Here’s an ideal example of the way I thought as a young girl growing up.
I thought, for sure, that if I believed in something “hard enough” — as in almost bugging my eyes out while holding my breath or just willing something to happen with my awesome, mind-bending power — I could make something become true. Granted, the thing I was usually willing with all my might was usually something that had been sitting on the proverbial fence, like would the folks let me have some saltwater taffy at the next rest stop? Or would my parents not care that much that my peas were hidden in the tiny mound of mashed potatoes still left on my plate? (I liked the potatoes, otherwise it would’ve been a massive mound of mashed potatoes hiding the rogue peas.) I thought that I could will my body into producing boys when the time came for children. I believed that I could will myself out of paralysis if the situation were to come up. Very Bionic Woman of me, I’d say.
I’m getting to the point, believe it or not, so stick with me for just a little while longer.
Up until very recently, I thought that patronize was spelled two ways because it had two meanings. It made perfect sense to me. It should be pronounced PAY-tron-ize if it’s supposed to mean that you are frequenting someone’s shop or buying a company’s stuff on a regular basis. Why? Because you are a patron (PAY-tron), so you are PAY-tron-iz-ing the shop.
It should be pronounced PAH-tron-ize (as in “pat”) if it’s supposed to mean that you are being condescending or are being treated in a condescending manner. Again, it made perfect sense to me. It’s condescending, as if someone were patting you on the head, saying, “Now, now, little Nellie, you just run along and play and the big girls will take care of everything. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.” Patronizing should totally sound like getting patted on the head or, perhaps worse, doing the patting on someone else’s head. That’s linear logic.
But there’s this pesky little thing called research.
I checked into the pronunciation issue on the word. And you know what? I couldn’t will the two pronunciations to mean what I wanted them to mean. Even with all my logic and self-admittedly rock-star Internet research capabilities, I couldn’t come up with facts to back up my beliefs. So disconcerting.
But I’ve decided to bend my mind around the facts at hand. Here’s the real deal on the pronunciation of patronize:
• PAY-tron-ize = American English pronunciation
• PAH-tron-ize = British English pronunciation
That’s it. Just the bloody American vs. English thing again. Doesn’t matter which meaning you’re trying to convey — just which side of the pond you’re on. If you’re in the United States, use the PAY-tron-ize pronunciation; if your primary audience is Britain-bound, use PAH-tron-ize.
Maddening as all get-out. You say “to-MAY-to,” I say “to-MAH-to.” Thank goodness that life goes on.
By the way, I have two lovely, amazing girly-girls. No boys. Go figure.