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Old 05-19-2020, 11:05 AM
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Pronunciation question (one word)


I'm British, resident in UK: have recently encountered some puzzlement about the word which I know as "lambaste" -- meaning, to energetically attack and belabour someone (nowadays, usually just with words).

I have always understood it to be spelt "lambaste"; and -- learned from my parents -- pronounced to rhyme with "ham taste". Opinion here in UK nowadays seems strongly to favour the correct pronunciation being, to rhyme with "Hamfast" (as in Sam Gamgee's dad) -- short "a" in second syllable: "fast", not "fahst" (I fear I don't do International Phonetic Alphabet).

My personal opinion is that, of course it ought to rhyme with "ham taste" -- a combination of "lam" -- vigorous hitting of someone or something -- and "baste" -- pour hot oil / fat over something, in cookery. The "Hamfast" version just sounds to me, nonsensical and totally wrong. However, in Britain anyway, I seem to be in a fairly small minority.

I've seen it opined in Britain: that in North America, the word is usually spelt "lambaste"; but in Britain, "lambast". I'm not aware of having seen it spelt in Britain, without the final "e"; but am ready to admit that that might be confirmation bias.

Any thoughts on this matter, from anyone? How is the word generally spelt / pronounced in the US / Canada? -- or is there much varying? (I'd feel that the spelling "lambaste", asks for the "ham taste" pronunciation; but as we all know, in English, spelling vis-a-vis pronunciation is a minefield.)
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Old 05-19-2020, 12:04 PM
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I looked in a few dictionaries:

Merriam-Webster gives both pronunciations, with the long-A variant first.
Dictionary.com gives both, with the long-A variant first.
Cambridge Dictionary gives both, but says the short-A variant is UK and the long-A is US. (This one is odd -- the text gives the short-A variant for both, but the recorded audio pronunciation for the US version is the long-A.)
MacMillan gives the short-A variant as the UK pronunciation.

So it's unclear, but seems plausible that there's a US/UK difference in the most common pronunciation.

Last edited by markn+; 05-19-2020 at 12:04 PM.
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Old 05-19-2020, 02:04 PM
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Regarding the spelling, comparing "lambaste" and "lambast" in the Corpus of Global Web-Based English shows the latter is much more common in Great Britain than in the US. Out of 128 uses of "lambaste", 43 are in the US and 22 are in GB, while of the 300 uses of "lambast", 47 are in the US and 104 are in GB. (Sorry, I can't figure out how to link directly to the search results.)
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Old 05-19-2020, 02:07 PM
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You and your parents are wrong. It rhymes with hamfast. American and Texan.
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Old 05-19-2020, 02:24 PM
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I've only ever heard it as lam baste in Canada. I have no clue what the common spelling is here. I would hazard to guess lambaste, but Canadian English is a hodgepodge of British and US spelling.
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Old 05-19-2020, 02:33 PM
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I am also British, also resident in the UK (south east England if that matters) and I have only ever seen it spelt ‘lambast’ and pronounced to rhyme with ‘Hamfast’ (with a short northern ‘a’ in fast). I have honestly never encountered the -baste variant before today!

OB
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Old 05-19-2020, 02:54 PM
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Now I want a basted ham sandwich.
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Old 05-19-2020, 03:40 PM
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Not basted lamb?
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Old 05-19-2020, 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Omar Little View Post
You and your parents are wrong. It rhymes with hamfast. American and Texan.
Ditto. Hamfast. NYC here. I'm not sure if I've ever seen it in print, though I've certainly heard it spoken. I'd think it was spelled lambast.
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Old 05-19-2020, 05:21 PM
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I've heard it--probably even used it--both ways. Probably more often as ham paste, though.
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Old 05-19-2020, 06:01 PM
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U.S., grew up in the midwest and now on the west coast. It's not a word I hear every day, but I've only heard it with a hamfast short 'a'.

At least you didn't think it meant you were blasted with lamb.
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Old 05-20-2020, 01:48 AM
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I've always heard it (in my mind's ear, never having had occasion to speak it, that I recall) as having the short "a" of "ham" or "hat" for both syllables of "lambast", with the stress going on the second syllable, and therefore the past tense is "lambast-ed" rather than "lam-basted". OED seems to agree with me, at least for the UK, but records an alternative:

https://www.lexico.com/definition/lambast

Last edited by PatrickLondon; 05-20-2020 at 01:50 AM.
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Old 05-20-2020, 01:57 AM
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My thanks to everyone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by markn+ View Post
I looked in a few dictionaries
Duly clicked-on -- thanks.

Quote:
So it's unclear, but seems plausible that there's a US/UK difference in the most common pronunciation.
I.e., dictionaries generally lean toward suggesting that commoner US pronunciation is the "ham taste" version; UK, the "hamfast" ditto.

"Personal experience" in posts here: I count four in favour of "hamfast"-- including one Briton; one in favour of "ham taste" (Leaffan, re Canadian usage); and one "equal opportunity", leaning toward "ham taste"(Hari Seldon).

Spelling can it seems, be either way -- not closely tied to pronunciation (par for the course with the English language !)

I perceive from content of thread so far, enough championing or at least acceptance of my strongly preferred "ham taste" pronunciation, for me to feel justified in continuing to say the word that way. As stated in my OP -- I'm of course biased, but it seems to me, the obvious pronunciation: sounds splendidly fierce and forceful; the "hamfast" version sounds to me, wet and insipid. And "bast", means fibrous material from the phloem of certain plants -- what the heck?

It does seem (this confirmed by results of my airing this question on another, British-based, board) that in Britain, I am an oddity for using the "ham taste" version. I'd venture to say, it's not a word that I or most people whom I know, use all that often; but I'm pretty sure that I and my parents are not the only British folk whom I've ever known to say it the "ham taste" way. Musing on this: my father was in the Merchant Navy before and during World War II -- which took him to the USA, among many other places; and he and Mum were fans of the US, in a quiet way. Taking it that the "ham taste" pronunciation is commoner in North America (not everyone on the thread agrees with that) -- maybe Dad picked it up there, and used it back home, and the family followed suit?
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Old 05-20-2020, 01:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PatrickLondon View Post
I've always heard it (in my mind's ear, never having had occasion to speak it, that I recall) as having the short "a" of "ham" or "hat" for both syllables of "lambast", with the stress going on the second syllable, and therefore the past tense is "lambast-ed" rather than "lam-basted". OED seems to agree with me, at least for the UK, but records an alternative:

https://www.lexico.com/definition/lambast
And here we go again. Ham and hat do not have the same "a" sound in my Canadian English.

I don't even know how to describe it because every word I think of that rhymes with "ham" you, in the UK, would rhyme with "hat."

Last edited by Leaffan; 05-20-2020 at 02:00 AM.
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Old 05-20-2020, 02:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Oswald Bastable View Post
I am also British, also resident in the UK (south east England if that matters) and I have only ever seen it spelt ‘lambast’ and pronounced to rhyme with ‘Hamfast’ (with a short northern ‘a’ in fast). I have honestly never encountered the -baste variant before today!

OB
This is exactly my response, except I'm from the south west.
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Old 05-20-2020, 02:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PatrickLondon View Post
I've always heard it (in my mind's ear, never having had occasion to speak it, that I recall) as having the short "a" of "ham" or "hat" for both syllables of "lambast", with the stress going on the second syllable, and therefore the past tense is "lambast-ed" rather than "lam-basted". OED seems to agree with me, at least for the UK, but records an alternative:

https://www.lexico.com/definition/lambast
PatrickLondon-- re my recent post, I missed this one of yours (our posts nearly simultaneous): another British vote for the "hamfast" pronunciation. Reinforces my feeling that I and my "older generation" seem to be very strange in Britain, for our way of pronouncing it -- but my gut feeling remains as, "it's the rest of the squad that are out of step !"

ETA: they keep coming in -- Dead Cat too -- Brits seemingly unanimous on "hamfast". Sorry: but in Solzhenitsyn's words: "I don't want your good one -- give me my bad one !"

Last edited by Sangahyando; 05-20-2020 at 02:15 AM. Reason: Reply to new post
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Old 05-20-2020, 02:42 AM
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Brit Dopers may all be of one view, but the Oxford English Dictionary recognises only the long 'A' pronunciation, with the same vowel sound as in face. The short 'A' pronunciation doesn't even get a nod as an alternative.

Which might suggest that the long 'A' pronunciation used to be dominant in BrE, the short 'A' has recently overtaken it, and the OED hasn't revised its entry since that happened.
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Old 05-20-2020, 03:43 AM
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I've never heard the short-a version, always the long-a version. Rhymes with "ham taste." And I've always seen it spelled "lambaste."
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Old 05-20-2020, 04:11 AM
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I've never heard the short-a version, always the long-a version. Rhymes with "ham taste." And I've always seen it spelled "lambaste."
Ditto; Australia.
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Old 05-20-2020, 10:00 AM
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ham bast - Southeast Texas, USA
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Old 05-20-2020, 10:11 AM
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lam bast...ham cast... But I would know what you meant, whichever pronunciation you used, because there may be that much regional difference from place to place or among generations in the US. I get a facial tic more when you shift stress ("con TROV er sy" instead of CON tro ver sy, or "alu MIN i um" instead of a LU mi num.
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Old 05-20-2020, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by lobotomyboy63 View Post
I get a facial tic more when you shift stress ("con TROV er sy" instead of CON tro ver sy, or "alu MIN i um" instead of a LU mi num.
As an American, I recognize that "aluminium" is more consistent than "aluminum" even though I use the latter. There are 68 elements (including aluminium) whose name ends in -ium, and only 4 that end in -um without an "i".

Last edited by markn+; 05-20-2020 at 11:17 AM.
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Old 05-20-2020, 11:51 AM
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I'll jump ahead, markn+, and suppose you mean: molybdenum, tantalum, platinum, and lanthanum

Back in the day...
Ag-silver, from argentum
Au-gold, from aurum
Fe-iron, from ferrum
Sn-tin, from stannum
Pb-lead, from plumbum
Hg-mercury, from hydrargyrum

And we could almost add
W-tungsten, from wolfram

But languages aren't 100% consistent or unchanging. I was thinking about the shift in stressed syllable.

Actually the way I heard BE speakers say it is al yoo MIN i um. They also seem to say Jag yoo er instead of Jag wahr.
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Old 05-20-2020, 12:03 PM
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I've never heard the short-a version, always the long-a version. Rhymes with "ham taste." And I've always seen it spelled "lambaste."
Ditto, NYC area.
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Old 05-22-2020, 07:44 PM
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Originally Posted by lobotomyboy63 View Post
I'll jump ahead, markn+, and suppose you mean: molybdenum, tantalum, platinum, and lanthanum

Back in the day...
Ag-silver, from argentum
Au-gold, from aurum
Fe-iron, from ferrum
Sn-tin, from stannum
Pb-lead, from plumbum
Hg-mercury, from hydrargyrum

And we could almost add
W-tungsten, from wolfram
Forgot cuprum for copper (Cu).
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Leaffan View Post
And here we go again. Ham and hat do not have the same "a" sound in my Canadian English.

I don't even know how to describe it because every word I think of that rhymes with "ham" you, in the UK, would rhyme with "hat."
If only there were some accurate, widely used system to transcribe speech sounds! You'd then have a way to convey exactly what you mean without being misunderstood.
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Leaffan View Post
Ham and hat do not have the same "a" sound in my Canadian English.

I don't even know how to describe it because every word I think of that rhymes with "ham" you, in the UK, would rhyme with "hat."
I found
Quote:
a hole in the short vowel sub-system [...] triggers a sound change known as the Canadian Shift, which involves the front lax vowels /æ, ɛ, ɪ/. The /æ/ of bat is lowered and retracted in the direction of [a] (except in some environments, see below). Indeed, /æ/ is further back in this variety than almost all other North American dialects; the retraction of /æ/ was independently observed in Vancouver and is more advanced for Ontarians and women than for people from the Prairies or Atlantic Canada and men. [...]

Raising along the front periphery of the vowel space is restricted to two environments – before nasal and voiced velar consonants – and varies regionally even in these. Ontario and Maritime Canadian English commonly show some raising before nasals.
It's saying two changes happen to /æ/ in Ontario, both of which describe your examples:
Before -t, the vowel is lowered to [a]. So your Canadian "hat" might sound to an American more like "hot". /hæt/ > [hat].
Before -m, the vowel is raised to [ɛə] (which can also happen in the US). So your Canadian "ham" might sound to a British speaker more like "hem." Does that help?
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Old 05-23-2020, 12:54 AM
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Aussie here, I've only ever heard it pronounced Ham Taste, I don't recall offhand what spellings I've seen
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Old 05-23-2020, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Oswald Bastable View Post
I am also British, also resident in the UK (south east England if that matters) and I have only ever seen it spelt ‘lambast’ and pronounced to rhyme with ‘Hamfast’ (with a short northern ‘a’ in fast). I have honestly never encountered the -baste variant before today!

OB
Indeed. Northern Englisher here, haven't heard it used for many a year.
Only heard it pronounce Lambast and spelled Lambaste.

It did strike me as odd that it contradicted the spelling, which conjures images of lamb roasting on a spit and being basted.

There are so many contradictions in English though.


On the other hand, Jaguar pronounced Jag-wahr is just wrong.
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Old 05-23-2020, 08:13 AM
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Strange, I with my Hispano-German accent would have sworn that it is pronounced like "Throat-Wobbler Mangrove"'. Most curious nobody mentioned that.
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Old 05-23-2020, 08:57 AM
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American, flyover country, short A in both syllables.
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Old 05-23-2020, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Leaffan View Post
And here we go again. Ham and hat do not have the same "a" sound in my Canadian English.

I don't even know how to describe it because every word I think of that rhymes with "ham" you, in the UK, would rhyme with "hat."
Nor in mine and I didn't grow up in Canada. But then I speak Philadelphian in which "sad" and "bad" don't rhyme. Nor the modal "can" and the ordinary verb "can". FWIW, I say lamb baste (though as one word). There's no right or wrong in these things. Each dialect will be a little different.
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Old 05-24-2020, 04:16 AM
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American here. Lived in 7 States. Hamfast pronunciation and I've never seen it spelled lambaste. Present simple is rarely seen however. Usually one is lambasting or being lambasted.

Last edited by Ashtura; 05-24-2020 at 04:18 AM.
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Old 05-24-2020, 04:33 AM
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American (from Arkansas)

I encountered the word originally spoken, and it was "ham fast." I didn't encounter the other pronunciation until much later, and it was always in the context of a prescriptivist saying that people were saying it wrong--hence acknowledging that "ham fast" was more common.

While I do watch a lot of UK media these days, I can't say I remember particularly encountering that word in them, so it would not color my perceptions.
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Old 05-24-2020, 05:21 AM
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Thanks all, for ongoing responses. I get the picture more and more: I and late parents, very unusual in Britain in favouring the "ham taste" pronunciation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by steepone View Post
Aussie here, I've only ever heard it pronounced Ham Taste, I don't recall offhand what spellings I've seen
There seems to be unanimity among Australian responders, that pronunciation in Australia is solidly "ham taste". I've wondered earlier on about my father's maritime travels eighty-odd years ago, and his perhaps latching on to a local pronunciation. Am only surmising that he probably visited North America: I do know for sure that WWII's occasions took him to Australia (he had to have his tonsils out in Perth -- nonetheless, he loved Western Australia; reckoned it the most beautiful place he'd ever seen). Maybe he picked up the pronunciation there?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigT View Post
American (from Arkansas)

I encountered the word originally spoken, and it was "ham fast." I didn't encounter the other pronunciation until much later, and it was always in the context of a prescriptivist saying that people were saying it wrong--hence acknowledging that "ham fast" was more common.
What chiefly put this issue into my head, was in fact a recent book on "problem words and how to use them", by a British self-appointed pundit on the subject -- on the conservative end of the spectrum, and IMO a conceited self-dogmatic twerp: who writes therein, just "lambast -- not lambaste". I took therefrom, that he was referring both to spelling and pronunciation -- revealed by this thread (and my one on the other board) that concerning this word, the two are not noticeably in step. I have reluctantly to concede, that this pompous twit would seem to have the rights of the thing where Britain is concerned.

BigT writes: "While I do watch a lot of UK media these days, I can't say I remember particularly encountering that word in them, so it would not color my perceptions."

In fact, it would seem to be a word which doesn't crop up with great frequency, on any scene. I just personally find it -- with my preferred pronunciation -- a very fine and forceful one.
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Old 05-24-2020, 08:34 AM
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For me I guess it depends on the specific conjugation, for some reason.

I would lam-baste someone.
but he got lambaasted.
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Old 05-24-2020, 08:46 AM
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I never heard anyone say the ham bast version, nor have I seen it spelled with no final e. I have lived in Illinois, Georgia, California and Texas. I have friends from Iowa, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Zero ham bast, zero lambast. Weird. It's amazing all the differences. However, it's not a word that gets used a lot anywhere I have lived, so maybe I know lots of ham-bast-ers and just never heard from them!
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Old 05-24-2020, 10:28 AM
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For me I guess it depends on the specific conjugation, for some reason.

I would lam-baste someone.
but he got lambaasted.
A new and interesting angle on the matter -- there seems plenty more to this word, than I'd imagined when I started the thread...
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Old 05-25-2020, 06:11 PM
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In library school I once used the word in an oral report in class, and the professor in his response used the word back at me. He used the pronunciation different from the one I'd said. That was how I learned it has two pronunciations.

The funny thing is: I don't remember any more which pronunciation I used and which one the professor used! It was quite a few years ago, and the word is almost never pronounced by anyone anyway.
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Old 05-26-2020, 04:56 PM
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I'm Irish and I only ever heard it rhyming with "taste". To be fully accurate, I don't think I have ever heard the word "lambaste" spoken at all - only "lambasted", rhyming with "tasted".
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