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Why is this so hard: premier/premiere?

The Young Victorian Theatre Company describes itself as “Baltimore's premiere professional summer theater company, specializing in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.”

One might expect people involved in the theater to know that it’s premier (adj.) that means “first” or “foremost.” That’s why as a noun it is synonymous with prime [first, foremost] minister.

Premiere (n.) is a first performance of a work.

W.S. Gilbert would likely not be pleased.


Posted by John McIntyre at 6:40 PM | | Comments (6)


Prime minister and premier are not quite synonyms here in Terra Australis. The former is the first minister at the federal level, while the latter are the first ministers of the states. Thus we have one PM, and six Premiers.

It's not hard if you don't care. Premiere just looks prettier than premier, just as theatre is fancier than theater.

You wonder what's so hard about knowing the correct usages of premier and premiere. Anything that is one of two choices is hard to remember. Is it this or that?

I should think it's pretty obvious why it's so hard—English does not generally distinguish between adjectives and nouns with a silent e

Why is it so hard? Because it's totally arbitrary.

It's the old visual learner versus aural learner thing again, I imagine.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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