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    swath is strictly a noun and leaves or creates a strip of something or nothing while a swathe is both noun and verb that envelops, wraps what it encounters. Deciding which is complicated because the plural for swath can be either swaths or swathes. Just remember that the first is a strip that cuts through while the second wraps around.

    How do you pronounce “niche”? If you say “nitch”, to rhyme with “kitsch”, you’re probably from the USA. If you say “neesh”, to rhyme with “quiche”, you’re in the company of people from all over the world—including the rest of the States.

    For the past year I’ve kept track of whether people pronounce “niche” to rhyme with “kitsch” or “quiche”, and where they’re from. I could do this somewhat systematically, because the word appears with great regularity in talks about stem cells, and I attended quite a few of those for work – always with a notebook and pen at hand. Whenever someone said the word “niche”, I flipped to the back page of my notebook, where I’d tally whether their pronunciation rhymed with “kitsch” or “quiche”, and which country the speaker was from.

    I took a poll of niche pronunciation using YouTube and parsing audio transcripts from an identifiable country of origin individuals. Sometimes there’s enough confusion at an unexpected variation in pronunciation that other participants in the conversation try to appease everyone by going for an intermediate pronunciation, rhyming “niche” with “fish” or “reach”.

    In total, I polled forty definitive voices using niche more than once, where the country of origin was known. We had three niche as fish, two niche as reach and all the rest were either niche rhyming with quiche or niche rhyming with kitsch.

    While not all American speakers pronounce “niche” as “nitch”, they are the only ones ever to do so. After going over 20,000 hours of audio, not a single non-American has ever said “nitch” as far as I could tell. This is rather striking.

    Also, American dictionaries with little or no international market, state that “nitch” is the preferred pronunciation over “neesh”. International dictionaries including the Oxford English Dictionary states “neesh” is the proper pronunciation but includes “nitch” as a specifically American variation.

    In the global scheme of things, “nitch” is rather a niche pronunciation. But big enough to persist and backed by many American dictionaries. Personally, I’d like to see “nitch” fall off the map. It’s inelegant and inconsistent and sounds discordant to my ear.

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