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Ask the Patriarch 185
Pronunciation of "Apatheism"

from: Andrew Stevens

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To whom this may concern:

I have yet to find a definition of 'apatheism' that includes a phonetic spelling. The running bet with my wife is  "ah-pay-thee-ism" over "ah-paa-thee-ism". I've got dinner riding on this one, so can you help me out?

Sincerely yours,


The Patriarch replies:


I would hope that this dispute with your wife is indicative of a very happy marriage, and may any future disagreements continue to be over issues no more important than this.

I cannot rule on your question authoritatively. To be honest, I have never heard the word "apatheism" spoken, nor have I used it in conversation with another person. I've rarely seen it in print other than on the internet and in the occasional e-mail. And my hard-copy dictionaries are mostly from the sixties.

My own suggested pronunciation would be based simply on "apathy" plus "ism."

When you put them together, an additional stress falls naturally on the third syllable to produce:

or trying to represent the word without phonetic symbols

I don't think that quite matches your or your wife's suggestions. Perhaps your wife should take care of the appetizer and desert, and you take responsibility for the main course.