Screw the English, or Screw Up English?

How do you say this out loud: “Is this coupon applicable for tomato ketchup?” Try it a few times. It is probably a variation of both of these:

“Is this KEW pon ap PLIC able for to MAH to CATCH up?”

Or:

“Is this COO pon AP plic able for to MAY to KETCH up?”

Or is it CAT sup? Let’s call the whole thing off.

There’s no question English is a for MID i ble language—or is it FOR mid i ble. But which version of these words are correct? EYE ther. Or EE ther.  I’ve broken down these troublesome words into a few recognizable categories, kind of like a pronunciation PRI mer. Or PRY mer.

OK, lets call a spade a spade and blame the English. More to the point the BBC, who feel the need to remind us Americans about the missing letters we aren’t including when we say words like COM fort able (not COMF table) or TEM per a ture (not TEM pra ture). Yet in the same sentence, they’ll forgo a bunch of consonants completely and regale us with VIC tree or LIE bry (not to be confused with LIE berry, which is OFF en, the bailiwick of stupid people). Then they go completely ’round the bend with words that seem to be pronounced a certain way by the English alone, such as the whole CH thing (Chewsday for Tuesday, shzedule for schedule) or AH thing (enhahnce, cahnt, and every word that ends with -ER or -OR). The word tutor contains both! Fahthah, I do believe I requiah a chutah for my computah edchucation. My personal theory is that the English (via the BBC) will use the lesser known pronunciation whenever it is humanly possible, just to make us feel dumb. Something about still considering America their lesser colony just because our actors suck and we commit more murders in the time it took you to read this than they do in a decade.

The second category can be simply explained. The reason we have no idea how to say GILL o tine, or ga RADCH or GAR bidge or kew ZINE correctly is because, unless we took it in high school, we are really, really bad at French. It’s a shame, really, how awful we are, because we like to use—and butcher—French turns of phrase a LOT. From c’est la vie, to déjà vu to ménage à trois, we think we know what all those little demarcation lines mean. But do we? Spell that word that means a nice little snack the waiters bring around at a wedding reception. Did you come up with hors d’œuvre? You did not, because there’s not even a letter for œ on your keyboard. I don’t know about you, but I am in way over my head. The French have succeeded in making me feel stupid and they weren’t even trying.

Then there are the words that exist in a dual universe. Is it har ASS or HAR ass? EH vo lu shun or EE vo lu shun? PEE a nist or pe AN ist? ROOT or ROWT? STRENTH or STRAYNTH ? Dee STROY or des TROY? You say po TAY to, I say po TAH to, George W. Bush says NUC ew ler. Who’s to say what’s right or wrong? Well, Bush is definitely off the mark…

There is a New York version of all this nonsense, that makes some people from the five boroughs say CHAWK let and CAW fee and DAWG, while others say AKS for ask and AHNT for Aunt. In Boston you PAHK the CAHR. Down South you’d be GWINE to the CRICK. It never ends. If I want to tease Mary El, I’ll tell her I’m MAU di fied when she says the word MOR ti fied. She learned it that way. She shoots back, hey did you see the documentary about the PING win? I still have to think about it before I say it. My son calls a woman’s privates a ver GI na. We think it’s so cute we’re not going to disabuse him of that idea until he goes to college.

I’d like to end this diatribe with something I think we can all agree with: you can’t misunderestimate how unceptible George Bush’s pronunciations are. He’s like a lingual tearist. There. My coop de gracie.

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    • Karen Mills
    • February 15th, 2011

    Thanks, Bri! I will now chuckle at the most inapropriate times, and people will think I am laughing at them (I will be, of course).
    Next, we need to examine the senseless mutilation of the written word. I am embarrassed for many of my friends on FaceBook: “there” command of the language is so bad, “your” wondering what they were doing in 2nd grade. And I’m not even going to mention the mighty apostrophe…..

    Thanks for the entertainment – keep ’em coming!

  1. Don’t get me started on Facebook again…

  2. Although being from Colorado. I was raised by family from Oklahoma where most of my kin are from.

    In Oklahoma, they have far tars. A far tar is a thin a guy climes atop to tell ever-un that the forest is on far.

    Sounds a lot like the word tar but it is pronouncieted different for those of you who are into that pronounciation stuff. Yore car has four tars, don’t you know. A far tar is not a tar like on your car.

    Then I moved out of the country to live abroad. Had to learn a whole new language. Lived in New York. Turns out that they have several languages there.

    It took me the longest time to figure out who Earl was that everyone was putting in their car. For some reason, only my friends from Brooklyn knew who this Earl fellow was.

    The thain, oops, thing is, this is not some contrivance. This is for real. People really pronounce oil as earl. Far tars, er eh, fire towers really exist.

    And when I meet someone from the sticks in Oklahoma, I can actually speak to them in their language and they understand.

    If you ever write a play on this and it makes it to production, I want to come in and see it.

    • Ha! I was the only guy in my college English class that could talk to the guido from Lawn Guyland!

      Thanks for the shout out on your blog. Although “shout out” should definitely be retired for 2011.

  3. PS…I was raised, not reared. Lived on a farm and was a bit wild.

    • Anonymous
    • February 15th, 2011

    mercy me, too, mr. Garcon!!

  4. He’s especially good at expectorating.

    Extra points if you can name the movie!

  1. February 15th, 2011

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