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I am not a native speaker, 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.
    – apaderno
    Jan 30, 2011 at 5:46
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    Me, I've always thought that we paytronize a business, but pahtronize those to whom we feel superior. Oh, English.
    – user92275
    Sep 23, 2014 at 12:33
  • Even words with the same pronunciation have the same meaning.
    – Mitch
    Sep 23, 2014 at 12:58
  • @kiamlaluno Well that's clearly wrong. If a word has a meaning, so does its pronunciation: the pronunciation is part of the word. What the question is really asking is whether the two verbs written patronise (or patronize) are pronounced the same. Jul 26, 2015 at 21:15

2 Answers 2

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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, 2011 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. Jan 30, 2011 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, 2011 at 2:59
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    @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. Jan 30, 2011 at 3:47
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    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, 2011 at 14:37
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The copies of the NOAD and ODE I had on my Mac Mini said that the pronunciation of patronize is /ˈpeɪtrəˌnaɪz/, /ˈpætrəˌnaɪz/ when using the American English IPA, and /ˈpætrənʌɪz/ 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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    Both pronunciations can be heard in the U.S. Sep 23, 2014 at 12:49
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    That is what I said: The pronunciation I reported for American English is /ˈpeɪtrəˌnaɪz/, /ˈpætrəˌnaɪz/.
    – apaderno
    Sep 23, 2014 at 13:28
  • @Mari-LouA At the time, I always used the Dictionary application Mac OS X (now macOS) had. In the settings, where I chose the dictionaries to use, it didn't say it was a condensed version of OED (Oxford English Dictionary), nor could I understand that from the copyright notice.
    – apaderno
    Nov 4, 2017 at 8:58
  • @Mari-LouA I don't know where you get that, but it's the Oxford English Dictionary: The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is a descriptive dictionary of the English language, published by the Oxford University Press.
    – apaderno
    Nov 4, 2017 at 9:08

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