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Life Arts    H4'ed 1/14/10

A Wordinista's Guide to Pronunciation

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I'm a wordinista. Thank you for liking the word; I just invented it. I listen to people's words with a high-powered stethoscope. You know how someone can "look at you wrong?" I suffer from a little known disease whereby the way some people speak makes me cringe and causes me to "hear you wrong". I inherited this annoying trait from both my parents (they could hear a pin drop in someone else's house).

The way certain individuals pronounce words makes me want to do things to their tongues that chefs haven't even considered. My good hearing more than compensates for my poor eyesight. To wit (not to be confused with "with", which I will get to shortly):

About twenty years ago, I noticed teenagers in California saying "these ones" when referring to shoes. I have a pair that I should have thrown right then and there ; I should have bought them in bulk and saved them for George W. Bush. "Decider" my chin hair.

Last night, I had dinner in a wonderful little Italian restaurant and was enjoying my carpaccio and arugula until I heard the very loud guy at the table next to me talking about his favorite "EYE-talian" restaurant in New York. EYE knew what was coming next. I was going to hear about pasta "fazool" or "fajhool" as if it was an Arab import. It's pasta Fa JOE Lee. Just like Angelina, boys. I bet you would order this more often and eat her in a heartbeat if you knew how to pronounce it properly.

All I can say is that I'm very glad I don't come from IT-lee (another one of my blood curdling favorites). Then I would be equipped with both an evil ear and an evil EYE.

News anchors and reporters pay attention, because I am broadcasting this to you. The word is "Street". Apparently, you you seem to have gone down one too many wrong roads and along the way, picked up this horrid little pronunciation and now commonly say "Shtreet" like this is normal. It's not. Since adopting this mispronunciation, you also now say words like "SHTRAIGHT", "SHTRONG" and "SHTRAY". Listen up, idiots! Three SHTRIKES and you're out. Get the "H" out of there and off my TV! Yes Jay Leno, I'm talking to YOU. Seesh.

Now, repeat after me. "WITH". How hard is that? What's that? Did I just hear you say, "WIT"? Oh, I get it now. You decided to dump the letter "h" and lend it to "shtreet", "shtraight" and "shtrong" instead. This is not the Four H Club. Shame on you! Didn't your parents teach you, "never a borrower or a lender be"? I'm at my wit's end witH you people!

"Irregardless". Huh? "Thee AY Ter". WTF? My bad. Nothing will make me want to gut your epiglottis and remove your teeth faster with a fishing knife than you using words that don't exist. It's not a "Grow Shuree" store and it's not a "Gar-rahdGe". Geeeeeee.

See Dick. See Jane. Spot. See spot run. See Spot run WITH Dick and Jane. While we're here, can somebody please tell me what "spotted dick" is? I didn't think so.

Do you like champagne? Me too. Let the record show that the correct pronunciation is DOME Perry nion (like "onion" but the "o" is long) and Mo ETTE. Those French are notoriously sneaky bastards with their silent letters but believe you me, while you're paying (way too much) to be partying, they are laughing behind your back at your expense. Don't even try to fight them you're your poor French because they will hurl an earful of insults that you won't understand without taking a shower or batting a single eye. If you can't say it correctly, I suggest going for the laugh and ordering a magnum of Dom Deluise. Yes, you may borrow this from me the next time you have money. I never listened to a word my parents said either.

Look, I know that there are accents and regional dialects. I accept that there are tone-deaf people when it comes to their abilities to learn foreign languages. But for the love of Pete (who is he anyway?), could we all at least try to get the pronunciation of our mother tongue straightened out before we start complaining about how poorly immigrants speak our English? If your ears are burning after reading this, imagine how mine have been feeling for the past five decades.

Now, please excuse me while I go out and purchase a gnome de plume. I plan on sitting him on my front lawn so he can glare at the neighbor children while I'm away. He'll be all ears.

This has been my public service announcement on behalf of the English language.
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Patricia A. Smith is a writer and artist (and sometimes both at the same time). A former columnist, restaurant critic and cruise line executive, Smith has lived in London, Greece, Denmark, Hungary, Egypt, Costa Rica and France. She returned (more...)
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