Sunday, August 28, 2011

Suitable For Linking

Here we go again.

Those of you complaining about Rick Perry's pronunciation of nuclear hope, by drawing attention to it, to illustrate how dumb he is. Actually, you are only drawing attention to how dumb you are. If you had studied linguistics you would know that. Physicists with PhD's - even working at Oak Ridge, NASA, prestigious universities - might use the southern regional pronunciation if they are from the south. It makes you cringe because you are a regional snob, not because they are stupid, and thou, smart.

I know you were taught in fifth grade to go over to the dictionary to look up the correct pronunciation, and that was that. The first pronunciation was considered the best, because it was most common. But the preeminence of one accent in a language is now recognised for the accident that it is. If a native speaker uses it, it's acceptable. Merriam-Webster, for example:
Though disapproved of by many, pronunciations ending in \-kyə-lər\ have been found in widespread use among educated speakers including scientists, lawyers, professors, congressmen, United States cabinet members, and at least two United States presidents and one vice president. While most common in the United States, these pronunciations have also been heard from British and Canadian speakers.
But, but, you protest, look at the way it's spelled. The pronunciation should be...

Let me introduce you to the pronunciations envelope/onvelope, or often/offen. Let me introduce you, in fact, to the entire flippin' English language. Pronunciations and usages have cultural indicators attached to them, and I, as a snob, make sure that mine reflect my educated New England background, and taught them to my first two children. I understand where the feeling comes from. My teachers and family sniffed and looked down their noses too. But they were dead wrong, and when we learn better we should act on it.

Unless, of course, being a bigot was your original goal. Absent that, you mark yourself as someone who cares more about reading status than reading books.

4 comments:

Sam L. said...

They know the "correct" pronunciation, so they are superior, and they just have to tell us, so that WE know they are superior, not realizing that Miss Manners says this is incorrect. Or not caring, because they are, after all, so veddy, veddy, superiah to us lowlife plebeians.

karrde said...

Bonus points to anyone who can name both Presidents to have used the 'nukular' pronunciation.

Texan99 said...

I can imagine Perry chuckling over anyone who has a problem with his pronunciation. He probably thinks that pronouncing the word as "noo-klee-ahr" sounds affected, and doesn't give a tinker's dam how anyone thinks his pronunciation sounds.

Short of the Second Coming, I don't think we're going to eradicate class-consciousness from our approach to pronunciation and grammar (or to haircuts, clothes, vacations, etc.). The best most of us can hope for is not to sound self-conscious about our regional differences in informal language and colloquialism. And perhaps to avoid the pseudo-sophistication that makes people say "between him and I."

Which reminds me of a story about Jean Harlow's being introduced to Dame Margot Fonteyn. Ms. Harlow kept pronouncing her name as "Mar-gott," until she was told icily, "No, dear, the 't' is silent, as in Harlow."

karrde said...

On a more serious note, I am a little surprised.

But not considerably.

I have long been able to tell whether a person is white-collar or blue-collar by how they speak.

I may also, after a few minutes, be able to tell whether a married woman works outside the home.

Transitioning from that ability to pride at my particular cultural/speech pattern is the sin.

I use the word sin deliberately here; but the sin is the pride, not the source of pride.