“OPPORTUNITY” doesn’t seem like a word anyone would have problems pronouncing, but mill around the mall, the market, the hawker center, the hallway, or just hang out with your friends, listen to your teachers, how about the politicians?
You might just end up hearing two versions of the word: “op-POR-chew-ni-ti” and “op-per-CHEW-ni-ti.” Now, if you belong to the first camp, you might be going: “Why would anyone pronounce the word any other way?” or “Gee, you mean I’ve been saying it wrong all this while?”
Let’s play a little game of syllables and accents, one that grows progressively goofier.
“Opportunity” has five syllables and we’re going to figure out which syllable to place the accent. In order for this game to work, you have to play Eliza Doolittle and articulate every word clearly. Ready?
First Syllable: OP-per-chew-ni-ti
Second Syllable: op-POR-chew-ni-ti (that’s you right here)
Third Syllable: op-per-CHEW-ni-ti (that’s the other weird folks)
Fourth Syllable: op-per-chew-NI-ti
Fifth Syllable: op-per-chew-ni-TI
That didn’t take too long, and I hope you had a little tickle from giving the fourth syllable the accent, as well as the fifth. Having laughed them both off, we’re left with the first—which doesn’t sound too bad, but it’s not quite right either—followed by the ubiquitously heard “op-POR-chew-ni-ti,” and “op-per-CHEW-ni-ti.”
So, who’s right? You, or the weird folks?
Here’s how Oxford has phoneticized the word:
See that little accent mark (ˈ) before “tju:”? It’s for that syllable, the third.
But wait, no one needs to read phonetic symbols anymore in this digital age, so go ahead, just click on this:
op-per-TEW-nuh-dee / op-per-TOO-nuh-dee
I invite you to write to me at email@example.com if you have any word ideas you’d like to share.