Tuesday, September 29, 2020


Mispronouncing a word only means that you read it before you heard it. People who assign a lot of meaning to this are admitting they tend to be the opposite. If they only knew how foolish it makes them look to those who understand the realities of vocabulary, they would be humiliated.

During our early courtship I, a Theatre & Speech, literature, chattering classes sort of person, would sometimes correct my wife's (massive vocabulary, then a librarian) pronunciation.  After a pause of a few seconds I would ask "what's it mean?"

Sometimes it is meaningful though.  When Obama said "corpseman," it meant that he had read the word but not heard it.  That might not be a bad thing in a constitutional law professor.  It's a bad thing for a commander-in-chief, though.


PenGun said...

I always loved that Tommy Smothers line:

When Dick said that Poignant, means pregnant with feeling. Tommy said 'here's a song about a girl who was 9 months poignant.'

Texan99 said...

It creates the appearance of an autodidact rather than someone who converses often with the educated.

I had a friend in grade school who was amazed to find out one day that the word "determine," which she was familiar with in print, was not pronounced "DEE-ter-mine." I can remember assuming that "infrared" was pronounced "in-FRAIR'd," as though "to infrare" were a verb, something you do to light, like polarizing. Oh! I get it. "Infra" red, as in, below red, a color with a lower frequency than red.

Korora said...

@Texan99: I remember parsing "infrared" that same way when I first ran across it many years ago, in a grade-school-level book on the solar system. Well, I understand* that English spelling was not standardized by native speakers. Plus, "infrared" combines a Latin root with a Germanic.

*"Under" in that word is actually cognate to Latin "inter"; Verner's Law seems to have merged Pre-Proto-Germanic "unþer" ("between") with "unðer" ("under", cognate with Latin "infra").

Sam L. said...

Ahhhhh, my language lesson for today!

Grim said...

I was quite surprised to learn how “catechism” is pronounced.