Oy! I’m tied in knots–I’m in “over-think” and “over-analysis!” I can’t even write without wondering which words I’m using incorrectly. So, in an effort to continue, please forego any criticism of the written word for now!
This morning I did it again—I corrected my husband’s mispronunciation of a word, in this case, a person’s name, Maureen Dowd. He got angry and asked me, “Why do you need to correct me all the time?” I was about to comment that “all the time” was a generalization, but decided not to add fuel to the fire! “I don’t know,” I stammered, looking down at the Sunday paper. And thus, today’s topic is: Mispronunciation: What’s the big deal?
When I went to school, teachers drilled us on grammar and pronunciation (Don’t you love the “When I went to school…” or “When I was young… lead-in? Can we say “old” and “exaggerated”?). To this day I’ve been known to sweat over stuff like whether quotation marks go before or after the punctuation mark! My personal Achilles’ Heel (I must be missing Crete’s Blue Palace, www.bluepalace.gr today —Pandora and Achilles references!) is not so much the written word–it’s the spoken word. There is nothing cute or folksy about using “ain’t” or, adding insult to injury, using it with “no” and creating a double negative—”ain’t no big deal” (ouch, my fingers spasmed while typing that!). Another phrase that’s been known to make me cringe is the teenage habit of beginning a sentence with “Me and …” (“I” for subject and “me” for object —grrrr!).
So, Barbara, what’s the big deal? Is it the love of correct grammar or of just being correct? Is it better to be right than kind? I know I have some strong feelings tied up in pronunciation and they are not pretty feelings. I realize that I put a lot of judgement in speaking correctly—words like intelligent, well-read, well-bred (another ouch to admit), worldly—in plain English, being “better than” comes up for me. Carrying this to a different scenario, if a child in Nairobi’s Mukuru slum came up to me, hugged me, and said, “Me love you!”, would I correct her or would I just be filled with love and hope and just hug her back?