How do you pronounce the word “pronunciation”?
English is tricky and it doesn’t get any easier when you only half read words. I don’t know when I stopped saying “pronoun-ciation”, but I do know it was after being called on it. I remember being dismayed that “Kayne West” was opening for U2 before I’d heard anyone say his name (circa 2006). To this day, I consider it a pretty cool alternate spelling of Kane. You can’t tell me nothing otherwise. “Omnious” also got corrected on the back of a call out. In my head it kind of made sense. Like some kind of all pervasive evil. I don’t know how “ous” as a suffix brought “omni” into ill repute, but until my friend gave me shit about it, I thought it more often than I said it. I literally just realised the connection between “ominous” and the word “omen”, a lesson that only came a decade and a half too late. Just think of the face I could’ve saved.
How many people pronounced “Hermione” right first time? Did Rowling give any kind of pronunciation guide in the story? Surely she couldn’t have known it’d become such a global phenomenon and get umpteen movies. How would people have known if not for that? It’s all sorts of unintuitive. I went with “her-me-own”, but I’d say “her-my-own” would be defensible too. It sure doesn’t look like a four syllable name. Then again, it’s a world of magic and the supernatural. A polysyllabic central character was hardly the most outlandish thing in the series. May I remind you once again that they wasted a time travel device on a chimera?
I raised the question on Facebook and friends chimed in with their unintuitive pronunciations (A.K.A. We’re All Idiots Or Maybe English Is Just Difficult). The military was highlighted as having particularly tricky titles. In full honesty, I’m gonna try to spell a word before looking it up. Ready? Colonel. Did I spell it right? YUS. FINALLY. I don’t know how many times I’ve spelled it “coronel” or “colenel”. It’s especially damning considering it’s pronounced “kernel”. The whole “lef-tenant” (lieutenant) thing still doesn’t make sense to me. Not to mention “sergeant”. The “a” is in the last syllable. Shouldn’t it be “sargent”? Definitely not “seargent”, which sounds like someone piloting a BBQ grill. Also while we’re there. Why BBQ? One of those “B”s is right, but mind your “Bar”s and “queue”s good “ser”.
Wait, “cue-oos”? Who the what now? Where do we draw the line?
Really though, I’m kind of in love with English being such a backwards bastardly language. So many contradictory rules and single serving usages that are unintuitive and lend themselves profusely to nimbly worded loops and shit. Even poems don’t need to rhyme, and when you want them to, you can manipulate tenses for the best sounding schemes. I’ve mentioned it before, but a former French flatmate once told me how much larger the English dictionary is than the French. I’m not in favour of things being needlessly convoluted for the sake of it, but boy howdy I do enjoy how expansive this language is. How it lends itself to neologisms and reformation, to updating and expanding. Now that’s not limited to English. Language in general is a living thing and I think that’s kind of beautiful. English, however, is the language I know best. I’ve been speaking it for ~30 years at this point and I’m still learning more about it day by day.
That’s either important or impotent, or both simultaneously.