Dissect is a two syllable word. Split it between the two esses and what do you see: dis- and -sect. So how would a person pronounce such a combination? Even without knowing what it means, one would doubtless pronounce it- dis sect, not even remotely di sect to rhyme with hi hect.
But that is what we hear all the time. Disect would be the same as bisect which means cut into two parts. Dis- means apart, so cut apart. Doubtless some frogs have been di-sected in our redoubtable labs but that was not the assignment.
I am of two minds and both schools when it comes to prescriptive versus descriptive linguistics. Maybe that means my mind has been di-sected. I recognize, along with Bergen Evans, that usage rules, at least over the long run. But I am still hung up on something my 3rd grade teacher sternly remarked: February and library have two r’s, both of which deserve to be pronounced.
Library, as far as I know, is still pronounced with both r’s intact by educated people. February has long gone the way of Wednesday. I may be sensitive to that because my birthday is in that month and I don’t like to hear Feb-you-airy. Elizabeth Taylor has the same birth date. I have not seen any quote from her expressing displeasure about that but she is British, you know, and I believe probably aware of it because of being well educated, though I could be wrong about that. She has way more important things to think about.
An acquaintance clued me in to the mispronounciation, I mean mispronunciation of dissect. He also mentioned his annoyance at the use of Rocket Scientist, suggesting that there is no such thing; it should be Rocket Engineer. I wish he hadn’t because now it is a thorn in my ear. I suppose you could complain that I have done the same to you. Please forgive me.
I won’t even mention nucular. My spell-checker is already overheating.
Jack Wilson is a writer and artist from Los Angeles and Phoenix.