Here's Mr. Knowalot's opinions about correct pronunciation,
by Mr. Knowalot
Quote-''In my role as Mr. Knowalot, I hear a lot of pronunciation every day. When I listen to the radio, people are talking and therefore are pronouncing. When I watch TV, and listen to what the actors and announcers are saying, there's pronunciation there. Even in everyday conversation, whether Mr. Knowalot is involved or happens to overhear others talking, I hear people pronouncing words. There's pronunciation going on all over the place!''
And ... much of it is wrong.
''Such as the female announcer I heard the other day who said "to air is human." Of course the copy probably read "to err is human," but she did not know that the word "err" is pronounced "ur" -- it rhymes with her. "To ur is human...." Unfortunately, I'm not divine and so cannot forgive such a blunder. Not without some serious explaining.''
''Before Mr. Knowalot continues, let me say that I am NOT talking about accents here, or regionalisms. In fact, I think those are quite interesting. When Mr. Knowalot first came to the east coast about 16 years ago, I heard all kinds of new pronunciations. Such as the people in Boston who swallow their r's: "Get in the cah." (I think the r is there somewhere, it just doesn't get a lot of emphasis.)''
''Also, I guess we need to rule out the mispronunciations that are just a matter of preference. For instance, news announcers tell us that it's time for the nooz, or that the police did their doody, or that it's going to be a wite Christmas. Although I'd rather hear the "nyooz," and that the police were doing their "dyooty," and that we're going to have a "hwite" Christmas, I really don't have a case. These particular pronunciations seem boorish and uneducated to me, but I cannot say they are wrong. Well, yes I can. One should really not do his doody except in the appropriate porcelain facility.''
''When I talk about mispronunciation, mostly, is when words, no matter what the dialect, are authentically botched and corrupted. Am I strange in that it actually causes me pain to hear words mispronounced? Much of the time these botched pronunciations are by professionals, people who should know better. For a while there was a commercial running with a cartoon character who spoke of his for-TAY. The word he meant to say, forte, is pronounced FORT, like a place where soldiers hole up, not for-TAY, which is an Italian word meaning loud.''
''What's worse is when Mr. Knowalot pronounces a word accurately and people correct me. For instance, I hesitate to use the word forte, because invariably people look at me askance. Maybe they'll repeat it softly, "for-TAY," as if to gently guide me. If they are polite, they hold their "wisdom" within themselves, believing that I am an ignoramus because I have mispronounced a common ordinary word heard around the fort every day.''
''Instead of ignoring these people, I should do to them what a pedantic but influential professor of mine did about 25 years ago, while I was a student in junior college. Back then I was not Mr. Knowalot -- I was, or thought I was, Mr. Know-It-ALL. One day this professor was having a discussion with a woman and he used the word precedence, pronouncing it pri-SEED-ence. Since I happened to be nearby, waiting for his class to begin, and I was the helpful type, I said: "You mean PREH-sid-ence?" ''
''To his credit, the professor did not turn on me and pull out my tongue. He simply gave me a condescending glare and said, "Pri-SEED-ence is the correct pronunciation. Look it up." ''
'' "No, I believe you," I said, not wanting to look it up. Besides, I believed him. He was pedantic but always correct. I went into class and took my seat.''
''"Don't take my word for it." Immediately he returned to his office, delaying class, which happened to be Intermediate German, and brought back a huge Oxford English dictionary. He plopped it in front of me and found the word. Pointing to it, he pronounced for my edification: "Pri-SEED-ence."''
"I believed you, I said," I said, believing him, but now thinking he had some kind of complex.
''Another problem with word pronunciation is that it is difficult to find an authoritative dictionary. My pedantic German teacher used the Oxford English dictionary, clearly the best, but expensive. Webster's seems to reflect public usage, so if you look up the word "precedence" it will have pri-SEED-ence as the first pronunciation, but will also have PREH-sid-ence. And even though there might be a tilde (~) in front of the second pronunciation, most people don't know that the tilde means the pronunciation is not preferred, so in their minds the dictionary backs them up.''
''Nevertheless, a dictionary should be consulted when you want to find out how a word is pronounced. Here are a few words, including the above, that may prove interesting:''
''WORD: OFTEN SAID: SHOULD BE: MORE INFO:
APPLICABLE uh-PLIK-uh-bull ---- AP-li-kuh-bull
FORTE for-TAY --- FORT
PRECEDENCE PREH-sid-ence ---- pri-SEED-ence
CALM, PSALM, PALM calm, salm, palm --- cahm, sahm, pahm --- The L is silent.
AVAILABLE uh-VAIL-yable --- uh-VAIL-able --- Say it wrong a few times and it starts to sound right.
MISCHIEVOUS mis-CHIEV-ee-ous ---- MIS-chi-vus
DELUGE DEH-looj --- DEL-yooj
DUTY doody or dootee ---- DYOO-tee
ERR air --- ur
ERA AIR-uh --- EER-uh
YE (as in Ye Olde Forte) ye -- the --- The Y is actually an old Anglo-Saxon character, which was pronounced TH.
SHOPPE SHOP-ee --- shop --- This spelling is a throwback to old English anyway and should be avoided except for effect.
HEINOUS HIGH-nis, HEE-nis (and a variety of other corruptions) --- HAY-nis ---- The first syllable rhymes with say, play, and tray.
HEIGHT heighth --- height ----- No TH on the end.
HUMAN YOO-man ----- HYOO-man
NUCLEAR NOO-kyuh-lur ---- NYOO-klee-ur or NOO-klee-ur
KILN kiln --- kil --- The N is silent.
OFTEN AHF-ten --- AHF-en --- The T is silent.
PIANIST PEE-uh-nist --- pee-AN-ist --- PEE-uh-nist is the put-on, snobby way to say it.
USURP OO-surp ---- yoo-ZURP
VICE-VERSA vice-versa ------- VY-suh VUR-suh ---- Each word has two syllables.
''For more examples, see "There Is No Zoo in Zoology," by Charles Harrington Elster, published by Collier Books MacMillan Publishing.''
''As much as it pains me to say it, this is an uphill battle, and one that probably won't be won. After all, over the past dozen centuries the proper pronunciation of many English words has changed. Just think ... in the year 2525, if someone says kum-POOT-er instead of kum-PYOOT-er, you probably won't even bat an eyelash.''
What do you think about what Mr. Knowalot has to say?