What with my near-daily dose of BBC News on the radio, I thought I was pretty current on British-American pronunciation differences: furore with three syllables (and an extra letter), vitamin with a short I (VITT-a-min), con-TROV-er-sy with a different stress, and so on....which made me remark to myself with surprise that I've never got(ten) (a)round to blogging about controversy, since (and this is the crucial thing about my blogging, isn't it?) I have an anecdote. (I think I didn't do it earlier because I was going to write a lot more about stress patterns in Latinate words, but in my new working-mother-on-the-go incarnation, I'll do this word now, and a hundred other words a hundred other times.)
And now, the anecdote you've managed to live without so far (but how?):
When I lived in South Africa, I had the altogether ego-enriching experience of being a relatively big [linguistic] fish in a relatively little [language-fascinated] pond, and so I had the pleasure of being a panel(l)ist on the SAfm (sort of the equivalent of BBC Radio 4 or NPR) program(me) Word of Mouth (which is like Radio 4's Word of Mouth or a bit less like KPBS/NPR's A Way with Words). Listeners write to the show with their language-related questions, and a couple of language experts join the host, John Orr, to answer them. Not once but THREE TIMES during my experience with WoM, some member of the South African native English-speaking population wrote in to complain that South African English was going to the dogs because people had started pronouncing controversy as conTROVersy (there's a short 'o' in the stressed syllable), rather than CONtroversy, and THREE TIMES they blamed this on the influence of American English.
Now, I only answered that one on-air once, but when I did, I did so with great glee as I pointed out (as I seem always to be pointing out) that just because something is annoying and new, it doesn't mean it's American. No, this "perversion" of the English language has its home in SAfE speakers' linguistic motherland. To quote Fowler's Modern English Usage (3rd edition, 1996):
controversy. The mood of the moment is to challenge orthodoxy by placing the main stress on the second syllable. This stressing is often used by newsreaders and also, in my [editor R.W. Burchfield's] experience, by many scholars and lexicographers, not to go any further. My verdict is that the traditional pronunciation with initial stressing is at risk, but is still, just, dominant among RP speakers in the UK. In AmE the stress is always placed on the first syllable in this word.I believe I read this on the radio--but since I no longer own a working cassette recorder, I doubt I'll ever hear those old program(me)s again.