Vol. XXVI No. 3 — March 1948

Masonic Mispronunciation

“Heeza goin’ ter go daown taown ter git his-self a soot er close” is perfectly intelligible speech; if speech were employed only to convey intelligence, neither grammar nor pronunciation would be of any worth.

If eating were only replenishing the body with fuel, men might shovel food to their mouths with their fingers, suck in soup and handle peas with a knife and no one would care.

Good grammar and correct pronunciation not only aid speech in conveying meaning, but add the quality of music and metre to sounds, just as manners, crockery and silverware add graciousness to dining.

There are times and places where grammar and pronunciation are of less value than getting over the meaning: “Gwan in an’ beat th’ hell outen ’em!” is probably a more effective battle cry from a captain than: “Men, charge and defeat the enemy!” In the wilds on a camping trip fishermen and hunters are less interested in plates and napkins, knives and forks, than in food and drink!

But a Masonic lodge is neither a battlefield nor a camping place and the speech and manners of education and society add to the joy of a meeting; poor grammar and pronunciation detract from it.

Masonic ritual, properly memorized, well delivered, with words properly pronounced, can make a degree beautiful. There is much which is poetic, much which is sonorous, much which is dignified with the dignity of age and long use, in these ceremonies. And it is obvious that ritual thus delivered is far more impressive, not only to the candidate, but to the brethren on the sidelines, than when the degrees are injured by poor work, sloppily delivered.

A mispronounced word is not a crime! Speech is the human medium for conveying intelligence, thought, facts, and ideas. If a word performs its purpose, it has functioned, whether pronounced as it should be or not. A sincere prayer by a chaplain made to “Gawd” or the “Great Artchitek’ of the Universe” is doubtless as effective a petition as if the words were not scrambled in pronunciation. The Fellowcraft who learns that he who cast the brazen pillars was of the tribe of “Nap-thali” is not thereby injured, although his ear may be offended, by the mispronunciation!

But the cultured ear does revolt at poor diction, and both members and candidates have a right to hear the words which are dear to the brethren (and will become so to the initiate) delivered with proper and pure sounds and accents and not dismembered by slovenly mouthing.

The majority of lodge officers who work in the degree are educated gentlemen who will find no use for this Bulletin. Grand lecturers and their staffs, key men, district deputies, assistant lecturers, certificate brethren, etc., labor long and earnestly for correct use of the unfamiliar word in the ritual.

But there remain some brethren to whom the unaccustomed word is a stumbling block.

It is easy to say, “Why don’t they use a dictionary?” The use of a dictionary to get correct pronunciation presupposes a doubt in the user’s mind that he knows the correct form; if he has no doubt, he does not look it up!

If he does look up a word in a dictionary, he may be confused by the fine distinctions of vowel sounds; a good dictionary will have between thirty and forty signs and accents to denote the many shadings of pronunciation — distinction, for instance, between a as in art, infact, in fare, in pray, i as in it, in police, and I as the pronoun; c as sometimes pronounced k, sometimes as s; th is pronounced differently in thin and this or the; there are the unstressed vowels, as in sofa, arbor, gutteral, renew etc. Most dictionaries use the double accent (") as the secondary, the single accent (') as the primary, etc.

Proper use of a good dictionary presupposes (1) knowledge that it is needed; (2) understanding of a complicated system of indicating slight variations in sounds by various printers’ marks; and (3) an ear sufficiently accustomed to correct pronunciation to translate these printers’ signs into the proper sounds.

This Bulletin is a “rough and ready” reference for a hundred and one words of ritual, or common Masonic speech, giving their correct pronunciation in general, and one or more common mispronunciations.

No fine distinctions have here been made between the several sounds of the same letter; here only the long and the short have been indicated. Here only the primary accent has been emphasized.

It is hoped that this simplified scheme will be an easy-to-use guide for correcting mispronunciations which to some extent spoil both the poetry and the sonority of the ritual.

Pronunciations of the same word differ according to latitude and longitude. The New Englander speaks of Boston as “Boss-ton”; the southerner goes to “Baws-ton.” The brother from south of the Mason-Dixon line has been known to speak of the grahnd mahster. We go “up” north from the South and “down” south from the North, except in New England, where brethren go “down” to Maine and “up” to Boston, though they may live close to the Canadian line. We go “out” West, but no one goes “in” East — we go “back” East.

No attempt is here made to distinguish between local accents and shadings which are in common use in various parts of this our far flung country; the pronunciations are without thought of South or North, East or West.

Pronunciations have been taken from Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary, from Haywood’s Pronouncing Dictionary in the new third volume of Mackey’s Encyclopedia, and from Funk and Wagnalls Bible Dictionary, but the modifications (for this purpose) of too elaborate pronunciation-by-printing methods is the Editor’s and his is the responsibility.

ACACIA — a-kay-shia, not a-kay-siah

ACCESSORY — ak-sess-ory, not a-sess-ory

ADULT — a-dult, not a-dult

AFFILIATE — a-fill-i-ate, not a-fill-yate

AHIMAN REZON — Ah-high-man Re-zon, not Ah-high-man Ree-son (although frequently so pronounced)

ALLEVIATE — a-lee-vi-ate, not a-leev-yate

AMMONITISH — Am-mon-eye-tish, not Am-on-i-tish, or Am-on-i-tish

ANCIENT — ain-shent, not ain-si-ent

ANNIHILATE — a-nigh-hil-ate, not a-nill-i-ate

ANNO LUCIS — An-no Lu-kis, not An-no Lu-sis

APOTHEOSIS — ap-o-the-o-sis, not ap-o-the-o-sis

ARCHANGEL — ark-an-jel, not artch-an-jel

ARCHITECT — ark-i-tect, not artch-i-tek, or ark-i-tek

ARCHIVES — ar-kives, not ar-chives

ARTIFICER — ar-tif-i-cer, not ar-ti-fi-cer

ASPIRANT — as-pie-rent, not as-pair-rent

ASSIDUITY — as-i-diu-i-ty, not as-i-doo-i-ty

ATTACKED — a-tact, not at-tak-ed

AUDACIOUS — aw-day-shus, not aw-day-see-us

BARBAROUS — bar-bar-us, not bar-bar-us

BEGONE — be-gon, or be-gawn

BLESSED — bless-ed, or blest; usually bless-ed in reading the Bible

BOAZ — Bo-az, not Bo-aze, or Boze

CABLETOW — cab-le-toe; rhymes with “able-go”

CAPITULAR — ka-pit-u-lar, not kap-i-tu-lar

CEMENT — se-ment, not see-ment

CHAPITER — chap-i-ter, not chap-ter

CLANDESTINE — clan-des-tin, not clan-des-tin

CLOTHED — cloth’d, not clo-thed

COLUMN col-um, not col-yum

COMPOSITE — com-pos-it, or com-pos-it. Both correct with com-pos-it preferred.

CONFIDANT — con-fi-dant (friend) not con-fi-dent (sure)

CONSPIRACY — con-spir-a-cy, not con-spy-ra-cy

CONTEMPLATING — con-tem-play-ting, or con-tem-play-ting

DARIUS — Dar-eye-us, not Dar-i-us

DELINEATE — de-lin-e-ate, not dee-lin-e-ate

DEMIT, DIMIT — de-mit or di-mit, not dee-mit or die-mit

DESAUGULIERS — Dez-ah-gule-yer, not Dee-saw-gue-leers

DEW — diu, not doo

DIFFERENT — dif-er-ent, not diff-rent

DUE GUARD — diu-gard, not doo-gard

EASTWARD — east-ward, not east-ard

EMERITUS — e-mer-i-tus, not e-mer-ee-tus

ESOTERIC — es-o-ter-ik, not ee-sot-er-ic

EUNUCH — you-nok, not you-nutch

EXOTERIC — ex-o-ter-ik, not ex-ot-er-ic

FERVENCY — fer-ven-sy, not fer-ven-sy

FINANCE — fi-nance, not fye-nance

FOREHEAD — for-ed, not four-head

GOD — rhymes with odd, not awed

GORGEOUS — gor-jus, not gor-jee-us

HELE — hale, not heel

HECATOMB — hek-a-tome, not hek-a-toom

HORIZON — hor-eye-zon, not hor-eye-zon

HUMBLE — hum-ble, not um-ble

IMPIOUS — im-pius, not im-pie-us

INSTITUTE — in-sti-tiut, not in-sti-toot

INTERESTING — in-tres-ting, or in-ter-est-ing

IRREVOCABLE — ir-rev-o-cab-le, not ir-re-voc-a-ble

JACHIN — jay-kin, not jah-kin, or jaw-kin

JERUSALEM — Je-ru-sa-lem, not gee-ru-sa-lem

KNEW — niu, not noo

LEGEND — lej-end, not lee-jend

LIBERTINE — lib-er-teen, not lib-er-tin

MAUSOLEUM — maw-so-lee-um, not maw-so-le-um

MEMORY — mem-o-ry, not mem-ry

MOSAIC — mo-zay-ic, not moz-i-ac

MURDERER — mur-der-er, not murd-rer

NAKED — nay-ked, not neck-ed

NAPHTALI — Naf-ta-lie, not Nap-thal-eye

OBSEQUIES — ob-see-quiz, not ob-see-quiz

OFTEN — of-en, not oft-en, or of-ten

OVERSEER — o-ver-see-er, not o-ver-seer

PALESTINE — Pal-es-tine, not Pal-es-tin or Pal-es-teen

PARIAN — Par-i-an, not Pay-ri-an

PECTORAL — pek-tor-al, not pek-tor-al

PEDAL — pe-dal, or pee-dal

PHARAOH — Fay-ra-oh, or Fay-roh, not Fair-a-oh or Fair-oh

PILASTER — pi-last-ter, not pie-last-er

POMEGRANATE — pom-gran-it, not pom-e-gran-ate, or pom-gran-ate

PRECEPT — pre-cept, not pre-cept

PYTHAGORAS — Pith-ag-or-as, not Pie-thag-or-as

RECOGNIZE — re-cog-nize, not reck-o-nize

REQUIEM — ree-quee-em, not ree-quem

REVERENT — rev-er-ent, not rev-rent

SAMARITAN — Sam-ar-i-tan, not Say-mar-i-tan

SCHISM — sizz-em, not skiz-em

SHEKINAH — She-kie-nih, not Shek-i-nah

SHIBBOLETH — Shib-bo-leth, not Shy-bo-leth

SINAI — Sigh-nay-eye, not Sigh-nie, or Sign-eye

SOLSTICE — sol-stis, not sol-steece

SUCCOTH — suck-oth, not sue-coth

SUPERFICES — siu-per-fish-ees not soo-per-fi-ci-es

SUPERINTENDENT — siu-per-in-ten-dent, not soop-er-in-ten-dent

TABERNACLE — tab-er-nak-le, not ta-ber-nack-le

TENETS — ten-ets, or teen-ets

TESSELATED — tes-sel-ate-ed, not tes-sel-a-ted

TORTUOUS — tor-tu-us, not tort-you-us

TYRIAN — Tir-i-an, not Tire-i-an

WESTWARD — west-ward, not west-ard

ZEREDATHA — Zer-e-dayth-ah,not Ze-red-a-tha (although frequently so pronounced)

If in these pages are sufficient brevity and ease of use to eliminate one “see-ment,” or one "pie-laster” from Masonic ritual in one lodge, it will not have been offered in vain!

The Masonic Service Association of North America