The column a few weeks back about the common mispronunciation of a certain word got me thinking about others - not only other words but also annoying phrases that have become overworked clichés.
Using my beloved maternal grandmother as an example, a word she always mispronounced was "vindictive." She'd say vin-DIC-ah-tive, throwing in an extra syllable, but one wouldn't bring it to her attention - at least not more than once.
Remember Tricky Dick and his pronunciation of the word "judgment?" "In my judge-ah-ment," he might say, "I am not a crook." There's that extra syllable again.
Mac Harley gets stares from people when he points out the correct pronunciation of the word "forte." "It's often the same with 'niche' when pronounced 'neesh,' and which I promptly correct to 'nitch.'
"Another thing that gets me is the near universal use of the term 'guy,' which is a slang Yankeeism that has infected our speech. I deplore its use, particularly when a waiter approaches the table and asks, 'What can I get you guys?' I usually inform the waiter that we are NOT guys and that 'you' is a perfectly good plural pronoun. Yet another disgusting addition to the lexicon is the use of 'alum' for alumnus or alumna. Alum is an astringent. The term 'alums' for the plural is even worse."
Well, at least we don't hear "youse guys" - not yet anyway. (Maybe on Kiawah - JK.)
Cathy Damron brings to my attention a book by Charles Elster published in 2006 titled "The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations."
NPR reviewed the book back when and came up with some choice excerpts:
Alumnae - uh-LUHM-nee, not uh-LUHM-ny.
Bacchus - BACK-us, not BAHK-us.
Chamois - SHAMee (unless you just happen to be referring to the goat antelope Rupicapra rupicapra.)
Drowned - DROWND. PLEASE don't say drown-ded.
Flutist - FLOO-tist. The variant flautist was adapted from the Italian flautista and is considered an affectation.
Genre - ZHAN-ruh, not JAHN-ruh.
Heinous - HAY-nis, not HEE-nee-is. Two syllables, not three. Consider also mischievous, grievous and intravenous.
Iraq - i-RAHK. No "eye" in Iraq.
Machination - mac-i-NAY-shin, not mash-i-NAY-shin. (I'm busted on that one - have always said the latter.)
Nuclear - N(Y)OO-klee-ur, not NOO-kyuh-lur. (Someone please forward to W.)
Often - AWF-in. Leave the 't' out. Same concept with glisten, fasten, soften, castle.
Pathos - PAY-thahs or PAY-thaws. As with bathos or ethos, the first vowel should have its long sound and the -os is preferably pronounced -ahs, with a short 'o' as in hot or jostle.
Porsche. That's a tricky one. Car snobs and owners of same will insist upon the disyllabic and correct German pronunciation: POR-shuh, while the vast hoi polloi say PORSH. Either is probably fine.
Realtor - REE-ul-tur, not REE-luh-tur.
Salmon - SAM-on. Make the 'l' disappear.
Vase - VAYS. VAHZ is British.
One word I've always had trouble with is banal. I think the best pronunciation is probably BAY-nal, although there's ba-NAHL and others. And is it intelli-GHENT-sia or intelli-JENT-sia? I've always favored the former but that may be something of an affectation as well.
In Charleston, of course, we do things a little differently and deliberately mispronounce select words with about as much intention as the English do concerning a large body of French words (a separate column.) Three examples that confound visitors are Legare (Le-GREE), Vanderhorst (VAN-dross) and piazza, with the second syllable pronounced "AS," and maybe (or not) with a soft "y," as in Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski.
And don't forget to drop that "z."
Reach Edward M. Gilbreth at email@example.com.
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