The diverging pronunciations of “cicada” can leave people uncertain about how to say the word, especially those living in places like Massachusetts, just outside the regions where cicadas periodically swarm. Even in cicada-prone areas, the word only becomes prominent at certain yearly intervals. With a term that stays dormant for long stretches, it’s no wonder that we haven’t completely fixed on the pronunciation. In any case, if you’re stuck in a cicada swarm this time around, pronunciation may be the last thing on your mind.
Ben Zimmer is the executive producer of VisualThesaurus.com and Vocabulary.com. He can be reached at benzimmer.com/contact.