HEY JOURNALISTS! HEY TV PEOPLE! Try pronouncing “papacy” correctly?

To journalists writing about Pope Benedict “the papacy”. PRONOUNCE IT PROPERLY!

Papacy is pronounced “pey-puh-see” not “pap-uh-see”. If you can’t get that, try IPA, which any self-respecting person which speaks often in public ought to know about: ˈpeɪpəsi

And if that is too hard, go HERE and click the little button that will actually let you hear it. Okay? PLEASE?

And while I am at it, friends, the spelling is “magisterium” not “magesterium”. ‘kay?

Moreover, “pastoral” is “PAS-ter-uhl” not “pas-TOR-uhl”. Got it? And there is no extra syllable in it, as in “pas-TOR-ee-uhl”. Right?


And another thing!

The word for a man thought to be a likely candidate for the papacy (see above) is “papabile” (from Italian) and that is pronounced “pah-PAH-bee-lay”. Okay? Think Italian. The plural is “papabili” as in “pah-PAH-bee-lee”.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Matt R says:

    In my freshman-year AP Euro class, virtually no one besides myself and the teacher could correctly pronounce papacy. It drove me bonkers…

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Ah, Fr. Z., thank you so much for this. I hate it when Catholics cannot get such things right. Another one is dioceses, which is murdered as well. Dio ceess not dio sises

  3. Luvadoxi says:

    I have to admit I don’t see much difference in “magesterium” and “magisterium”–maybe it’s just my accent, I don’t know, but with the accent on the first syllable, they both come out almost the same.

  4. HyacinthClare says:

    This post is a delight in an otherwise grim and grinding day. YOU TELL ‘EM, FATHER!!

  5. Stumbler but trying says:

    Another winner! I had to sigh and smile and chuckle all at the same time. I read on the NcR that someone addressed the Holy Spirit as “she.” It was an comment someone posted on one of John Allen’s articles…I paraphrase: “May she inspire the cardinals to elect a…” Anyway, the secular media will continue to mispronounce and breathlessly so. ^^)

  6. Supertradmum says:

    If everyone went back to learning Latin as part of classical education, we would not have these problems. Magisterium, please……….from magister, teacher and in the very old days, one addressed teachers as magister…in some schools.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    oops but dioceees….as said, is Greek….sorry

  8. wmeyer says:

    And considering that the same “journalists” and talking heads have no difficulty saying pay’pist (usually as a slur), one might hope for better.

  9. mamajen says:

    I haven’t watched TV news in years, so I wasn’t aware this was an issue. Wow, that’s pretty pathetic.

  10. NoraLee9 says:

    SuperTradMom: right on! My daughter only got one year of Latin in the Ursuline Faux catholic Joint I throw my money at. Can you tell I’m not happy? I love Latin and now that I’m retired I spend all my free time with it. I even have the Latin Rosetta Stone program!

  11. Phil B says:

    “And while I am at it, friends, it’s “magisterium” not “magesterium”. ‘kay?”

    However, the magisterium is majestic!

  12. Charivari Rob says:

    Another great one is “episcopacy”.

  13. Charivari Rob says:

    Sorry for the second post, but I forgot my favorite case of newsreader failing to pre-read their copy.

    Circa 2002 here in Boston, I was catching the headlines at the top of the news broadcast and heard Bishop Lennon, then Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese, referred to as Apocalyptic Administrator.

  14. Cecily says:

    I don’t listen to the news either. Thank you for alerting us to the current level of ignorance. Wow. This reminds me of a time I was subbing in a public school’s sixth grade. The word “bishop” was in a reading selection. I asked them to raise their hands if they knew what it meant. Three boys raised their hands. Their universal definition was: A piece used in playing chess.

    I agree, there’s no excuse for mispronouncing “papacy.” Regarding “magisterium” I am a little more lenient, because accents do vary a lot with these vowels. (Yes, I have taught phonemics and articulatory phonetics).

  15. Andrew says:


    “magister” and “minister” are derived from “magis” and “minus” (more and less). Isn’t that neat?

  16. gambletrainman says:

    It’s not just in religion that words are mis-pronounced. How about regular everyday English? A young man of 13 was saying something one day and said he “axed” his mom something. I corrected him, saying he “asked” her something. He said, “That’s what I said. I axed her something” When someone else corrected him, he said “That’s just the way I talk”. Or to spell “coffee” as “cofie”. Oh, if we could only go back in time when teachers taught correctly.

  17. Joe in Canada says:

    gambletrainman: I spent half an hour with some very motivated Jamaican 5th graders to try to get that right, and they honestly heard themselves say “asked” when I heard “axed”.
    I hope the ones who say “pastoreal” aren’t the same ones who mocked Pres. Bush for saying “nucyular”.

  18. Susan the Short says:

    My personal stop-me-before-I-throw-a-fit favorite: those folks at Mass who insert an extra syllable into the word ‘grievous’ and pronounce it greeve-ee-us…mea culpa indeed!

  19. Lori Pieper says:

    Funny . . . I’ve heard even priests and bishops say “pas-TOR-al.” I was beginning to think I was wrong for preferring it the other way.

    Now it turns out I was right all along — ha-ha, ha-ha, ha-ha-ha. Thanks, Father!

  20. trespinos says:

    Susan, you beat me to it. I believe I have heard the 3-syllable grievous on nine out of ten occasions at Mass since the new translation went into effect. I want to yell, “It’s grieve-us, two syllables only, capeesh?”

  21. papaefidelis says:

    You just hit upon on one of three words, Father Z, whose mispronunciation makes my skin CRAWL. “PAS-ter-uhl”, not “pas-TOR-uhl” {shudder}; “PEC-ter-uhl”, not “pec-TOR-uhl” {shudder}; and “e-LEC-ter-uhl”, not “e-lec-TOR-uhl” {SHUDDER, cough, GASP}. I have heard these three words continually mispronounced, even by those who should know better.

  22. Parochus says:

    While we’re at it, “cardinalitial” is much better attested in the OED than the often seen “cardinalatial” and better reflects its Latin (“cardinalitius”) and Italian (“cardinalizio”) cognates.

  23. Cecily says:

    Another doozie is when people speak about the Dolorous Passion of Christ, yet call it the Dolores Passion of Christ.

  24. Imrahil says:

    Do they mispronounce from bad knowledge, or from following an established colloquialism (like in German “Diozöse” for “Diözese”, “Lybien” for “Libyen”, etc.)?

  25. Muv says:

    Thank you Fr. Z. I needed a laugh today.

    This brought back vivid memories of an over-excited TV reporter, English, broadcasting live from Poland immediately after the death of Pope John Paul II. She breathlessly told us that Mother Teresa had been beautified.

  26. Luvadoxi says:

    I’m an educated person. I think many of these are just regional dialects. [No.] I’m sensing Yankee snobbiness here, frankly. [This Yank suggests you review what I wrote.] I say pas TOR al and pec TOR al. Also, elecTORal. I’ll have to check my dictionary on these to see if Y’ALL are correct. And yes, I do confess to saying nucyular. I’m from Texas–got a problem with that? lol!
    Since we’re on the subject, how do you pronounce “papabile”, since I’ve never heard it out loud.

    A friend of mine (grew up in New Jersey, res ipsa loquitur) and we had a heated and mindless discussion of the proper pronunciation of “tour”. She said it’s like “tor “, which I find affected and strange, and I said it’s “toor”. Turns out we’re both right. It’s like those who say “AWNT” instead of “ANT” for “aunt.” Regional.

  27. Luvadoxi says:

    Apocalytic Administrator! Maybe we need one of those….

  28. VexillaRegis says:

    Oh my, you know English is a very illogical language, no rules, just exceptions. (German and Latin are far easier.) For instace the “i” in Christian, Christmas, Christological, Christina etc is pronouncedin one way, whereas the “i” in Christ, Christchurch and Christ like has a diphtong.

    Speaking of funny lapsuses in the press, I must tell you of what I read in a local newspaper about twenty years ago. There is a place in the vicinity of my home town, where lots of birds nest and the was a two-paged article of how unique and wonderful this place was. Imagine our surprize and bewilderment when we read this headline: “GREENHILL – AN INFERNO FOR BIRD WATCHERS!

    Ah! Should probably have been” eldorado”.

  29. Simon_GNR says:

    Must be an American thing (i.e. mispronunciation of “papacy” and “pastoral”) – I’ve not heard anyone in Britain pronounce either of these words wrongly, even in broadcast media that are some times rather ignorant about Catholicism. Mind you, away from matters religious, there are plenty of examples of misplaced emphases which make me wince and cringe: “Kil-OM-etre” rather than “KIL-o-metre”, “Con-TROV-ersy” rather than “CON-tro-versy” and “Ha-RASS-ment” rather than “HAR-ass-ment”.
    It may interest Americans on this site that in Britain the American pronunciation of “vermouth” as “Ver-MOOTH” has almost completely supplanted the English pronunciation of “VER-muth”.

  30. Skeinster says:

    Then there was the reporter who referred to Cdnl. Arinze, as an “African American”…
    My stop-it-before-I hurt-you? Not putting “of’ after “couple”.

  31. joan ellen says:

    Just today I was thinking one result of secularism appears to be that we as a whole we are more sloppy in what we think, say, and do. Not taking the time to think of our words, especially, and how they sound to others. Sloppy, or perhaps we can say, slothful thinking, is a sin of omission, (is that right Fr.?) could lead, it seems, to more fruitful thinking with a little more Latin.

    NoraLee9 says: 15 February 2013 at 3:14 pm
    How inspiring: “I love Latin and now that I’m retired I spend all my free time with it. I even have the Latin Rosetta Stone program!” May your example inspire many others. Thank you so very much.

  32. Simon_GNR says:

    Susan the Short: “My personal stop-me-before-I-throw-a-fit favorite: those folks at Mass who insert an extra syllable into the word ‘grievous’ and pronounce it greeve-ee-us…mea culpa indeed!”

    Our parish priest himself always puts the extra syllable in so we get “greeve-ee-us”…Grrrr!!! I don’t know if it makes any difference, but he’s from the West of Scotland. Maybe it’s a localised variant of pronunciation he grew up with.

  33. Dr. Eric says:

    This reminds me of the horrible voice dubbing that some of the RAI movies have that Ignatius press sells and sometimes run on EWTN. In the movie about St. John Bosco, the congregation is referred to (phonetically) the “Sail-zee-anns.”

  34. A.D. says:

    I read through everything and didn’t find the word “doctrinal”. I contend that it is pronounced DOC-tri-nal but I hear it on EWTN pronounced doc-TRI-nal. Which is correct?
    [Please choose #1; the other is like fingers scraping a blackboard. Ekkkkkk!]

  35. VexillaRegis says:

    Have you ever heard Hallelu*l*jah?

  36. eyeclinic says:

    But isn’t pronunciation IN-trig-ul to understanding?

  37. eyeclinic says:

    After all, we’re only U-min!

  38. majuscule says:

    As Luvadoxi asked…

    “Since we’re on the subject, how do you pronounce “papabile”, since I’ve never heard it out loud.”

    I’m curious about this, too. Does it rhyme with the vehicle in which the pope is sometimes driven? Or is the “e” silent? Or…?

  39. LisaP. says:

    “Then there was the reporter who referred to Cdnl. Arinze, as an “African American”…”

    AAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH. Guess I should be grateful that wasn’t “Afro-American” (I’m old enough to know that when the AA label was pushed into use, many were afraid “African” would morph to “Afro”, thereby describing an entire ethnic group by an outmoded hairstyle. And so it has. . . . ).

  40. acardnal says:

    And what about the pronunciation of “grievous” in the Confiteor Father Z?

    ” . . . through my fault,
    through my fault,
    through my most grievous fault;”

    I pronounce it as a two syllable word (GREE – vus), and yet I hear some priests pronounce it as a three syllable word (gree-vee-US). What’s up with that?

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/grievous?s=t [It is you who have said it! And thanks for posting a link to the DICTIONARY, which provides PRONUNCIATION guides.]

  41. wmeyer says:

    LisaP, so much for “fact checking”, today’s “journalists” can’t even be bothered to look up the history of public figures. And I cannot help wondering how many African Americans the reporter has encountered who have such strong Nigerian-English accents.

  42. Supertradmum says:

    acardnal, many priests in Ireland say grevious, with the i sound. It was the first time I had ever heard this (last January and Feb.) Interesting.

  43. VexillaRegis says:

    majuscule: Since it’s an Italian word, I suppose it’s pronounced “paPAHbille” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papabile Maybe there is an Americanized version also like “PAYpabl”, I don’t know.

  44. LisaP. says:

    My husband was a copy editor for ten years and various other editors. Newspapers are, unfortunately, very sick when they’re not dead. You would be shocked (unless you know already) at what a skeleton crew they operate with these days. Copy editing today is largely about not getting sued (my husband adds “If even that, any more. Fact checking is nonexistent, and has been for as long as I’ve been doing it. Small papers don’t have fact checkers, they have editors that are supposed to know.”.

    What really got me was how often a paper would get a young person right out of college and assign them stories all over the map. Seriously, how well versed is the average young person these days on religion? Education? Government? Environmental policy?

    But they are definitely taught to use PC language, all through high school and college, so black people aren’t black, they’re African Americans, as per Skeinster’s example above. Hilarious!

    My husband became the old man in the news room by the time he was 40, one of the turning points for him was obituaries — he became more and more dejected by how little time was spent getting the basics right. Then the papers decided they would print death notices and sell obituaries. . . .

  45. papaefidelis says:

    Papabile = “pah-PAH-bee-lay”. The plural is papabili = “pah-PAH-bee-lee”.

  46. pelerin says:

    A journalist referred to the Pope’s crosier as a walking stick with a cross on top. A variation on another report which had mentioned the ‘crow’s ear!’ Under a picture of a Rosary a journalist had written ‘beads with a cross pendant’ – good description but obviously had never heard of a Rosary.

    It is not just on matters to do with the Church that faux pas are found. A few weeks ago I read about ‘a horse sounding Benedict’ and ‘a funeral corsage’! And I suppose all these journalists have degrees in journalism.

  47. An American Mother says:


    How true. This ignorance is true in EVERY major area of reporting. We noticed when the local newspaper (embarrassingly bad for the only paper in a major metro) quit assigning reporters permanently to the courthouse beat, and started sending out the youngest, newest reporters who didn’t even know where the courthouse was.

    The law reporting took an immediate nosedive from o.k. to laughably ignorant and completely useless. As a result, a national magazine that specializes in legal matters took over the local county paper-of-record (legal notices and court calendars) and turned it into a legal rag. That paper now has a monopoly on all the legal reporting in Atlanta metro, and the AJC lost a huge customer base. Among others. The only way they keep up their circulation numbers is by giving huge quantities of their paper away.

    God bless your husband for trying to get it right!

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