Battle of Word Pronunciations

Do you ever hear a word that you pronounce differently than others? Do you make note? Ask? Give a rat’s patooty? Another hobby of mine is to bring the offensive pronunciation into the ring. I love this kind of battle, where common word pronunciations are positioned against each other.

The following stories are all true. The names and places have not been changed to protect the truth.

Eat Your Fruits + Vegetables

A good friend of mine likes to say tow-MAH-toes, poh-TAH-toes, and even BAH-zil. Since this word debate actually has a battle song, they seem to be the most socially acceptable pronunciation discrepancies in American English. Despite the way we say it, we both agree, surprisingly, that tomatoes are fruits and potatoes are vegetables. <Ding> Round Two…

You Mean, Annoy

I was in my late twenties and vacationing in the oh-so-creative Cancun. Hey, it was the 90’s. I never could have guessed that this trip would haunt me for life. For Life.

Put yourself in a fine hotel retail store, the one that sells 2-3 overpriced yacht outfits , suitcases for some reason, and other bawdy accessories we know today that we never really needed. So, it’s the mid 90’s and I’m in the store because I unfortunately also had the decade’s mentality of more sun means beautiful tan. I burned like butter in pan. I knew I needed relief and I knew what I needed to do to get it. I asked the now-I-can-say snotty woman behind the counter, “Do you have any aloe?” I pronounced it correctly. Let the court make note of that solid memory backed up by diary entries, Exhibit D.

The saleswoman replied, “You mean, “ah-LOY”? It was fate that my travel buddies entered the store at this exact moment heard the woman’s response. Knowing me well, they removed me from the potential verbal crime scene quickly. I never did get that ah-LOH lotion. The “Ah-LOY” experience never leaves me. I mean, come ON. Look at that sha-LOY stream? What’s in the ha-LOY log? Did you have any mah-LOY-mars? I need to find that woman.

Howda Hell

My BAH-zil friend was over and she had brought gouda cheese, a favorite of both of ours. As she pulled it out, she called it “GOW-da”. Now… I can be overly confident and wrong, but c’mon, gouda? It’s GOO-da and everyone knows it, so I felt good about challenging her to the dictionary pronunciation and smiled as I typed in gouda (not just a cheese, also a town).

On the gouda reference page there is one little speaker icon, revealing the proper way to say what I knew was goo-da. I tap the little icon and we both lean in, and the damn voice comes back, “GOO-da…. or sometimes HOW-da”. I think I heard the man’s recorded voice even spit a little when he said it. WTH? While my word war is still 0:0, as my friend was close-but-no-cigar with GOW-da I have to admit my friend not only was closer, she knew it wasn’t just GOO-da. Pass the poh-TAH-toes, BAH-zil.

Not Pot

Ahh, another joyous workplace experience with words.

[Scene] The company meeting and the issue had been that storm waters had made the city provided water unpotable. I said “un-POH-ta-bul” and an elderly woman in the meeting corrected me and declared it was “un-POT-uh-bul”. Get those Oxford folks on the horn.

And the answer for how to pronounce unpotable <insert winning drum roll> is “un-POH-ta-bul”. Score! Let the games continue.

With what words have you disagreed on pronunciation?

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Getting a Grip on Grammar

My love of words is beyond explanation. Well, actually, the love is explanation. Grammar is my jam, and my jam may be different than yours. But words… words we can nail down. Even for the things we didn’t even know had names.

That thing that mechanics lie on and use to roll under a car when doing repairs? It’s called a creeper. Makes sense, still sounds weird. And probably going out of style, as almost every repair shop these days seems to have a lift, negating the need for said creeper. Words all come from somewhere, and this one came from a patent submitted in 1916 by a man named Axel, Axel Peterson. Can’t make this up.

That paragraph mark that shows when you reveal the formatting in your Word document? OK, maybe only I do that, but I think you’ve seen it. Did you know it has a name other than paragraph mark? And that name is rather cute: pilcrow.

While words may always be swimming around my world, I began to wonder who makes the grammar rules we were taught and accept? For example, did you know two spaces between sentences is no longer considered acceptable? And that “the” has disappeared from words like hospital and university? I hear newscasters doing it. I read respected news outlets doing it. Did someone one day just start doing it differently and everyone followed? Not possible, says my mind, so I dove in.

Space Space

Apparently the two spaces between sentences makes me an old fart, says The Wall Street Journal, said the practice “made sense in the mechanical age.” Mechanical age? And Google returned “common questions” to my search like “Why do boomers put two spaces after a period?” Now I’m a boomer from the mechanical age? What is going on??

Apparently this one wasn’t a committee, but rather the gradual transition to word processing from typewriters to computers, as computers “automatically format spacing”. Well computer, you’re just a really really smart typewriter and those of us from the mechanical age are hitting space-space whether Word notes it in error or not. I want to revolt and rally around the space-space, but I admit, I just don’t have the stamina. No fighting The Man on this one.


However… let’s talk about the loss of “the” in “American” English to certain longtime, comfortable terms.

Did you know there is no global oversight body that dictates English grammar? It’s some weird cultural collective change. I know the total number of words expand and contract over time, as different ones come into popularity or devolve into archival status, but grammar, the structure of our words, changes?

I’ve heard the Brits speak this way my whole life, but I had no idea they were fighting a tacit grammar battle, and won! Have you noticed? Apparently Google hasn’t, as I couldn’t find any article about how Americans are now using the British rules, but if you listen carefully, US media has accepted the grammar change without a fight or even an argument. Just the pink slip. Or pink slip.

How do you say it?

…. More

Today’s Word: Allograft

Words from InsideHeads

Did you know, humans can donate organs, tissues, cells, etc. from their body when they are alive (yes, there are limitations), and also after death. Most deceased organ donations in America come from a generously checked “organ donor” box on the back of drivers licenses. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but God love the DMV.

Helping others by physically donating parts of yourself while alive is not for everyone. More people feel comfortable checking a remote box on a form that only applies if you’re dead. Others would give you an arm if they could. The beauty lies in in the diversity of thought and the undeniable equalizer of us all: humanoid.

For those who love words the way others love comfortable shoes, continue on. “Allo” means “other” in Greek, so making an allotransplant or allograft means the doctor is transferring human material between humans. While we may all be uniquely different, the vast majority of us are walking around with the same organ sandwich ingredients. If the liver in your body isn’t operating well enough, your life can be saved by either a living or a deceased donor. Yes, a living donor can donate a portion of their liver and the new liver grows like a flower from seed inside the recipient. And… the donor’s liver repairs itself. Crazy, right?

Donate Life America estimates that a single deceased donor can save the lives of up to 75 people. And then consider the friends and family who all love those 75 people. The exponential pain spare is off the charts.

Interested in learning a little or a lot? I’d start here to get the government’s assessment of the ordeal, then here, to see what’s happening to solve the problem. Here’s some more about what’s coming from InsideHeads.

Some surprising facts –

Bone Marrow Transplant Recipients and Donors have a national database and distribution procedure, while other organs (e.g., kidney, liver) do not.

Finding donors is managed locally and/or through the state, and operations for transplant are controlled by hospitals who promote their transplant services. Imagine if only certain hospitals could give you blood… it wouldn’t happen. So how are organs somehow able to operate as a form of currency between hospitals and insurance companies?

Rules of donor and recipient management vary by state and also obviously across the world. It is illegal in the United States to purchase an organ. We know that doesn’t stop it. We also know that hospitals do it, but they call it a service and the buyer is the insurance company. It’s all a little sticky.

Bottom line, regardless how you look at it, the problem is actually not supply. There are enough viable donors who die each year to provide those left on earth with needed life saving options. So it’s a sign-up problem? It’s a little more than that… but that sure sounds like a good place to start. Consider checking that “organ donor” box next time, and feel good about your life knowing you will be leaving the world a better place.

No pressure, but if you’re curious, here’s what’s needed in your neck of the woods.

Our questions breed more questions. What do you think?

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