From math class:My response to that said that the issue of explaining something I’ve pronounced needs a blog post of its own.
The die is the harder one. I always explain what I’m saying.
This is that.
As I said in my response to Sue’s comment, I haven’t found that “die” is really a problem: the context pretty much makes it clear that I’m talking about one of those cubes with the dots on it, and even if someone’s never heard the singular before, he’ll just look at me funny... but will figure it out.
On the other hand, “offal” is probably at the top of the puzzlement list. Some people pronounce it with a long “o”, to try to avoid confusion: OH-ful. But that pronunciation is just... well... awful. It’s correctly pronounced with the first syllable like the word “off” (as the stuff that’s been cast off), and, unfortunately, that means that when Americans say them, “offal” and “awful” sound pretty much the same. Given, of course, that the latter is a far more common word, references to offal usually leave others wondering how the word can possibly become a noun.
“Balm” is tricky as well: Americans pronounce it about the same as we pronounce “bomb” — and in this case, they’re both nouns. One soothes; the other decidedly doesn’t.
“Consummate”: The verb is pronounced KON-su-mate, with a long “a” and stress on the leading syllable. But the adjective is, as is sometimes the case in English, pronounced differently: kən-SUM-ət — the “a” becomes a schwa and the stress moves to the penultimate syllable. Just about no one gets this right, but dictionaries such as American Heritage still insist on it.
There are also some where I’m the one who insists. I stay with pronunciations that I learned, and that in some cases American Heritage still lists first. But the alternative pronunciations are accepted by the American Heritage folks, and are listed as well. And in some cases, the “alternatives” are preferred, and it’s the pedant in me that stays obstinate.
One can refer to one’s long suit as one’s “forte”, but please pronounce it as fort, without a final long-a sound. The word comes from French. And note that the musical term that’s spelled the same way comes to us from Italian, and is pronounced FOR-tay. American Heritage has a usage note about it:
Usage Note: The word forte, coming from French fort, should properly be pronounced with one syllable, like the English word fort. Common usage, however, prefers the two-syllable pronunciation, (fôr'tā'), which has been influenced possibly by the music term forte borrowed from Italian. In a recent survey a strong majority of the Usage Panel, 74 percent, preferred the two-syllable pronunciation. The result is a delicate situation; speakers who are aware of the origin of the word may wish to continue to pronounce it as one syllable but at an increasing risk of puzzling their listeners.
A stern or gloomy person might be called “dour”, and that rhymes with “tour”. It does not rhyme with “sour”; it does not sound like “dower”. It comes from the Latin for “hard”, durus. But American Heritage has this to say:
Usage Note: The word dour, which is etymologically related to duress and endure, traditionally rhymes with tour. The variant pronunciation that rhymes with sour is, however, widely used and must be considered acceptable. In a recent survey, 65 percent of the Usage Panel preferred the traditional pronunciation, and 33 percent preferred the variant.
A “schism” — a division into opposing factions — is not a good thing. Its original pronunciation, though is: SIZ-əm, soft and mellifluous. Almost everyone, though, says SKIZ-əm, with that hard “k” sound. The change came a long time ago, moving the English form back to its Greek roots. I should probably change on this one, because of the etymology and the ubiquity of the latter pronunciation. Again, American Heritage:
Usage Note: The word schism, which was originally spelled scisme in English, is traditionally pronounced (sĭz'əm). However, in the 16th century the word was respelled with an initial sch in order to conform to its Latin and Greek forms. From this spelling arose the pronunciation (skĭz'əm). Long regarded as incorrect, it became so common in both British and American English that it gained acceptability as a standard variant. Evidence indicates, however, that it is now the preferred pronunciation, at least in American English. In a recent survey 61 percent of the Usage Panel indicated that they use (skĭz'əm), while 31 percent said they use (sĭz'əm). A smaller number, 8 percent, preferred a third pronunciation, (shĭz'əm).
Something that’s “short-lived” has a short life. Long “i”. So use a long “i” in “short-lived” as well, please. This one’s less far gone than some of the others: I do hear the correct pronunciation quite often, though I hear a short “i” more. Once more, American Heritage has a usage note:
Usage Note: The pronunciation (-līvd) is etymologically correct since the compound is derived from the noun life, rather than from the verb live. But the pronunciation (-lĭvd) is by now so common that it cannot be considered an error. In the most recent survey 43 percent of the Usage Panel preferred (-lĭvd), 39 percent preferred (-līvd), and 18 percent found both pronunciations equally acceptable.
 Some of these, such as “offal” and “balm”, present no confusion to the British, who pronounce the vowels quite differently.
 Some people say “strong suit”; I’ve always used “long suit”. My trusty American Heritage supports that, listing the latter as the primary entry, and the former as a pointer to it.
 The wonderful usage notes are one of the reasons I love American Heritage so, and use it as my primary dictionary.