lease (pronunciation)

Sasha Ivanov

Senior Member
Russian
Federally leased lands, sweetheart.
(FBI agent, Westworld, Season 4)
He very slowly and distinctly says /leezd/.
I wince, I take a double listen.
I look it up in my dictionaries to confirm. Not even my very thorough MW Unabridged (which gives every imaginable possible pronunciation, labeling them "substandard, dialect, South, etc) gives this /leezed/ pronunciation. Only and only /lees/. Everywhere, for the noun and verb alike.
My question is: was it the first time the actor saw this word in his script? Why didn't the director cry out: Stop! Cut! or whatever and made people reshoot the scene?
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    My question is: was it the first time the actor saw this word in his script? Why didn't the director cry out: Stop! Cut! or whatever and made people reshoot the scene?
    This is not really an English question. I assume the answers are (i) "No: Actors are given the script well in advance of shooting" (ii) "The director did not notice it."
     

    Sasha Ivanov

    Senior Member
    Russian
    This is not really an English question. I assume the answers are (i) "No: Actors are given the script well in advance of shooting" (ii) "The director did not notice it."
    Is the actor from Mars? Hasn't he said or heard the word in collocation with "land" and "property"?
    For example:
    leased car, this library is a federally leased property
     

    Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    SSBE (Standard Southern British English)
    That might explain it. I recall hearing Black people using non-standard pronunciations such as "greaze" instead of "grease".
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    If you've learned a word from seeing it in writing rather than hearing it, you may well mispronounce it for many years. I was convinced until I was a teenager that there was a verb misle, having read what I took to be the past tense of misle many, many times. It was only by chance that I learnt there was no verb misle: that misled was simply the past tense of mislead.
    I've since learned that the misle misunderstanding is pretty common. Maybe something similar had happened to this actor?
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    @Loob, I fell for the “misle” trap too!

    And yes, /gɹiz/ is a special case that’s not, to my knowledge, indicative of a broader pattern.

    I have no ready explanation for /liz/, but I will say it’s not necessarily a word everyone encounters a whole lot. It’s used in a few specific contexts. So the idea of a native speaker not knowing (or being sure of) the pronunciation is not exactly the most outlandish thing in the world.

    He could have also simply misspoken. It happens.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    it’s not necessarily a word everyone encounters a whole lot. It’s used in a few specific contexts. So the idea of a native speaker not knowing (or being sure of) the pronunciation is not exactly the most outlandish thing in the world.
    Looking at your examples, @Sasha Ivanov:

    leased car
    At least in the US, leasing a car is very different from renting a car. The former is far less common. Everyone has heard of rental cars, but I, for example, hadn’t heard of leasing a car until my mid- to late twenties. I’m sure there are people who still haven’t heard of it; it’s not something everyone has had, or will have, occasion to hear about.

    this library is a federally leased property
    This is a formal, non-everyday expression. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard this in conversation!

    The only semi-common context for “lease” is in the sense of a rental contract for an apartment or house, but even then, you may not necessarily hear it if you never have to rent your own place, and even if you do you might mostly read it and hardly ever hear it, if at all. You might hear people talk about “signing a lease,” “breaking a lease,” “what it says in the lease,” etc., but that’s not exactly a recurrent topic of conversation, and you’d have to hear it enough times for the right pronunciation to irreversibly stick.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    Not even my very thorough MW Unabridged (which gives every imaginable possible pronunciation
    That is clearly false. The authors of this dictionary didn't visit every human and have them pronounce every word, then compile the results. Instead they listed every common pronunciation that they knew about. Of course there are others.

    For example, there isn't a single "southern" pronunciation. "US south" is 114 million people. It is silly to think that every one of those people pronounces every word identically. There are dozens of "southern" dialects, not just one.

    He could have also simply misspoken. It happens.
    That too.

    Or he could have intentionally mis-spoken, in order to convey some nuance of meaning or emotion or a character trait.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I think you are letting your native language experience bias what you consider to be normal in a way that native English speakers don't. From what I have read, there is far less variation in Russian across a vast range of speakers. For historical/political/? reasons, the use of Russian has been homogenized across a large area. It's much closer to a situation of there being one right way to do everything.

    That's just not the case in English and English speakers don't have the expectation that it will be. They expect people in their area to use a relatively standardized version for that area (and even that is pretty fluid), but they know from a young age that there is a large range of English usage among different people. We hear British accents and American accents and other accents that pronounce common words quite differently. And within our countries there can be large regional variations. All it takes is one vacation or one trip to see relatives in another part of the country at a young age to learn that.

    The word route is a good example. Some people say it like root and some like r + out. They exist side by side. Even sometimes within the same family.

    So we don't automatically assume in every situation that if someone pronounces a word differently than we do that they are WRONG! It's possible they are wrong, but it's also possible they are just different - different country, different dialect, different accent, different quirk. And it could be literally just a stumble during extemporaneous speech. It seems to me we are just a lot more relaxed about differences, because they don't automatically indicate a mistake.

    And the difference between s and z is a relatively small one.
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I've never "leased land" or "leased property" in my life. I've "rented houses" and "rented apartments". But "land" is rarely mentioned, except in official records.
    That's a good point: we use "lease" with land & property a fair bit in the UK, but an AmE speaker is far less likely to have come across it.
     

    neal41

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I've never "leased land" or "leased property" in my life. I've "rented houses" and "rented apartments". But "land" is rarely mentioned, except in official records.
    In the US apartments are routinely leased. They are probably more often leased than rented without a lease. Commercial property and land is also routinely leased.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I would be very surprised if the percentage who didn't know the word lease was even close to double digits in the U.S. - whether you'd ever had a lease or not.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    That's a good point: we use "lease" with land & property a fair bit in the UK, but an AmE speaker is far less likely to have come across it.
    :eek:
    We might not have the same proportion of leased vs owned living facilities as in the U.K., but "lease" is a very common word hereabouts where we lease, for example:
    Automobiles and trucks​
    Grazing land​
    Timber plots​
    Computers​
    Airplanes​
    In addition we use it metaphorically, e.g.,: new lease on life
    :D
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I would be very surprised if the percentage who didn't know the word lease was even close to double digits in the U.S. - whether you'd ever had a lease or not.
    There are many words we know but haven’t heard much (if at all), to the point that we may not be able to say with 100% certainty how they’re pronounced.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Car leases are advertised on TV all the time. It's a widespread word. Millions of people have signed apartment leases.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I don’t think it’s so widespread that it’s absolutely out of that question that even a single native speaker would not be 100% sure of the pronunciation. That’s all I’m saying.
     
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    neal41

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I share kentix's impression that 'lease', 'leased', and 'leasing' are all common words that almost any person in the US had heard and seen. 'Lessor' and 'lessee' are less common terms. I do not recall ever hearing the pronunciation with /z/. I do pronounce 'grease' with /z/ when it is a verb. As a noun it is with /s/. 'Greasy' is with /z/.
     
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    bh7

    Senior Member
    Canada; English
    In Europe, I've come across the even more irritating pronunciation of the word "leasing" with a long i and a voiced s, and in fact by specialist bankers working in the leasing field.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    :eek:
    We might not have the same proportion of leased vs owned living facilities as in the U.K., but "lease" is a very common word hereabouts where we lease, for example:
    Automobiles and trucks​
    Grazing l​
    Timber plots​
    Computers​
    Airplanes​
    In addition we use it metaphorically, e.g.,: new lease on life
    :D
    That shoots down one possible reason for Sasha's actor's mispronunciation then...;)
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    Returning to the (ahem!) pronunciation question,
    what other words might have served as a model for "lea[ s ]e" (noun) / "lea[ z ]e" (verb)?
    besides "grea[ s ]e" (noun) / "grea[ z ]e" (verb) in a variety spoken by large numbers of speakers,
    virtually all varieties of English (I imagine) have noun/verb pairs with [ s ] and [ z ] respectively in
    house, use, abuse, excuse, spouse/espouse, merchandise.
     
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    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I used to work with a woman who pronounced both the noun and the verb with /s/, but the adjective with /z/. I always figured it was by incorrect analogy with "easy".
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The American Heritage Dictionary entry: greasy

    One of our most notable regional distinctions [in the U.S.] is the "greasy-greazy" line. It is famous among scholars of American dialects for marking a clear division between major dialect regions of the United States. In the North and West, greasy is pronounced with an (s) sound; in the Midland dialect region and the South, it is pronounced with a (z). According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, the "greazy" region extends from the Deep South to southern parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois and all of Missouri, Texas, and New Mexico. The verb grease also follows this pattern, although not the noun grease, which is pronounced with an (s) sound everywhere.

    That is my experience. But I have never heard leazing in the South or anywhere else.
     
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