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I'm doing subtitles for some videos on Youtube. I heard the words either and neither spoken in two different ways by the same person. Written it could be:

  • ee-ther versus i-ther or
  • n-ee-ther versus n-i-ther

Is there a rule for which pronunciation to use? Or is it just a matter of birth/taste/location?

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marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt Jul 21 at 19:47

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No. They'd both be spelled either, no matter whether they were pronounced /'iðər/ or /'ayðər/; ditto neither. Trying to account for accent differences gets complicated for stuff that hasta be read fast. Stick with the spelling. –  John Lawler Jul 21 at 18:34
    
Thanks, that's a good point for the subtitles. But as you might have noticed: I'm not trying to enter accent differences to the subtitles. I just wanted to understand why it's sometimes spoken one way and sometimes another because I'm curious about the english language. :-) –  user85764 Jul 21 at 18:45
    
It's something of a socioeconomic marker any more, plus it's been immortalized in a Cole Porter song. Otherwise, it's individual choice and habit. –  John Lawler Jul 21 at 18:52
    
Okay, I see. Thanks a lot. –  user85764 Jul 21 at 19:00
    
I guess this goes actually a little deeper than I wanted... But it's partly the same question. Thanks. –  user85764 Jul 21 at 19:18

1 Answer 1

As with many of life's most vexing questions, the answer to this one was composed by the Gershwin and delivered by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong:

You say either and I say either.
You say neither and I say neither.
Either, either. Neither, neither.
Let's call the whole thing off.

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Okay, so it seems to be a matter of habit or accent or coloration of the language a person is using. But is it somehow weird if you'd switch between both ways to pronunce it? I guess this doesn't happen if you're a native speaker, does it? –  user85764 Jul 21 at 19:55
1  
Most people stick to one, but I have heard people switch and people who pronounce "either" and "neither" differently, and people who use one pronunciation for "either way" and the other for "either this or that". –  Malvolio Jul 21 at 21:08
    
A comedian once got a lot of laughs out of this song by pretending to miss the point and pronouncing both instances of each word the same way. "You say ee-ther and I say ee-ther..." –  keshlam Jul 22 at 5:03

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