Pronouncing 'Processes'

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Posted on November 10, 2005 12:15 AM in Blathery
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

It wasn't until I entered college that I first heard the last syllable of the word processes pronounced with a long 'e' sound, similarly to the way the last syllable of the word hypotheses is pronounced. When I first heard it, I thought to myself, "well that is strange."

To this day it still sounds strange to me, but the more I hear it in every day use, the less I feel confident about the way I've always pronounced it, which is similar to the way I pronounce the last syllable of the word glasses.

Tonight, in the spirit of some of my most popular blog entries, I decided to hunt down the true pronunciation of the word processes.

Although the definition of process at Answers.com provides both of the aforementioned variations as acceptable pronunciatons of the plural form of the word, there is some very important fine print that shouldn't go overlooked:

In recent years there has been a tendency to pronounce the plural ending -es of processes as (-ēz), perhaps by analogy with words of Greek origin such as analysis and neurosis. But process is not of Greek origin, and there is no etymological justification for this pronunciation of its plural. However, because this pronunciation is not uncommon even in educated speech, it is generally considered an acceptable variant, although it still strikes some listeners as a bungled affectation.

Bungled affectation? I couldn't have said it better myself.

So next time you're talking about processes, think "glasses" and not "hypotheses."

Comments

Jessica on January 22, 2008 at 10:51 AM:

Glad to read your post on this. I'm a couple of years behind you in looking into this annoying new pronunciation. I have only started hearing it in the last 12 months and got to wondering if there was something I didn't know.

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Dave on January 22, 2008 at 7:51 PM:

Worse yet, I now hear "Pro-(long o) sess-ees".
This is pretention and an attempt to inflate the importance of the word.

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-V- on February 14, 2008 at 3:22 PM:

I couldn't possibly agree with you more. There are few things more annoying than word snobbery, intentional or not - and this is a prime example. P.S. "Bungled affectation" shall hereby become a permanent addition to my vocabulary, by the way. P.P.S. Also, sometime you should do a post on why P.P.S isn't P.S.S.

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LRE on February 27, 2008 at 8:23 AM:

I agree totally! This is word snobbery at its best!

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Kim on August 11, 2008 at 10:06 AM:

Thank God someone is spreading the word. Even before looking at the "Greekness" of the word, I think one simple way to argue this is to recognize that the pluralization of words like "hypothesis" involves no plural suffix, just the switch in the final vowel sound. "Processes" is the plural of "process," so the indicator of the plural doesn't need to be the vowel switch--the suffix already does that job. :D

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Daniel on October 30, 2008 at 12:06 AM:

Yes! Thanks a lot, Bernie!

My teacher goes on and on about his processēz,
and i'm so close to putting fire on myself everytime
he says so. I thought about getting this subject on
my next semester, and giving him a link to this entry!

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omnydevi on December 02, 2009 at 11:54 AM:

gah...just heard it for the first time. terrible word...process"ees"? i'm going to start calling apples applees, and i am going to do it so much someone else does it and eventually we just accept it as proper...did we really get this lazy?

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slammbutte on February 25, 2010 at 5:17 PM:

MY ANALYSIS OF THE OF THE WORD PROCESEEEEES.

NOTICE {THAT I ONLY USED ONE "I" IN THE WORD ANALYSIS}

This word can be broken down into two words.
Process, meaning a particuler course of action intended to achieve a result.
Secondly, the word "FECES", meaning, solid excretory product evacuated from the bowels.

Blending the two words, we come up with the long version: "processingfeces", subtracting the "ingf" for proper literary consumption.

This attempt to impress someone like myself only describes something that I accomplish on a daily basis, somewhere around the noon hour.

SLAMMBUTT

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Smallcarryon on April 12, 2010 at 11:22 AM:

Thanks for this blog. I thought I was the only one annoyed by this pronunciation. I've heard people in my company use it uncluding a VP--drives me nuts. If they want to use it fine but don't expect me too. Most of these people probably still use the word "irregardless" which also drives me nuts. I'm no English Language expert but I know a bad word when I hear one, especially when they are "Greekificated" (as Frank "Bush" Caliendo would say) without just cause.

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Jason on April 19, 2010 at 9:54 AM:

What about the plural of "chassis"??

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Homem do Leite on June 24, 2011 at 2:48 AM:
Kevin on December 29, 2011 at 1:00 PM:

While doing voice over work a few years ago the directer insisted on using the ez sound in processes, don't like it, never did but as you say hearing it used by those "educated" folks it is a little easier to take. I still prefer the other though. Thanks for the blog!

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Kar on January 01, 2012 at 5:03 AM:

Notice that the definition for "irregardless" at the link provided above is marked "not standard."

Why use it when "regardless" is standard and means exactly what people who use "irregardless" want that to mean? Should we start saying "ircluless" to mean "clueless"?

As I understand it, "Irregardless" is listed in dictionaries because a lot of people have been copying the person who first mistakenly used it.

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Jet on March 26, 2012 at 10:47 PM:

i wasn't comfortable myself when i heard my colleagues pronoune 'processes' as 'hypotheses'; i think it is still appropriate to pronounce 'processes' as 'glasses' the way it should be - i love this blog

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Edward Campbell on November 15, 2012 at 7:06 PM:

It's very simple folks. Process-ees" are people that are processed (as in some nefarious Orwellian project or Nazi 'Final Solution'). Sends a shiver down the spine, don't you think?

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Robin Loxley on November 17, 2012 at 2:59 PM:

Actually, pronouncing processes with a 'long e' or as "Pro-(long o) sess-ees" may or may not be a gungled affectation, depending on where you live. In England, "Pro-(long o) sess-ees" is actually the normal, correct way to say the word. So if you are talking to a Brit or someone raised by a Brit who therefore naturally learned some variant pronunciations, your gloating is somewhat misplaced. Actually it's totally misplaced.

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riad on January 20, 2013 at 4:37 AM:

i would go with a long e, for the people (or subjects), who the processes are applied on.

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Jim Farwell on February 27, 2013 at 5:31 PM:

In response to "Robin Loxley" (Robin Hood?), I dispute your assertion. Yes, in England the first syllable in either 'process' or 'processes' is often (normally?) pronounce with a long 'oh’ sound, or something approaching that sound...i.e., closer to "oh" than the American English "ah" sound normally used in these words. But neither the lower-classes nor the upper-classes in England normally pronounced the last syllable of 'processes' as "eez" -- neither the plural noun nor the third-person singular verb. For over 60 years I've listened to dozens of speakers raised in England, and until very recently the only ones I've heard use this affectation have been of the same sort as Americans who do so, likely for the same reason -- a pretension to a level of education and erudition that they don’t have. Sadly, this mispronunciation has become so widespread that otherwise down-to-earth English and American speakers have allowed themselves to be persuaded that it’s correct. It is not. Consider 'successes', 'passes', 'kisses', 'bosses', 'trusses'...all normally employ a vowel sound for the final syllable that is about half-way between the shwa (as in the last syllable of 'tunas') and a short 'i' sound (as in 'fizz') -- every single one. There was never a standard irregularity in English education that encouraged or permitted the mispronunciation of this word as "Proh-cess-eez". As others here have pointed out, this affectation is a misguided attempt to elevate the gravitas of the word, and by extension, those who use it. As my dad told me, "it ain't Greek -- if they want Greek, they should join the coprophagy club".

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Random kid on May 08, 2013 at 7:21 PM:

I have heard Glaswegians (people from Glasgow, Scotland) pronounce 'classes' like CLÀSS-ēhs. I do not believe this is due to any affectation, although I do not deny people elsewhere make a pretense of the pronunciation of processes. Instead, the Scottish pronunciation differences I have heard are genuine dialectal variances. I am just defending the fact that there are large groups of people who pronounce their -es endings this way.
However, it is within my personal opinion that the vowel Glaswegians produce in -es endings is not a pure ē. It sounds more like the median between ē and schwa.
I am a language lover also, but I often wonder if some people are extremely particular about standardization because they want language to be as organized as possible, or if they just want to be able to tell someone else that they are wrong so that they may make themselves feel better about themselves.

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Me on June 06, 2013 at 9:28 PM:

This is dumb... there is no "true" language. Whatever is decided upon is based off an opinion of what should be decided upon...

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