On the Vagaries of English Pronunciation

English pronunciation certainly has its idiosyncrasies, evidenced by the word ‘vagary’ itself. You say / və-gâr’ē/, I say /vā’gə-rē /. Let’s call the whole thing off, especially before I have to type any more words in IPA. While at work one day, I used this word while making some now-forgotten point, and a fellow professor told me that my pronunciation of VEY-guh-ree was incorrect. It should be pronounced vuh-GAH-ree. Never having heard this pronunciation and knowing that my colleague’s humor tends towards the dry and sarcastic, I believed that I was the victim of a leg pulling. Alas, though, the evidence was in the dictionary. Two dictionaries were produced, one of which only offered the vuh-GAH-ree pronunciation, the other of which offered both as perfectly acceptable alternatives.

I should have been satisfied. I was not. I did a little research. There wasn’t an impressive consensus, especially on which phonetic rendering was used, but here’s what the dictionaries said: Continue reading