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Get to the Point!

Invisible Syllables

By Theda C. Snyder

A television commercial for Butterfinger candy bars brags that they are “crispety.” Another advertisement claims they are “crunchety.” These descriptions are not words, and Nestle should not be trying to persuade us otherwise. One would think the words “crispy” and “crunchy” are adequate for the job. You may not have bought into these particular word extenders, but perhaps you are pronouncing or adding non-existent syllables in other words.

No Extra Syllables, Please

The plaintiff was in fine physical shape, a participant in triathlons. That’s “triathlons” with three syllables, not four. The root word for “athlete” and words like biathlon and pentathlon is two-syllable “athlon,” meaning “contest” in ancient Greece. There is no syllable between the “ath” and “l.”

Similarly, “arthritis” has three syllables, not four. Don’t pronounce a sound between the “th” and second “r.”

Hurray, Martindale has declared you an av attorney. That’s a three-syllable “prestigious” designation, not four syllables. The second “i” tells us to use the soft “g” pronunciation, like “gym,” not the hard “g” of “girl.” That second “i” is not a syllable. Pronounce the second syllable to rhyme with “bridge,” not “bee” and accented (a bit louder).

Doesn’t Look Like a Syllable, But It Is

Some cases require a delicate reference to sexual intercourse. “Coitus” has three syllables, not two. The middle syllable is a short “i” as in “lit”: koh-i-tus, accent on the first syllable.

Do you send flowers to clients in December? That plant is the four-syllable poinsettia. Both vowels at the end are pronounced.

You Can Look It Up

A nice thing about online dictionaries is that you can click to hear the correct pronunciation. It’s a great function for polishing your language prowess and winning bets at the pub.

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Teddy Snyder Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 4th Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

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