A question mainly for Americans:

Could you please confirm if some Americans indeed pronounce the "e" of "obesity" as the "ea" of "steady" rather than the "ee" of "bee" (o-be-si-ty instead of o-bee-si-ty? Merriam-Webster lists it as a variant pronunciation, yet, i haven't heard any American say the word this way. Thanks a lot!

  • Merriam-Webster online only shows the standard pronunciation. Which edition do you have? How old is it? – Peter Shor Feb 2 '14 at 13:20
  • I've subscribed to the unabridged version. Here's the entry: obe·si·ty noun \ōˈbēsətē, -bes-, -ətē, -i\...but I haven't heard anyone use the second variant. How would you pronounce it? – Louel Feb 2 '14 at 13:21
  • He's just “taking the piss out of“ Americans? : ) (No - never heard that pronunciation before.) – ipso Feb 2 '14 at 13:22
  • Appears to be nothing under after the "Here it is" but I've never heard a pronunciation of it that sounds like what you describe. – virmaior Feb 2 '14 at 13:23
  • 2
    On the other hand, the 1892 Webster's International only shows the "incorrect" pronunciation. I think is a case where the pronunciation has changed over time, and the dictionary has not yet dropped the old one. – Peter Shor Feb 2 '14 at 13:23

The OED says of that word’s pronunciation:

obesity /əʊˈbiːsɪtɪ/, older /-ˈbɛsɪtɪ/.

That says it used to be pronounced with an /ɛ/ instead of the /i/ that is universally heard today.

Also, the first vowel in General American is more likely to be [oʊ] than the RP [əʊ] vowel which does not occur in GA. However, since it is not stressed, it is subject to typical reduction patterns, which can lead to [o], [ɒ], [ɵ], or [ə] in rapid or relaxed speech.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thanks for this. It's interesting that many Filipinos stick to the older pronunciation. – Louel Feb 2 '14 at 13:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.