Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Web of Self-Contradiction

Down in Brooklyn, chum Listmaker asks:

"On Meet the Press, Newt Gingrich kept referring to Al Qaeda as Al Kai EE DA. Is that the way you actually say it or is Gingrich just even more of an asshole than I thought he was?"

I say when in doubt go with the BBC, whose diction Gingrich appears to be copying in this case. Mastery of pronunciation does not mean that Newt has a bloody clue what he is talking about however.

After reading Listmaker's query I began to ponder the range of pronunciations and how they effect my opinion of the speaker. Hearing ignorant Bush Administration cowboys bang on about "Eye-ran" and "Eye-rack" makes my spit curdle, but so does the sound of a PC leftie making a meal out of "Nick-oooh-raugh-wah". Unless our Sandanista boosting authenticist says "Paree", "Meh-hi-ko", "Moskva", "Roma" and so on, they should probably stop attempting to re-live the glory days of Reagan's second term and get back to knitting ugly, itchy sweaters. The quest for too much authenticity is as annoying as a cavalier disregard for how people pronounce the names of their homes. But make no mistake, both set my teeth on edge.

As with all things, some sort of compromise is the best way forward. Sensitivity to the origins of a place name and local pronunciation is good but should be held in the context of one's own linguistic tradition. Sentences should run naturally but not grate on the ear of listeners beyond one's immediate circle (for the reverse of this listen to any speech by a member of the Bush Administration or any statement by any junior Republican member of the House of Representatives at any point in the past half century).

And if all else fails, and you want to trump former speaker Gingrich, you can always turn to the BBC Pronunciation Guide, produced by the Beeb's Pronunciation Research Unit. The only side effect is that you may start sounding like Helen Mirren or Colin Firth, but that surely is a small price to pay.

At the very least I'm going to print this out and send it to that annoying bastard at Maine Public Radio who consistently pronounces the word for an assemblage of chairs, tables, etc as "Fhur-naht-chooor". I swear he does it just to piss me off.


country mouse said...

This from a guy who has his pronunciation corrected by a three year old. Ball. How hard is it to say "Ball" correctly? Not "Bowl", B-All.

weasel said...

I do pronounce "ball" properly. It's "ball", not "Baaaaal", you weird New Englanders.

That was priceless on Sunday. I'd like to ask P-Nut to contact Maine public radio and do something about the furniture guy.

msdee said...

I'm always afraid to mispronouce things ,actually I'm a bit paranoid about it but nothing beats my friend, the english teacher, pronouncing cliche, clitch-ee. In all fairness it is a french word.
I have a hard time remembering some pronounciations for ex that it is ee-qui-dis-tant and not eh-qui-dis-tant

weasel said...

Being a bookish sort I often read words without ever hearing them pronounced. For years I thought epitome was pronounced as it is written, making it sound more like a 1930s record label than its Greek heritage would suggest.

Donna said...

The loony right wing purposefully mangle words so they can appeal to the lesser educated. They presume that, just because you don't have a college degree, you have no ability to recognize a snake oil salesman when you hear one.
Too bad their tactic actually works.

Listmaker said...

i couldn't agree more. and after many years of ordering yeeroes, i have recently joined the ignorant masses and order gyros again.

weasel said...

We ignorant Brits just call them "donner kebabs". Saves a lot of shamefaced mumbling.