Sunday, March 27, 2016

I can spell it even though I can't say it (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

For my foray into the topic of words, I thought I'd talk about words that I've pronounced incorrectly, because you can't always tell from looking at a word how it's pronounced.

The first one I remember mangling was "machine." As a precocious young reader, I found a book in the house and began reading it out loud to my mother, to show her how well I could do. She interrupted me to ask what on earth a "ma-CHYNE" (pronounced with a hard "ch" and rhyming with "line") was. When I showed her the word, she said, "Oh, ma-SHEEN!"

Then there was "anxiety." I knew the word "anxious," pronounced "ANK-shus," so naturally my new word was "ANK-shuh-tee," right? I nearly laughed when I heard a classmate pronounce it "ang-ZYE-uh-tee." There wasn't even a G or a Z in it! Where did he come up with that crazy pronunciation?

As it turned out, he got that crazy pronunciation from real life, and I was wrong.

Recently, I discovered that "unguent," which I had been mentally pronouncing as "UN-jent," is really "UN-gwent," an awkward-sounding word that still makes me shudder. I like my erroneous version better.

But hey, I still refuse to use a soft G in "gif." I will go on mentally pronouncing "gif" like "gift" without a T for as long as possible.

Today, when re-encountering the word "balustrade," I realized I don't really know how to pronounce it. Is it "BAL-you-strahd" (my first instinct, influenced by French), or "BAL-you-strayed," or something else?

Be right back.

Neither guess was quite right. My dictionary says, "BAL-uh-strayed." Now I have to retrain that little voice in my head that mentally pronounces words.

I wonder how many other words I'm saying wrong?


10 comments:

  1. Love this post. My bad when I was a kid was yacht which I pronounced yatchit. I still have some I stumble over, the most blatant and recent being Maori.

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    1. I hear you. It took me years to find out my mental pronunciation of "Maori" was wrong!

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  2. I suffer a bit from Missouri "lazy mouth." It bangs up some pronunciations...

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    1. That gives me an idea. Let's just attribute any mispronunciations to regional variation. "Oh, yes, everyone in my home town says it that way ..."
      And by the way, "Missouri" is one of the words I mispronounced too.

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    1. I got that one right ... but as a result, mispronounced "Taos!"

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  4. "Vehement." As a teen I felt sure it was "veh-HEM-ment", not "VEE-uh-ment", until I said it out loud and my brothers mocked me.

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    1. It does seem like it should be accented on the 2nd syllable!

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  5. Half the time when I read "misled" I think "mizzled" instead of "mis-led."

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    1. That's the same way I first read "misled," and continued to do so for years! I guess I thought there was a verb, "to misle."

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