Friday, April 15, 2011

I Correct You Because I Care

Whenever the conversation turns to pronunciation (it does occasionally, doesn't it?), the objections usually come pretty quickly. "Gimme a break; you knew what I meant." "What difference does it make?" "I don't care how it's pronounced." "Shut up." Or my favorite, a good friend's invariable response to my gentle corrections is "B*tch!"

I recently perused a Web page that offered corrections and chidings far more persnickety than any I ever felt moved to make. In fact, he/she zinged me on several, e.g. insisting on the "broo" in "February" and the "l" in "yolk," as well as three clearly enunciated syllables for "mayonnaise."

Despite the surprises on the list of "100 Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases," the comments were even more remarkable. Along with suggestions for the next 100 words were about an equal number of "How dare you!" and "Where do you get off?" responses. Among these commenters, the word "elitist" was thrown around a lot, as well as accusations of not caring for the poor and undereducated among us.

The animus aroused by the preference for correct grammar and pronunciation is amazing to me. I just like to get these things right, okay? It's much like the desire for neatness and order in one's surroundings. I don't personally have that particular gene, but I understand that others do, and I won't call you a fascist or a prig because your house looks like a magazine photo spread. Neat freak, maybe, but that's as far as I go.

So, no name-calling, please. Grammarians need love, too, perhaps even more than that other put-upon group, dentists. Even if our helpful corrections cause wincing not unlike one's experiences in the dentist's chair, we can't help ourselves.

Oh, and apparently the word I should have used above to describe the punctilious Web poster is "pernickety." According to this guy, "it is a Scottish nonce word to which U.S. speakers have added a spurious [s]." Now, really. You knew what I meant.

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