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Friday, 3 August 2012

Mind your Language Sir/Madam


“Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!"

Gerard Nolst Trenité, Drop your Foreign Accent
 Having heard the above speech in an adaptation of Shaw's play, I found it exceedingly droll. English as a language is very peculiar and more often than not humorous.
Languages per-se are not merely forms of communication but carry in their essence an innate sense of history, meaning and importance. I simply cannot stand when people take the liberty of "personalizing" a language and not having the guts to own up to the fact that they do not know the right pronunciation, they then have the audacity to hide under the defense of " It is a proper noun, hence can be pronounced any which way" . Really now I say! My name is a proper noun mister, mis-pronounce it and I will make you say it till you get it right. Hmph!

It really is a pleasure reading Wodehouse. Given that it is about foppish English aristocracy, a single page has such gorgeous jewels of English words, that one can easily expand ones vocabulary by merely reading the first two pages. At university we were taught Legal English words in Latin. Sadly now, the English universities themselves have not only done away with Latin, but also proper English words and have dumbed down the books to an obscure street language. From Hieroglyphics, to Smoke Signals, from Frost to Ghalib to Rumi, from English to Persian or  to any other language in the world,  what is said might be beautiful, but its more about how it is said that is captivating. Words of a Language have the power to move, to be as sublime as a soft silk scarf or to scorch as the brightest flame. Why then wont we respect ourselves by respecting what we say and how we say it?
It is not about being pretentious, in my view its more about respect and honor. A well said phrase lingers in ones mind. Which explains why the great poets of our time are still remembered after ages and why the likes of pidgin babble of a language will oft be forgotten.

The scrimped words of text messages are so difficult to decipher now that it is almost a task in encryption to even fathom what is being said.  AH started writing an assignment and after failing to secure a decent mark on it, re- read it and admitted that it made no sense. How can it, when it is written in a manner of conversing as one would in a back alley with a below GCSE level student? We cannot write, the way we would speak, unless the way we speak makes literary sense.

Following is a short list of the abominable pronunciations I have recently come across:
Versace- Verrrssace
Determine- Determiinnee
Pizza- Peeza
Les Miserables'- Less Miserables ( as in one who is miserable)
and so on..

Its not to say one ought to know how a word is to be pronounced in the million languages across the world, all ought to do is atleast be mature enough to learn. Being cocky-self righteous in ones mistake without willing to admit there might be another way a thing ought to be done, is not only an impediment to growth but is plain stupid.
So while I listen to qualified people saying Determiiiinnnee and shiver as if one would have walked over my grave, my only hope is maybe one day, the privacy of their homes, they would have the sense to get a crash course in phonetics!
The whimsy.
PS- Some shows I enjoy where the sanctity of English Language is still preserved:
Frasier and Sheldon's dialogue in The Big Bang Theory.

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