I say sked-yule, you say shed-yule; I say nego-she-ate, you say nego-see-ate …

“Stand well away from Platform 4. The approaching train is not SHEDuled to stop at this station.” So pronounces the Very British voice actor Celia Drummond, who happens to be the the voice of London’s Jubilee and Northern tube lines, as well as of some of the other British transport systems. But is this the “correct” pronunciation of the word schedule? Or do Americans come closer to the way the word was pronounced in its original language?

Schedule is on permanent loan from the Greek language, so let’s talk Greek. Most Greek loan words beginning with “sch” — think school, scheme, scholar, schism — are pronounced “sk” rather than “sh.” However, since the word schedule dates more recently (from about the 1300s) from the Old French cedule (Modern French cédule), it was pronounced and even spelled the French way (“SED-ule”) in English for many centuries, and its more modern pronunciation still retains that French influence — at least in the UK. It was when many old Latin and Greek words changed their spelling in the 16th century — from the more French-tinged and obviously pronounced sedule to the more scholarly-looking scedule or schedule — that the Brits and Americans parted company over how the word was to be pronounced. Noah Webster (of dictionary fame) prescribed that it should reflect its Greek origins and fall in step with “school” and “scheme”; hence the American SKED-ule. In Britain, meanwhile, the SED pronunciation morphed into SHED.

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Then we have the “ne-go-SHEE-ate” vs. “ne-go-SEE-ate” question. The second one, although a legit/standard British alternative pronunciation (you won’t hear it on the other side of the Atlantic), seems to be regarded nowadays as an example of hyper-correction at best and trying to be posh at worst.  It is worth noting that the word negotiate is a back-formation from negotiation, which dates back to the early 15th century and derives from the Old French negociacion — which pronounces both its ‘c’s as “ss” and not as “sh.” So maybe people who say ne-go-SEE-ate are trying to sound French rather than posh.

Here are a few other words containing “-ciate” or “-tiate”: how do you pronounce them?

associate, excruciating, appreciate, depreciate, officiate, substantiate, differentiate, ingratiate, initiate, satiate.

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