The Arcane Scrutiny
Earlier this week, in a bit of correspondence, I crafted what we in the biz call a "homonym substitution." On purpose. That's how clever a wordsmith.I.am.
For the uninitiated among you, a homonym substitution is a word that sounds like, but has an entirely different meaning from, another word or phrase. Mine, for example, was "That's like comparing tangerines to oranges. Both have appeal." See what I did there? "Appeal" sounds like "a peel." Please, save your applause till the end . . .
Anyway, I recount this example of wordy-nerdiness as an introduction to a little survey I heard about today via a network of editors I'm apart of. (See what I did there?) Here's the text of the e-mail:
There are two kinds of words we'd love to get your feedback on:
1. What words peculiar to Christian books seem to get mispronounced a lot (in sermons, conversation, and audio books)? For instance, I occasionally hear Frederick Buechner's name pronounced "BUKE-ner" (first syllable rhyming with FLUKE) instead of "BEEK-ner." One time I even insisted to the recording engineer that Simone Weil's name was pronoucned "VEY"--but they didn't believe me and recorded it as "WHILE" anyway. It doesn't have to be just proper names--are there other theological or religious words you hear mispronounced frequently?
2. General pet peeves about common words (non-religious) that get mispronounced. For instance, for me the word "err" is correctly pronounced "UR" (rhymes with SPUR) not "AIR." (Although Webster's gives "AIR" as a secondary pronunciation.) Some studios provide whole books of pronunciations for their voice talent, but that doesn't mean they necessarily read them.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what editors do. A lot. We scrutinize not only the English language but people's use (and abuse) of it. This isn't mere self-indulgence, however; we're providing a good service to society--protecting the language from its mishandlers, preserving a literary history unmarred by careless diction. You may not appreciate it, but your great-great-great-great grandchildren . . . well, they probably won't appreciate it either. Sad, I no. (See what I did there?)
Anyway, please feel free to post your suggestions here; I'll make sure they get into the write hands. (Ha! I can't stop!)
Posted by Dave Zimmerman
at April 8, 2010 1:05 PM
i apologize for being both off-task and off-subject. i have no commonly mispronounced words to contribute. but i need to admit that i, myself, am responsible for at least a few.
when i lived in china, i earned extra cash recording audio for books used in schools throughout the country. those in charge of hiring often knew little english, and were put in charge of the near-impossible task of convincing foreigners to spend their saturdays recording for not a great deal of money. but there were two of us who really enjoyed it. in addition to our already southern-drawled accents, we would intentionally mispronounce words or speak in odd rhythms to try and make the other laugh. i know we shouldn't have; we just thought it was too funny.
but it wasn't nearly as funny when, a year or two later, we'd pass a classroom at some university and hear the southern twang of one of our voices, followed by the echoes of chinese students mispronouncing words in just the same fashion.
you may throw your stones now.