The Grammarphobia Blog

Language (and marriage) counseling

Q: My husband and I have two points of contention: the pronunciation of the words “respite” and “angst.” He prefers reh-SPITE and AHN-gst, but they make my skin CRAWL. I prefer the much more common (and CORRECT!) reh-SPIT and AANG-st. For the sake of the English language and the welfare of my marriage, can you please, for once and for all, clarify the CORRECT pronunciation of these words?

A: Rather than insert myself into a marital tiff, I’ll let The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language do the deciding.

The “a” in “angst” is pronounced like the “a” in “father”: it sounds like ahng-kst (but with one syllable).

The two-syllable “respite” is accented on the first syllable, and the “i” is short, not long: it sounds like RESS-pit.

You win some and you lose some.

If the biggest problem in your marriage is that you say reh-SPIT and he says reh-SPITE, let’s NOT call the whole thing off!

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