The problem with reading too many books and not going outside to actually talk to people is that you inevitably pronounce words wrong. Sometimes this can be quite embarrassing, especially if you are trying to impress your future boss. I’ve learnt that if I like a word I should first try it out with my Mum. She’s a pronunciation genius.
My latest blunder was the word ‘façade’. I know what it means, I know in what context to use it but by god I made myself look stupid by pronouncing it with a hard ‘c’. Mum looked at me with that look in her eyes – her teacher look, as I call it – and I knew I had messed up. The problem is, I hear people say it properly all the time, I’m just too clueless to pick it up.
I’m not the only one though. The Partner, when he first moved to Australia, had particular trouble with town names. I was once driving with him to Yea, and he told me that it was only 23kms to Ye-ah. Nice try, but it’s pronounced ‘Yay’. Not that I can hold that against him, I can’t pronounce several names from his home country, New Zealand. Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, for instance. And yes, that’s a real name. I also never realised Arkansas was actually Ar-kan-saw. The things you learn off the internet.
My sister, on the other hand, cannot pronounce words, not out of ignorance but because she physically can’t wrap her tongue around them. She calls wolves ‘woofs’ and whenever she tries to say a name from Game of Thrones, she starts off strong then just seems to trail off. Dhaner….rice? Cer…say – sie? Not that you can blame her for that. I think George R.R. Martin was wanting us to call her ‘the dragon chick’.
Pronunciation is a fickle bitch, get it right and you can sound like the smartest person in the world. Get it wrong though, and you’ll be sitting in the corner with a dunce cap on your head while people point and jeer. I’ve been there on plenty of occasions. But so has everyone else, so stop being such a pronunciation nazi Mum.