Vice Versa: How Do You Say That Again?

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Growing up I had a friend who mispronounced things.

An innuendo was an inda-windo. “Wynne” was Wine. And “vice versa” was vysa versa.

(Well, a lot of people say the phrase that way.)

Still, I cringed at her pronunciation. Didn’t she know it was VYCE versa? Honestly.

It’s not, though. Latin vowels follow rules of pronunciation similar to the rules of Spanish, which means that “vice” is actually two syllables. And “v” is said like “w.” And the c’s are hard, making a “k” sound.

So, according to Wikipedia and my limited knowledge of Latin, “vice versa” is more correctly pronounced “WEE-keh ware-sa.” * (Remember how to pronounce “Veni, vidi, vici?”)

* This is a textbook example of something that, if you actually pronounce it correctly, will make you look like a total idiot.


4 responses to “Vice Versa: How Do You Say That Again?

  1. Now you’ve got me wondering about the origin of the term vice versa! Happy FF.

  2. Wow…interesting. I always vacillate in my pronunciation of the word naivete’. If I pronounce it in what I guess is the correct French way, with the final syllable pronounced with a long A, I feel like I sound kind of pretentious. So much of the time, I pronounce the final syllable with a long E, though I think that is wrong. Mostly, though, I find myself completely avoiding the word. :-)

  3. The idea of “correct pronunciation” really gets my goat. I think the idea often gets taken too far. Correct according to who? I’m 100% certain two thousand years ago, the pronunciation of “vice versa” varied across the Roman Empire.

  4. Well, correct according to a Latin professor, I suppose. But I do certainly agree with the point I think you are making, that there’s a stripe of snobbery in pronunciation sometimes, a la Alex Trebek and his insistence on pronouncing French words with a French accent, even when there’s a received American pronunciation of the word.

    I had a good talk last night with Heather about ending sentences with a preposition, a practice I happily engage in. I once read a neighborhood newsletter in which some poor hobgoblin said that if the people of the neighborhood would all band together, we would be a force with which to be reckoned.

    At that moment, I knew for all time that correct was not always correct. That someone could be rigidly correct within a foolish tradition of a false correctness, and that I did not wish to be in that number.

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