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A while back, I noticed that the voice-over on a commercial repeatedly used an odd pronunciation of the word realtor - "real-TORE", with a long O as opposed to "real-tur", like "doc-tur" or "inven-tur". The pronunciation was plenty rhotic, so it's not like it was a British English thing.

Anyhow, I wrote it off as a single strange person until I heard the head of whatever the national organization of realtors is use the same odd pronunciation. All I can figure is that there must be an influential figure in the realtor community who is pushing hard for this odd pronunciation. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

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Definitely not a British thing. We don't have realtors at all - we have estate agents. –  FumbleFingers Sep 2 '11 at 22:04
    
@Fumble The US has real estate agents as well, who (I believe) are required to work under a realtor. –  KitFox Sep 3 '11 at 0:08
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@KitΘδς the U.S. has "real estate agents", whereas in the UK they are just "estate agents". A "Realtor" is just a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors. The working under requirement you may have heard of is the requirement that all real estate transactions be executed under someone who has a real estate broker's license, which is harder to get than a real estate agent's license. –  nohat Sep 6 '11 at 19:01
    
@nohat Ahh, yes, indeed, the difference between "broker" and "agent" was what I was thinking of. Thank you. –  KitFox Sep 6 '11 at 19:13
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The National Association of Realtors, who own the trademark on the word Realtor, have severe paranoia about their trademark—I would call it “trademark anxiety”. They always put that registered trademark symbol next to the word "Realtor". Like, even if it appears 100 times on a page, every instance has it with the ®. And it's always in all caps. Look at Realtor.com, or as they call it, "REALTOR.com".

In any case, nobody actually says "real-TORE" like they do in the ads. It's just another way for them to assert their ownership over the trademark, by attempting to control how it is pronounced. This is similar to stunts pulled by the people at the Lego company, who put up a page once telling people not to use the word "Legos". I wrote an answer about this before.

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Merriam-Webster lists it as an alternative pronunciation:

\ˈrē(-ə)l-tər, -ˌtȯr, ÷ˈrē-lə-tər also rē-ˈal-tər\

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Some notes on this answer: (1) Merriam-Webster has an explanation of their pronunciation guide <merriam-webster.com/help/MWOL%20Pronunciation%20Guide.pdf>;. (2) For readers who prefer IPA, that would be: \ˈrē(-ə)l-tər\ ⇒ /ˈriː(.ə)l.tər/, \-ˌtȯr\ ⇒ /-ˌtɔr/, \rē-lə-tər\ ⇒ /ˈriː.lə.tər/, \rē-ˈal-tər\ ⇒ /riˈːæl.tər/. (3) The obelus (÷) used to mark the third pronunciation means "many regard as unacceptable the pronunciation variant immediately following" –  nohat Feb 18 at 5:35
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