Friday, November 19, 2010
Missplelling, Mispronunciation, etc.
To this day I cringe when I hear radio announcers, who have a special obligation to pronounce the English language correctly, mispronounce the name of the largest city in Illinois as "chick-AH-go" rather than "shick-AH-go." It seems to me that they nearly all do it. It's as gross an indication of ignorance as inserting an "L" sound in the pronunciation of the city of Palm Springs. Anybody who has been taught correct English pronunciation knows that the first word of that name rhymes with "bomb" and "balm." The existence of the L in words like palm, balm, calm, and psalm is evidence that English spelling is not phonetic. It is indended instead to show the origin or the provenance of the word. These words evolved from words in Latin which contained the L in spelling because in Latin the L was pronounced. In Old French these L sounds changed to "ul" and finally to "-u": pau(l)me, psau(l)me, etc. By the time these words were introduced in Middle English, the language of Chaucer, the l sound was long gone. Subsequent scholars have reintroduced the L in the spelling simply to show that the words have been adopted from Latin. In Chaucer's day, Latin was the language of really well educated people.
When I was still a child, there was a story that involved the pronunciation of the largest city in the State: Detroit. The accent was on the second syllable: "de-TROIT." Only a foreigner, like someone from New York or Omaha would make the mistake of saying "DE-troit." The story involved a girl who crossed the Detroit River into the United States and tried to convince the immigration inspector that she lived in "DE-troit." She was delayed for several hours.