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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:45 pm

• harass •

Pronunciation: hê-ræs or -rês • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To continuously pester, to annoy persistently, to harry, to persistently intimidate. 2. To create a hostile environment by unwelcome verbal or physical intimidation.

Notes: This word was misspelled *harrass more than 1.5 million times on the Web on January 22, 2018. I suppose people can't remember which consonant is doubled, so they double both to make sure they get the right one. The action noun is harassment and the personal noun is harasser.

In Play: "The #MeToo movement spotlights sexual harassment in the US workplace." Harvey Weinstein, a prominent Hollywood producer, can take credit for starting the movement by harassing and assaulting hundreds of female film actors over the 30 years of his activities. Harassment on the playground is called "bullying", and several states have taken steps to reduce that type of harassment, too.

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from French harasser "tire out, vex" in the 16th century. This verb is probably a reflex of Old French (a la) harache as in courre a la harache "to chase", based on harer "to stir up, provoke", originally "sic dogs on". At this point the history becomes hazy. Harer may come from Frankish hara "over here, hither", but this avenue presents semantic problems. The root of hara could just as well come from PIE koro- "war, army", which also went into the making of harry, harangue, and hurry. The semantic path here is also lined with semantic pitfalls. So, take your pick. (Let's not harass Frank Myers of Stonybrook, New York, but thank him profusely for recommending today's rather confusing Good Word at several levels.)
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Re: Harass

Postby misterdoe » Sat Jan 27, 2018 6:39 pm

Doc, you posted two possible pronunciations of this word: the one I always thought was correct ("her ass" :)), and the one I seem to hear all the time from the media ("Harris" :roll:). Are both actually acceptable?

George Kovac
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Re: Harass

Postby George Kovac » Mon Jan 29, 2018 11:18 am

As to what the media accepts as appropriate pronunciation, the data go in both directions. The choice of emphasis and long or short vowels is a divisive issue :wink:
“The messy layers of human experience get pulled together, and sometimes ordered, by words.” Colum McCann “But Always Meeting Ourselves” New York Times, June 15, 2009

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Grand Panjandrum
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Re: Harass

Postby Slava » Sat Apr 28, 2018 12:17 pm

I'd posit that putting the accent on the first syllable is to avoid the donkey bit in the other pronunciation. Much like pronouncing asphalt as ashfault.
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