Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Few Words About the Mispronunciationism Epidemic.

“Dad, you’re such a hypocrite.”

My younger daughter hurls that knuckleball at me quite a bit. Ever since she learned it back in sixth grade, it’s her go-to accusation. The other day she called me out again, this time for mispronouncing words.

“You’re always correcting people’s words, but you don’t say words right all the time.” 

Most mature parents, like my wife, would just let a provocative statement from their hormone-soaked adolescent vaporize harmlessly through an ozone crack. 

Not this petty simpleton. “I don’t say any words wrong,” I said. “Name one.” Bam, take that, teenager.

“You say ‘girl SCOUT' cookies. It’s supposed to be ‘GIRL scout' cookies.”

She had no idea how on top of my game I felt. “That’s not mispronunciation, that’s just putting the accent on a different word.” 

“Whatever. You’re still a hypocrite.”

Curses. I had nothing. My only recourse would have been to initiate the feared “am-not, are-too” exchange, and I probably would have if my bride weren’t within easy earshot.

Hypocrite or not, I’m not a fan of mispronunciation. I blame my mom. Whenever I’d butcher a word or not know its definition, she made me look it up in our twelve-pound dictionary sitting next to the phone.

Ever since then, my hackles have saluted at the sound of a misspoken word. The George W. Bush years proved to be the most prolific reign of lexiconic butchery since Archie Bunker told Edith that “you can’t squeeze blood out of a tulip.” 

Our Yale- and Harvard-educated Commander-in-Chief, the man who held the keys to America’s doomsday arsenal, couldn’t pronounce “nuclear.” During a 2004 presidential debate with John Kerry, Bush said, “I hear there’s rumors on the Internets that we’re going to have a draft.”

Even Cheney must have made disapproving buzzard noises when he heard that.

I won’t drone on about our ex-Prez who paints puppy pictures. It’s like calling your old girlfriend and asking for that VHS copy of “Purple Rain” that she never gave back. What’s the point?

But as long as we eat our sherbert acrossed from the libary after supposably prespiring about our prostrate, we must abide these wordroids. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Expecially—I have a good friend who’s mispronounced “especially” since I’ve known him, but what am I gonna do—stop him mid-sentence or wait for a more opportune moment to humiliate him? Nah. There’s already a glut of dickishness on our big blue marble.

Disorientated—Frequently spoken by those who actually are disorientated.

Irregardless—Actually, simply add two letters to the beginning, and “unirregardless” returns to meaning what it should.

Expresso—Yes, I’ve heard this from actual Seattle natives. This should be added to our citizenship test right after the dog CPR section.

Sometimes, however, it can get personal. A few years ago at a company meeting, my group was recognized for working on a successful campaign. The speaker read our names from a slide and I could tell she was a mispronouncer after messing up two of the first five names. 

I still felt safe. The worst I’ve ever been called is “Hayward,” even though my name is phonetically the easiest word to pronounce in the English language. Seriously, I’ve heard that “Haywood” was one of the first caveman last names, since it can be grunted.

She reached my name on the list—Sherry Jones, Mark Johnson, Tim Hayway…”

Hayway? What the hell? This woman was a freaking vice president and she couldn’t pronounce a word that even my cat accidentally says a couple of times a week?

Spontaneous barks of laughter erupted from random spots throughout the room. Everyone in my vicinity shoved me and choked back fits of laughter.

That was five years ago. Just take a guess at what I’m still called around the old water cooler.

Besides that.


  1. i remember the tim hayway debacle :)

    in the interest of starting a list of words that are like fingernails on the chalkboard, please add: flustrated, coupon (it's pronounced coo-pon, not queue-pon).

    1. Wow, flustrated. That's a good one.