A recent homework matter in which ol’ Robbo assisted has put back in his braims a question about the proper pronunciation of the word “Byzantine”.  Not that the question had anything directly to do with the assignment itself.  Rayther, discussing the subject matter simply reminded me of it.

You see, I’ve always placed the accent on the first syllable and gone with a short “i” sound for the “y”.  Thus, BIZ-n-teen.

However, I was watching a program on the subject some time back in which the commentator kept putting the emphasis on the second syllable, as well as making the “y” a long “i”.  Thus, Bye-ZAN-teen.

I must say that I thought the fellah’s pronunciation of the word to be rayther clumsy and frankly ridiculous.  On the other hand, he was both a) a Brit and b) an Oxbridge professor of some sort,  so who am I to argue.

A look at Merriam-Webster gives both pronunciations, although the commentator’s seems to be a secondary or tertiary option.  Is this choice more common across the Pond?  Or was he just being pretentious?

(Of course, when speaking of the City of Byzantium¹ itself, a subject that comes up surprisingly often in my conversations, I also accent the second syllable.  But that’s necessitated by the addition of the fourth syllable.  Try saying the name with the accent on “By” and see where that gets you.)

So that’s that.  The only reason I bring it up at all is that the commentator’s pronunciation still seems strange to me.  Who am I to argue, did I ask?  Why, I’m Robbo the Port Swiller, that’s who!  (Often inaccurate, but always definitive!)

¹  It occurs to me to try and rework the lyrics to “Istanbul” to go one name change previous.  (“Constantinople was Byzantium/ Now it’s Constantinople not Byzantium/ Been a long time gone Byzantium/ Now it’s ‘Perial delight on a moonlit night.”)  There’s probably some classickal geek cred there but it doesn’t seem to scan very well.

Advertisements