Letters & Opinion

Of Dis and Dat – Part 17

Image of Nahdjla Bailey
By Nahdjla Bailey

OKAY folks, let’s get right into it: there are those of you who, no doubt, couldn’t care less about this topic. Perhaps, standards of correct language, whether written or spoken, are the last things on your mind, even if you are a manager or teacher, an administrator or media person, a parent or politician, a technical person or student, a policeman or medic. Shame! We ought to be concerned with raising the bar in whatever we do, more so when there are younger ones who look up to us as models for their own lives. And I have been told by many of my readers that they are always interested in these grammatical topics and they learn new things and are sometimes quite surprised by what they learn.

So here goes. And I’m taking these straight from recent, local TV and radio. LITRE does not rhyme with BITTER. It is not a homophone (having the same sound) of LITTER. It is rather a rhyme for metre, beater, seater and heater. Got It? It carries the long ‘e’ sound. ROBOT is not pronounced ROBUT. Sure, its first syllable is given the long ‘o’ sound as in ‘go’, but its second syllable is given the short ‘o’ sound as in ‘dot, ‘lot’ and ‘cot’ (an invariably tricky sound for many Looshans). Then there’re the words OPHthalmologist, OPHthalmology and the rest of that family. The OPH is commonly and incorrectly pronounced OP, so we hear OPthalmologist (Wrong!). As you well know, PH is sounded as “F”. So the words OPHthalmologist and OPHthalmology are correctly pronounced as OFFthalmologist and Offthalmology. I can’t say I’ve heard anyone in these parts pronouncing them as such. But please go ahead. I promise, you would be absolutely correct if you did. And what’s more you’d keep me company. ETIQUETTE is pronounced not with a ‘Q’ sound, but a ‘K’ sound. So, etiKETTE not etiQUETTE. Other favourites are FITH and FARWARD. (Please!) The words are of course FIF-th and FOR-ward. You’re allowed to be a legitimate ‘effer’ in FIFth before you pronounce the ‘th’, and in FORWARD, the first syllable “FOR”, is pronounced exactly as spelt, “FOR”, so FORward. I often scratch my head about the etiology (cause) of this very widespread error in these parts. I mean, the word is so straightforward. So, why FAR?Beats me. The foregoing are all pronunciation errors of SOUND.

Then there are the pronunciation errors of STRESS such as ChaRACter – very common in our Saint Lucia. With the capitalized letters representing the emphasised or stressed syllable of the word, the word should be pronounced CHAracter. The stress is on the first syllable, NOT the second. What about deFINitive and deFINitively, both of which should be given emphasis on their second syllable, FIN, but are instead sounded like the word DEFinite with the stress on the first syllable. Another omnipresent one is diASpora, though folks have decided to put the stress on the wrong syllable and sound the word as diasPORa. That’s a particularly grating one for me, as is adVOCacy which I’ve never heard pronounced correctly over the airwaves and on the goggle box over here. The word is not to be pronounced as adVOCacy but ADvocacy. Please, I beg of you, for my sake!

Next there are those sticky errors of meaning which are not respected, such as the difference between functional and functioning, appraised and apprised, homogenous and homogeneous, damage and damages, verbal and oral, advance and advanced, all used incorrectly, often interchangeably, by too many talking heads. Therefore, I exhort you to go check those and any others which you are not sure of, in a good dictionary, also a thesaurus, and don’t forget the convenient online howjsay site, about which I’ve told you before, for correct pronunciation. Don’t let yourselves down, or leave yourselves open to ridicule. Instead, do yourselves a favour. Don’t be lazy or don’t-carish!

Next time, we’ll revisit the infamous “Over my dead body!” phrase to see why perhaps it flopped big time just over two years ago!

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