I Now Pronounce You
by Cherie Tucker
Mrs. Jackson, my second grade teacher, had our class remain standing after the flag salute and repeat “Feb-ru-ary, li-brar-y, and pump-kin.” Anyone who said “liberry” or “Feb-you-ary,” or, heaven forbid, “punkin,” was taken into the cloakroom and paddled. She would have had a field day with the fellow I heard on the radio this week say “mis-cheevʹ-e-ous” instead of “misʹ-chiv-us.”
There are spoken words we take for granted because we’ve always said them the way we say them, but sometimes the way we say them can be way too revealing, so let’s look at some of the most common offenders.
Do not add an s to Boeing, Nordstrom, or anyway. (Too many people use anyways, accompanied by a sigh, to fill the break in a conversation. Don’t be one of them.)
Do not add a t to across (He walked across the street, not acrost) or pronounce it in often(say off-un). But do pronounce it in height—a good, sharp t at the end, never a th.
Don’t add an r to the last syllable in sher-bet or an x to essss-presso.
That little star that says look down at the bottom of the page is called an as-ter-isk, not an as-trix. And etc. stands for et cet-er-a. NOT ick-cetʹ-ra. Please.
Coupon is koo-pon (the ou is generally pronounced oo, which applies to boutique [boo-teek] as well).
Mauve is pronounced mow-v. Niche now officially rhymes with itch. And the emphasis is on the second syllable in clandestine, clan-desʹ-tin.
We’ve nearly recovered from the disastrous mispronunciation of nuclear (noo-klee-r NOT nuʹ-cue-lur), but one that is creeping onto the misspoken list is the past tense of forbid. It is spelled forbade, but it is pronounced for-bad. And to those of you who say or write such things as “Yesterday her father forbid her to go,” please read the previous sentence again.
Finally, since the season of school reunions is upon us, here’s a tip if you have to write about the alums: Alumnus = one male, alumni (long i) = plural; alumna = one female, alumnae (alum-nee) = plural. And when you go to your reunion, wear your class jewelry (ju-well-ree NOT joo-lah-ree), if you can find it.
Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference. She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits as well. GrammarWorks@msn.com.