“Negotiate,” for U.K. residents

I only have two linguistic pet peeves, both of them idiosyncratic. I don’t like it when people say “a couple things” (instead of “a couple of things”) and I don’t like it when the word “negotiate” is pronounces “ne-go-see-ate.” I had never thought of the latter as a Britishism until I  recently heard an interview where an English person used it.

I thought I’d find out from NOOB readers if the word is pronounced differently on either side of the Atlantic. I only seem to put in one poll per post, so depending on your nationality, please respond to the appropriate poll.

I’d love to hear about any other pronunciations, and the news from Canada, Australia, etc., in the comments


33 thoughts on ““Negotiate,” for U.K. residents

  1. I think the drive to pronounce negoCiate and iSSue starts with Britain’s news readers and broadcast announcers wanting to sound ‘correct’.
    (I know the BBC sends recruits on a course where they are taught to omit vowels from ‘medicine’ and ‘police’ – ‘medsin’, ‘pleece’ – and make other weird pronunciations that no one else in Britain uses. It drives me mad but that’s another story.)

  2. Years ago (in the Sixties) there was always a different pronunciation of margarine between the non-commercial BBC TV and the ads on the commercial service. BBC said marge-arine, ads always said marg-arine.

    I’ve never heard you folk in the US say MarTIN, it always comes out as Mart’n.

    Currently media commentators in the UK refuse to use the e in markets or targets, it’s always markits or targits, even BBC newsreaders who should know better.

    1. I think that marG-arine was felt by some in the early days of the vile stuff to be more ‘correct’ as it derives from margaros (hard G) meaning pearl in Greek. Because, of course, margarine looks so pearl-like…

  3. Cor the missing “of” – it’s everywhere and drives me nuts. Am not sure if it occurs only in print/text (when met there it’s like a wheel crashing into a pothole) or speech as well. It’s the kind of thing the French would NEVER ALLOW! And here I hastily add, the beauty of English (US or UK) is that it is so flexible, accepting and creative…BUT THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I cannot recall ever hearing “a couple things”. What I hear everyday is ” a coupla things” where the “couple of” elides into coupla,,, sort of like “sorta”.

    2. Similarly, the superfluous “of” following the preposition “outside”, e.g. “The car is outside of the house.” However, neither is as bad as its dreadful misuse as a contraction of “have”, e.g. “I could of danced all night.”

  4. Re negotiate, aren’t there LOADS of words with similar pronunciation variables dependent on side of Atlantic? Why is negotiate different from
    * “skedule” vs “schedule” * “eether” vs “eyether” Now live US side but originate UK side and speak BBC. However – and this will sound gross but was typical of the times – when a kid I’d be corrected on pronunciation and was NOT allowed to say “skedule” or “eether”. No I was not born in 1901!

    1. For minor and easily-fixed reasons, I am currently using speech recognition software, and it will not allow me to pronounce either as ‘eyther’, which is my natural accent. When the software grows particularly recalcitrant, I have to lapse into an American accent (or my risible approximation of one) in order to continue working.

  5. As for “medicine” and “police”, these were pronounced “medsin” and “plees” when I was growing up in the 1960s. This was in the Wirral, the Cheshire suburbs of Liverpool, so hardly a hotbed of received pronunciation (I got bullied for my Wirral accent on moving to Hertfordshire, aged 11). Similarly Wednesday was “Wensdee”, February was “Febree” and “clothes” and “close” were homophones. Over the years since the pronunciation of these words has migrated towards speak-as-you-spell, but the BBC announcer training may have been left behind. I’ve long noticed that BBC announcers seem to go to great pains to give the wh in which, what, wherefore etc. the full aspiration; it always did sound forced to me but that’s the influence of the Mersey for you.

  6. Always ” “ne-go-she-ate” as far as I am concerned. The other pronunciation sounds like a hypercorrection to my British ears.

  7. I can’t vote, as I’m not sure what I say! My first reaction (as an Englishman) is that I say ‘ni-go-SHee-ate’, but the more I think and practise, the less sure I am; I suspect it may vary and/or be somewhere between the two. (Self-reporting is never entirely accurate, is it?)

    In general, I think I approve of pronunciations moving towards spellings; the former are much easier to change than the latter, and many of the differences are probably due to earlier pronunciation mistakes or drifts, so bringing them back into line makes the language that bit easier for future users (native or not).

    1. A lot of this comes down to emphasis.
      I think people will use “the other” pronunciation of a word in order to emphasise that particular word.
      Thinking about how I use these words : for instance I usually say “eyther” and “nigosheate” (possibly even dropping the “e” to make it nigoshate with a short “i”) but will say “eether” and “nee-go-see-ate” and also “thee” instead of “the” if I wish to press a point.

  8. Don’t you think you may be leading the witness by saying that you hate what is a perfectly normal british pronunciation (next, how do your pronounce *that* word?) before asking us to vote?

      1. I thought that also so I asked people to say the word and listened. Almost. In fact all the Canadians I have asked here in Newfoundland have pronounced the word with a she.. Even the ones that sound Irish…

  9. I’ve been thinking about how I might pronounce this word. I’m American, but lived in England as a child, and have all my life been exposed to more British books and media than most Americans. I use a lot of British pronunciations, often switching back and forth freely between British and American pronunciations. I’m pretty sure I would always say “negotiate” with a /sh/ sound for the ‘t’ in the middle. However, I think I might say “negotiations” with an /s/ sound for that first ‘t’.

    I’m not really sure, though. Perhaps I’d always use the /sh/ . . .

  10. Ben:

    If you dislike “a couple things”, then I suggest you move to England, since the construction is unknown there (or, at least, it was unknown to me during the first 22 years of my life that I spent there).

    As for “ne-go-see-ate” — that is a long-established option in England. If you dislike that, what do you think of “con-tro-ver-see-al”, which I keep hearing on NPR these days?

  11. My apologies to all: I am guilty of “a couple things” (well, more than a couple, but you know what I mean). I’ve used it to establish an informal, “grammar-be-damned” tone. I’ll stop.

  12. I say Nego-see-ate, but then I pronounce all the syllables in Secretary and all the letters in Twelfth; I say Due not Jue, and Issue not Ishoo, and all because….

    …I went to drama school. Can’t shake those ingrained habits. Feel a bit conspicuous sometimes, especially when I say “valet” (as in car) pronouncing the “t”.

  13. I have a small lisp, so this is a bit of a moot point for me! Nonetheless I do at least try to speak “proper”; It’s not a matter of accent, but rather diction.

  14. As a Brit married to an American, I’ve had no choice but to notice the subtle differences in the way we say (essentially) the same things. (And no, I’m not talking about the whole Aluminium/Aluminum debate)

    My pet peeve is when Americans say “I could care less”.

    The phrase is “I COULDN’T care less” because it’s to say there is nothing I care less about than what you’re saying/doing. it’s supposed to be dismissive and rude.

    Whereas the American version of “I could care less” implies that you care a little bit and it’s possible to care less than you do right now.

    I’ve discussed this with my wife who (thankfully) gets it right….and now she shares my frustration when hearing it said incorrectly on TV shows and movies.

    Oh, and I pronounce ‘negotiate’ like “ne-go-she-ate”

  15. I saddly recognize that it is often easier to understand an American from New York than an english from the north or parts of London, since the “th” turnes into “F” or “V”: “Vat Fing over Vere!”, “Vis is my broVah!”. The dropping “H” and the glotting: “I’m going to stay a’ the Windsor o’el”. We are going to end up doing gutural noises as the chimps again. Blime, what are they doing to my language?

  16. Having recently watched all six seasons of “Downton Abbey”, I noticed that the posh people tend to say “negoSiate”, and probably “is-sue”. I suppose it’s an upper class thing.

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