This morning I placed a call to a New York-based company (never mind the particulars) called Reprise something-or-other. I got the usual voice message explaining the usual options. The speaker had what sounded to me like a somewhat educated New York borough or northern New Jersey accent. What got me was his pronunciaton of Reprise, which he called RE-prize — a variation on the standard football-game prounciation of the word “defense” as DE-fense.
The second I heard RE-prize I thought of those hillbillies in Deliverance telling Jon Voight and Ned Beatty that “well, we, uh, RE-quire that you both get your asses into them woods.” I was once again channeling Jose Ferrer ‘s Turkish Bey in Lawrence of Arabia: “I am surrounded by cattle.”
Frank Sinatra‘s old record label was called Reprise, but it was pronounced the elegant way — reh-PREEZ. Commoners, I remember, would say reh-PRIZE and others would correct them by saying, “Uhm, I think you’re supposed to say reh-PREEZ.” But now we’ve sunk even further. Now we have guys who sound like Port Authority bus drivers greeting callers with “thank you for calling RE-prize.” Welcome to Jersey Shore.