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January 3, 2004

Talkin' Words

Posted by Mike on January 3, 2004 7:34 PM

A few days ago I mentioned that Language Log is one of my favorite recent finds. A recent thread about the asinine and politically-motivated gotcha-hunting of W. caught my attention, and I was looking to link it all up, but Ed beat me to it, and also added a few thoughts of his own.

Not much more to say to that (Ed's much better at this stuff than I am), besides this:

Al's a former Spanish teacher, and she feels a real affinity with Mexico. So when people would ask her whether she was teaching "high" Spanish or the "corrupt" Mexican version, it always elicited a cringe from both of us. Sure, Spain has an academy to sort out what's "correct" Spanish, but there's also a whole country with a population that seems to be able to manage the everyday tasks of selling each other Pepsi and picking each other up at singles bars despite the "fallen" nature of their collective Spanish. That oughta count for something.

Language Log hit on another aspect of the "he's an idiot 'coz he mispronounces things" issue with an entry on mispronunciation and autodidacts. I remember being laughed at for pronouncing "carrion" kuh-RYE-un instead of with a stress on the first syllable. Sorry, man, I learned it in fourth or fifth grade during my first reading of "Lord of the Rings," and it's not like mom and pop or Ms. LaFinn were using the word daily.

Since consistency seems to get trotted out a lot when defending linguasnobbery, I'll point out that I forgave one dear friend who pronounces "visceral" vie-SEE-ruhl as readily as I forgave myself for the whole carrion gaff.

On further reflection, and though it should go without saying:

Yes. I understand that we should all strive for maximum clarity. But when your friendly neighborhood pedant insists on shutting down discussions and chilling others into silence with boorish corrections meant less to clarify than provide some sort of rhetorical delaying action, I get a lot more irritated than I do when someone misuses a word around me.


We always used to gently hassle a friend of mine who's a voracious reader and sometimes mispronounces words that way...

I remember him pronouncing "banal" to rhyme with "anal," "esoteric" to rhyme with "the potter Rick," and best of all, "braziers" identically to "brassieres." The latter appeared as window dressing in a Dungeons and Dragons scenario he ran, to the amusement of all and sundry.

I've always thought that "The Esoteric Braziers" (pronounced "The es-SOTTER-rick brassieres") would be a great name for a rock band.

Posted by: Ed at January 4, 2004 2:46 PM

Heheh... that made me think of a friend who pronounced "phlegm" FELL-gum. Much joshing ensued.

Posted by: mph at January 4, 2004 8:06 PM