On #WorldEmojiDay, I’d like to talk about…pronunciation. Last year, I returned to school to study creative writing. Since most people with MFAs actually end up teaching English, Drexel University offered a writing instruction or “pedagogy” class. And it made me wonder, how exactly do you say pedagogy?
I’ve heard everything from to PED-a-GOG-y (rhymes with doggy) to PED-a-GO-gie (rhymes with hoagie) to to PED-a-GOD-gy (rhymes with dodgy) to PED-a-GO-gee (rhymes with Emoji—which is why I was thinking about this today). I heard that last pronunciation most frequently, but it kind of bothered me.
In my Merriam-Webster’s Rhyming Dictionary, the only words that rhyme with Emoji are Moji, shoji, anagoge, and Hachioje. Moji, shoji, and Hachioje are all Japanese and spelled with a “j.” As a native English speaker, “pedagoji” would not have been my first guess. Anagoge is Greek, like pedagogy, but it is spelled differently. Also… I’ve never heard of it.
But looking at the spelling and word origin, the similar Greek words, synagogue, demagogue, and even pedagogue, are pronounced with a hard “o” and spelled “gue.” Since pedagogy and pedagogue have a shared origin, “pedagoggy” does make some sense… although it sounds completely ridiculous. Seriously. Say it out loud.
That brings me to my initial guess. In the academic world, we study -ogies: biology, mythology, gerontology, psychology, geology, Egyptology, immunology, hydrology, chronology, neurology, archeology, et ceterology. Here the “o” has the schwa or “uh” sound, not the “oh” of emoji. It seemed to be the obvious choice to me. Psychology. Pedagogy. The study of teaching should rhyme with the study of the psyche or myths or gerons… or whatever. But that -ology comes from the Greek logia (study) or logos (story or word) while -agogy comes from the Greek agogos (guide). So maybe the unique pronunciation is an important distinction.
(Sidebar: I don’t see why anyone would go for pedagoagie.)
But that brought me to one of the more important lessons of modern, English pedagogy. Enforcing pronunciation, spelling, and grammar rules are actually a form of oppression. “Proper” English is a way of separating groups. It tells you where someone came from. It tells you if English was their first language. It tells you who had enough money to go to college and who had enough free time to study English. The reality is, most people in the world get along just fine with double negatives, dangling modifiers, and frequent switches in verb tense. A lot of the time, they don’t even use words. 😉
However you deploy English has less to do with what’s “correct” than what group you want to be a part of. English “rules” are actually guidelines that are very audience specific. Grant proposals, ad copy, emails, news reports, social media feeds, and blogs all follow slightly different rules. The most “well written” research paper in the world will not sell more copies of The Hollywood Reporter.
That can make English pedagogy a little more nuanced than your sixth grade English teacher may have claimed. There are trends and best practices, but the rules are actually kind of fluid. As far as the pronunciation of pedagogy goes, if you want to fit in, pronounce it however the cool kids do. You can justify pretty much any version. But if you want to be a bastion of liberty, forge your own pronunciation. Maybe that’s the best argument for pedagoagie.