People are divided not only on how they feel about Britain’s departure from the EU, but also on how they pronounce this word. Brits generally pronounce the x as /ks/:
but many Americans pronounce it /gz/:
This difference reflects the two pronunciations of the word exit (both noun and verb) which predominate on either side of the Atlantic. We can see the difference in a preference poll which John Wells took some years back for his Longman Pronunciation Dictionary:It’s my impression that the UK-US divergence has if anything become more marked. Certainly we can find American dictionaries which prioritize /gz/, eg Merriam-Webster:and British dictionaries which list only /ks/, eg Macmillan:Here anyway are some Brits with /ks/:
and some Americans with /gz/:
The /ks/ pronunciation is consistent with a generalization in English regarding ex- and stress: if the e is more strongly stressed than the following vowel we get /ks/, if the reverse we get /gz/. Common examples of /ks/ after stress are:
é/ks/ercise, dyslé/ks/ia, flé/ks/ible, hé/ks/agon, lé/ks/icon, sé/ks/y, É/ks/eter, Mé/ks/ico, Té/ks/as
And examples of /gz/ before stress are:
e/gz/áct, e/gz/ággerate, e/gz/ámple, e/gz/écutive, e/gz/háust, e/gz/híbit, e/gz/íst, e/gz/ótic, Ale/gz/ánder
(The /gz/ pronunciations can survive even when a more strongly stressed suffix is added, eg e/gz/ist-éntial.)
So pronouncing éxit and Bréxit with /gz/ goes against the stress generalization. Perhaps it’s an American declaration of independence.
Other exceptions to the stress generalization are those words written with exc. These are pronounced with /ks/ regardless of stress, eg éxcellent, excéption.