The Grammarphobia Blog

Meet the pundit

Q: I don’t know if you’ve commented on this, but I’m peeved by the mispronunciation of “pundit’ as PUN-dint. I just had a look on Google, and have discovered I’m not alone. A word for the season, in any case.

A: I hadn’t heard the pronunciation PUN-dint, but it’s definitely not standard. The word is pronounced just as written: PUN-dit.

It’s an interesting word. It comes from the Sanskrit pandita, a learned man. Here’s how the Oxford English Dictionary defines it:

“In India: a learned or wise person; a person with knowledge of Sanskrit and Indian philosophy, religion, and law; (also) a Hindu priest or teacher. Sometimes used as a title of respect.”

A year or so ago I read a book called The Far Pavilions, by M. M. Kaye, which takes place in 19th-century India. I remember coming across a passage about someone traveling “in the guise of a Kashmiri pundit.”

Naturally I had visions of a guy in a suit being interviewed on “Meet the Press.”

Buy Pat’s books at a local store or Amazon.com.