Would you consider polling your readership for their pronunciation of aberrant? The OED2 gives only penultimate stress (the OED3 hasn't reached the word yet); m-w.com gives both initial and penultimate stress. My sense is that initial stress is far more common, partly because I've only heard that, and partly because of the frequent misspelling "abberant", which would be regular for initial stress. But there may be an AmE/BrE factor at work here.Unlike John, I only really know the penultimate stress version (aBERrant rather than ABerrant). Just to prove me exceptional (doesn't that sound better than wrong?), my mother has just pronounced it with first-syllable stress. On other recent occasions, I've heard the ABerrant pronunciation and assumed it to be from someone who's less than familiar with the word. I know it, and have feelings about it, because I had to learn for vocabulary quizzes in (AmE) 9th grade. Last week I went to the funeral of the teacher who made me so judg(e)mental about other people's pronunciations. Rest in peace, Mrs(.) Biddle!
I was interested to read the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel's take on the matter:
Traditionally aberrant has been pronounced with stress on the second syllable. In recent years, however, a pronunciation with stress on the first syllable has become equally common and may eventually supplant the older pronunciation. This change is owing perhaps to the influence of the words aberration and aberrated, which are stressed on the first syllable. The Usage Panel was divided almost evenly on the subject: 45 percent preferred the older pronunciation and 50 percent preferred the newer one. The remaining 5 percent of the Panelists said they use both pronunciations.So, that's America. What about the UK? The Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation offers the older pronunciation only--but the fact that the word has made it into the guide probably indicates some insecurity about how it should be pronounced. John Wells's Longman Pronunciation Dictionary lists both (older first) with no comment. He's graciously responded to my email on the topic, saying:
Our stress rules for Latin and Greek words give stress on the -err- because of the geminated consonant (i.e. double in Latin and in spelling). Compare "venerate" with single r. So penultimate stress is what we expect, and the only form given in the OED. However I have heard initial stress occasionally. I have no statistics on how widespread this might be.
So, what do you say (if you say it)? Please remember to say where you're from when you answer!