Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tuesday's Treasures {The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations}

Every bed of Roses

Hi, my name is Kym and I'm a grammar geek and word nerd. My kids would say I'm a grammar nazi, but I think that's a little harsh. I am a little obsessive about correcting them when they misuse "me" and "I" but that's become something of a family joke now, and the boys say it wrong on purpose half the time just to mess with me. And they love it when they can catch me getting something wrong. Of course, just because I'm a grammar nerd doesn't mean that I never make mistakes, or that I avoid speaking (or writing) using slang or extremely informal style. If you've ever talked to me in person or read some of my stuff on message boards or Facebook (or even here) you probably already know that. In fact, I've noticed lately that I use a lot of sentence fragments. I figure it's okay because this blog isn't for college credit.

That background may help explain why I'm fascinated by this book and consider it so much fun. I have a horror of mispronouncing words. I remember being stumped by the word "calliope" and how much my hubby teased me when I got it wrong. I guess he figured he scored one on the grammar nerd! Not so much any more, but I used to provide lots of amusement to my American friends because of my "Canadian accent" and for using the British pronunciation of some words. I found the big book of beastly mispronunciations by Charles Harrington Elster in the library's book sale bin and for 25 cents I could not pass it up!

I'm just nerdy enough that I actually read this book cover-to-cover for enjoyment, and I still refer to it when a pronunciation issue comes up. It backs up my opinion when I claim that sports reporters say "fracas" incorrectly, or when I get irritated over someone saying that something is "patently false" while using a "patently incorrect" pronunciation, or when I insist that "New England Primer" and "paint primer" are not said the same way! It also proves my case that I am not mispronouncing "advertisement" or "lieutenant", merely using the British pronunciation. As I said, I am not always right, and have been surprised to find that I have been saying "congruent" and "alumnae" incorrectly. Thankfully, many words listed in this book have more than one correct or accepted pronunciation, so we sometimes find that although we aren't using the preferred pronunciation, at least we're not wrong. It's not just a book listing pronunciation either, most of the entries are accompanied with an explanation of the word origins and how the accepted pronunciations have changed over time, and often presented with droll humor.

Are you second-guessing yourself on some of the above words? (I second-guess myself often, just because the book has shown that what we hear most often is not always correct!) Here are the answers from the expert, as found in my book:
  • advertisement AD-ver-TYZ-ment (American); ad-VUR-tiz-ment (chiefly British)
  • alumnae uh-LUHM-nee. Do not say uh-LUHM-ny.
  • congruent KAHNG-groo-wint. Stress the first syllable.
  • fracas FRAY-kis, not FRAK-is
  • lieutenant loo-TEN-int (American always); lef-TEN-int (British)
  • patent when used to mean "obvious" the pronunciation is PAYT'nt; for all other meanings the pronunciation is PAT'nt
  • primer an introductory textbook is a PRIM-ur; paint is PRY-mur

This book is fun and educational for word nerds! Everyone around me may say EK-struh-OR-di-ner-ee but I know it should be ek-STROR-di-ner-ee and will say it correctly. But no matter how wrong it is, I guess I will probably keep saying FUNG-gy even though I now know that it is supposed to be FUN-jy. Old habits die hard.

What words do you wonder about? Leave a comment if you'd like me to check the book for the correct pronunciation!

This post will also appear on my little book blog, Just A Second.

This post is linked at Every Bed of Roses for Tuesday's Treasures. Blog about a book on your shelf, one you're reading, or one you found at the library.
Every bed of Roses

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JNPmommie said...

I liked this blog post. I shared it on my Facebook page. I am a self-proclaimed grammar nazi/nerd as well. I'm sure I could learn some things from this book just like you did but then it'd probably frustrate me even more. ;-)

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