the emphasis on the "day" in the middle.

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  8. I have also heard people pronounce it: Jew-Dism...

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  9. I do

    "Judah-ism" now. I used to do "JEW-dee-ism"

    Born and raised in the South.

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  10. Hebraicists vote for יהדות ("Ya-ha-DOOT").

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  11. Actually, I say something between JEW-da-ism and jew-da-ISM. :P

    I HATE it when people say JUDEE-ism.

    And actually I think British people say ad-VER-tis-ment, as opposed to ad-VER-tiz-ment. I think it's a 's' and not a 'z'.

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  12. I've always said JEW-day-ism (also AD-ver-tize-ment, for that matter). Guess I really am a Midwesterner with my average American pronunciation.

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  13. Great article....!!!Nice to know about new things with helping concept.

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  14. I'm all for Juda-ism

    n

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  15. The correct pronunciation is JEW-DAH-ISM!. NOT dee or DAY! That is straight from the mouth of a Rabbi. I am a viligant fighter of ignorance!. Ignorance will always keep you in the dark!

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    1. a) Rabbis don't know everything, especially not an individual rabbi. Linguistics isn't exactly their forte as a general rule. b) The word is "vigilant."

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    2. It is not a Hebrew word, it is a Latin word.

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  16. I commented earler about the most correct way to pronounce it. It is named after Judah, just add ism!

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  17. Yea! Finally, I found agreement that "jud-ee-ism is incorrect. It has never made any sense to me since I can see no way that the spelling could be verbalized by that pronunciation. Just because a lot of people pronounce it with an "ee" sound in the middle doesn't make it acceptable. BTW, it has always reminded me of "The Punch and Judy" show....but, I guess that is for me and my therapist to discuss.

    Off the top of my head, I can't think of any three syllable words that pronounce an "a" as a hard "a" in the middle syllable, either; so, I don't think Jud-ay-ism is correct either. I am in the Jud-ah-ism contingency.

    A lot of people say "liberry" instead of "library" but that doesn't make it correct.

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  18. Wow, you learn something new everyday! Being English, I've only ever heard it pronounced JEW-day-ism.

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