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For a long time, I used the word segway in relative contentment, as a useful word to mean "to transition to." As in:

We're getting off-topic. Let's segway to the next discussion point, shall we?

Then one day, and to my surprise, I was shocked, after making a comment on somebody's blog, to be haughtily corrected and informed that correct usage was actually segue, which apparently comes by the Italian seguire, meaning "to follow." I was additionally told that segway was a vulgar imitation used by know-nothings, a sort of word like bonafied that instantly revealed one's class and relative ignorance.

Wow! I had little doubt that the use of segway was substatially bolstered by the hype and general pop-cultural awareness of Dean Kamen's famous flop, but back then, I'd always thought he'd fittingly named his vehicle after the word itself, and it was strange to me to learn that the Segway was in fact knowingly named after a corruption.

On the other hand, this is a mistake I continually hear lots of people, even educated people, make — cf. for example, whoever Joel is talking to at the 61st minute of the latest podcast.

So has segway become acceptable as a replacement for segue? Can segue be considered all but dead? To be clear, as this is StackExchange, I'm not looking for, "ooh! I say it this way", and "no, I say it that way!" responses; I'm looking more for quantitative data, usage by established authorities (is the NYRB using segway?), and perhaps discussions from those who have written on this before.

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I'm a little confused. I had assumed from the heading that this question was about spelling. From reading the question, it seems that you are asking about pronunciation? Regardless of which spelling you select (segue for a transition, Segway for the product) I am only aware of one pronunciation. Incidentally, so is my dictionary... –  Karl Apr 21 '11 at 5:38
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The word "segue" is pronounced in essentially the same way as "segway" (at least, in the accents I'm familiar with). For instance, in the linked podcast, there's no reason to think the speaker believes the word is spelled "segway". –  Henry Apr 21 '11 at 5:42
    
@Henry: it's definitely not pronounced in the same way in Italian! (and it's exact translation would be it follows which does not really fit in those sentences). –  nico Apr 21 '11 at 6:15
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@OP How exactly did you think "segue" was pronounced, that these "mistakes" you hear (like that podcast) aren't correct uses of the correct word? (@nico, it's an accepted english word though, how it's pronounced, or how its meaning is different, in Italian isn't all that relevant. English doesn't have an /e/ vowel, and /ɡw/ is not a common cluster) –  Random832 Apr 21 '11 at 15:20
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The two words are homophones, both of which are pronounced /ˈsɛgweɪ/. –  tchrist Jan 20 '12 at 3:50

6 Answers 6

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Google Ngram data provides a little insight although the introduction of the Segway was quite recent. There does seem to be a dip in the use of 'segue' since around 2003 which coincides somewhat with the rise of the Segway in the common consciousness.

Google Books Ngram for 'segue' vs 'Segway'

Perhaps 'segue' is at a disadvantage owing to its not having what might be called an 'intuitive' spelling. Hence the more phonetically appealing 'segway', boosted by the invention and subsequent naming of the ridiculous personal transport vehicle, is making inroads.

(My personal opinion: the word is spelled 'segue' and always will be. Anything else is just laziness and poor literacy.)

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"laziness and poor literacy" is one of the ways that language evolves. Don't fight it too hard, you'll go mad. :) –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Apr 21 '11 at 13:01
    
The peak in "Segway" from 1901 to 1908 is unexplained. –  Joe Z. Jan 29 '13 at 21:21
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@JoeZeng: Look at the sample size. That is probably a very small number of citations. Also, the Ngram has changed since this answer was posted, likely because Google’s corpus has grown. –  Jon Purdy Jan 29 '13 at 21:28
    
Sometimes, when I navigate a link, I forget that the post isn't as recent as the one I came from. –  Joe Z. Jan 29 '13 at 21:31
    
@JoeZeng: Same here. It’s also a bit of a problem how answers need to be maintained, especially if their sources have changed. –  Jon Purdy Jan 29 '13 at 21:38

The only meaning of segway reported by the NOAD, and the OED, is the following:

Segway: [trademark] a two-wheeled motorized personal vehicle consisting of a platform for the feet mounted above an axle and an upright post surmounted by handles.

As per the origin of the word, both the dictionaries say "an invented word based on segue."

I would say that segway is not an acceptable substitute for segue.

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+1 The word is a trade name and may not be used in other senses, at least commercially. –  Kris Oct 31 '12 at 15:15

The OED does not list segway, it only lists segue, as musical slang.

segue, n. Mus. slang.

(ˈsɛgweɪ)

[f. prec.]

An uninterrupted transition from one song or melody to another. (Used of both live and pre-recorded music.)

As your commenter made a point of segway being a vulgar imitation used by know-nothings, you should then point him out that segue is not the correct Italian word for this concept. One should rather use proseguimento or proseguire (or many others, it really depends on the sentence). Segue means "it follows", therefore, you are saying:

We're getting off-topic. Let's it follows to the next discussion point, shall we?

Which is meaningless.

Also the correct italian pronunciation is not ˈsɛgweɪ but rather se'gwe

Personally, I would just say:

We're getting off-topic. Let's continue to the next discussion point, shall we?

What's wrong with that?

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Just because "segue" comes from an Italian word meaning "it follows" doesn't mean every use of the English word derived from it should be replaced with "it follows". Segue has become a perfectly good English word, with its own meaning and its own pronunciation. What's wrong with that? –  Henry Apr 21 '11 at 16:27
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Except that its Italian roots are irrelevant to its correctness. The original word is perfectly correct. –  Henry Apr 21 '11 at 23:33
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I disagree. segue is a verb, and is being used as a noun. Then, I'm not saying you shouldn't use it, just that if any Italian is around he will probably be quite perplexed by what you are trying to say. It's like people using "bravo" for women, personally I find it just hilarious: every time I hear it it sounds to me like "I'm complimenting you young woman, and telling you you're a man!". –  nico Apr 22 '11 at 6:40
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You are still incorrect. Segue is also a noun. As for any nearby Italian speakers who might be entertained, given the vast number of words English has borrowed from other languages, I'm sure Italians are far from alone in that reaction. –  Henry Apr 22 '11 at 6:49
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@nico: No, using segue as a noun is not "using a verb as a noun", it's using an English noun as an English noun. The English word segue is not the Italian word segue, it's a different word that happens to be historically related. –  Henry Apr 22 '11 at 18:26

http://www.english-for-students.com/Segway-or-Segue.html This sums it up:

When you shift to a new topic or activity, you segue. Many people unfamiliar with the unusual Italian spelling of the word misspell it as “segway.”

This error is being encouraged by the deliberately punning name used by the manufacturers of the Segway Human Transporter.

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The question is hard to answer because the framing is unclear. A podcast (audio only) is referenced, but elsewhere it looks like the question is between the spelling "segway" and "segue". The only resolution for this contradiction is if the author believed that "segway" and "segue" are pronounced differently. Dictionaries would indicate that they are homophones. So perhaps an alternate pronunciation for "segue" is at play. I've heard my mother pronounce "segue" as "seeg". Whether that's a regional variant, a personal quirk, or a common error, I'm not sure, though she did study music so perhaps it was taught. Perhaps that's where the confusion lies.

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Segway, seque, or segue.

Ameriglish is an evolving language; in the last two years since this thread began, segway is gaining ground over segue, as vulgar an incorrect as some of us linguists and etymologists might find it. Be a hipster, use & co-create the Urban Dictionary, and Segway into the new lingo. There certainly is something very classy and non-irrelevant about using the original Italian pronunciation se'gwe; such a proseguimento used appropriately by a gentleman arriving at my door with CHILLED Argyle Champagne on one arm and any variety of lilies on the other will receive my affection, especially if his attire includes an eldredge knot, and he offers a ballet or opera where one might truly enjoy the nuances of proseguire. So that we don't fight it too hard and go mad, but appreciate the rapid and rabid segwaying of our common language, I offer this verifiable quantitative data, a woven tapestry of musical pun, Soundgarden — by Crooked Steps, compliments of famed composer Dave Grohl:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTaVHM6HGuQ&feature=youtu.be

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protected by tchrist Jan 30 '13 at 3:03

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