August 18, 2011


Since the world is so boring, let's schmooze about words today. It's fun and we seriously need a break.

First off, let's take a gander at pronunciation. You know what galls me? When I hear our local TV "news" folk say things like "Shtruggling with shtress?" This is something I hear all the time on local TV. "He died in the shtreet, alone." People -- "st" is pronounced "st" (of all things) not "sht". You sound like idiots. "The Shtrand Bookstore" indeed.

More word talk after the jump . . .
I don't know if this brand of mispronunciation is NY-specific or a nationwide epidemic. Perhaps readers could let me know. Some odd pronunciations I think of as regional. For instance, "heighth" for height. I never heard that until I was an adult, which makes me think it's from other areas of the country. Same with "nucular" for nuclear. I never heard that when I was growing up. In any case, people in the public eye should learn how to say words before using them.

On the other hand, some pronunciation difficulties may stem from dyslexia. Height is one of those strangely-spelled English words, and I could readily imagine someone being confused by almost every part of it, especially the very end: the "ght".The same thing goes for the term "et cetera". I hear people say "exetera". What can you do? It's an unfamiliar term because it's not English. However, I draw the line when someone says "expecially" for "especially". You're stepping on raw nerves with that one.  

Lets move on to phrases that are misunderstood and thus misused. On several occasions recently I heard people say "we're not into the woods yet" when what they meant was that they weren't "out of the woods" yet. Maybe these days the woods seem safer than the streets.

I often notice little changes made to phrases. For instance, the other night I heard a baseball announcer say the hitter had a bead on the pitch "off the get-go" rather than "from the get-go". I rack this up to unfamiliarity with the phrase. The thing is, "right off the get-go" makes as much sense as the original. This is why people stray from accepted usage: the phrases they come up with play well, so they go with their version. (And then it's like the old "telephone" game, where the mistakes build up as they're passed along.)

Some phrases are simply updated, I think. For instance, I've noticed that "down the pike" has turned into "down the pipe" for many people. I can live with this because it (sort of) works. Plus, people are less familiar with "pikes" these days, while everyone knows about pipes.

One last random comment. I do not want to see the phrase "baby bump" ever again. World, you have your marching orders.

What phrases or mispronunciations irk you? Tell me about them.


Artichoke Annie said...

The one that comes to mind is "ax" for "ask" - I know it's a cultural thing, maybe even regional. But I always bristle a 'little' when I hear it being using by knowledgeable and well educated people.

You would think that words like this and "expecially" and "sht's" would get corrected early on in school - you know while they are all still in the woods.

Mike L said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Every time I hear schtreet instead of street, I want to destroy my television. What galls me is that this lazy pronunciation is now being used by the major news anchors. There was a time that they HAD to use proper pronunciation. That is obviously no longer the case. It screams "ignorance" every time I hear sch instead of st. I guess it's another indication of the dumbing down of society


writenow said...

Mike, I hope that reading this reduced your shtress. Thanks for the comment!