How Joseph Pulitzer Pronounced His Name
It’s the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize. The first prizes were given in four categories. Now there are more than twenty categories.
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[Use the player in the upper right corner of the page to hear the proper pronunciation of “Pulitzer”]
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize, the annual prize in journalism and letters established by the estate of Joseph Pulitzer in 1916 and run by the Columbia School of Journalism (also established by Pulitzer’s estate). The first Pulitzer Prizes in reporting were given in 1917 to Herbert Bayard Swope of New York World for a series of articles titled “Inside the German Empire” and to the New York Tribune for its editorial on the first anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania. The first Pulitzers in literature were awarded that year to French ambassador Jean Jules Jusserand for his work, History With Americans of Past and Present Days, and to Laura E. Richards and Maude Howe Elliott for The Autobiography of Julia Ward Howe.
Over the years, the prize categories have evolved; poetry, general non-fiction, fiction, and more were added in the literary arts, and categories such as editorial cartooning, local and national investigative reporting, and editorial and feature photography were added in journalism. The category of telegraph reporting has quaintly fallen away. Today, there are more than twenty categories of awards. And it is worth noting that Oxford University Press books have won a fair share of awards—in history, biography, and even one in music.
This year, the Pulitzer Board is sponsoring a year-long celebration of the 100th awarding of the prizes, in collaboration with state humanities councils, journalism schools, museums, and foundations. A friend of mine, a Pulitzer winner himself, was telling me about this over coffee. “Wow,” I exclaimed, “I had no idea that the Pulitzer Prize was a hundred years old.”
I pronounced the name PEW-lit-zer, and he gently explained the preferred pronunciation to me. The Pulitzer Board pronounces it PULL-it-sir, which is the way Joseph Pulitzer said it and liked it. A few days later, I was talking with another friend about the centenary and complimented him on pronouncing it as Pulitzer did. “Yeah,” he said. “I was saying PEW-lit-zer, but someone corrected me.”
The PEW-lit-zer versus PULL-it-sir situation got me to thinking about the pronunciation of names ...