REAL-turr, Real-TOR, REAL-a-turr or REAL-a-TOR?

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Realtors® have more time on their hands lately for marketing, what with the major slowdown in home sales, and it looks like some of them have gotten rusty on how to use the word “Realtor.”

I’m seeing “realtor” used a lot even by Realtors. It should be capitalized: Realtor. It’s a trademark for a member of the National Association of Realtors. The actual trademark is REALTOR®, with the symbol for registered trademark. It’s like “Rolaids,” the antacid, which is a brand, and a proper noun, and should always be capitalized.

Also, “Realtor” is not interchangeable with “real estate agent,” which means someone licensed by a state to sell real estate for a living, but who may or may not be a member of the National Association of Realtors.

Some journalists need a refresher, too. I saw “realtor” – not capitalized – in an AP story the other day.

This is not to pick nits. Misuse of a trademark in advertising and marketing can cost you. The National Association of Realtors has fought to protect its trademark for years, lest it go the way of “Kleenex” for “tissue” and “Xerox” for “copy.” They have a whole manual on it.

And, hey, I’m not perfect. I missed two of 10 questions on a Realtor trademark test, and I’ve been writing about Realtors and home sales for 23 years. One of the ones I missed, I’m going to keep missing for another 23 years, because it’s personal, not business. Or make that bidness.

So here’s a rerun of mine on how to pronounce “Realtor,” from 2017.

Better watch how you say ‘Realtors,’ y’all

The REAL-turrs have done gone to meddlin’.

“REAL-turr.” That’s how I pronounce “Realtor.”

And I’m doin’ it wrong, accordin’ to the National Association of REAL-turrs – I mean “Realtors.”

How do you pronounce it?

I’ve heard it said four ways:

  • “REAL-turr”
  • “Real-TOR”
  • “REAL-a-turr”
  • “REAL-a-TOR”

Those last two? They’re out. Come on. As much as it prolly pains some of my fellow native rurrrrl Okies, it’s just two syllables, not three.

But I’m just not sure anybody has the right to police dialect and vernacular – or DIE-leck and ver-NACK-you-lurr, fer that matter – to the level of vowel sounds and diphthongs.

But the National Association of Realtors tries.

“Realtor” is a trademark, not a plain old word. I get that. So, no matter where it falls in a sentence, “Realtor” gets to be capitalized. It does not command so much obeisance as to get all capital letters, like this: “REALTOR,” although they try to sneak that into print all the time, along with the perky little registered trademark symbol, ®.

And, as far as I’m concerned, the trademark doedn’t get to tell me to set aside my own manner of speakin’, nor even that of Realtors, that is, members of the National Association of Realtors and its state and local associations.

Little Dixie Realtors, check in. Have any of y’all down in southeastern Oklahoma ever got in trouble with the Realtor law over how to pronounce the word? Consider this a neighborly inquiry. I grew up about five miles north, as the crow flies, in Sequoyah County.

Welp, here’s what has set me off. Buried deep in the Realtor Membership Marks Manual – it’s way long and detailed – is this:


Irrespective of local dialect and custom, the term REALTOR® has but one pronunciation: REAL’ tor.

Members are encouraged to carefully train new employees and salespeople, particularly receptionists, on the proper pronunciation of the term REALTOR®. Consistent aural use is just as important as consistent visual use to the preservation of the distinctive and recognizable character of the MARKS. Teach employees and salespeople to avoid uses such as:

  • “Good morning! John Doe, REAL-A-TORS.”
  • Or, “Good morning! John Doe, REAL-I-TORS.”
  • Or, “Good morning! John Doe, RE-LA-TERS.”
  • Or, “Good morning! John Doe, RE-AL-TORS.”

Now, syllables are syllables, and there are just two in “Realtor,” although I reckon I might could make a case for lettin’ the top two slide for the sake of drawl.

But “TORS”? Lawsy! I (was) an ED-i-TOR all these years and never knew it!

No, I’ (was) an edi-TURR. So, it could be that the Realtors intend “Realtor” to be pronounced “REAL-turr” after all. But it doedn’t look like it – and for the most part, around here, it doedn’t sound like it.

This is what really sticks in my craw (and if they ever decide to police regional use of idioms, I will go to marchin’ and spoutin’ off at 500 New Jersey Ave., NW, in Washington, D.C., Realtors HQ, in Resistol, boots and full native garb):

Irrespective of local dialect and custom, the term REALTOR® has but one pronunciation: REAL’ tor.

“Irrespective of local dialect” – that just idn’t right.

Senior Business Writer Richard Mize has covered housing, construction, commercial real estate and related topics for the newspaper and Oklahoman.com since 1999.

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