Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Un momento, por favor

Television is a great source for observing the state of language, simply because it brings more speakers to our attention. Here you can hear candid speech and scripted speech. It is unsurprising to hear bad grammar and strange word choice in the former, but when errors creep into scripts, we know there is a problem.

I am more amused than dismayed by the widespread mispronunciation of "nuclear." Not only two presidents (G.W. Bush and Carter) invariably said "nucular," so did Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer and the narrator of a documentary on, believe it or not, nuclear power. You'd think if your script called for a narrator to say "nuclear" about 1,000 times, you'd make sure he could pronounce it.

I'm more bothered by "momento." Recently I heard a narrator—therefore scripted—say that someone had taken an item as a "momento." Did the script say that? The word he wanted was "memento."

"Memento" comes from the same Latin word as "remember." So, really, it should be easy to remember because memento and remember are first cousins.

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