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Your apheresis is zine
Sunday, April 15, 2007   7:19 PM

How do you pronounce zine? I usually say "zayn," as in brine, but dictionaries — and people who know more about the phenomenon than I do — seem to prefer "zeen." A friend who was correcting me used zine scene as an example: in his opinion, if that phrase doesn't rhyme for you, you're pronouncing it wrong.

Wikipedia commenters — a useful barometer for the enthusiast group on many subjects — are somewhat unsure. However, if we use the relaxed WTF standard for interpreting correctness, I'd say that "zeen" is probably the version less likely to stop a conversation in its tracks. And that's what matters.

Also, the "zeen" pronounciation is what gave us the awesome word zinester.

I was too late for the zine scene, but it seems to me that this is one of those words that gained most of its currency from being read, which makes anything approaching a natural consensus on its pronunciation difficult.

There's also apparently some confusion about the word's etymology. This is clearly a case of clipping, but from fanzine or magazine?

I love this kind of clipping, also known as apheresis, and if you can throw in an apostrophe that only sweetens the deal. I've been on the lookout for it since I read the American Heritage entry for za:

When young people today speak casually of ordering a za, "pizza," they are unwittingly producing an expression that is quite interesting to language historians. Za derives from the full form pizza by a process known as clipping. Two types of clipping are common in English: dropping the unstressed syllables or syllables not receiving the primary word stress, as in fridge from refrigerator; and dropping all syllables after the first syllable, as in ab, dis, porn, and vibe, whether or not the first syllable was originally stressed. In the case of za, the syllable that was dropped was originally stressed and was the first syllable, which is unusual. Rents for "parents," is another recent example of the same kind of clipping. Interestingly, we don't need to stay in the realm of contemporary youth slang to see the results of this unusual process. The words phone, bus, and wig (from telephone, omnibus, periwig) belong to Standard English but had their start as slangy or catchy neologisms formed by clipping stressed syllables, just like za. Who knows whether in fifty years za and rents will be as widely accepted as phone and wig are now?

My money is on rents, which I hear all the time, but who says 'za anymore?

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