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I am not a native speaker of the language and I was recently corrected when pronouncing patronizing "paytronizing" when meaning condescending. I was told it is wrong to pronounce it that way; however, after looking it in dictionaries, I found both pronunciations to be accepted and no information on differences in usage. Should I stop pronouncing it paytronizing? Does it have a different connotation/denotation when using one or the other pronunciation?

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I guess the question should be titled What is the correct pronunciation of patronizing? Words have a meaning, not their pronunciation. –  kiamlaluno Jan 30 '11 at 5:46

2 Answers 2

As far as I know, /paytronizing/ is mainly American, /pahtronizing/ is British. Note that it is (usually?) written patronising with an s in British. I believe there is no commonly recognised distinction in meaning between the two pronunciations, as in /pay-/ meaning "condescending" v. /pah-/ for other senses, though some might disagree.

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Both senses derive from 'acting as a patron towards...', in the older sense that a patron is a supporter or protector. Such a person might be haughty or condescending to his clients (who would have been his social inferiors). The later usage for a patron is someone who gives their regular business to a shop/hotel/etc., and so patronising in this sense has a more positive connotation. –  gpr Jan 30 '11 at 1:29
@gpr: Oh, I see now that my sentence was ambiguous: I didn't mean to say that there were no different senses—just that there was no one-on-one correspondence between one pronunciation and one sense; I have corrected my answer above. Your explanation of etymology is excellent. I'd like to add that "patron" comes from Latin patronus, which comes from pater, "father". Patronus was used for a well-to-do man who had clientes, supporters, whom he sometimes provided with small favours, in return for which they then supported him as a crowd in elections and other things. –  Cerberus Jan 30 '11 at 1:40
Interesting, I assumed that it would be a US/UK difference, but I can't recall hearing it with /pay-/ as the first syllable, must not often hear it used by Americans. The word that is, not the action, if only. –  Orbling Jan 30 '11 at 2:59
@Orbling: Haha, I see. I am not sure how wide-spread /pay-/ is in America; I was merely offering my impression mixed with a few internet sources. I was hoping that perhaps someone might produce a map with isoglosses or something... Kosmonaut once showed me a map with the prevalence of coke, pop, soda, etc. for the same type of beverage, in countless coloured dots sprinkled across America forming oddly-shaped puddles. –  Cerberus Jan 30 '11 at 3:47
Well, that's what happens when you go spreading such substances all over a continent. Very difficult to clean, awfully sticky underfoot. –  Orbling Jan 30 '11 at 14:37

The pronunciation of patronize is /ˈpeɪtrəˌnaɪz/, /ˈpætrəˌnaɪz/ when using the American English IPA, and /ˈpatrənʌɪz/ when using the British English IPA; the first is the pronunciation in American English, the second is the pronunciation in British English.

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