Sunday, August 16, 2009


A Geezer's Sunday Rant

This rant isn't about politics, health care, religion, or the pains and lonliness of old age. It's a subject that's annoyed me for many years. It's about the way some people on radio and TV pronounce certain words.

Let me state here my own prejudices about pronouncing the words of my language. I grew up in Michigan and I was taught that names of my own state and of many cities near by that were spelled in the French manner were to be pronounced with the "ch" combination as though it were written "sh." Thus, Michigan - Mishigan; Chicago - Shicago; Cheyboygan - Sheboygan. And so on. Another thing I was taught was that words like palm, balm, Palmer, and so on, were to be perfect rhymes or homonyms with bomb, bomber, etc. That is, the "l" was not pr0nounced but was used as an indicator that the "a" had the sound of a in "father" or "far." A third thing I was taught about pronunciation was that the "wh" at the beginning of a word was to be pronounced as if written "hw" and that word pairs like whale - wail, what - watt, why - wye, when - wen, where - wear, and whoa - woe were to be distinguished in pronunciation.

I have noticed lately that most radio announcers pronounce the name of my native state as if it were "Mitchigan." Chicago becomes "Tchicago." These mispronunciations are clearly wrong. There is no dialect of American English that allows such pronunciations. It is also clearly wrong to insert a pronounced "l" in words like Palm Springs, Palmer, balm, and the like. Historically, these are words borrowed into the language from French some time after the defeat of the English at Hastings in 1066. The "l" sound wasn't pronounced in French.

The third category, the replacement of wh- by w- in pronunciation does exist in many dialects of English. Not in mine, however. No matter how much my daughters tease me about my insistence that whale and wail are not homonyms, I will stick to the pronunciation I learned as a child.

I have one other odd pronunciation. In the part of Michigan where I grew up, the word "creek" was pronounced as if written "crick." I've noticed a similar pronunciation among a few friends, one from Wisconsin and one from Seattle. It seems that the pronunciation occurs in certain areas. My Wisconsin friend comes from western Wisconsin, near Racine. His wife comes from the eastern part of the state and her pronunciation is "creek."

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