You Can Say That Again

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“This is a tremendously useful book by one of Canada’s best broadcasters.” Peter Herrndorf, Director General, National Arts Centre “Finally, a highly readable book about good Canadian English, rooted … in sound grammar and usage. Bruce’s sharp wit and broadcasting experience make this book a ‘must have’ for anyone who gives a damn about Canadian English.” Russ Germaine, “The World at Six,” CBC Radio National News “This book is professional, comprehensive, fun, and tremendously helpful for anyone with a fear of presenting themselves in public. Designed for the media professional, You Can Say That Again is just as helpful for any business executive who has to make speeches, reports, presentations, or simply approach the boss for a raise…. Surveys show business executives fear presentations and speeches with a passion. Bruce replaces the fear with a good dose of confidence.” Barrie Doyle, President, Gateway Communications, Instructor, Humber College “You Can Say That Again is the new guide for my students, for the profession, for those with an interest in the world’s languages, and (with the trivia quiz in each chapter) for those who love word games.” Jon Keeble, Chairman, Radio and Television Arts, Ryerson Polytechnical University “I prefer to associate with those who believe pronouncing words correctly is not only satisfying … but fun! So does Bruce Rogers who has long set the standard for Canadians who enjoy using the English language properly….” Peter Kent, Global Television News

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You Can Say That Again!

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You Can Say



A Fun Approach to Sounding Better When You Open Your Mouth to Speak

Bruce Rogers

hounslow press a member of the dundurn group Toronto • oxford

Copyright © Bruce Rogers 1999 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise (except for brief passages for purposes of review) without the prior permission of Hounslow Press. Permission to photocopy should be requested from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency. Hounslow Press A Member of the Dundurn Group Publisher: Anthony Hawke Editor: Liedewy Hawke Design: Jennifer Scott Printer: Webcom Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data Rogers, Bruce (Bruce A.) You Can Say That Again: a fun approach to sounding better when you open your mouth to speak Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-88882-208-1 1. Public speaking. I. Title PN4121.R63 1999 1




808.5”1 5


C99-931993-0 02 01 00 99

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. We also acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Book Publishing Industry Development Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Care has been taken to trace the ownership of copyright material used in this book. The author and the publisher welcome any information enabling them to rectify any references or credit in subsequent editions. J. Kirk Howard, President Printed and bound in Canada. Printed on recycled paper.

Hounslow Press 8 Market Street Suite 200 Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5E 1M6


Hounslow Press 73 Lime Walk Headington, Oxford, England OX3 7AD

Hounslow Press 2250 Military Road Tonawanda, New York U.S.A. 14150

To Diana

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Table of Contents







Words are power • Standards matter • Good speech: “Cultivated formal,” mid-Atlantic • The use of youse • “Japanglish” • Ebonics • The democratic populist versus the pedantic snob 1.



Formal and informal speech • Canadian English • Phonetic systems • Accent and intonation • Vocal presentation: tips on phrasing, breathing, emphasis • Some terms and symbols 2. In the Beginning Was ...


Theories about the origins of speech • Tracking our Indo-European language roots • Grimm’s Law • The Tower of Babel • Phoenician — our alphabet • Linggwistik Reformation • Semantics 3. Word Origins


Etymology — a list of words and their history, from abracadabra to zythepsary • Slang and jargon • Spoonerisms and euphemisms • Puns and limericks • Bowdlerizing • Swearing • What does - 30 - mean?

4. English: From Sanskrit to Chaucer


The history of English • English is voracious: borrowed words • A poetic illustration of phonetic inconsistencies • Black English (Ebonics) • Cockney • Wacky ways with words 5. Words


A list of troublesome words — how to say them and what they really mean • Metric and measures • Hopefully, irregardless, lay, and lie • Political parlance • Science bloopers • Winning phrases from the world of sports 6. Names, Names, Names ...


How do you say Aphrodite, Don Quixote, Cherubini, Deng Xiaoping, and Rivière-du-Loup? Lists of mythological, fictional, musical, biographical, and geographical names and terms 7.

A Jam of Tarts


Collective nouns • Homonyms, xenophobes, francophiles — nyms, phobes, and philes defined • Prefixes and suffixes • Singular or plural? 8. Coming to Terms with ... Foreign Terms


Eighty-eight Latin phrases • More foreign expressions • Gustatory terms from agnolotti to toad in a hole • The language of love • Let us pray 9. Presentation


Conquering the fear of public speaking: tips on preparation and organization • The importance of the proem and the closing • The “Three Tells” approach • Script preparation • How to make the most of your voice — breath control, posture, good speech habits • Some tongue twisters 10. Radio and TV


The history of news, from Caesar’s Acta Diurna to broadcast journalism • News defined • Declining standards in presentation • The trivialization of news • Infotainment • The Internet • The profit motive: Financial institutions set the agenda • Streeters • A

list of business terms • Clichés • Confusing headlines • A few words of advice Conclusion


A balanced approach to good speech Appendix A — Answers to Quiz Questions


Appendix B — Lands and Languages


Phonetic guides • Tips on pronunciation for major world languages including Arabic, Chinese, Danish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and others • Language protectionism • Quebec French • Goldilocks in Italian • A Yiddish Night before Chanukah Bibliography





Years ago, in a CBC radio studio on the seventh floor of the Château Laurier in Ottawa, two young and relatively new announcers launched a program called “Carte Blanche.” Bruce Rogers and I felt we were breaking new ground with a show that would push the envelope by mixing music and commentary in a friendly way. While the presentation was very informal, it had to adhere to the strict broadcast standards drilled into us during our early CBC years. The language had to be clear and precise and totally free of solecisms. There was, of course, no tolerance for wrong information and we were expected to pay attention to the protocol of an earlier broadcasting age. We were regarded as invited guests in listeners’ homes and had to behave accordingly. Our little project was judged a success, and while we had great fun doing it, we learned something important. Both of us came away from the exercise with the clear understanding that you could pay attention to language and good presentation and still be an effective communicator. Bruce went on to become a highly succesful host and broadcast journalist in both public and private sectors. When we met over the years we often deplored the slippage in the standards we continued to honour. We understood that the climate had changed and presentations had to be more relaxed but felt there was no excuse for some of the sloppiness and lack of respect for language that has become all too prevalent on our nation’s airwaves. Too often, a glaring mispronunciation or an outrageous mistake in grammar can mar a great effort. With this book Bruce steps foward to fill a need. It’s an entertaining approach that is also a serious attempt to arrest the drift away from any kind of moderately acceptable standard for the spoken word. This book is not pedantic and doesn’t preach a cure. You Can Say That Again is timely

and amusing and useful for anyone ... broadcaster or after-dinner speaker ... who wants to make a good impression. Lloyd Robertson CTV News ★★★ After three and a half decades as a broadcast journalist — perhaps a third of that time at an anchor desk of one sort or another — I’m all too familiar with the mortifying agony of mispronunciation as well as the exhilarating, self-satisfied high triggered by the successful negotiation of a word minefield. I still occasionally find myself fighting the wave of panic that can be generated by unexpected confrontation with a potentially disastrous assembly of vowels, consonants, and syllables. It’s easy to laugh today about the simply sloppy pronunciations. As a matter of fact, in my early, highly unprofessional days in private radio, I have to admit I occasionally laughed at myself, while still on the air. The example I remember best: “... the huge crowd that ‘messed’ in a Buenos Aires square”! In ten years working for the American television network NBC I agonized over the pronunciation of been (they say BIN), semi (they split between SEM-ee and SEM-eye), not to mention our notorious out and about. But you have to be a broadcaster to squirm after being tripped up by the pronunciation of a local or foreign landmark. Balliol Avenue (in Toronto) got me when I first arrived in Toronto from Calgary (Torontonians say BELL-OIL as opposed to the British BELL-ee-ALL). And I still blush at the memory of the time I asked a London cabbie to take me to Beauchamp Place. Anyone familiar with the Knightsbridge district just knows the British pronounce the street name as though it were spelled Beecham!! When it comes to correct pronunciation, I fall somewhere between the painfully — sometimes pompously — fastidious and those who associate proper usage with snobs and poseurs. In the end, I think I prefer to associate with those who believe that pronouncing words correctly is not only satisfying — but fun. So, I believe, does Bruce Rogers, an individual who has long set the standard for Canadians who enjoy using the English language properly for work and pleasure. Peter Kent Global Television News


A labour of love like this book is a time-consuming preoccupation. My wife, Diana, was understanding and tolerant of the concentration it took to research and write it. Others were encouraging too, including wordmeister, broadcaster, and writer Jeremy Brown. Some colleagues took a real interest and encouraged me to press on: “Remind readers there’s no such word as irregardless.” “Tell them it’s pronounced Or-jee!” “How about a note on kilometre?” My most influential mentor was always consulting the dictionary, interested in Latin roots. My father’s interest in words, language, and good speech was contagious. Harry “H. H.” Rogers worked at building his vocabulary through his entire eighty-seven years and his love of words rubbed off on me. More important than that, he read me Uncle Wiggly, Pinocchio, and Black Beauty when I was small. Another prime and wordy influence was the late E. U. “Ted” Schrader, newspaperman and chairman of the Journalism School at Ryerson in the early sixties. While serious about correct and simple English, he encouraged fun with words. Also on the Ryerson faculty then, and determined to instill a love of language and good speech, was Jim Peters. His invaluable phonetic guide is listed in the bibliography. At CBC, the guardian of language, the late W. H. Brodie, emphasized clarity and understanding. He insisted on correct pronunciation but simple and natural expression. No pedantry allowed. Other important influences during my years at CBC included Angus McLellan and Bert Cowan of National Radio News. Conscientious colleagues at CFRB News influenced me too, in the late fifties and again in the nineties. Other influential colleagues who set a high standard included Harry Mannis, Lamont Tilden, Ken Haslam, Frank Herbert, John Envers, John

O’Leary, Harry Brown, Bill Paul, Bruce Marsh, Jim Chorley, John Rae, Alan McFee, Lloyd Robertson, and Bernard “Bunny” Cowan. Unfortunately I can’t list all of the professional and influential confreres who worked in that collegial environment during what we all agree were “the best days” at old “Mother Corp.” At TVO, punster, linguist, and my “old china plate” Dr. Rob Buckman has encouraged me with his tips on Cockney slang and his wild sense of humour. He knows his words and has shared his delight with me. Others helpful in getting this tome into print were Tony Hawke and Liedewy Hawke of Dundurn Press. Thanks to all of the above. Whether it was a word to check, their influence over the years, or other contributions — I’m grateful. But any errors of fact or opinion are entirely mine.

Start your day by brushing your teeth and sharpening your tongue! — Oscar Levant

Introduction Words Are Power

Mend your speech a little lest it may mar your fortune. — Shakespeare You say “tomato” (tuh-MAY-toe). I say “tum-AH-toe.” Ditto for potato. So, as the song proposes, should we “call the whole thing off ”? Hardly. Some pronunciation differences just make things interesting. Pronunciation errors, however, can also erode our credibility. Or, to put it positively, credible speech is power. Correct pronunciation confers authority and builds confidence. If we make our point clearly and naturally, our verbal assurance grows. Feel free to sound out the words and move your lips as you read this book. You may chuckle or crack a smile as you play with words and check how to say them. At the very least, you’ll have some word trivia fun. One use for this book is as a handy, preliminary reference; something to check before going to the dictionary or specialized pronunciation guides. It also tries to settle an argument within myself. On the one hand I’m often disappointed, sometimes annoyed, when I hear broadcasters kick the language around with poor speech, poor grammar, and incorrect pronunciation. On the other hand, I almost always side with those who argue for flexibility while reminding us that English is constantly changing. Meanings change. Pronunciation evolves. The argument simmers through this book, ending in an uneasy truce, the dispute unresolved. The book tries to foster greater affection for language and its proper use. And it may lead to greater vocal comfort and help avoid embarrassment. For instance, it helps to know that a cohort is not an associate but a group of Roman soldiers. It helps to know engine is pronounced “EN-jin,” not “IN-jun.” It may even be handy to know when to use the word ferkin and how it differs from merkin. These are not the names of a vaudeville act like Frick and Frack. Check Chapter 5 for their meanings. Journalists who entertain and inform should be rated on those two criteria. They should not be harshly judged for occasional lapses in the use of who versus whom or for occasional split infinitives or dangling participles. But frequent abuse of the language is another matter,

You Can Say That Again! especially if it’s in the broadcast media. And the offence is even greater if it’s heard on CBC. There are those who appear to pride themselves on making up their own rules like Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland. Their carelessness or ignorance can be amusing, as was this headline written by some inattentive editor: NEW STUDY OF OBESITY LOOKS FOR LARGER TEST GROUP But often we lose all respect for the person who has displayed either ignorance or a cavalier attitude. Standards Matter Standards of speech and grammar have plummeted in recent years. Television, advertising, radio, and films are major contributors to the decline. It’s not just a matter of the constant, healthy evolution of language. And it isn’t simply an infusion of non-standard varieties of English in a multicultural society. Educators may be partly responsible for the deterioration. But they struggle against a tide of linguistic barbarism. The environment in which they teach is fouled by the communications priorities of commerce and by the popular trivialization of media content. Post-secondary educators complain that many of their students, both undergraduate and graduate, are unable to write grammatical sentences or a well-reasoned argument. In the groves of academe few students pick the fruit from the highest branches. Most are content to take a shortcut through the orchard on the way to an entry-level job. And colleges as well as universities seem to be ready to assist those students who wish to avoid scholarship. Curriculum 101 provides a bare introduction to history, English literature, political science, or whatever. Students are able to choose one subject from column A and one from column B — a Chinese-menu course of studies. As a result, when they graduate, many of them are ill-equipped. Their language skills are inferior. It is true that language is not static. The way we express ourselves is influenced by technology, the economy, immigration, politics, fashion, demographics, and many other factors. ‘Twas ever thus. And with each stage of language development there has been resistance to change and heavy criticism of new modes of expression. After consistent spelling became widespread, deviation was seen as the start of a slide down a slippery slope. Spelling and pronunciation changes were even seen as issues of morality. At the very least, language nonconformists were seen


Introduction as less than respectable. Schoolchildren who used non-standard English were stereotyped and marked for academic failure. If they spoke Caribbean, Asian, or African English they were stigmatized. Fortunately there is wider recognition today that one’s language variety, accent, dialect, and even vocabulary are closely linked to one’s identity and selfrespect. This is not a plea for acceptance of Ebonics or street slang. It is still an advantage to use the language that prevails in higher education and in international communication even while we are more tolerant of other varieties of English. To return to the core problem, we enjoy huge leaps in communications technology but our ability to connect with one another declines. The language of the popular media is a vernacular of limited scope. It has potent emotional range but is intellectually stunted. Privileged people find the information they need whatever the source, from narrow-interest technical journals to Web sites. But the mass audience is served predigested, oversimplified pap in language designed to eliminate thought. It’s a new illiteracy. And it undermines the assumption that a democratic society should be based on a widely shared understanding of what’s going on. Advertisers target children and adolescents of limited language development. Not a problem perhaps, even when they use low-brow language. Except, the special language becomes the norm. For example, children don’t learn the useful distinction between an adverb and an adjective. So we hear expressions like, “Drive safe!” and, “Lose weight quick!” No big deal? Maybe it’s just language in evolution again. But the problem is greater than this minor example of usage change. Peer pressure confirms incorrect but popular usage. We know that young children only gradually come to understand and use the tools of grammar. Matters of agreement, or of plural and singular, come into use only as a result of maturation and education. Until then, the words she and her may be interchangeable. “He coming,” is likely. So are double, even triple negatives. The same goes for vocabulary development and pronunciation. Television and radio cater to that level of language development in order to keep their audience and so that advertisers will buy time. This turns into a general problem when the young audience becomes the prime target and when those standards begin to dominate the popular media, including news and public affairs. But when the targets of filmmakers and the tabloids also possess limited language skills, these poor habits of speech become the common denominator and the standard. Then it’s an uphill struggle for teachers, parents, conscientious broadcasters, and writers. In fact, those who encourage more sophisticated language use are sometimes called elitist and undemocratic.


You Can Say That Again! Thank heavens for some of the newspapers. The middle-class broadsheets still have editors and still acknowledge their responsibility to contribute to literate discourse. While more of their content is gossip these days, they still try to avoid oversimplification. They demand of their reporters, columnists, and news writers some degree of literacy. They serve a readership that enjoys a rich range of expression and expects conformity to established standards of usage. The tabloids, on the other hand, are designed for the marginally literate, those who like lots of pictures, simple words, and big print; those whose lips move when they read. The tabloids keep it simple. They don’t confuse the reader with the complexity of facts and the ambiguity of the human condition. They keep the issues black or white, right or wrong, win or lose. That doesn’t require much of a vocabulary or any subtlety of expression. And that approach applies to most television, popular radio, and most advertising. So this book is partly a reaction to a contemporary dumbing-down and carelessness that threatens the quality of public discourse. It is for the individual who wants to communicate well without drawing attention to his or her manner of speech. The decline of recent years undermines our ability to communicate effectively or with subtlety about the complexities and nuances of social issues. We share less and less. And many individuals, accomplished in other ways, find their lives and careers circumscribed by the limitations of their language. Take pronunciation for example. Broadcasters who should know better say schism as SKIZ-um instead of the correct SIZ-um. (Now there’s dispute about this. SIZ-um is no longer preferred in some quarters. See Chapter 5, Words.) Others say kil-AWM-it-ir instead of KIL-o-meet-ir. Flaccid is correctly FLAK-sid, not FLAS-id. Accede is AK-seed, not a-SEED! Mistakes as common as these are heard all too often from TV anchors, radio hosts, and after-dinner speakers. Some years ago a CBC TV news anchor called the Jewish holiday chan-OOka (Chanukah). More recently a 680 News anchor referred to the Irish Republican Army’s political wing Sinn Fein (SHIN FAIN) as SIN FINE (to rhyme with shine instead of rain). This book encourages a slightly higher standard, but chances are we’ll win some and lose some. This is not just another case of one generation resisting the vocal expression of a younger one. Nor is it geezerhood versus the nonconformity of youth. But it is a somewhat curmudgeonly attempt to maintain the richness and elegance of our communication efforts. This book is written out of respect for the greatest of human achievements — our language. If it helps some individuals to a higher standard of usage in the media and on the public platform, so much the better. If those who read it also enjoy themselves, that’s a great reward. At least, it may foment some healthy, language-focused debate.


Introduction Word Power Knowing more words makes us smarter. A broad vocabulary combined with an understanding of the rules of good usage helps us read more quickly, understand more readily, and retain more of what we read. And better use of words impresses others and confers power. That puts us in a position to take advantage of opportunities. With words, as in so many other ways, nothing succeeds like success. While the rewards of self improvement, greater social confidence, and a career boost are laudable goals, the book’s primary purpose is to be an everyday aid to better English usage. There is, however, no language expert to serve as arbiter in all disputes about usage, spelling, grammar, and pronunciation. And this book won’t fill that void. A love of words probably begins in infancy. Parents who love words instill that love in their children. Those children enjoy a significant advantage. Children who are read bedtime stories soon develop an interest in reading for themselves. They start school with a bigger vocabulary and an advanced ability to learn. Some teachers have a knack for encouraging children. A love of words and language is soon conveyed to students. The communication tool kit of the early school years becomes the foundation for scholarship and personal growth. Affectation and pedantry aren’t necessary. In fact, they can kill curiosity. All that’s necessary is a shared love of words. There is little patience in these pages for “reactionary nostalgia” as the Guide to Canadian English Usage by Margery Fee and Janice McAlpine (1997) puts it. Some people like to confront each departure from the “rules.” This book will disappoint those hobbyists. The use of language as a moral yardstick goes back to the eighteenth century, when English was being standardized in dictionaries. There were references then to the “vulgar” language of the “common people.” But language isn’t a simple matter of right and wrong. It is simply that you are more likely to be persuasive when you follow convention than when you flout it. “Like, uh, yuh know, me and him ain’t got no tickets, eh? So, uh, like, we can’t go wid youse,” may be commonly heard but it doesn’t leave a good impression or connect effectively. You are more likely to be found credible and more likely to be understood if you stick with standard educated usage in spelling, grammar, and pronunciation. Keeping up with constant change is difficult. What’s acceptable today may be unacceptable tomorrow. Sometimes there is a Canadian pronunciation. In these pages that is usually preferred. Emphasis on the prefix in repeat is American, ruh-PEET is Canadian. But in Canada, depending on location and occasion, you may have a choice among the favoured Canadian, American, and British pronunciations. Lots of


You Can Say That Again! Canadians say coyote “KY-yoot,” but many have seen a lot of film and TV westerns, so they say “ky-OH-tee.” The NHL team gets the American pronunciation (ky-OH-tee) from most sportscasters. Is it another word undergoing Americanization? Good Speech: Cultivated Formal Standard English is a convenient abstraction like the average man. — G. L. Brook The section on English phonetic values assumes North American, largely Canadian, sometimes called “mid-Atlantic” values, clearly influenced by the best speech of educated Londoners and having a lot in common with the good speech of Toronto or New York. The word research is variously pronounced depending on where you are and how your parents spoke. Americans tend to emphasize prefixes, so research is pronounced REEsurch. The Oxford dictionary prefers the emphasis on the second syllable (ruh-SURCH), and that’s the preferred pronunciation in Canada as well as in Britain. “Cultivated formal” is the standard in this book, but a common, everyday vernacular is also acknowledged. In these pages the nitpicking reader may find provocative usage and pronunciation, intentional in some instances but undetected by author or editor in others. Preference for one way rather than another may be simply a matter of opinion. What one has always heard may be comfortable but not necessarily correct (ASH-fawlt for asphalt). On the other hand, what was recorded in a past dictionary or what is preferred in some ivory tower may be unfamiliar in popular speech. This book is full of judgement calls but it won’t settle all arguments. Like salted peanuts, words and language are addictive. This book touches on phonetics, word origins, spoonerisms, and jargon. But it is not a pronouncing dictionary. It simply pulls together word-wisdom from a variety of sources. Good speech is essential equipment, a matter of good manners. It is necessary for easy, polite authority and leadership. While this is not a “greater influence through word power” kind of book, it argues that good speech commands attention (at the office, socially, and on the podium). Words are power. Your knowledge of words may be your most important skill. It is valuable to be computer competent and to have at least rudimentary mathematical ability, even though calculators and computers do much of the “donkey work” today. But an ability to communicate effectively is indispensable. A spell check might help, but when it comes to using the appropriate word and saying it so others will understand, you are on your own. An example of misunderstanding


Introduction from the time of the forced exodus from Newfoundland’s outports is the answer an elderly woman gave when a doctor examined her. “Have you ever been bedridden?” he asked. “Yus,” she answered proudly, “and once in a dory!” It’s Shoe Time! A malapropism can provide a laugh. Examples abound in sports and politics. You’ll find some in this book. But there can be a real cost attached. For instance, Nike’s TV spot in which Samburu tribesmen in Kenya say the Nike slogan in Maa, their native tongue. The trouble is, a watchful American anthropologist knows the language and reveals that a tribesman is really saying, “I don’t want these. Give me big shoes.” Nike also recalled thirty-eight thousand pairs of shoes with a logo that offended Muslims. The logo resembled the Arabic word Allah, the Muslim name for God. Since shoes get dirty, it was thought to be disrespectful. After the apology and withdrawal, Muslim authorities agreed not to ask for a boycott of Nike shoes. Then there was Reebok’s goof when it named a shoe after a Greek mythological character, Incubus. Trouble is, the ancient demon was notorious for raping women while they slept. Good for the image? Hardly! How about Coca-Cola’s pitch in China? It said when translated, “Bite the wax tadpole!” Or the new Ford introduced in Latin America, the Fiera, which means “ugly, old woman” in Spanish. By the way, the cola slogan, “It’s the real thing!” was the term used by Blackfoot people for the meat of the plains bison or buffalo. They called it nitapiksisako. Pronunciation Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men. — Confucius This guide offers an easy introduction to phonetics with a simple, layman’s system. Along with language trivia, word origins, and a guide to how to say many commonly mispronounced words in English, the book includes hints on major foreign languages (see Appendix B). It deals with presentation issues, including speech skills, valuable for social and career success. What is a petard? What are ehryn? How do you say asphalt and schism? What about larynx?1 The answers are in this book. It is crucial to know what words mean and how to use them in a logical, persuasive manner. We all want to express our thoughts clearly and say the words correctly.


You Can Say That Again! First impressions are critical. Along with our grooming, dress, and manners, our speech leaves an immediate, indelible impression. Others assess us on the basis of what they learn in those first few moments. That evaluation can influence further dealings either favourably or unfavourably. On that first social transaction we judge another person’s social skills, their intellectual capacity, and their leadership qualities. Poor speech leads to conclusions, whether that is fair or not. That’s why good speech, including pronunciation, matters. Good writing and good speech leave a positive impression. They establish credibility and enhance authority. In business and social situations, how you say it is often as important as what you say. The articulate, confident individual gets ahead. Those who speak well succeed. We all want to build self esteem and gain respect. But the task involves more than just building vocabulary, even though that’s a rewarding self-improvement project. A basic vocabulary (of six thousand words) used well may serve as effectively as a huge one, if it is used with precision and creativity. (Better to say tireless than indefatigable.) So, while this book might add a few words to one’s vocabulary, its aim is to help the reader improve speech — to sound better. If a waitress or waiter sets your teeth on edge with “What would youse like?” you understand how everyday speech leaves an impression, often a poor one. In fact, the form youse as a plural, a collective of you, is simply an archaic form, no longer in favour. Today it is regarded as poor usage.2 Words for Success When we hear a name being mispronounced, we wince. If we hear a common term being mangled, we feel embarrassed for the speaker. Of course we can’t know every specialized technical term in every vocation. So, when a term stumps us we ask or look it up. And that’s a good habit. But too often we assume we know the correct meaning and pronunciation for words frequently seen in print. So we don’t look them up. And, from time to time, we’re caught with our smarts down. We want to avoid becoming pedantic, but we don’t want to be thought ignorant either. That’s why we make an effort to avoid errors in everyday speech. We’re all vulnerable. While a verbal miscue is often just an embarrassing moment — perhaps a temporary loss of credibility — sometimes the faux pas (FO-paw) can be career-threatening. A language goof is enough to destroy the hard-won credibility of a politician or journalist. We don’t have to become multilingual sophisticates, but we can have some fun and enlarge our comfort zone by learning certain basics about


Introduction English and other major languages. We can have some fun and enjoy immediate rewards by adding a few new words to our everyday speech and using them correctly. Say it with confidence and gain authority. Words Are Thought Words are absolutely necessary for thinking, and with a minimum of words there is a minimum of thought. — Aubrey A. Douglas Words enable us to think. The greater our vocabulary, the more complex and subtle our thoughts. Concepts require words and an ease with the logic of language. It’s a fact, people who are at ease with more words are smarter. And, like blondes, logophiles have more fun. English and Phonetics We all like to sound as though we know what we are talking about. Therefore, this book focuses on how to use and say those English words that are so often misused or mispronounced. English is not a phonetic language like Spanish, French, or Italian. English breaks the rules. It’s full of oddities. Some of the tricks take us back to the Jutes, the Angles, and Saxons. Others take us back to William the Conqueror. Some even whisk us back to the time of Hadrian or Caesar. In any case, the spelling doesn’t always help.

• • •

Hearth is pronounced HARTH, not HEERTH (as heard on a Toronto radio station). Posthumously is pronounced PAWS-tyuh-mus-lee, not post-HYOO-mus-lee. Decorative is DEK-’ruh-tiv, not duh-KOR-uh-tiv (as heard on TV).

These examples demonstrate both the issue of correct sounds, in instances when spelling might mislead us, and the problem of emphasis on the right syllable. This book begins with a look at pronunciation systems and tips on dividing words into syllables for easy emphasis. Word Origins An etymological list is an amusing way to consider language history. The ancient story of the Tower of Babel foretells the development of many languages from a single source. Does it also ask the more modern question whether we are programmed to develop language?


You Can Say That Again! English traces its roots to eastern Europe, to sometime between 3000 and 500 B.C. It evolved with heavy influences from Teutons, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and the Norman French. Then came the printing press and the long, slow trend to spelling conformity. Later still, exploration, colonialism, and modern communication technology had their impact. Radio, television, and the computer have all been major influences on vocabulary and the way we speak. The evolution of English is the best argument against artificial rigidity. English has picked up words from all over the world and has influenced languages everywhere. In Japan, people are fighting to preserve their language in the face of an attack of English or something akin to it. The Japanese health ministry has a problem with raifu sapooto adobaizaa (life support advisory). Neo-English turns up in words like akauntabiriti (accountability). Even TV ads use “Japanglish” like creap for coffee cream. While Japanese use a French word for bread, pan, the big foreign influence is American. Golf is gorufu. On the other hand, this book explores the many words we assume are English but which actually came to us from other languages. Which English? Then there’s the special English of the Cockney Londoner, a speech now quickly disappearing, and vanishing along with it is the street skill of rhyming slang. There are contending stories about the origin of the word Cockney: one is that the term comes from France, where visiting Londoners were identified at one time by the plumes or cockades on their hats. More on Cockney English later. Yet another English is the controversial “Black English” of California and some other parts of the United States and Canada. Ebonics has entered the vocabulary along with some new syntax. There’s also the English of the Caribbean. And the English of Newfoundland. There are many dialects and accents. For instance the “Strine” of Australia. Sometimes two English speakers from different parts of the globe, or even from two different urban neighbourhoods, have difficulty understanding one another. In these pages, slang, jargon, and euphemisms get the slighting attention they deserve; they are not ignored, just belittled (an American colonial word used by Jefferson and ridiculed by the gentry back in King George III’s England). There is also a small collection of words and terms from the world of politics. For example, the word origins suggest it is appropriate for an alderman (or -woman) to talk about what happens on his or her watch. The reader will find a section on swearing, not intended to encourage it, but simply to understand how one person’s four-letter curse is another


Introduction person’s healthy, emotional outlet. Bastard and bitch were thought too shocking to put in the newspaper until recently. Not now. A few years ago a Wizard of Id comic-strip character called the king a bugger. No problem in the United States, but in Canada the word had to be changed to the less vulgar beggar. Today, even on radio and television, you’ll hear words you didn’t hear a decade ago. It’s true that censorship is anathema — we recall the ludicrous depredations of the notorious Dr. Bowdler and his censorious daughter. The escalation of foul language in Hollywood’s films makes one wonder how they will make a dramatic, street-talk point in the future when we are no longer shocked by the expectoration of four-letter words. Just as special-effect chases, crashes, and explosions have replaced classic dramatic form (conflict, climax, denouement, and so on), gutter language is a no-brainer approach to writing what passes for dialogue. Check Shakespeare. What were his expletives? Forsooth and zounds! Is it just that we grew accustomed to them and now think them simply archaic and cute? Spoonerisms (metatheses) and Oxford’s remarkable Doctor Spooner get some attention in these pages, too, along with puns, limericks, and word puzzles. Foreign Words For some major languages, this guide offers tips on the pronunciation of consonants, vowels, and combinations. And it gives guidance on where the emphasis usually falls. Languages covered in some detail include Chinese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, and Spanish. Learn the rules and you will seldom be stumped by a new foreign word or name. (See Appendix B.)

• • •

Genoa is said JEN-o-ah, not jin-O-uh (as heard on a Toronto TV newscast). Toronto is said tuh-RAWN-toe, not TRAWNA. Bordelaise is said bor-d’LEZ.

For some other major language groups, or countries such as Turkey, India, the islands of the Pacific, a few hints and tips are offered. Many foreign place names can be found in gazetteers or in the Geographical Section of the Webster Collegiate Dictionary. Many names and words are transliterated using the sound values of European languages such as English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, or Portuguese. In some cases the transliteration depends on which of the old imperial powers was once in authority. Even Chinese and Japanese names are spelled out in English phonetics.


You Can Say That Again! Words, Words, Words For words, like nature, half reveal, And half conceal the soul within.... — Lord Tennyson An alphabetical list of commonly misused words attempts to help the reader avoid most embarrassing errors in everyday speech. It is a list to build on while one checks the dictionary regularly. It’s a list to consult when in doubt about conflicting meanings of words such as career and careen, or poutine and poteen. It is a fun trivia list to check for usage questions like that of bacterium versus bacteria. And it’s a list to explore for pronunciation of words like access, flaccid, and succinct. Another list offers guidance on pronunciation of personal and geographical names. Yet another alphabetical list deals with some Latin, Greek, and other foreign terms and phrases. And there’s a list of musical terms and names, too. Check for Purcell and Puccini. While these are helpful lists, it is not the intention of this book to be a comprehensive pronouncing dictionary. This volume is an aid to avoiding common traps of mispronunciation or misuse. Viva Voce: Voice and Presentation A chapter on presentation deals with organization of material. It offers an armature on which to build content systematically. It discusses the “proem,” the “Three Tell System,” and the “Rule of Three” for telling humorous stories. It also touches on semantics, phrasing, breathing, and other presentation considerations. In addition, this section discusses the human voice and how to use it. It examines briefly the chore of recording narration. Some tongue twisters round out the chapter, inviting you to trip the light fantastic, linguistically speaking. Included is a short chapter on broadcast journalism, offering some standard preparation and style tips. “Father Murphy’s Ass” takes an irreverent look at how perspective and brevity can distort a headline; how literal fact can be twisted into bias. This chapter considers the need for an informed public and the role of the media in a democracy. Public attitudes are also considered, along with the issue of news as entertainment. In addition to the issue of the trivialization of news, the media section touches on editing and on the demand for brevity and drama in “sound bites.” But broadcasting is a business with a prime interest in the profit line, so it comes as no surprise that compromises are made in businessnews reporting and even in language use in order to please sponsors. This chapter also argues that public broadcasters have a special responsibility, not just to inform, but to demonstrate a love of good speech.


Introduction Nyms, Phobes, and Philes Is it a “phalanx of prostitutes” or “a pride of loins”? Included is a section on -nyms of various kinds, such as antonyms, eponyms, homonyms, synonyms, and acronyms. This section also deals with -phobes and -philes (hates and loves). There are lists of prefixes and suffixes, useful in figuring out meanings or whether words are legitimate though unfamiliar. This chapter also tackles common singular-versusplural difficulties and the amusing problem of collectives. When “ladies of the night” congregate, it isn’t always in a seraglio or bordello3. Effective communication requires clarity. Distractions of accent, speech peculiarities, or any affectation get in the way. We hope to be immediately understood. But sometimes we are tempted to use words for show, to appear erudite. If we use a term incorrectly, however, we convince the listener of our ignorance. It’s better to aim for simple, direct connection and understanding. To paraphrase Churchill, the old and simple words are best. The appropriate adages are “Less is more,” and the KISS formula, “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” The Elements of Style by Strunk and White makes the point effectively. It is as valuable a guide to clear writing as any text ever written, as valuable as any good dictionary. Time changes all things, including spellings and pronunciations. One of the beauties of English is that it is flexible and adaptable. It welcomes new words. It accepts new meanings for old words. Popular usage imposes new ways of saying things. Gay once meant light-hearted, filled with fun. Its sexual-orientation meaning makes some of the song lyrics of just a few decades ago seem quite silly. And there are fads in words and usage. Jazz trumpet players once talked about their embouchures as their “chops.” Now players of stringed instruments, too, and even dancers talk about their chops when they refer to their skills. The language is always in a state of flux. And not just English. Flamenco comes from an Andalusian word (meaning “Flemish”) applied to the Jews returning from banishment in Flanders. They had fled there after the defeat of the Muslims in southern Spain, when the monarch imposed Catholicism on everyone. The term came to be applied to a lifestyle, to music, and to a freewheeling dance on the margins of respectability. Standards While language is always changing, there are norms. Without standards, English would not have become the lingua franca of our time. So, while we avoid rigidity, it helps if we acknowledge standards of educated usage which find common ground and preserve meaning. Carelessness can lead to misunderstanding and unintended humour:


You Can Say That Again! ENRAGED COW INJURES FARMER WITH AXE PLANE TOO CLOSE TO GROUND, CRASH PROBE INDICATES STUDY FINDS SEX, PREGNANCY LINK TWO SISTERS REUNITED AFTER 18 YEARS IN CHECKOUT LINE COLD WAVE LINKED TO TEMPERATURES. It is bothersome enough that the language is always changing and that, during change, meanings can be ambiguous. Naturally this hampers understanding. It is well worth the effort, therefore, to stick with the common, current, educated pronunciation and meaning. Some argue that caring about correct pronunciation and use is elitist, even a form of snobbery. They argue that common, everyday speech is democratic, the language of “everyman.” This is the argument of the careless populist versus the elitist, pedantic snob. But people who care about communicating effectively and gracefully will defend the language against careless abuse. Anyone who mounts a podium has a duty to use the language with care. Theirs is a leadership role. Those in the media have a special responsibility. Too many broadcasters seem to feel they know it all without checking a dictionary or thesaurus. Or perhaps they really feel the popular speech of the street serves well enough. Each of us favours the pronunciation and speech habits we learned as we grew up. These habits were formed within a family culture, in our ethnic environment, and in the cultural stratum in which we moved. Our prejudice is that, if our habits aren’t the universal standard, they are at least “normal” and anything else is “putting on airs.” One excuse the electronic media may have is that educators don’t set a high-enough standard. Latin is no longer obligatory, not even one year of it, so the foundation is weaker. New styles of language are popularized in film, television comedy, and the advertising industry. So a special effort is required from teachers and from the media in order to maintain a standard of speech superior to that of the careless vernacular of the street. It is fair to argue that English is malleable and that this is one of its great advantages. We might even accept the argument that the short form Inc., once read as incorporated, is often pronounced “INK” these days. Perhaps the advertising writers and pop-speak advocates have won that one, just as corp. (said KORP) threatens to replace corporation. And add


Introduction KO for company to the list. But irregardless is still wrong. It is not a word. Regardless will do. And notorious still has a negative connotation, as does infamous, in spite of common misuse. Neither word is simply a synonym for famous or well-known. Sounds Like A common error is to treat English as a phonetic language and to pronounce every syllable as valuable. So we hear vegetable said “VEJ-etAB-ul” instead of “VEJ-ta-bul.” Or listener is sometimes pronounced LISten-ir instead of LIS-nir. Some people even introduce vowel sounds that don’t exist, turning athlete into ATH-ul-eet or jewelry into JOO-el-ir-ee instead of JOOL-ree and saying FIL-um instead of FILM. The truth is, we’re often correct when we drop syllables: Wednesday is said WENZ-day. As to words and names from other languages, Paris is PAR-is and not puh-REE. The latter is clearly an affectation in English context. Sportscasters are fond of saying MO-ray-al kan-aj-YENZ, affecting a French pronunciation for the “Habs” but often mispronouncing the names of French Canadian players. In Canada, in English, Trois-Rivières is officially traw-riv-YAIR but Montreal is mun-tree-AWL and not mowray-AWL. The Pas in Manitoba is thuh PAW, Sault Ste. Marie is SOO sint mar-EE. And the main intersection in downtown Winnipeg is Portage (POR-tij) and Main. Canadian place names (as is true in the United States for names originally French or Spanish) present a problem. Some get full French value. Others have been anglicized to some degree. They are many words of French origin in English and others little changed from their Latin origins. Most of them have been anglicized and can be considered English words. Returning to a French pronunciation for valet or homage or sorbet is just an affectation, but it has acquired some cachet (ka-SHAY). It is a matter of vogue. It is not incorrect for an English speaker to say VAL-et or SOR-bit in an English context. The motion picture industry in Hollywood likes to say o-MAWZH (homage). They seem to think it’s sophisticated. The English word is said HAW-mij or AW-mij. In the same category is penchant. It is an English word in an English context and said PEN-ch’nt. It may not be wrong to say pawnSHAWN, but it is putting on airs. The problem is, some words from French have been thoroughly and correctly anglicized while others are still said with an approximation of the French. We still pronounce fait accompli as “fet a-kawm-PLEE.” For noblesse oblige we say “no-BLES oBLEEZH.” With the term for treason or taking liberties, lèse majesté, we even retain the grave accent on the e in the first word and the acute accent over the final e in most English renderings of the term pronounced “lez mazh-es-TAY.” Contretemps is another instance of adoption of a foreign word with the original pronunciation retained.


You Can Say That Again! We should stick with popular anglicized usage unless the word is commonly pronounced in the manner of indigenous usage as in Worcester, WOO-stir, or Leicester, said LES-tir. A street in downtown Toronto, Breadalbane, is often mispronounced BRED-il-BANE, when it should be bruh-DAWL-bin. Balliol, another Toronto street, is locally pronounced buh-LOIL and seldom BAL-ee-ul as at the college in England. Some names have two correct pronunciations. In the United States, Arkansas is pronounced AR-kin-SAW when it’s the state but ar-KANzis when it’s the river. Back to Toronto, where the street is Spadina, said spuh-DY-nah, while the mansion near Casa Loma is called spu-DEENuh. Dalhousie University in Halifax is pronounced dal-HOWZ-ee. The port in Ontario near Niagara is pronounced duh-LOOZ-ee. For foreign names, check the index to determine the country and the language and then check Appendix B for phonetic guidance. Clearly, we shouldn’t make snap assumptions based on the spelling. It pays to check. Not just names, but even English words we think we know. Under the heading of troublesome English words, this guide takes sides on some issues but not on others. So the word harass is HAR-us and not huh-RASS. The jury is still out on that one, especially in the United States. And it is hard to tell which side is winning on the kilometre issue. KIL-o-ME-tur is clearly correct if you stick with the meaning: a thousand metres. There is no reason it should rhyme with thermometer, but kilAWM-i-tir threatens to become common. Often is said AWF-in. Expertise is said ex-pur-TEEZ, not ex-pur-TEES. In Canada, foyer is pronounced FOY-ay. With some words there is no tolerance for even popular mispronunciation. For instance, you “plumb the depths of something.” The word plumb means “the lead weight on the end of a line” (Fr. plomb). Samuel Clemens took his nom de plume (pen name) from the practice of plumbing the depths of the Mississippi to avoid running the paddlewheel boats aground. “Mark twain!” (two) was the shout to the captain to let him know how deep or shallow the river was. Plummet, on the other hand, means “to fall” — nothing to do with lead or plumb. Succinct is said suk-SINKT (not sus-INK). And, while “to err is human, to forgive divine,” it is not said AIR but IR, to rhyme with fur or sir. The goal is speech that doesn’t draw attention to itself by either error or affectation. Clean out the common dross from everyday speech and sound as though you know what you are talking about. Above all, remember that as Confucius put it, “the whole end of speech is to be understood.”


Introduction Notes 1. Larynx (important to voice production, see Presentation) is pronounced LAR-inks, not LAR-niks. 2. In English there is no formal you pronoun as there is in other European languages (tu and vous in French). English once had the singular form (thou, thee, and thine) and the plural (ye and you). During the Middle Ages, the forms were used like tu and vous. Gradually the polite plural, you, was more widely used and the distinction was devalued. You was used to address everyone, regardless of status and number. Soon thou was less common, surviving only in prayers. 3. Seraglio is derived partly from the Turkish saray (palace). Sarayli means “woman of the palace.” The Latin serrare (to lock) also contributed, yielding seraglio (sir-AL-yo): “women’s quarters.” Bordello comes from Italian and, originally, from the Old French word bordel (small farm). Harem is from Arabic haram for “a prohibited place” or “sanctuary.”

Quiz 1 ? 1) What does fiera mean in Spanish? 2) Mark the syllable which gets the heaviest emphasis in decorative. 3) Mark the syllable in Genoa that gets the heaviest accent 4) The word flamenco came to Spain from 5) Write the following phonetically: schism, Paris, listener, err, and deter.

For answers, see Appendix A.


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Chapter One Pronunciation

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Chapter One Pronunciation

Speech is civilization itself. — Thomas Mann One good reason for improving the way we speak is to communicate more effectively. Another is to make a good impression. Even if we use an informal, non-standard vernacular for everyday purposes, a better, “Sunday best” suit of clothes is helpful on special occasions. Some make the effort for career enhancement. Others simply want to set a good example for their children. We are fortunate if our parents speak well. And we’re blessed if we have an influential teacher or two. The spoken word is a valuable social tool. Its prehistoric invention required some agreement on the meanings of sounds or combinations of sounds. Our ancestors had to agree on how to say consistently a certain sound or set of sounds. Then, presumably, they agreed on how they would arbitrarily apply their invented words to particular things or events. We still make those tacit agreements. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to communicate. With writing we try to represent the sounds of words. But the evolution of writing and our ever-changing spoken language make it necessary to devise another system, one that will accurately represent the sounds we make when we speak. That sound system is phonetics. Syllable by syllable we break words into sound elements and represent them in order. Phonetic becomes fo-NET-ik. Language becomes LANGwij. Invention becomes in-VEN-tshun. These examples use a simple form of phonetics. There are others capable of far greater accuracy and subtlety, but in these pages we work with common English sound values with the stressed syllable in upper case. This chapter explores several systems used to represent the sounds of speech. Some attention is also given to copy preparation, syllabification, and accenting or emphasis. Phrasing and breathing are important too, because ideas are conveyed by combinations of words or sounds. Break a sentence in the wrong place and you change its meaning or even render it meaningless. We have to hear word groupings, phrases, and clauses in order to understand what is being said. We hear inflection variety as well. We hear ideas, pictures, and feelings.

You Can Say That Again! So it matters a lot where you breathe. The song lyric “What is this thing called love?” shows how the same words mean very different things, depending on the rhythm, the inflection, the phrasing, and the emphasis. “What is this thing called, love?” “What is this thing called love?” “What is this thing called love?” “What is this thing called, love?” And, “What is this thing called love?” Formal, Informal A cultivated speaker uses a different standard in a public speech than he employs in everyday conversation around the water cooler. In rapid and informal discussion the words has, him, and his, unless specially stressed, lose their h’s. The t disappears from combinations like must go, sit down, next day, and so on. They become phonetically mus’go, siddown, nex’day. Many words have two levels of pronunciation, stressed and unstressed. Stress can change a pronunciation or even influence the dropping of a sound. “Did you talk to him?” could be “Did you TALK to ‘im?” And that’s still acceptable speech. For another meaning, it could be “Did you talk to HIM?” In this case, the word him gets full value because we want to know if a particular person was consulted. These distinctions convey meaning. Elisions and contractions are okay. On the other hand, not so acceptable is the question “Dijatawktum?” The appropriate degree of formality in speech varies from setting to setting, whether it be the public platform, popular broadcasting, the boardroom, a seminar, or a casual dinner. If we acknowledge that we make these distinctions all the time, perhaps we won’t feel selfconscious when we choose to “speak up” when asked to make postprandial remarks from the head table or make the team’s presentation in the corporate boardroom. “Cultivated formal” is the speech standard used for special, formal occasions, a eulogy for instance. “Cultivated informal” is the speech we hear most of the time on radio and television — except, of course, in some sitcoms. To illustrate our willingness to alter our speech — including our grammar and even voice production — to suit the occasion, consider the politician who inserts a little of the vernacular, sometimes even mild expletives, in order to sound more down-to-earth and ingratiate himself with a particular segment of the electorate. Appropriateness is an important consideration. But there are risks in cutting your vocal cloth to suit the situation. The politician might be considered a phony if the performance is unconvincing. A white politician is a fool to try to speak Ebonic English. And then there are dialects. A dialect is not just a provincial deviation, but a combination of characteristics peculiar to a place or social group. Each of us has a unique dialect reflecting influences that began when we were in the cradle.


Pronunciation “Standard” and “non-standard” are terms used to describe speech considered “socially acceptable.” “Standard” is usually applied to the speech of educated people in the community. In England the term “received pronunciation” is used rather than “standard.” It is the speech heard in upper-crust London, and it has been encouraged in prestigious schools and universities. This is not to condone the lisp, the w for r, or the stuttering affectations of some Britons who wish to be mistaken for landed gentry. In North America there are local and regional variations and some of them are preferred. But no barrier to communication exists, except perhaps in the case of so-called Black English, which is understood only within its own narrow social confines. Perhaps it can be compared with the French joual in Quebec.1 Another way to make the speech distinction is to contrast “cultivated” with “folk” speech. Many regional differences are disappearing, as a kind of universal English takes over with the help of television and film.2 There is still a distinctly Canadian speech. There’s no question, the British influence was pervasive for a long time. More recently Canadians have been greatly exposed to American speech and usage. The Americanization of Canadian speech is like a flood. But, while Canadian English may have a lot in common with American and British speech, there are still some distinctions we can make. The similarities of American and Canadian English are not surprising because the British Isles are the common source. After the American Civil War, the influx of United Empire Loyalists into Canada maintained the similarities. Later, British and American immigration reinforced the habits of speech brought to Canada previously. And standards preserved in Ontario schools moved west when Ontarians headed to the Prairies and the West Coast. Americans say they can tell a Canadian from an American by the pronunciation of house or out and about. What they hear is what’s called “Canadian Raising,” a term used to describe the non-lowering of some diphthongs usually lowered in other dialects. The tongue is raised higher for the diphthong in knife and house than in knives and houses. “Canadian Raising” is quite common in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Victoria. But the trend is away from raising toward more American values, so cot and caught often sound the same, as do don and dawn, caller and collar. We increasingly hear the same vowel sound in all of the words in these examples. That’s the way Americans say these words, except in places near the Canadian border. “T-flapping” and “T-deletion” are two tendencies common to many Canadians and Americans. A lot of Canadians say t as d between vowels and after r. That is, waiting and wading sound alike, as do latter and ladder, and hearty and hardy. The phrase “put the pedal to the metal” usually sounds more like “put the pedal to the medal.” Ottawa is often


You Can Say That Again! said “Oddawa” (AWD-i-waw). Too often Toronto is said “Torrona” or “Trawna.” There are instances of distinctive Canadian word usage, such as the use of tap in some places rather than faucet. Porch and verandah, and pail versus bucket further illustrate these vocabulary distinctions. The variants aren’t exclusively American or Canadian — some words are just more likely to be heard in Canada than in the States. Similarly, more Canadians are likely to say lever, schedule, aunt, route, hostile, mobile, and missile differently than most of their American cousins. Canadians say LEE-ver (lever). Canadians more often say BEEN rather than BIN, while anti-, semi-, and multi- rhyme with me in Canada, while mobile and missile rhyme with Nile, rather than the American ill. Canadians also enjoy an indigenous vocabulary. From aboriginal roots come words like toboggan, mukluk, mackinaw, anorak, parka, malamute, and husky. From French come mush (marcher) and toque (TOOK or TYOOK). And, while most words of French origin have been anglicized over the centuries, Canadians unconsciously adopt French values in the pronunciation of many words. For instance, we say garage (gar-AWZH) differently from both Americans (guh-RAJ) and the British (GAR-ij). How long distinctively Canadian English will survive is anyone’s guess. The tendency to Americanization is powerful. Phonetics How do you say Groton? For that matter, how do you say Connecticut? The city and state are pronounced GRAW-tun, kuh-NET-i-KUT (the first c in Connecticut is silent). As illustrated here, it is helpful, when dealing with unfamiliar words, to have a standard, convenient way to write the sounds. We need to know if an a is pronounced as in hat or as in hate. Is the symbol e pronounced as in net, or the letter u as in nut or as in mute? And, as with vowels, we need to know how the consonant sounds are indicated. Is a c said like s or like k? To complicate matters, the sound values of some combinations of letters change. English is not consistent. Other languages have their own unique sounds for their alphabets. If French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish are phonetically consistent, English is not.3 Fortunately we have the International Phonetic Alphabet to help us record the sounds of the broad range of living languages and the variety of sometimes subtle differences not always immediately apparent to the unfocused ear. The phonetic system is a great aid for those who need to represent and reproduce vocal sounds with precision. But, for everyday use of non-linguists, we need a simpler system. Dictionaries such as the Webster Collegiate or the Canadian Oxford provide their own phonetic systems.


Pronunciation Place names offer more examples of the value of phonetic guides:

• • • • • •

Etobicoke, the western suburb of Toronto, is pronounced ih-TOE-bih-KO (not -KOKE). Lake Nipissing is pronounced NIH-pis-ing, not ni-PISS-ing Pictou County in Nova Scotia is said PIK-toe (not -too). Newfoundland is pronounced nyoo-f ’nd-LAND. Brisbane, Australia, is said BRIZ-bin. In Indiana, reflecting the influence of Canadian voyageurs from the St. Lawrence River valley, it’s Terre Haute — tair-ah HOTE.

To avoid pronunciation errors we can make a habit of using the dictionary. We can learn the rules of our language and hope they will keep us on the rails, knowing all along that in English there are lots of exceptions. With place names, correct pronunciation is even more difficult than with other vocabulary. Move to a new part of the country or elsewhere in the world and there’s a new list of place names to learn. Locals always enjoy teaching newcomers how to say local place names. In North America there are lots of place names not said as they are spelled. Looks Like, Sounds Like Fortunately there are guides simpler than the International Phonetic Alphabet. They work with a more limited range of sounds. The systems devised by the broadcast news wire services explain pronunciation by comparison with common English words and sounds. So we are told, for instance, that the French word fait (from the verb faire, “to make”) rhymes with the English word met when followed by a word starting with a vowel. Thus we get the phonetic guide: fait accompli — FET uh-kawmPLEE. (The t in fait is sounded because of the liaison with the word accompli.) Here, the emphasis or accented syllable is in upper case.4 The finely tuned dictionary phonetic systems use a (‘) symbol to show which syllable gets the emphasis and they often show both primary and secondary accent. In this book the syllable that gets the strongest emphasis is in BOLD UPPER CASE. Phonemes and Morphemes Aristotle was wrong to say the word is the smallest meaningful unit of speech, just as the atom was thought to be the smallest particle of matter. The “phoneme” is the smallest, sometimes meaningful, unit of speech. The p of pat is a phoneme. It is a sound but not necessarily a syllable. The


You Can Say That Again! minimal parts which convey meaning are “morphemes,” like map or mat, linguistic units which contain no smaller meaningful components. Sounds Signifying Something The range of sounds in use varies from language to language. English has forty-five phoneme elements, including twenty-one consonants, nine vowels, three semi-vowels (y, w, r), four stresses, four pitches, one juncture (pause between words) and three terminal contours (inflections with which we end sentences). We are all familiar with the interrogatory upward inflection which enables us to turn a statement into a question. We also hear this inflection when the speaker appears to be asking for the listener’s permission or agreement; it is not a very authoritative approach when it becomes a speech pattern — it undermines the speaker’s credibility. Languages include consonant sounds called “fricatives,” “labials,” “plosives” and so on. Some dialects of Arabic have twenty-eight consonants but only six vowels. Most African languages are like Mandarin and Burmese (Myanmar), using pitch and stress variation more than English does. A “labial” is a sound made with the lips, like f or p. A “fricative” is a consonant made by the passage of air through a narrow aperture. Examples are s, z, ah, zh, h, v, f, th. “Plosive” sounds are characterized by the sudden forceful but brief passage of air. “Put the pen on the table, Tom,” is an example of a plosive-laden sentence, likely to cause some “popping” on a microphone. The tongue twister “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” is another case of p-popping plosives. As young children discover, the loss of a front tooth can suddenly create a whistle or a lisp. A “sibilant” sound, except for the limited version necessary for saying s or sh, is to be avoided. It can be a problem for microphones and can annoy the listener. If nothing else, it’s a distraction. Sometimes a hiss or a whistle is just a matter of carelessness or a bad habit. It can also be caused by the conformation of the teeth or even illfitting dentures. Or it may be an affectation, just as some people affect a w-sound for an r. Schwa One problem occurring in pronunciation, and in representing spoken sounds with phonetic symbols, is the weak or obscured vowel as in the first syllable of the word above (uh-BUV). Sometimes the diminished vowel is situated at the end of a word; sometimes in the middle. In phonetics the a in above and the e in often are represented by the inverted e symbol called “schwa” which is found in dictionaries and in the


Pronunciation International Phonetic Alphabet. It is not used in this guide. Instead, the sound of the a in about is shown as uh (uh-BOWT). There are many instances of such indeterminate vowel sounds in our speech. Sometimes the appropriate representation changes, using other vowels with h to approximate the sound. In other cases you may find a vowel so diminished it is represented by an apostrophe to show there is something there but nothing that deserves much emphasis. Vegetable might be shown as VEJ-tuh-b’l. The point is that the vowel doesn’t get full vocal value. It is almost lost and unheard, not critical to understanding. Whole syllables may disappear in correct speech, as in the name Worcester pronounced WOO-stir. If a vowel occurs in an unstressed syllable, it is pronounced as an obscure vowel, like a in above, the o in consent, or the e in silent. Keep in mind that it is not good speech to articulate and give full voice to every letter. It is good speech in many instances to lose some letters and occasionally whole syllables. The same is true for sentences said aloud rather than read. Whole words get little voice with emphasis being focused on the important ideas. The International Phonetic Alphabet This guide sets out to make it easier to come close to the sound values in a word or name. It isn’t necessary to fine-tune the study to the point of using all the sounds represented by the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet. The simpler system, already in common use in media newsrooms, enables anchors to sound as though they know what they are talking about when dealing with foreign leaders and geography. When the simpler phonetics are in the script or on the teleprompter, the correct pronunciation is automatic with no interruption of flow, no embarrassing hesitation, nothing distracting the listener from the sense of the message. We will deal with that phonetic system — the one used in this book — after a closer look at the valuable International Phonetic Alphabet. For anyone serious about the nuances of accurate pronunciation, it is worth some study. Symbols, Names, and Sounds (a) ( ) (ã) ( ) (e)

front a, like English a in man, can. back a, as in father or in the French pâte. This is the a usually heard in German, Italian, and Spanish. nasal a, heard only in French: en, genre. middle a, as in funny, or the o in money. closed e, like the e with acute accent in French.


You Can Say That Again! ( ) (e˜) ( ) (i) (ı) (j) (o) (O) (õ) (u) (U) (w) (y) ( ) (ø) (œ) (aj) (aw) ( ) ( ) (Oj) (ij) (_j) (b) (d) (dz) (f) (g) (h) (z) (k) (x) (ç) (ñ) ( ) (p) (r) (s) ( ) (t ) (c) ( )

open e as in English met. nasal e, as in French in, im, or en after i. neutral e as in French le, se. long i as in English ski or French Mimi. short i as in English hit or bit. “yod,” semi-consonant, like the i before o in million. closed o as in English rope or French au, eau. open o as in port, sort, snort. nasal o as in French on, om. long u as in food or French ou, German u or uh. short u as in foot. semi-consonant of u, as in the French oui. French or umlaut u for the vowel u in the French tu. semi-consonant of French u as before the vowel in puis. closed eu as in French final sound (-euse ending). open eu as in French eu when followed by a consonant (pneu noir, pleut plus). a yod diphthong5 like y in sky. like ow in English meow, French diphthong aou as in caoutchouc. diphthong of middle a and of u as in English ouch. diphthong of back a and of u like ow as in plow. diphthong of O and yod like English oy as in boy. diphthong of long i and yod as in French ille. diphthong of open eu and yod, French: eu + il, ille. English b in bee. French d as in dent, Italian Dante. English j as in budget, Italian gioconda (jo-KON-da). f (“eff ”) as in French fier or photo or German Vater. hard g as in French gu (g + a, o, u). h (“aitch”). French j as in English leisure or French joli. “kay,” French c, k, cc, ch, qu or German k, ch, ck, final g, Italian and Spanish c + a, o, u. “khy,” ch in Scottish loch. German ch with e, i, ei, l, r. “nyay,” ny in canyon, French mignon, Italian Mascagni. “ing,” ng as in sing. “pea,” p, pp, ph and a final b in German. “arr” for the single r, however it is spelled. “ess” like s in English astronomer. “shay” like the sh in the English word shave. “tee” for French or German t, tt, th. alternate symbol for “chay.” “chay,” like ch in church.


Pronunciation ( ) ( ) (v) (z)

voiced th as in English them. Note that this differs from th in thin. unvoiced th or “theta” as in Castilian6 c + e or i. “vee.” “zed” as French z, intervocalic s; German initial and medial s; Italian intervocalic s.

A Simple Guide to Pronunciation (pruh-NUN-see-AY-shun) Broadcast-newsroom phonetic systems developed over time and work as instant guides to the pronunciation of difficult words and names. The trouble is, no two newsroom systems are alike. An anchor may not be able to understand another writer’s symbols. An editor’s attempt to help an anchor or reporter could lead to misunderstanding and a fumble on the air. And mispronunciation sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. It distracts. Worse, it undermines understanding and credibility. That’s why Broadcast News (CP) has developed a consistent system. The broadcaster is concerned with sounds. Who cares if there’s a spelling error as long as the intended word is heard? It’s more important that the listener or viewer knows by sound what was said. Can the reader break up the word into syllables and give each one its due? Can the aid be written in above the line or in parenthesis and upper case after the troublesome name? If the letters come from a language other than our own, can we approximate the sounds they convey? Are there any rules to help us come close to a correct accent and sound? In most cases it is wise to check a dictionary or some other authority. The phonetic guidance system used is a matter of personal preference. Use the International Phonetic Alphabet if you wish to reproduce the full range of subtle sound differences in a number of tongues. Or, if you prefer, use the system in your dictionary or one you devise for yourself. If you want to come close but aren’t concerned with the nuances, you can use this guide: Vowels: a ay ah aw e ee i y

a as in hat, marry. a as in late, plate. a as in father. a as in law. e as in ebb, set, merry, next. e as in feet, feat. i as in hit, big. i as in wine. y as in by.


You Can Say That Again! o oo aw ow u yu, yoo

o as in oats. o as in poor. o as in not, ox. o as in loud. u as in up. u as in news, beauty.

Consonants: b c ch d f g h j k l m n p r s sh t th v w y z zh

b as in bat. c as in bacillus. ch as in church, cha-cha. d as in do, rudder. f as in fit, differ. g as in get, beg, trigger, give. h as in hit, hear, behave. g or j as in just or fudge, gesture. k or c as in kiss, Quebec, cocoon. l as in low, all. m as in my, him. n as in now. p as in pot. r as in read. s as in see. s as in shoe. t as in ten. th as in thin. v as in vice. w as in west. y as in yes, lawyer. N.B.: y may also represent the long i as in by, wine (see vowels above). z as in zeal or zenith, or those. s as in vision, derision.

As mentioned, good speech sounds natural and unaffected. Some letters aren’t even sounded. Sometimes whole syllables go missing when a word is said aloud. And elisions which run the end of one word into the start of another are natural and acceptable. And, while we’re at it, contractions are encouraged. Cannot should be can’t. Will not is preferably won’t. On the other hand, we should pronounce -ing endings and not permit sloppiness to creep into our speech. But we should recognize that it’s natural to make some compromises when we translate from writing to speech.


Pronunciation Accenting — Stress Emphasis is also part of what we hear. Where the stress falls in a word helps us recognize and understand. So, when we are writing a phonetic aid for ourselves, we need to come close to the appropriate emphasis, especially when pronouncing a foreign name or word. First we break the word into syllables or parts that sound like syllables to us. Some languages usually put the accent on the final syllable. This is the case in French. The verb revenir is said “ruh-v’-NEER.” In other languages — like Japanese — the syllables seem to the Western ear to have almost equal emphasis, and intonation is used to vary meaning of similar sounds and sound combinations. Of course, with Japanese, we have used English sound values for the transliteration. Our attempts to represent Japanese values phonetically are crude approximations, as in sukiyaki — soo-kee-YA-kee, or Nagano — NAG-an-o. Sometimes the Western ear hears an accented syllable where there is none. Once a word is divided into parts, the next move is to find out what sound is indicated by each letter or combination of letters. For instance: Gianni Schicchi succinct fromage wunderbar

gi/ann/i schi/cchi suc/cinct fro/mage wun/der/bar

JAWN-ee SKEE-kee suk-SINKT fro-MAWZH VOON-der-bar

In French and other Romance languages, once you know the value of individual letters, you can put vowels together to come up with sounds which may be difficult at first for those whose mother tongue is English. Unlike English, la belle langue is actually phonetic. For instance, the usually mispronounced name of the great NHL star Mario Lemieux is not le-MYOO as most commentators have said it. The last syllable is a combination of i (ih), e (eh), u (oo) (a three-vowel diphthong, if that weren’t a contradiction in terms) run together to give us -MYUH. This is a crucial demonstration. Once you know the sound values, whatever the language, you can figure out how to say the word. Sport stars accept popular mispronunciations of their names. The Russians, Swedes, Czechs, Italians, and French Canadians playing in the National Hockey League accept the often clumsy, sometimes cavalier, treatment of their names. Some sportscasters pride themselves on getting the pronunciation right. Others seem to take a perverse (if not xenophobic) pride in mangling names. Until sometime in 1998 Don Cherry was unable to manage goalie Patrick Roy’s name on “Hockey Night In Canada,” and usually said it to rhyme with boy.7


You Can Say That Again! This isn’t good enough in most situations. For the majority of us, our name is an important part of who we are. When it is mispronounced, we are offended. When listeners hear a speaker mispronounce a name, they lose confidence in the source. And they are distracted. When broadcasters — especially news anchors — get names wrong they lose credibility. For some that’s not important. Many commentators get paid by the rant, not for being correct. (Some get paid for rant and for being right, but that’s an ideological arrangement.) Preparation As the smooth old pros know, it pays to read copy in advance. This isn’t always possible, so some politicians, after-dinner speakers, and broadcasters pride themselves on their ability to “lift it off the paper” when reading it “cold.” Some business executives do themselves a disservice and inflict pain on their staff by regularly presenting unfamiliar material at meetings. Even the most skilled readers are wise to do themselves and their audience the favour of quietly and privately reading the copy aloud before a presentation. A lot of politicians consider themselves orators when they are not. Politicians often depart from scripts prepared for them and wander into culs-de-sac of their own creation. A malapropism or mispronunciation here and there is of little consequence — they think. But voters may turf the rascals out eventually, just because they find them embarrassing. The “rip and read” school of broadcasting is risky — mistakes are inevitable. Typographical errors are common and they can lead a reader out onto a meaningless limb where recovery is almost impossible. There is enough “seat of the pants” flying in broadcast news without adding to its unpredictability. Even with one’s own copy it is wise to prepare. Now that many broadcast teams no longer prepare complete hard copy for readers but depend on computerized prompters on air, it is especially wise to read everything over in advance. And, when a politician, company spokesperson, or afterdinner speaker is going to be reading someone else’s copy, it’s doubly important that the speech is read over in advance and aloud — into a tape recorder if possible. Attention to copy preparation soon becomes a habit and the pronunciation rules for major languages quickly become second nature. Examine the copy for thoughts, the phrasing, and the words. Read the material aloud. Print the phonetics above the line if possible. Do it syllable by syllable so there will be no dread, no surprise, no doubt, and no interruption of the flow when the text is read aloud.


Pronunciation (zyoo-GAN-awv) The arrival of Syuganov, / the Communist candidate for the Russian Presidency / attracted a large crowd,/ shouted down by.... Not only is the proper name phonetically indicated, but the key thoughts are underlined. The articles, conjunctions, and prepositions are little more than spacers in oral/aural communications. There is a difference between the grammar of print and the grammar of vocal presentation. Grammar and punctuation can be pedantic in speech. As a rule, neglect articles, conjunctions, and prepositions. Sometimes even a verb is little more than a link between ideas as is the case of the first two uses of is in this sentence. Don’t emphasize such a verb. Give it little voice. Some broadcasters say the to sound like thee when it is unnecessary. The is said thuh (schwa) in most contexts unless the following noun begins with a vowel or when the article requires special emphasis to make a distinction. The same goes for and as well as other conjunctions and prepositions, unless special emphasis is needed. For instance, you may need to distinguish to versus from, or in from out. But normally they get only secondary or tertiary emphasis. In vocal presentation many words fall through the cracks — and so they should. It is not good speech to pronounce every syllable or give them equal weight. It is not good speech to give words equal voicing. The placement of emphasis is essential to the understanding of a text. Inappropriate emphasis is a common sin among poorly trained broadcasters today. They may argue that this is their style, but they are simply misguided. Read the following sentence aloud, giving heavier emphasis to the bolded words: If you can, take a ride on the train and drink in the inspiring beauty of the Rocky Mountains. This is an example of inappropriate emphasis on words which convey little meaning. It is an unnatural way to read the sentence. The following emphasizes the words that are essential to meaning: If you can,

/ take a ride on the train / and drink in the inspiring beauty / of the Rocky Mountains. If you were to read only the bolded words to a listener, the meaning would be clear. Of course, inflection distinctions help too. Unfortunately too many broadcasters develop a speech pattern. It may become their signature sound. But it has the effect of undermining the sense of what


You Can Say That Again! they are reading. A singsong delivery — whether rhythm, or phrasing, or repeated inflection — can subvert the message. Inappropriate emphasis distorts. It can make it difficult for listeners to parse a sentence and extract the meaning as they listen. Remember, the spoken word is instant and ephemeral. Unlike the printed word, there is no second look. Phrasing — Marking Copy Phrasing is the practice of grouping words together according to thought, fact, or idea. In the logic of oral presentation, articles and conjunctions have less importance. It is helpful to mark phrase groupings as we have done above. Natural breath control helps. And we mark for emphasis, too. This is the grammar of the way we speak. Develop a marking scheme that works for you. It isn’t necessary to adopt some arbitrary universal scheme. There really isn’t one, except for the one used in music. First and secondary emphasis can be distinguished by single and double underlining. Phrasing breaks can be marked with diagonals ( / ) as in the Syuganov example above. And sense groupings can be shown with curved musical-phrase brackets above the line of type. Some readers, narrators, actors, and commercial announcers use symbols for breath stops or pauses, differing according to the duration of the pause: /, //, ///, or / — /. Use ellipses ( ... ) freely. Volume can be marked as in music with f, ff, fff or p, pp, ppp for forte, fortissimo, or piano or pianissimo. Sometimes a bold underline will do. And a line above the copy can show gradually increasing or decreasing volume. Or it might be used to indicate more or less voice (projection and resonance). Symbols can be used to show a change of pace, acceleration, deceleration or even to remind the reader of a diminution in projection all the way down to a whisper. Some readers and news anchors use the brackets and other symbols from the standard keyboard as cues. Coloured highlighters can also be used. And font variation can be helpful too, especially to distinguish silent instructions from copy that is to be read aloud:

NEW LEAD — BRIGHTENER A funny thing happened on the way to City Hall today where the mayor was to... If you prepare copy with all the possible symbols mentioned here you probably won’t be able to read it. The copy will be buried in an overburden of written-in cues. So be judicious. But, because of the time taken and the purposeful focus on the sense of the piece, you will have


Pronunciation analyzed and parsed it enough to have almost memorized it. You will certainly understand it. And chances are your audience will understand it as you deliver your message. The late John Drainie, one of Canada’s greatest actors, always used his symbol system. Drainie was admired especially for the CBC Radio “Stage” series and for “The Investigator,” in which he impersonated U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of anti-Communist, witch-hunt infamy. In early rehearsals and read-throughs Drainie’s performance was wooden. Even in woodshed and dress rehearsal Drainie worked on his analysis. By air time his script was covered with what looked like fly specks. They were markings others couldn’t read. But they made it possible for him to bring the script and character to life. When the red ON AIR light went on, Drainie was ready, in character, intense and convincing. He hardly needed the script for reference.8 Breathing There are two considerations in phrasing. The first is our need to breathe. The other is the importance of grouping words and sounds to convey units of sense. Marking those stops in advance helps us to read ahead. “I sometimes think/ that/ never blows/ so red, The rose/ as where/ some buried Caesar/ bled.” We automatically adjust our breathing and phrasing for sense. We should try to read about a line ahead of what we are saying. Whatever we do in preparation, however, should be done only to help us read naturally. We want what we read to sound like conversation. Good speech, as we have already established, is not just a matter of giving precise vocal value to every letter in every syllable of every word. Elocution teachers once worked so passionately to correct sloppy speech that many people, including a lot of English teachers, concluded that the goal was to sound each syllable precisely. But what we really want in good speech is a natural combination of projection, appropriate inflection, resonance, intelligent phrasing, and correct but non-pedantic pronunciation. More about this in Chapter 9 on presentation. The “elocutionists” weren’t the only ones to take a puritanical and obsessively phonetic approach to speech. Early broadcasters wanted to set a standard. And they had to contend with the inadequacies of early transmission and receiving technology. Reception was often poor. The radios produced a poor approximation of the qualities of the human voice. And early microphones were, to put it charitably, primitive. So early broadcasters enunciated clearly. They spoke precisely and loudly. Early broadcast technology would not forgive sloppiness.


You Can Say That Again! Broadcasters were careful to help the listener with very deliberate phrasing and correct pronunciation. And they projected, using their own, built-in amplification system to the fullest. That, and the staccato influence of the telegraph, gave early newscasters a punchy delivery. Among them was H. V. Kaltenborn, hammering out the news in New York in the early days of radio, converting the conventions of the newspaper of the day to a vocal equivalent. The newscasters barked out the news: “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and all the ships at sea....” In London, the BBC set high standards right from the start but their care for the language and correct pronunciation did not mean an overly formal approach. And at the CBC, Canadian guardians of the language (like W. H. “Steve” Brodie) adopted the BBC approach — a not too formal one. They tried to keep their delivery conversational and natural, even on formal occasions like the broadcast description of a royal visit. All of this took place in an era before frequency modulation (FM), or digital, and much higher fidelity. Amplitude modulation, with extremely powerful transmitters like that of KDKA in Pittsburg, might produce sounds on farm fences but didn’t promise a widespread, high-quality signal for the listener trying to pick it up with a cat’s whisker crystal set. As we have noted, English spelling is chaotic and unreliable. In French, some sounds can be represented by half a dozen spellings. Spanish is much more phonetically reliable. Italian is orthographically best, but the alphabet is inadequate for the full range of sounds. All these languages use an alphabet created by the Phoenicians and altered a bit by the Greeks. The Greeks learned to write sometime between 1000 and 700 B.C.9 They converted a few superfluous signs for peculiarly Semitic consonants and invented others to express the vowel sounds which the Semites had ignored in their system. These vowel symbols are indispensable for the unambiguous expression of Indo-European language. It was apparently from Greek colonists in Italy that the Etruscans and Romans learned to read and write, but the Romans neglected to enhance the system enough to accommodate their own limited range of sounds. For western Europe, the Roman alphabet would have to do, even though it was to prove inadequate for the chore at hand. The International Phonetic Alphabet, created by British phonetician Henry Sweet (1845—1912), may be the best. Anyone who is really serious about the study of pronunciation may want to learn it. Wire service transcriptions are much less reliable, but for practical purposes a similar, simple system is used in this book. Another phonetic system is worth mentioning in passing. It’s the one used by pilots and others communicating by radio in conditions where it is crucial that they be understood when interference or different languages might create doubt. People play fast and loose when spelling words over the phone, using any word that comes to mind. But there is a


Pronunciation standard international system: Alpha, Bravo, Charley, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliette, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu (sometimes Zebra). A Canadian aircraft might identify itself as “Charley Hotel Oscar Quebec” (C–H–O–Q). Toronto International Airport is “Yankee Yankee Zulu” (Y–Y–Z). To sum up to this point, we can say that after we’ve given full attention to the appropriate sounds for the language from which any given word is derived, after we’ve determined where the accent should fall, and after we’ve decided how to write the words phonetically, our goal is to sound natural. We want to be correct but we don’t want to sound formal or contrived. Easy conversation is the sound we want. The stentorian and ominous delivery of the narrators of Movietone News, the “voices of doom,” prompts a giggle today. The best reader is the one who is almost invisible. Even among narrators and news anchors the goal is natural authority and credibility. The listener should not be conscious of style or method. The listener should simply be informed. With that as our objective, it helps us to know our language origins and history. Knowledge of roots helps us use words correctly. It helps to know where we’ve come from linguistically. Some Important Terms and Symbols Among the symbols that help us with pronunciation are those familiar from French: the acute accent ( ´ ), the grave accent ( ` ), and the circumflex accent ( ^ ). Then there’s the cedilla ( ç ) which turns a c from a k- into an s-sound. The dieresis or umlaut is found over the second of two vowels to indicate that the marked vowel gets separate pronunciation, as in Noël or Citroën. There’s the ~ which we find over the first n in the Spanish word mañana. It tells us that the letter is pronounced like the ny combination in canyon. Sometimes the word nasal is used to convey a sound value and not just as a derogatory comment on voice production. The nasal sound is heard in the French maman. A diphthong is two vowels together in one syllable for a continuous sound as in boy or sail. The unvoiced consonants are c, f, h, k, p, s, sh, and t. The voiced consonants are those to which we give sound from the throat (resonance): b, d, g, j, l, m, n, r ,v, w, y, z.


You Can Say That Again! Elision (pronounced el-IZH-un) is the dropping of a vowel to aid the flow of speech as in I’m or j’ai (ZHAY). Liaison is the joining of a normally silent final consonant to a word starting with a vowel, as in the French mes amis (mayz-a-MEE). Stress is not just the nervousness experienced by the after-dinner speaker. It is also used to distinguish the relative force given to syllables in a word or phrase. The placement of the emphasis can determine the meaning of a sentence. Change the emphasis and you have changed the meaning, as we saw earlier with the song title “What is this thing called love?” The love song can become a joke through misplaced emphasis or stress. In a multisyllabic word the stressed sound is the one given the greatest emphasis (EM-fas-is). In many dictionaries the syllable getting the heaviest stress is preceded by ‘. A hyphen is generally used to separate syllables (syll-ab-if-ic-a-tion). We also deal with breath groups, words grouped to make sense. Because they are linked on a single breath, they convey meaning, or concept, or relationship. Notes 1. zhoo-AWL, a dialectal way of saying cheval (horse). Joual borrows heavily from English; it has been somewhat legitimized by playwright Michel Tremblay and other Quebec writers. 2. McLuhan’s “global village”? 3. Even the important “e before i” (and “i before e”) rule is not invariably dependable, especially not in proper names. That is, -ein might be pronounced -EEN. Consider conductor Leonard Bernstein. 4. Do not confuse fait with fête. They may sound the same, but one means a “party” while the other is derived from the verb to make. 5. A diphthong is a speech sound in one syllable in which the sound starts as one vowel and changes to another (say loud). In phonetics the combined sequence of sounds is usually expressed with two or more symbols. 6. Castile: a region of central Spain, the source of standard and literary Spanish. 7. More on sports in the word list in Chapter 5. 8. For a page from a Drainie script for a Jake and The Kid performance see Bronwyn Drainie, Living the Part (1988).


Pronunciation 9. Before 300 B.C. an alphabet was expressing the sounds of the Aryan languages of India.

Quiz 2 ? Indicate phonetically the pronunciation of: 1) Groton, Connecticut 2) Pictou, Nova Scotia 3) St. John’s, Newfoundland 4) Terre Haute, Indiana 5) Nipissing, Ontario 6) Write phonetically the name of the International Phonetic Alphabet symbol for an obscured, or indistinct unstressed, vowel. What is it called? 7) Write phonetically the word succinct.

For answers, see Appendix A.


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Chapter Two In the Beginning Was ...

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Chapter Two In the Beginning Was... La, La, Poo, Poo Language is the archives of history. — Emerson Caxton, the first English printer, wrote: And certaynly our language now used varyeth ferre from that which was used and spoken when I was borne. For we englysshe men ben borne under the domynacyon of the mone, which is never stedfaste, but ever waverynge, wexynge one season, and waneth and decreaseth another season. Language does not stand still. Sleep for a few years like Rip Van Winkle and you might have trouble understanding people when you awake. Language is changing all around us all the time. We are seldom aware of how we alter our speech, adapting to fads and to changes in meaning and pronunciation. World War II introduced as many as thirty thousand words into the highly defended French language. Some of those words have since been condemned, even driven out. Others, like les blugines, have survived, along with le weekend and le snaquebarre.1 Wars cause language change. Short forms like snafu and GI and WAVE were born during wartime.2 Technology makes a major contribution. Boot acquired another meaning with the computer. Cross-cultural influences are obviously another source of language change or enrichment. Pronunciations change too. In Chaucer’s time house and bite or bight would have rhymed with goose and meet. So, as Robert MacNeil, former anchor of the “MacNeil-Lehrer Report” on PBS, insisted in his The Story Of English, “Change is legitimate and inevitable, for our language is a mighty river, picking up silt and flotsam here and discarding there, but growing ever wider and richer.” In the present chapter we start where it all began, at least for major European languages and a few others. We listen briefly to the first intelligent sounds that evolved into useful symbols, sound symbols enabling us to say things to one another instead of just grunting, making a few signs and grimaces, and waving our arms in a frustrated semaphore. After reviewing the “la, la, poo, poo” theory, we

You Can Say That Again! consider Grimm’s Law, which provides a model for vocal evolution. It is possible to trace words back through time and through a multitude of tongues. Then we discover there is something fishy about the theory of IndoEuropean language origins. We take a look at the language family tree. Along the way it occurs to us there might be a way to come up with a universal spelling. That leads to the Esperanto solution. The proponents of a fundamentalist approach hope we will improve our speech with standard phonetic spelling. Emerson said, “We are symbols and inhabit symbols.” And perhaps Emerson was right. In any case, this chapter offers a fleeting look at semantics, another way to think about symbols, another reason to try to establish some sort of universal agreement that “ a chair is a chair” even when the concept isn’t broad enough to deal with all the different types of chairs. We recognize that the concept of snow is not specific enough to deal with all the different forms of snow experienced by the Inuit hunter in the Arctic. Finally we’ll revisit ancient Babylon and a towering ziggurat. As it is written in Genesis, “The whole earth was of one language and of one speech.” We will be in Babylon, the world’s largest city, at the time the Persians were at its gates and when the prophet Daniel saw events as divine vengeance: “The Lord did there confound the language of all the earth....” “La la,” “Poo poo,” “Yo-he-ho,” “Bow wow,” and “Ma ma” Herodotus wrote that the king of Egypt, Psamtik I, decided in 7 B.C. to find out what language children would speak if they had no one to teach them and when no language was spoken within their hearing. Herodotus relates that Psamtik took two newborns and gave them to a shepherd to rear in complete isolation. After two years, the shepherd heard the children say “becos” repeatedly. It sounded like the word for bread in the language of the Phrygians. Psamtik assumed that was the first language ever spoken. It is likely the children were imitating sounds made by the shepherd’s sheep. Theories and guesses about the origins of speech include the “Bow wow” theory which proposes that the first language consisted of imitations of animal sounds. The “Yo-he-ho” theory argues that language derives from rhythmic chanting of people working together. The “La la” theory argues for music and song, especially associated with romance. Then there is the “Poo poo” theory, suggesting that the first words were instinctive sounds prompted by strong emotions like fear, anger, and pain. But nobody knows the origin of speech.


In the Beginning Was... Babies do have common sounds. A study of fifteen different language environments found that babies from Africa to Scandinavia use many of the same consonants. All babies studied pronounced m and b — not much of a stretch to Ma ma or to Ba ba (Slavic for “grandmother”). And parents will have noticed too that vowel sounds are crucial building blocks for speech.3 So much for baby talk. We do know, however, there are some universals. While English uses a rather limited range of sounds, other languages use many, some of them totally foreign to English ears, such as the “click” sound in Xhosa (HO-sa) in southern Africa. Triconsonantal Roots By about 1500 B.C. the priests and merchants of Ugarit had chosen twenty-nine cuneiform symbols used by their Babylonian teachers. They gave a single phonetic value to each of them. It was a true alphabet. Any word could be spelled without the cumbersome use of ideograms and syllabic signs from which many of the alphabet symbols had evolved. To the south, Phoenicians agreed on an alphabet for writing on papyrus which had been introduced at Byblos by the Egyptians (Greek byblos, book). They used twenty-two signs to represent consonants. Vowels were not written. This alphabet was the source of the Greek, Etruscan, Roman, Aramaic, and South Arabian scripts and their modern European, Hebrew, Arabic, and Indic descendants. In Semitic languages like Phoenician, words are built up from “triconsonantal” roots (composed of three consonants; TRY-kawnsun-ANT-il). Vowel changes only conveyed grammatical differences like tense and case. So, for practical situations where context was clearly known, meanings were conveyed by consonants only. Vowel sounds were ignored. Reading and writing had been simplified by the elimination of ideograms. Literacy spread. No longer mastered only by the priestly class, the system was diffused by merchants and popularized during the iron age. Isolates, Sets, and Patterns In verbal communication (written and oral/aural), sounds are isolates (syllables), words are sets, and phrases, clauses, and sentences are patterns. Phonemes are sounds (isolates or syllables). Morphemes are words or combinations of sounds (sets). Syntax is patterns (phrases, clauses, sentences).


You Can Say That Again! The English sound-signal system uses: I i

E e eu

A a aw

O oo u

plus the following sounds: closure


air/ closure

plosive/ tongue

plosive/ lips

air/plosive/ tongue


air/plosive/ lips





J (glottal) G


F (plosion) K

Read through the lists aloud and become aware of the way you make each of the sounds. Good diction is a matter of making the sound correctly so we don’t end up saying F for TH in the word with, for instance. We don’t want to confuse D and T or the listener might have some trouble. Grimm’s Law Grimm’s law explains how consonant sounds have changed in Germanic languages. Grimm’s Law divides consonant sounds into gutturals, dentals, and labials. “Guttural” alludes to the throat, “dental” to the teeth, and “labial” to the lips. Gutturals include g, k, kh, (Latin h) and g. Dentals include d, t, and th. Labials include b, p, ph, and f. The theory explains that each Teutonic word begins one letter in its scale above the corresponding classical word. So we see the following words, beginning with some gutturals: genus — kin, gelid — cold, host — guest.


In the Beginning Was... Dentals: dual — two, dactyl — toe, trivial — three, theme — doom. Labials: paternal — fatherly, putrid — foul, fertile — bear, fragile — break. These are simply examples showing how words may change a bit as they pass from language to language. The evolutionary path is sometimes easy to trace. At other times it can be difficult to see the relationship between words of similar origins because the words may have changed a great deal over time and as they travelled to different parts of the world, but the word three is found in one form or another in England, France (trois), Italy, and even in eastern Europe and beyond. Habits of speech make for the different spellings. A Georgia State Language Research Centre study of bonobo apes has challenged the conventional view that language is the method of expression that distinguishes humans from other animals. They found that bonobos can communicate with words and sentences using a lexigram board of two hundred brightly coloured symbols and words. While bonobos don’t have vocal cords, they can express ideas as well as a three-year-old child. Bonobos are the closest living relative to homo sapiens with 99 percent of a human DNA. A key factor for an individual bonobo is growing up in a language-rich environment. The research suggests new ways to teach mentally impaired and austistic children. And it suggests we might think again about the communication abilities of animals. (See Savage-Rumbaugh [1998] in the Bibliography.) Languages are an attempt to record and convey sounds. Small deviations may become big differences once the words have been written in different languages. We Are What We Speak When we speak, we review the history of our culture. Words reveal where our people have been, their migration routes, and whom they met along the way. The biblical story of Esther is Hebrew with Persian roots. Biblical scholars have pointed to the similarity of Esther and


You Can Say That Again! Ishtar, the Persian fertility goddess, and to the connection of Mordechai to the Iranian deity Marduk. Apparently the Jews in exile in Babylonia were influenced by Babylonian culture. Some important prayers in the Jewish liturgy are not in Hebrew but in Aramaic, because that was the language of the street two thousand and more years ago.4 We find Roman and Nordic gods in the names of the days of the week. In Christianity we find forms and observances reminiscent of preChristian practices. In English we find Latin words, some taking us back to Caesar’s invasion, some to Hadrian’s wall, and some entering English via French. Traces of Celtic are common. French words abound, especially after William the Conqueror. Teutonic origins are part of the mix too. And words used every day can be tracked to eastern Europe near the Danube, to a time lost in the mists of prehistory. In North America, French, Spanish, and aboriginal languages show up in everyday English along with words brought across the Atlantic from Africa in slave ships. In Russia and Japan today, English influences are common in words and phrases adopted to deal with popular culture and the world of computers. In Japan, as in France, the “corruption” of the language by English (read American) influence is not always accepted with sanguinity (see French for “blood”). But, however we may react to foreign influences at the time of their intrusion, language cannot live in a hothouse, nor can it be frozen in time without the risk of atrophy and death. The best defence is to co-opt, and English has shown how to do this. It demonstrates that who we are and where we have been is part of how we speak today. Lox, Language Origins, and the Universality of Three The clue showing that our language origins are closely linked with those of other Indo-European languages can be found in a word like lox — as in the deli order of a bagel, cream cheese, and lox (salmon). There are lots of other clues, such as three, which translates as tri, drei, drie, trois, tre, treis, or trys. In Pakistani, Bengali, and Hindi it’s teen. In the Punjab it’s tin. All of them begin with a dental consonant. All of the languages represented are members of the Indo-European family, languages now found in Europe, the Americas, northern Asia, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, and Australasia. Sir William Jones, a British jurist who was in India around 1870, studied Sanskrit and discovered words that were very similar to their Greek and Latin equivalents. (Educated people at that time knew both of the classical languages.) He discovered that three in Sanskrit was trayas, much like the tres of Latin and trias of Greek. He said there was evidence linking Sanskrit to the Celtic and Germanic tongues as well, including English. English descends from the Anglo-Saxon of a few tribes along the


In the Beginning Was... North Sea coast. Latin was once just the dialect of Latium. But research shows a common language source, now extinct. The conclusion is that Indo-European must have been spoken by some tribe or tribes somewhere in eastern Europe. There are lots of clues to the lineage of various modern languages. In Indo-European cow was qwou, piglet was porko, and horse was ekwo. Something Fishy The Indo-Europeans included fish in their diet, pisk; salmon or laks (lox).There were lots of salmon-like fish in fresh-water rivers in eastern Europe. But the dispute continues as to precisely where the Indo-Europeans lived. Did they live in the Danube basin or in the Caucasus? Did they live around the Aegean Sea or further west? It doesn’t matter much except in the study of language lineage. The earliest documented Indo-European languages are Hittite, Mycenaean, Greek, and Sanskrit. The Hittite documents in the cuneiform of Mesopotamia date from about 1500 B.C. The Greek texts in Mycenaean Linear B date from around 1400 BC. The Sanskrit documents are from much later but represent the language of northern India between 1400 and 1300 B.C. The experts figure IndoEuropeans existed as a single people much earlier, between 6000 and 5000 B.C. The dispute about where the Indo-Europeans first lived is lively. The Kurganian theory favours southern Russia and Ukraine. The Danubian theory argues that the Indo-European expansion began in the Danube River valley. Wherever they started, the languages we speak in much of the world today (they are spoken by about half the human race) come from a single ancient source. INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGES BALTO-SLAVIC



Polish Slovene Latvian Macedonian Bulgarian Russian Serbo-Croatian Czech, and others

Sanskrit Persian Kurdish Hindi Urdu Gujarati Punjabi Romany, and others

Latin Umbrian (extinct) French Italian Spanish Portuguese Provençal Rumanian, and others


You Can Say That Again! GERMANIC



Gothic (extinct) Norwegian Swedish Danish English German Dutch Yiddish, and others

Irish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic Manx (extinct) Cornish (extinct) Breton Welsh






Hittite (extinct) and others (extinct)

Phoenician — Our Alphabet Man has been defined as a tool-using animal, but his most important tool, the one that distinguishes him from all other animals, is his speech. — Bergan Evans Our ABCs began around 1000 B.C., when the Greeks were trading with the Phoenicians (fo-NEE-shunz), who lived in what is now Lebanon. The Phoenicians wrote from right to left. But when the Greeks experimented with boustrophedon (bo-STRAWF-eh-dawn [ploughlike]) writing, they changed direction line by line, like someone ploughing a field, back and forth. They finally settled on left to right, so their letters were mirror images of the Phoenician originals. Greeks Bearing Vowels The Greeks had to use certain letters in different ways. The Phoenicians only wrote down consonants. The reader was left to fill in the vowel sounds. But some Greek words could only be distinguished by the vowels. So a few Phoenician letters were used to serve other phonetic purposes in the Greek alphabet. Aleph, beth, and gimel were retained and eventually became alpha, beta, gamma.5 Linear A is the name of the linear form of writing used in Crete from the eighteenth to fifteenth centuries B.C. Linear B was the writing using syllabic characters that was used at Knossos on Crete and on the Greek


In the Beginning Was... mainland from the fifteenth to the twelfth centuries B.C. for documents in the Mycenaean language. Esperanto Esperanto is an artificial language intended for international use. It was invented by a Russian philologist, L. L. Zamenof, in 1887. Esperanto is based on the most common words in major European languages. The name was Zamenof’s pseudonym, “the hoping one.” There have been many attempts at creation of a language that would put an end to the problems brought about by the Tower of Babel. George Bernard Shaw promoted the idea of a universal language. He took great interest in linguistics and phonetics. And he shared the idealism of his contemporaries who were hoping to put an end to confusion and conflict through language reform. His version of the Pygmalion story (later the musical My Fair Lady) endowed Professor Higgins with a knowledge of speech so great he could identify a stranger’s place of origin by listening to him talk. His challenge was to pass off a Cockney-burdened Covent Garden flower seller as a lady. Linggwistik Reformation Shaw wasn’t the only one to argue for a new, phonetic language to clean up all the strange spellings and pronunciations in English. He wasn’t the first to try to correct the anomalies of English and he wasn’t the last. And Professor Higgins wasn’t the last person to be offended by what he considered uneducated gutter speech. Jonathan Kates founded “Dhe Internasional Union for Dhe Kanadian Langweej.” in 1987. He was determined to change the world with a new language called Kanadian. Kates identified “Estuari-english, a nu, repulsive, veri serius dejenerasion ov the english langweej,” discoverd in 1983. “It started,” he said, “in the estuarial rejion ov the Tams River and nao haz spreded akros haf ov England via television. It iz a dejenerasion tuward kaakni, and mani selebritis ov Britan are uzing it! It iz klir that Britan, and all anglofoonik kuntris, rekwair nasional pronunciasional instruktors.” Kanajun, Eh? The manifesto of “dhe Kanadian langweej” is the “wurld’s linggwistik unifier,” a way to achieve “internasional harmoni, kommerse, piis and happiness.” Kanadian is said to be “rasional and konsistent, unified but multi-raisal and multi-kultural.” The reformers hope for “linggwistik buuti, uniti and rasional konsistensi.”


You Can Say That Again! So the invitation is to turn to phonetic spelling. “Unless we du sumthing abaot fonetiks we are going tu luuz langwej totalli!” Semantics, or “What Exactly Do You Mean?” “Oh, that’s just semantics!” This remark is often heard in a dispute, as if to dismiss something said as no more than pointless disagreement over the meaning of a word or a phrase. That’s what the term has come to mean for many people. But others will immediately think of semanticist and sometime university president and politician S. I. Hayakawa. He wrote Language In Thought And Action and other excellent books on general semantics. This field of study is concerned with the way we think and use language. The wish to achieve precision in communication is a motive for the study of semantics. So, while semantics is a word sometimes used as an epithet and thus an illustration of the problem of semantic dissonance, the term has a more useful meaning than the one of hollow rhetoric or unnecessary fine tuning of language. It doesn’t simply mean a too-critical distinction in language use. Imprecision about what we mean gets us into a lot of communication difficulty. And often! In Aristotelian terms, we say a thing is what it is: a dollar is a dollar, a rose is a rose, a chair is a chair. But semanticist Alfred Korzybski says no two things are identical and no one thing remains the same. Chair one is different from chair two is different from chair three, and so on. The Word Is a Concept on Which We Agree The semanticist says that what is empirically, phonetically, and logically a table may not have been made for use as a table. So, when we say table, we refer to the use of a supported flat surface. The word is just a symbol applied to a concept on which we agree (see bank, Etymology, Chapter 3). Cultural conditioning is an important consideration in semantics. Hot words are tied to political “hot buttons,” not because of inherent or precise meanings or usage, but because we develop prejudices. Sometimes euphemisms or code words suffice to echo shared passionate views. For one group, talk of immigration reform might mean pressure for a more generous, welcoming policy. For another group, immigration reform may mean advocacy of a more restrictive policy and even a racist message. We aren’t always aware of the “load” carried by the vocabulary we use. Examples: clean, dirty, management, labour, capitalist, socialist, law and order. Of course, some loaded words are more subtle. A bigot can talk about reform and it’s just a code for a discriminatory attitude. The Silent


In the Beginning Was... Language, by anthropologist Edward T. Hall (1973), offers anecdotal examples of the vocabulary of culture and of culture as communication. Apart from whatever tribal burden we bring to our words, we bring our own, unique, personal load to each word we hear or see. Anyone who works in radio will have an example of the caller who complains about something that hasn’t even been said on air. It’s about something “heard in the mind but not in the ear.” And not all the misunderstanding is inadvertent or a matter of different perspectives. It can also result from the clever use of loaded words designed to influence or prejudice. Sometimes the clue is in the pronunciation, as when Winston Churchill called the Germans “NARZ-eez.” Or when U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, of witch-hunt notoriety, referred to the “KAWM-in-ist” threat in Hollywood. So it is important to choose our words carefully. It’s a good idea to be precise about definition and it’s wise to “read between the lines” and examine closely what is really being said to us. The “politically incorrect” remark may be a simple matter of prejudice. Semantics isn’t just a word. It’s a warning and a subject worthy of study. From Picture to Sound The invention of a writing system that would represent things, ideas, and even sounds took millennia. It was a slow social and commercial evolution which began with agreement that certain symbols would carry particular meanings. The symbols on the oldest baked clay tablets are mostly pictures. They are pictograms, simplified sketches — a sort of standardized shorthand. Certain things didn’t lend themselves to being represented by simple sketches, so a picture, of a jar for instance, might be altered by strokes to show a specific volume. Or marks on the jar might distinguish the contents, beer from barley for example. Archeologists have determined that this was already the practice in Sumeria in about 4000 B.C. Sometimes the symbols and signs represented not things, but ideas, or even names. The system had grown from being purely pictographic to being ideographic. The Sumerians took another giant step when they decided to have some signs or pictures represent sounds such as “ka” which meant mouth. The symbol had evolved from a picture of a human head. A Sound Idea The phonetic value represented by a symbol or phonogram made it possible to spell out names and compound words instead of having to


You Can Say That Again! invent new ideograms. The Sumerian system grew into one that used a combination of pictures, signs, and phonograms. The increasing usefulness of phonograms (modified for specificity by attached ideograms) made it possible to reduce the total number of signs in use. Soon after 3000 B.C. the total was cut from around two thousand signs to about eight hundred. By 2500 B.C. the Sumerians were using about six hundred signs. And the symbols gradually became more cursory. Eventually they evolved into cuneiform, the wedge-shaped marks made in wet clay by a stylus cut from a reed. The Sumerians also developed both decimal and sexagesimal numeric systems for accounting. Numerals were strokes, one to nine [ ))))))))) ] and 0, made with the circular end of the stylus, for ten. Underlying the invention of writing to represent the spoken word was the need to manage food supply and trade. It happened when an urban civilization had developed and people agreed to co-operate. They agreed on the standard, arbitrary meanings of sounds and written symbols. Soon people speaking other languages found it useful to use the Sumerian system. The Tower of Babel Therefore is the name of it called Babel because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth. — Genesis Cyrus the Great and his Persian army waited outside the walls of Babylon, hoping to starve the city into submission. It was the end of a series of campaigns in which the Persians conquered the Medes and the rich land of Lydia. The Babylonians stockpiled food but forgot about a major defensive weakness, the Euphrates. It flowed through the centre of town. Cyrus had a canal dug from some upstream marshes and the level of the river dropped low enough for the Persian troops to be able to wade into the centre of town. With the taking of Babylon, Cyrus reigned over Mesopotamia6, Syria, and Palestine. According to the Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophon, Cyrus treated the Babylonians well. The biblical prophet Daniel, however, saw the conquest as divine vengeance. He relates how Belshazzar, the regent managing state affairs for his father Nabonidus (na-BAWN-i-dus), was giving a feast at which the guests drank wine from the sacred vessels of the Jews.7 As the guests feasted, the words Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin appeared on the walls. Daniel interpreted the message as God saying the kingdom was finished, to be divided between the Medes and the Persians.8


In the Beginning Was... Cyrus ended the long exile of the Jews in Babylon and sent them back to rebuild Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple. Babylon was the world’s largest city. Dominating the river’s wharves was a huge ziggurat — the Tower of Babel mentioned in Genesis. It was an artificial mound of mud bricks ninety metres high. The Babylonians called it Etemenanki, “House of the Platform of Heaven and Earth.” Across town were the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon. But the city’s glory came to an end when Cyrus took charge. Babylon became an important part of the Persian Empire, but in 482 B.C. it revolted against Xerxes (ZIRK-seez). In 331 B.C. the city surrendered to Alexander the Great. Its ruins stood for more than two thousand years.9 And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.... And they said to one another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly ... let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven.... And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower.... And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language.... Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad ... upon the face of all the earth: ... the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth.... (Genesis 11:1-9, King James Version) Notes 1. The rear-guard action in defence of the French language is discussed elsewhere, but it is interesting that one staunch defender, Maurice Druon, secretary of the Académie française, accused American feminists of contributing to the pollution of la belle langue with an insistence on politically correct usage. In Le Figaro Druon wrote in 1998 that from the Quebec staging post, “contaminated by geographical proximity,” a trend toward feminine titles has gained support. In the Lionel Jospin cabinet, female cabinet ministers came to be known as Madame la Ministre instead of Madame le Ministre. The government also uses directrice instead of directeur. Druon laments as well that Belgians have fallen prey to “Americanomania” with the laughable term sapeuses-pompières (firewomen). 2. See acronyms such as FUBAR in Chapter 7. 3. Baby talk used by adults talking to infants isn’t pointless cooing. Scientists say it seems to be vital in helping baby brains absorb key components of language. The high-pitched, drawled speech is universal. Parents exaggerate


You Can Say That Again! vowel sounds for mastery of the phonetic elements of speech: “Loooook at Maawmmy’s pretty beeeeds.” A study by Patricia Kuhl of the University of Washington found that five-month-old children begin to enunciate the three vowel sounds common to all languages. They are ee, ah, and oo. Kuhl’s work in 1992 found that six-month-old children learned to categorize meaningful vowel sounds while ignoring subtle distinctions of little use to them. Kuhl found that certain sounds attract babies. They turn to adults who use singsong baby talk. International research found that in Swedish, Russian, and English, mothers commonly exaggerate the important vowels, the ee, ah, and oo sounds important to babies learning language. Other research shows that infants, as young as eight months, are listening, hearing, and remembering words. Reading to children in these early months helps them make a start with the language-learning process. They learn about sounds and patterns. Tape-recorded stories were played to eight-month-old children once a day over ten days. Two weeks later the infants were more attentive to lists of words they knew from the stories they had heard. It may explain the vocabulary spurt at eighteen to twenty-one months of age, when children use more and more words. One possible reason is that the child has remembered a number of words and at eighteen months the child associates the labels with objects. 4. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?) According to Matthew this was Jesus’ last cry; it was in Aramaic. Twentyfive hundred years ago this language spread from Pakistan to southern Egypt. While Jesus may have known Hebrew and some Greek, Aramaic was almost certainly the tongue of Galilee. It is the source of the modern Hebrew alphabet. 5. Compare alphabets — Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Russian, and Sanskrit — in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. 6. Mesopotamia means “between two rivers” (Tigris and Euphrates). 7. The Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II (NEB-oo-kad-NEZ-ar) had stolen them from Jerusalem forty-seven years earlier. 8. One man’s Mede is another man’s Persian. See Puns in Chapter 3. 9. Until 1990, when Iraq’s Saddam Hussein bulldozed most of them so foundations could be laid for what he called a “New Babylon.”


In the Beginning Was... Quiz 3 ? 1) What is an isolate? What is a set? Give an example of each. 2) Explain the yo-he-ho theory of speech origin. 3) What did boustrophedon mean in early writing? Which syllable gets the main emphasis? 4) In Indo-European, what was the word for horse? For fish? 5) Mesopotamia means For answers, see Appendix A.


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Chapter Three Word Origins

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Chapter Three Word Origins Etymology, slang, jargon, euphemisms, spoonerisms, bowdlerism, puns, limericks, swearing, and the origin of “30” When the mind is thinking, it is talking to itself. — Plato We often wonder where a word comes from or why it is pronounced as it is when phonetic logic dictates otherwise. Word origins illustrate how much fun it is to inquire. Certain word origins surprise us. For example, the verb to testify has the same root as testicle. Someone who dies intestate is someone who didn’t make a will. Sometimes we find a modern usage has nothing to do with the word’s origins. Sometimes we find a core pronunciation preserved over time. But often pronunciation has been altered over the years (see testify, Word Origins, this chapter). And, speaking of gonads, is it possible that the Spanish word cojones (ko-HOnayz) will take on the meaning of courage in everyday English as it has now in slang? Q. (in court): “Answer the question. When did they have a knife at your throat?” A.: “That was a figure of speech.” Q.: “So they had a figure of speech at your throat?” This book is not an etymological dictionary. Far from it. But it does present a few words along with their origins in order to illustrate how digging into the history of a word can enhance our understanding. We will follow the evolution of certain words, current spelling, pronunciation, and usage. By the way, entomology deals with insects. Many words come to us via slang. Sometimes the words were invented. They also may have been appropriated for particular purposes, usually by people who shared a special group perspective. They may have come from an industry, a craft, or from the arts. Jazz is a case in point; jazz slang has been appropriated by other arts. An axe came to mean a musician’s instrument, such as a cornet or saxophone. Soon it came to mean almost any musical instrument. Cool, hot, and the word jazz itself, are all words from the vocabulary of Black American music. But they have all found broader usage.

You Can Say That Again! The F-word Euphemisms are a way to avoid the use of certain words and phrases. Sometimes we resort to a euphemism in order to deal with a distasteful topic. At other times we choose our words carefully so as to avoid giving offence, to sidestep a taboo. Making love is used to mean “copulation.” Copulation is a technical term for sexual intercourse. The F-word, so often heard in common, everyday speech and occasionally used as a word-by-word punctuation, also means to copulate. It is considered obscene, but it simply means to copulate. In Atlantic Canada they talk or sing about friggin’ in the riggin’, using a word that approximates the one so often used as an expletive but still found to be beyond the pale in polite company. Frig is from Latin fricare — to masturbate. Pierre Trudeau once insisted he said in the House of Commons, “Fuddle duddle,” when he was actually heard saying to another honourable member, “F—-off!” In The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer used the word fug. That led to the joke that Mailer was such a lousy writer he couldn’t even spell the F-word. The word has Indo-European roots of course. Why else would we find fokken in Middle Dutch, focka in Swedish (meaning “to copulate”) and fuken in German? While on this topic, it is interesting to note that the term intercourse, in some situations now, is no longer used to signify social contact, because it is so often employed to mean sexual congress. Schmuck, on the other hand, still means “penis” in Yiddish. One doesn’t often see vulgar words in print. Perhaps in novels. But one certainly hears them in movies and more and more often on television. Natural dialogue helps establish credibility. The trouble is, too often the street language used is gratuitously shocking. It isn’t employed because it helps us understand a character or a situation. It has dramatic value simply because it shocks. It serves the same function in humour. As discussed elsewhere in this book, we have different standards for different situations. We do have standards, though, as long as we don’t argue for the lowest common denominator at all times. In the list of troublesome words in Chapter 5 you will find some Fwords with different meanings but with sounds that come close to the offensive term. The F-word itself probably comes from Norwegian or Swedish. One dictionary states it is often used as a “meaningless intensive.” And that is one way in which a word can lose its usefulness but still maintain its taboo offensiveness. Crapper Sometimes a circumlocution is innocent. At other times it is used to soften impact or conceal a hidden agenda. Occasionally a euphemism


Word Origins succeeds so well we can no longer use it. For instance, the word for Sir Thomas Crapper’s device, the toilet, can no longer be used as a short form for the bodily function in polite company. Ladies will “powder their noses.” A brief history of “bowdlerisms” is recounted in this chapter with an introduction to Bowdler and his dedicated sister. And we will also take a look at the cultural peculiarities of swearing. A taboo for one group is innocent for another. No offence intended. Professor Spooner Spoonerisms are fun. But they can be embarrassing. When a radio announcer wants to say, “the best in bread,” and says instead, “the breast in bed,” we laugh at the broadcaster’s expense. Spoonerisms are simply the transposition of letters, sounds, or syllables. Sometimes they are caused by stress, at other times by inattention, and they are usually completely innocent as well as harmless. Spoonerisms may be a form of dyslexia. They turn up in puns, intentional and unintentional. Most of the time we want to avoid them, unless we intend to prompt a chuckle. Groaners Puns, on the other hand, are “the lowest form of humour,” in which we all delight. Certain puns are based on the use of a word that sounds like another word with a different meaning. Other puns are just overextended metaphors. And everyone likes to join the fun when a group extends a pun to its most ridiculous extremes: “There’s something fishy going on.”“Agreed! And thereby hangs a tail.” “Right! And I am fed up to the gills!” “Agreed! This is confusion on a grand scale.” “They think we’ll go for it ‘hook, line, and sinker.’” “Well, I’m from a different school. This whole project will go belly up.”“Relax old trout, stop floundering around.” The more pained the groan in response, the happier the punster. Later in this chapter we’ll offer more examples — just for the pun of it. One malapropism that became part of the everyday repertoire was the confusion between condom and condo (short for condominium). Another turned up in a shampoo commercial. In one version of it a woman on an airliner shouts with joy. In another version a young woman is audibly thrilled in a supermarket. In each case the word organic is purposely confused with orgasmic. Dr. Ruth, the famed pop sexologist, turns up with her grocery cart to suggest, in English with a heavy German accent, “If you think that’s great, try the body wash!” For more examples, check Spoonerisms in the list below and Science


You Can Say That Again! Bloopers in Chapter 5. And worth remembering, perhaps, is the reference to the president’s office in the White House during the Clinton administration as the Oral Office. The great vaudeville and radio comedian Fred Allen said about punsters, “Hanging is too good for them. They should be drawn and quoted!” Pocket Poesy Limericks can be nonsense, as in the case of Edward Lear. Limericks can be pointed and pornographic. Limericks are comic classics. Limericks are a bit like puns in that they tempt us to join the fun by trying our hand at their creation. “There was an old man of Siam, who . . . (fill in the blanks) . . . that indignant old man of Siam.” There are whole books of limericks. This chapter offers just a few examples. Some Word Origins The prime purpose of this potpourri (PO-poor-EE) chapter is to provide a brief list of word origins. If words are fun, one of the most entertaining things about them is how they evolved from their sometimes mysterious origins: Abracadabra can be traced back to a mythical Persian sun god. The letters add up — in numerology — to 365. The word is not a corruption of the cabbalistic habraha dabar (Hebrew for “bless the object”). Accent — from the Latin ad + cantus, representing the Greek prosoidia (prosody). Syllables spoken with a grave (GRAV) accent (`) were in deep voice. Acute (´) accent words were spoken a musical fifth higher. Those with a circumflex (^) began high and dropped a fifth. With the shift from length and pitch to volume, the word accent came to mean the stress or a sign indicating emphasis. Alderman comes from Anglo-Saxon ealdorman, parent or head of family. The word persists in a political context due to the fact that many of the forms of social organization of Anglo-Saxon England were retained even after William the Conqueror’s restructuring of the island. Sheriff is another example. A sheriff is an important shire or county official with judicial responsibilities. See ward. Algebra is derived from Arabic al + jebr, reunion of broken parts. The concept of zero came to western Europe via the Arabs. In science there are a number of terms of Arab origin. Assassin is from the Arabic hash shashin (hashish1 eaters), an organized secret society in Persia in the eleventh century. Existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre and fellow writer Simone de Beauvoir


Word Origins spent much of their leisure time in a Montparnasse (Paris) boîte called Aux assassins. Bafflegab is a word invented in about 1952 by Milton Smith, the assistant general counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It was a contest entry and it won. Its definition: “multiloquence characterized by a consummate interfusion of circomlocution ... and other familiar manifestations of abstruse expiation commonly utilized for promulgations implementing procrustean determinations by government bodies.” It means, in short, bureaucratic B.S. Bank in both Anglo-Saxon and Latin originally meant something flat like a shelf. At some point it came to mean “bench.” Lombard money managers used to sit on a bench. Barbarous finds its roots in Latin and Greek, meaning “foreign,” “ignorant,”“uncivilized.” (And a bluebeard [barbe bleue] is a man who murders his wives.) Bedfordshire — To go to Bedfordshire means “to retire for the night.” Bible comes from Byblos, the ancient Phoenician city from which papyrus was exported. It came to mean “book” and then “sacred scriptures, invested with a supernatural power.” The Bible and the Word are considered (by fundamentalists) the work of God, not men. Blooper — an embarrassing blunder, usually a vocal one. The term is also used in baseball to signify a looping pitch or a ball hit high just beyond the infielders. In broadcasting there are collections of bloopers, recordings of on-air gaffes including spoonerisms. The author recalls a moment on the CBC’s “World At Six” when a latebreaking story out of Chicago told of a company picnic which ended with hundreds of picnickers suffering food poisoning. It was a serious item. This was no time for levity. I read the copy cold and referred to the “hundreds of ill PICK-i-NIK-urz.” I quickly corrected myself and said emphatically, “Of course that should read PIK-nurz!” Wrong twice in a row, I moved on. Another type of blooper involves the difference between the way we see some symbols and the way we hear or say them. On a final edition of the same “World At Six” broadcast to the West Coast and the Yukon, a story was rushed in about a labour dispute at Vancouver Harbour. The story mentioned the head of the harbour administration and identified him as B. D. I. Johnson. No problem when you read the initials silently. But read them aloud, as I did, and suddenly you are describing Johnson as “beady-eyed.” Not at all complimentary. To make things worse, a giggle threatened, and my co-anchor took over the tail lights (reprise of top-story headlines). My sign-off and network cue were a bit breathless. Blurb is the name given to the dust-jacket prose that describes a book. A blurb can also be a public-relations release or a short promotional


You Can Say That Again! paragraph on a person or event. Webster defines it as: “a laudatory advertisement, especially for a book.” Blurb was invented by humorist Gelett Burgess in 1907 on a dust jacket added to his book “Are You A Bromide?” His publisher later said that it was common practice to print the picture of a damsel — languishing, heroic, coquettish — on the jacket of a novel. So Burgess lifted from a Lydia Pinkham or toothpowder advertisement the portrait of a sweet young woman, then painted in some gleaming teeth, enhanced the damsel’s appearance, and put her in the centre of the dust jacket. His accompanying text was nonsense about Miss Belinda Blurb. Boondoggle was originally an American word for “gadget.” When the New York Board of Estimates investigated the use of relief money in 1935, it was said an artist’s project produced leather crafts, three-ply carving, and boondoggles. It has come to mean “spending time doing nothing.” Bourgeois originally meant “citizen,” somebody who lived in a city or town as distinguished from a nobleman or a serf. Thus, middle class. Now it usually means middle class or capitalist. It is sometimes used to designate unsophisticated people. In Canada, the French word meant historically “a trader and leader in the fur trade” and was anglicized by trappers and mountainmen to bushwa meaning “nonsense.” Bowdlerize — The term means “to delete expressions considered offensive or to alter them.” Dr. Thomas Bowdler took his scalpel to the bard and gave his name to a practice much more offensive than the Shakespearean language he found objectionable. See Bowdlerize later in this chapter. Boycott — Captain Boycott was an agent for an Irish landlord. In 1880 the Irish Land League gave him the treatment now associated with his name. Brodie, Steve — “... do a Brodie.” He jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge and was unharmed. Calculate is derived from the Latin word for pebble. Pebbles were used for counting. Christian is from the Latin chrisma (oil for anointing). Christ is the Anointed One (see Xmas). Church — The Greeks had a word for it, three in fact. One, ekklesia, for the general assembly in Athens, became the French église. Basilike became basilica. And kuriakon is from kurios for “lord.” In a long journey across Europe, kuriakon became Scottish kirk and English church. Court — In Old French it meant a poultry yard, but it came to mean the territory of the king and later the area where he dispensed justice. A


Word Origins woman of the court was a courtesan, but behaviour changed the meaning of the word. Courtesy is behaviour that would grace a court. Coventry — “To be sent to Coventry” is to be sent into seclusion, to be banished. Covent, as in Covent Garden, really means “convent.” There was once a convent in London near the modern Covent Garden. The word convent is related to the word convene, meaning “to meet.” But “being sent to Coventry” means “to be put out of touch.” The British city in the West Midlands is the place where Lady Godiva rode horseback clothed only in her chastity. She did it to persuade her husband Earl Leofric, to cancel a heavy tax in Mercia. Curfew is from the French couvre-feu (cover fire). Daffodil — Asphodel was the name of a Greek flower. Latin affodillus became the English affodil which became daffodil. Date — In ancient Rome, letters began Data Romae meaning “given at Rome” (followed by the date). In English date came to mean the time rather than “given.” On the other hand, the Greek word for finger gives us the other date. Daktylos, finger, indicates the shape of the fruit of the palm. But it could be that the origin of the word is actually from the Arabic daqal for “palm.” Debunk — A Latin prefix was added to the American word buncombe, yielding de + bunk. The term came out of the debates on the Missouri Compromise. Felix Walker, the member for Buncombe County, North Carolina, refused to stop for a vote. He said he wasn’t talking to the House but to his constituents in Buncombe. (For more political names and terms, see Chapter 5.) Demijohn — This is not half a John but a corruption of the French dame Jeanne which means Lady Jane. It is used in Italian and Spanish, too. It could be a distortion of Damaghan, the Persian town where glass was blown. It’s just one of the many words used by sailors to refer to either drink or containers. Derrick — First used to refer to persons, the word comes from the name of the hangman at Tyburn prison, Derrick. Eventually the name was transferred to the instrument and came to be applied to any machine used for hoisting. Devil — Slander is a great evil and, in Old English, deofol — from the Greek diabolos — meant “slanderer.” Eureka — The ancient king Hiero wanted to know if the golden crown he’d been given was made of real gold. While Archimedes was taking a bath it occurred to him that a body must displace its own weight in water — this was a way to test the crown. “Eureka!” he shouted. It’s from the Greek verb heuriskein (to find). The


You Can Say That Again! logical art of discovery is heuretic and the modern art of education is heuristic. Pupils are taught to find out things on their own. If they do, it’s called scholarship. Europe — The Assyrians called the land of the rising sun Asu and the land of the setting sun Ereb. The Greeks picked up the terms for Asia and Europe. Later came the legend of Europa, daughter of Phoenix, carried off by Zeus in the disguise of a bull. She was to become the mother of Minos, related to the Minotaur or “bull of Minos” (Latin taurus). The Minotaur lurked in the Labyrinth. Theseus (THEES-yus) slew the Minotaur ... and so on. Fan — From fanatic from the Latin fanum, an overwrought religious person found around a temple. Fascist — Roman builders carried their axe in a bundle of rods. The Latin for “band,” fascia, gave the name to the bundles which became a symbol of authority for local Roman magistrates. We find the root in the English word fascinate. The bundle-and-axe symbol was adopted by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Party. The symbol was in the rondel on the Italian aircraft that flew for the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Fifth Column — This term originated in the Spanish Civil War when one of dictator Franco’s generals said he had four columns of troops advancing on Madrid and a fifth inside its walls (spies, informers). Gladstone — a small bag, portmanteau, also a claret which became more available after Gladstone reduced a tariff on imported wine in 1860. Halloween — This is short for All Hallows Eve. Hallow can be traced back through Middle to Old English and means “holy” or “respected greatly.” Ween is from even which means “evening.” The October 31st events can be traced back to pagan rituals. The feast has been observed on that date since the eighth century. It was chosen to honour Christian saints and martyrs. Ancient Celts believed it was the date when the recently deceased chose bodies of people or animals to inhabit for the next year. To frighten the spirits away, the Celts dressed as demons, hobgoblins, and witches. Harangue — The German initial h or ch was hard for speakers of Romance languages to say before another consonant, so it was often dropped, as in the word hring which meant “people sitting around (the king) in a circle.” Ring and rank have the same origins. Harangue came to mean “the noise made by people sitting in a ring around the king.” Hobson’s Choice — Thomas Hobson, a seventeenth-century London stableman, made everyone hiring a horse take the next one in order.


Word Origins Homage — (HAW-mij or AW-mij, NOT o-MAWZH!). It comes from Old French, where the word was a derivative from the Latin homo, meaning “man.” In the feudal scheme of things it meant the “fealty of a vassal.” Literally “to worship” or “pay respect to” is the common meaning. But a new pronunciation seems to have come to us from the Hollywood film industry, where they think it is clever to say certain things with a French accent. It may be o-MAWZH in French, but the correct English pronunciation is HAW-mij. Infantry — The word comes from the Latin in (for “not”), fans (for “speaking,” from fari, “to speak”). It became infanteria, meaning “those unqualified for the cavalry.” Insemination, artificial — The root is seminal, for “seed” or “semen.” A seminary is a nursery, where something originates. To inseminate is to sow. To artificially inseminate is to implant preserved semen in a female in order to fertilize an ovum. The word is pronounced “inSEM-in-AY-shun,” NOT “in-sem-NAY-shun.” In vitro simply means “in glass,” “in a test tube.” Jargon — The French word argot (ar-GO) can be traced to the Italian gargo or to the Latin argutari meaning “to dispute.” Argutus means “tricky.” Lingua gerga is sacred language only known by the initiated. Jazz is an African word which may have meant “hurry.” Or is it perhaps the name of a man in Vicksburg who gained fame in 1910 for asking everyone to, “Come on an’ hear Alexander’s Ragtime Band”? Alexander’s first name was Charles, Chas. for short and said, “Chazz!” Or perhaps jazz is from: Jazib (Arab) — one who allures, Jazba (Hindu) — ardent desire, or Jaiza (African) — rumble of distant drums. Another theory suggests that the word originated in the brothels of New Orleans, where it meant, simply, “sexual intercourse.” Jeopardy is an excellent name for a television game show based on knowledge of trivia and hosted smoothly by Canadian Alex Trebek who once performed for the CBC in Toronto and Ottawa. The multilingual Trebek offers flawless pronunciation over a broad range of subjects and languages. When a game was played to a draw, the Romans called it jocus partitus. In French it became jeu parti. Later it came to mean an unknown result or uncertainty. Kangaroo is a word invented by Captain Cook and probably a corruption of the native words for “don’t understand.”


You Can Say That Again! Ketchup or Catsup comes from the Malay kechap or perhaps from the Japanese kitjap meaning “sauce.” Laconic — Spartans had little to say or spoke with economy and, since Sparta was the city-state capital of Laconia, the use of this term became a way of describing those who were not very talkative (Greek lakon). Spartan means “frugal” or “stern” or “austere.” Lady — see Ward. Lieutenant is pronounced “lef-TEN-ant.” It may be LOO-ten-ant in the United States and that may seem closer to the French, but the English and Canadian pronunciation has been around a long time, six centuries in fact. The word comes from leuf, one of the Old French spellings of lieu. It may have resulted from a confusion between the letters v and u. The spelling was lievtenant or lufftenant or lefftenant. In the fourteenth century there was no standardized spelling. When printing presses, however, started to mass-produce books in the fifteenth century, more attention was paid to spelling and standards began to develop. The word lieutenant comes from lieu, as shown above, which means “place” and tenant, which means “to hold.” Tenant has the same root as the French verb tenir (to hold). A lieutenant is someone who takes the place of another, someone who stands in to exercise the authority of someone else. So, while there can be no question as to the word’s French roots, the pronunciation lef-TEN-ant has history on its side. Macaroni comes from the Italian maccheroni which signifies a mixture of meal, eggs, and so on. In the late 1700s some English fops formed the Macaroni Club dedicated to the rejection of native food. Hence came “Yankee Doodle Dandy, riding on his pony and eating macaroni...” See also Yankee. Malapropism — We owe this term to Mrs. Malaprop in Sheridan’s play The Rivals (1775). It signifies the mistaken use of a word that sounds a bit like another (condom and condominium). Maverick comes from Samuel Maverick, a Texan who pastured his cattle on an island. His name came to mean “unbranded calves” and eventually “politicians who wore no party label.” Mentor — the teacher of Telemachus in the Odyssey. Melba Toast was named after opera singer Nellie Melba (Helen Porter Mitchell of Australia, 1861-1931). Melba derives from Melbourne, Australia. Also named after the opera singer was the dish Peach Melba. Morphine — a narcotic named after Morpheus, the Roman god of sleep. Nest probably comes to us all the way from Sanskrit. In Latin it’s nidus as


Word Origins in the scientific term nidification for “nest building.” The Sanskrit word was nidd, from nizd which was a combination of ni (down) and sed ( to sit). A nest egg was an egg (real or artificial) left in the nest to encourage the laying of more. Nicotine was named after Jacques Nicot who in 1560 introduced tobacco to France. In fact, the whole nicotiana plant species is named after him (see Eponym in Chapter 7). Tobacco, on the other hand, comes from Spanish tabaco, for the large tube which the Spanish saw the Indians smoking. Nomad — member of a roaming tribe, from Greek nomas (pasture). Numnah — pronounced NUM-na, saddle cloth or pad for under saddle, from Hindi namda from Persian namad (carpet). Obliterate means “to wipe off letters.” It is a combination of the Latin ob (off) and litera (letter) which actually comes from linere (to smear, as on parchment). Literal, literature, literate, and letters all come from this source. Occam’s Razor — the principle that no more assumptions should be made than are necessary when examining or analyzing a thing. This principle of parsimony is attributed to William of Occam (O-KAM), the fourteenth-century English philosopher. Odyssey originally signified the journey of Odysseus (o-DEES-yus) as described by Homer. Ouija Board — the board that can’t say no in either French or German. Pandemonium — the capital of hell in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Philippics — name given to Demosthenes’ (dem-AWS-than-eez) orations against Philip of Macedon (MASS-eh-dawn). Plagiarism comes from the Latin for “kidnapping,” from plaga (a net). Milton said borrowing without improving is “a plagerie.” Pornography — from Greek porne (harlot) and graphos (writing). Procrustean we owe to the Greek giant Procrustes (pro-KRUS-teez). The term means “forcing conformity.” Quarantine — from popular Latin quaranta derived from classical Latin quadraginta (forty). At first it applied to the forty days of Lent. Then it was applied to the forty days a widow could stay in her late husband’s home before she had to give it up to the heir. Later it was used to signify the forty-day period during which a ship from an infected port had to wait before landing. Quisling — This term for a betrayer came from the name of the head of the Norwegian Nazi Party after the Germans invaded in 1940. Major Vidkum Quisling is universally remembered for betrayal. For Americans, General Benedict Arnold has a similar standing. At one


You Can Say That Again! point he tried to capture Quebec. He failed. Later, in 1780, he betrayed the American revolution. Quixotic (kwix-AW-tik) originated with Cervantes (sir-VAN-tayz) who wrote about Don Quixote (kee-HO-tay), the Man from La Mancha, an idealistic knight who tilted at windmills with aid from sidekick Sancho Panza. Spanish quixote comes from quijote, from the Latin coxa (hip). The English equivalent is cuisse (from old French) for “thigh armour.” Rap is the sound of a knock on the door. But if you don’t give a rap, it means that you wouldn’t pay a rap which was a counterfeit Irish coin of the eighteenth century. Now rap means “the rhythmic inner-city chanting of rappers.” Some have taken anti-police anger and the frustration of the ghetto to creative heights and to multi-milliondollar rewards. Riding is a common English word of Germanic origin. The Romans divided towns into quarters, so today Paris is divided into quartiers. But the English divided the countryside into thirds (Old English thrithing from Old Norse). Norththrithing became Northriding. Eventually the North and Sud were dropped, leaving riding. Now it is the term for a constituency in parliamentary elections. North and Sud, from French, still turn up in place names such as Northumberland or Sudbury. Rostrum — This word for a speaker’s platform comes from the Latin for “beak.” The prows of ships were extended with decorative beaks and the platform in the Roman forum was similarly decorated. Sadist — This term originated with the Comte de Sade (1740–1814), who is said to have lived a life of excess and to have enjoyed inflicting pain. Masochist originated with Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch (1835–95) and refers to those who enjoy pain. These terms are eponyms (see Chapter 7). Lechery is not; it probably comes from old French lecheur, from Frankish meaning “lick.” Chacun à son goût, as they say. Sandwich — John Montague (MAWN-ti-gyoo), the earl of Sandwich who died in 1792, was a great gambler who would not leave the gaming table to eat. He was once brought beef between slices of bread. Obviously it had been done before, but his name stuck to the idea. This is another eponym. Saxophone — named after Antoine J. Sax. Schedule — (SHEJ-ul, Canadian; SHED-yool, British; and SKEJ-ul, American) — The term comes from Latin schedula via French. It, in turn, derived from the Greek skhede (papyrus leaf). At first it signified a written document, later an inventory, a timetable, or an agenda.


Word Origins Sequoia (seh-KWOY-a) — a California conifer, named after the man who invented the Cherokee syllabary. Slang is derived from the Dutch for “snake.” It was used to signify the chains on prisoners and later for the talk of criminals. See the section on slang in this chapter. Spartan — see Laconic. Spoonerisms — Some people, when excited or embarrassed, transpose the first letters of words as did the Reverend W. A. Spooner: “Mardon me, Padam, this pie is occupued.” There is also a story of a woman who wrote a book about her husband’s fatal heart attack. Three years later she did an interview which fell apart in giggles when she opened with “My husband had his hatal fart attack ...” And then there was the clergyman who introduced the British blonde starlet Diana (née Fluck) Dors as “... soon to be a star ... Miss Diana Clunt....” The phrase weather forecasters don’t use when referring to twisters is “sucking funnel of wind”! Sybaritic (SIB-ar-IT-ik) comes from the name of a town in southern Italy known for its luxurious ways. The city was mentioned by Plutarch in his description of the Parthian victory train and all the concubines it contained after the defeat of Crassus. Testify — The word comes from testes. A gesture takes on legal import, “I swear,” with a hand held protectively over the genitals. Thug is derived from the Hindi thaga which means “to deceive.” In India, thuggery was organized crime until the British suppressed it in 1830. Thugs usually deceived a victim until they were in a position to strangle him. Tongue — We sometimes say tongue to mean “language.” Language is derived from langue, which is French for “tongue” from the Latin lingua. So we get lingua franca, a language used around the world. Today that tongue is English. Tuxedo comes from the Algonkian word p’tuksit (TOOK-sit), meaning “round-footed” or “wolflike,” as were the members of the Wolf Tribe of the Delaware Indians in New York State. Tuxedo Lake and Tuxedo Park were named after them. Tuxedo Park became a luxury resort when taken over by the Lorillard family. And Griswold Lorillard first wore the tailless dinner jacket which came to be called a tuxedo. Ubiquitous comes from the Latin ubique, which means “everywhere.” Umbrage — This is probably the most entertaining and oft-told wordorigin story: Alexander the Great stands before Diogenes who is dressed in a barrel and carrying a lamp in the daylight as he looks for an honest man. Alexander tells Diogenes he may have anything


You Can Say That Again! he wants. Diogenes takes umbrage. He asks Alexander to step out of his light. Umbra means “shadow.” Venal — A venal person is one who can be bought. It comes from the Latin venum which means “goods for sale.” (French vendre; a vendu is a sellout.) Venial is not the same as venal. It comes from the Latin venialis, the adjectival form of venia, pardon. Veto — A Roman tribune was given the power in the name of the people to cancel certain bills of the Senate or edicts from magistrates. He did so by saying simply, “Veto” (I forbid). Vetare is the infinitive for the Latin verb meaning “to forbid.” Volcano — from Vulcan, the blacksmith of the Roman gods, husband of Venus. Ward comes from the Old English weard. The lord was the hlafweard (in charge of the bread). His wife was the hlaefdige: hlaf (loaf ) + dig (to knead). Hlaefdige became lady. Wart comes from Old English wearte (skin) to mean “a horny projection on the skin (caused by a virus).” Week — In Anglo-Saxon this was the word for service. Sunday is the day of the sun, Monday the day of the moon, Tuesday the day of Tiw, the Teutonic god of war. Mars is the Roman god of war. Thus the French mardi for “Tuesday.” Wednesday is Woden’s day (Norse). Thursday is Thor’s day. Friday is for Friya, the Norse goddess of love and wife of Woden. Saturday is the day of Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. Whiskey — from Scottish Gaelic usquebaugh, meaning “water of life.” Word — “In the beginning was the word.” The term comes from Sanskrit vratum which meant “command” or “law.” In Latin it is verbum which evolved through Teutonic (Germanic) forms to word. Wort — from Old English wyrt, meaning “root,” “herb,” or “plant.” The term turns up in plant names like St. John’s Wort. It is also used in brewing, where it signifies a diluted solution of sugars from malt. When fermented this solution becomes beer. See Zythepsary. Xanthippe (zan-THIP-ee), shrewish wife of Socrates. Thus, “She is a regular Xanthippe....” Xenogamy (zen-AWG-a-me) — the custom of a tribe to allow marriage only outside the tribe. From Greek xenos, “stranger.” Compare xenophobe and xenophile. Xmas — legitimate abbreviation for Christmas, X for Greek chi for Christos. Xylophone literally means “the voice of the wood,” from the Greek xylon (wood) + phone (voice). Now the bars may be made of metal.


Word Origins Yankee originates in a series of pamphlets by John Arbuthnot in 1712 in which the English were caricatured as John Bull, Jan, or Janke (YAWN-kee). The diminutive form was used by the Dutch colonists in North America to refer to the English. Janke became Yankee. Zionist — The term refers to the hill on which the city of David was built. Tslyon means “hill” in Hebrew. The Zionist movement aiming at the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine was founded by Theodor Herzl in 1896. Palestine is the land west of the Jordan, once home of the kingdoms of Israel and Judea. Zeitgeist is German zeit (time) + geist (spirit). It means the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an age. Zounds (zowndz) — a mild oath meaning “God’s wounds,” those of Christ on the Cross. Zucchini (zoo-KEE-nee) is the plural of the diminutive Italian for “gourd,” zucchino. Broccoli is another vegetable name we get from Italy. Zythepsary (ZITH-ep-SREE) is a brewery. It is not a word you hear every day. Neither is zymurgy (ZAIM-ur-jee) meaning “the art of brewing.” Zyme means “fermentation.” Is a brewer a zymotechnician? Do we imbibe zymurgeous beverages, cool and sparkling amber with a head of foam? If we do, we usually ask the publican (hotel keeper from publicanus, Latin for “tax collector”) for a beer (from the Old English beor), an alcoholic drink made from fermented malt and flavoured with hops. Cheers! Now let’s take a closer look at some topics that were introduced earlier on in this chapter. Bowdlerize With a hey nonny no ... To bowdlerize means to excise expressions felt to be indelicate. It’s a form of censorship. Doctor Thomas Bowdler quit medicine when he was sixty-four, in the early 1800s, to surgically alter the works of Shakespeare (The Family Shakespeare, 1818) and other writers. He cut whatever he deemed “unfit to be read by a gentleman in the company of ladies.” Before he died in 1825, Bowdler and his sister Harriet took a scalpel to a lot of material they thought unseemly. The practice continues. In his book Have A Word On Me, Willard Espy records the story of two barges colliding on a rainy day. In court the Scottish judge can’t understand a Cockney witness. When the Cockney is asked if he was surprised by the collision, the lawyer offers a translation, “I was completely taken aback.” But what the witness actually said was, “‘Cor, you could ‘ave buggered me through me oilskins!”


You Can Say That Again! Even without Bowdler’s work certain words have evolved into respectability, hiding their origins in the mists of time and imprecision. For instance, schism (SIZ-um), used to describe splits in religious bodies, is etymologically associated with shit. Other words originally from names for feces include poppycock, cockagee, cowslip, and oxlip. Poppycock is from the Dutch appekah, meaning “soft dung.” Cockagee is from the Irish for “dung of a goose.” Kak is an almost universal sound for “excrement.” To be hoisted with one’s own petar, or petard, is to run the risk of being blown up by an explosive charge used to breach a wall. But the word comes from the Latin pedare, “to fart.” And, while on the topic of flatulence, partridge comes from the Greek perdix which means “farter.” It is onomatopoeic for the whirring sound made by the partridge’s wings when it is flushed from cover. Fizzle, too, comes from breaking wind — from the obsolete verb fist. Etymological study can be “a gas”! To keep countenance is from the expression keep continent for “keeping bladder and bowels controlled.” Testimony is from Latin testis meaning both “testicle” and “witness.” Avocado comes from a Nahuacatl Indian word meaning “testicle.” Footling means “foolish” and comes from the French foutre (originally “to copulate with”). During the Vietnam war, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson visited Australia to make a speech. He was to say, “Our soldiers who have passed through wish to be remembered to you.” An aid caught the error in time. Australians often use to pass through to mean “to have sex with.” The only surprise is that Johnson cared enough to make the correction. He was often quite blunt, even crude, in his off-hand remarks. Political correctness is the term given to finding a way to say something without giving offence. It isn’t just a matter of recognizing that minorities (or women) may be offended. Different cultures have different taboos. Also, taboos change over time. Manhole covers are now utility covers. Chairmen are usually chairpersons or simply “chairs” these days. But perhaps we can draw the line at fishers for fishermen. Surely there are women on the boats as well as men, but perhaps the Broadcast News of Canadian Press was right during the salmon dispute between British Columbia and the United States from 1996 to 1998, when it called the people involved fishermen while the TV networks foolishly called them fishers! Returning to Dr. Bowdler’s efforts, we must point out that not all of his work to clean up the Bard’s act was successful. Bowdler missed something in Shakespeare’s As You Like It: It was a lover and his lass, With a hey, and a ho, And a hey nonny no ... What did Bowdler think “hey nonny no” meant, anyway?!


Word Origins Slang Slang: language that takes off its coat, spits on its hands and goes to work. — Carl Sandburg. As we’ve seen in the list of Word Origins, slang came to us from the Dutch. Slang is everyday language. We use it all the time. It is part of casual speech. It creeps into our more formal communications and sometimes acquires respectability. But the dictionary definition makes it clear that slang is coarse language below the level of written or colloquial speech. It is equated with jargon and cant. Sometimes it is “politically incorrect” by design, like the term wife-beater for the singlet or sleeveless undershirt worn by young people who know that the term is offensive, who are aware it is “blue collar” and that spouse assault is unacceptable. Sometimes the dividing line between jargon and slang is blurred, but usually jargon means the language particular to a group or profession. It is designed to promote togetherness and to leave the uninformed out of the social and professional “loop.” Take a look at the jargon entry elsewhere in this chapter. Slang is simply linguistic innovation in a defined cultural context. In other words, it is a new idea, an invention, a new way of saying something about a particular activity. Examples are all the special words that came into being in the jazz world, from gig to axe to chops to riff. It’s a huge, rich vocabulary which is meaningful to musicians but is almost impossible for outsiders to understand. Many jazz words and phrases, however, have found their way into other fields, such as rock and pop music, and even into non-musical activities. Slang is inventive and creative. Like jargon, it sets a group apart and loses potency when popularized. Semanticist S. I. Hayakawa has described slang as “the poetry of everyday language.” Slang is also anti-establishment. Hip and cool from the world of jazz are just two words from a black, creative milieu. The words were later pirated by other musicians, then by youth in general, and still later by novelists, and finally by the advertising industry. Advertisers try to use the language of their demographic and psychographic targets. Cat is another jazz term, meaning a “musician,” a “sideman.” (Cat’s ass, not a jazz term, means “good.”) Jazz isn’t the only source of slang. New terms and new usage are created in sports and other fields. Today, standard English is suspect. Abuse, bombast, and exaggerated rhetoric have devalued good English and good speech. These have also been abused by amateur grammarians who would object to the split infinitive. So a lot of people distrust the style and vocabulary of educated speech. Some even argue that good, educated speech is a snobbish affront


You Can Say That Again! to egalitarian democracy — a debate taken up elsewhere in this book. Even slang is vulnerable to abuse and devaluation. If it is around long enough and used widely enough, it runs the risk of becoming acceptable, even in “polite” circles. As new slang enters the language, old slang becomes almost respectable. If it doesn’t, it becomes obsolete, dated, and is discarded. No one wants to be out of step or so “unhip” as to use an outdated slang phrase or use it incorrectly. But sometimes old slang simply becomes part of everyday speech, a part of the always-growingand-changing English vocabulary. To recall some slang from the Roaring Twenties set in an entirely novel context, consider the following story. When Pope John XXIII died, so the story goes, an irreverent but witty Toronto Star headline writer offered: 23 SKIDOO! It didn’t actually top the obit of course. But it proved that some old slang doesn’t die or even fade from memory. The phrase dates from 1910. Swearing, Cussing, and Profanity Cheese and rice! Harmless swearing by a Mexican tour guide Mark Twain felt the social ban on profane language deprived literature of a major, imaginative gift. Twain prided himself on his wide range of expletives (usually pronounced EKS-pluh-tivz, sometimes ex-PLEE-tivz). While shaving one morning, Twain cut himself and immediately composed a veritable symphony of blasphemy and scatological invention. His wife deplored the vulgarisms so, to shame him, she repeated all his phrases. Twain reacted, “You have the words, my dear, but you don’t have the tune.” In some cultures swearing is profanity, sacred words are used in anger or contempt. In Napoleonic times French troops called the Iron Duke’s men the goddams. Blasphemy is just one way to swear; the shock can also be caused by the breaking of taboos about sexuality or other bodily functions. The stronger the taboo, the more satisfying is the swearing. “Darn” is really no substitute for “damn.”2 The scatological outburst offers a broad range for venting anger or disdain. In some situations crude language may reflect social distinctions or history. In England, simple Anglo-Saxon words for body parts or sexual and bodily functions came to be unacceptable in polite society. Merde was in. Shit was out. After William the Conqueror had crossed the Channel and made French the language of the wealthy and powerful, French words and even French pronunciations were in the ascendant. Saxon was out. With the


Word Origins French came a new infusion of Romance (descended from Latin) words into the evolving English language. Still, while it was “non-U” to use many short and snappy English words, some, like dog, cow, and pig managed to survive with some dignity. Terms relating to the social organization in the countryside also persist because William found the system useful. So we still have wardens and bailiffs, for instance. Often, the best way to say something for impact and understanding in English is to make it short, simple, and to the point. That usually means employing an essentially Anglo-Saxon vocabulary. Sometimes, even today, people will find that way of expressing oneself crude. But it was the style of Winston Churchill in his most powerful oratory. Puns A pun is a pistol let off at the ear; not a feather to tickle the intellect. — Charles Lamb The pun may be maligned as the lowest form of humour but it is a word game anyone can play with half an ear and a modicum of wit. Also known as a groaner, the pun — to be good — must actually be bad and prompt the listener to wince before trying to come up with an even more painful reply. The word pun comes from the Italian puntiglio meaning “a fine point” or “quibble.” It is the humorous use of a word to suggest different meanings or applications, or of words with the same or similar sounds but different meanings (homonyms). Dr. Samuel Johnson, the lexicographer, when rebuked for calling the pun the lowest form of humour, was told he held that view because he couldn’t make one. His response: If I were punished, For every pun I shed, ‘Twould be a pun i’ shed Above my puny head. It is even suggested there is some neurological fault in those who can’t resist making puns. Puns occur in all languages, but English, with so many sound-alike words, is ideal for the play on words: “A door is not a door when it’s ajar.” For an example in another language, consider one from Albert Curtis Clark, an Oxford classicist and translator of Cicero. While visiting a farm with a friend they saw a bull servicing a cow. Clark commented: “Omne animal post coitum triste....” He then recalled that there was a firm of


You Can Say That Again! solicitors in London called Mann, Rogers, and Greaves.3 Back to English:

• East Coast fishermen, after failure of the cod stocks: “There, but for the plaice of cod, go aye.”

• Hen to egg: “Better laid than never.” • Charles Dickens to Parisian bartender: “It is the worst of times. I •

am without an idea for a new work. Let me have a vodka martini straight up.” Bartender: “Olive or twist?” Then there was the writer who found an idea for his first novel in the Wild West. He called it A Tale Of Two Smitties. He had headed west for inspiration. At one point, at a campfire at dusk, he put a sausage on his fork, held it over the fire and muttered, “What the dickens! This is the best of times to roast a wurst on tines!” Once upon a time, Ali Baba and his forty thieves went into a bit of a slump. Then, in a single week, they looted a caravan and stole the crown jewels from the sultan’s palace. “The robber band had snapped back!” (Crown jewels, or often family jewels, is a euphemism for “male genitals.”) Four ghosts were playing poker when there was a knock at the door: “Whoooo is it?” one asked. Answer: “Rigor mortis. May I set in?”

Farm puns:

• “Sometimes it is a harrowing experience.” • Or: “Dairy farmers are my kine of people.” Lost it at the movies:

• “A drive-in theatre in August is the lust rows of summer.” It must be something I ate (ET):

• “Eating fungus is a morel issue.” • “The hot dog is frankly vulgar.” • Münster cheese, Scots version: “Loch Ness Münster.” • In a good restaurant the chef is the master. The sous chef (SOO SHEF) is only “parsley responsible.” • Caviar from Ireland would be the “Roes of Tralee.” • Rabbit is a favourite dish in Paris. They raise them in the “hutch back of Notre Dame” (Hunchback of Notre Dame).


Word Origins

• A new Formosan beer for the North American market: “Taiwan On.”

Song titles lend themselves to puns:

• “Poutine on the ritz.” • “Fry me a liver.” • “Veal meat again.” • “Some day my blintz will come.” Dorothy Parker had a curt way with words. Reporting on all the beauty at a Yale prom she declared, “If all those sweet young things were laid end to end I wouldn’t be at all surprised.” On another occasion, asked to use the word horticulture in a sentence, she said: “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” In Hollywood, Bette Davis once described a starlet as “the original good time that was had by all.” Before putting the pun to rest for the time being, let’s give James Boswell the last, tolerant word: “I think no innocent species of wit or pleasantry should be suppressed; and that a good pun may be admitted among the smaller excellencies of lively conversation.” Jargon The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words where one will do. — Jefferson Jonathan Swift observed about lawyers and lawmakers that a fog can descend when they start to speak. Lawyers are always being told — sometimes even by other lawyers, like the Law Society of Upper Canada — that they should speak and write in plain English. The idea is that the law should be readily understood by the people it is written to serve. But, all too often, the idea seems to be obfuscation so that a lawyer’s interpretive services will be required. Swift put the problem this way: It is likewise to be observed that this society of lawyers hath a peculiar cant and jargon of their own, that no other mortal can understand, and wherein all their laws are written which they take special care to multiply; whereby they have wholly confounded the very essence of truth and falsehood. Thus, jargon is language peculiar to a group or profession. But it can also be defined as confused or meaningless talk. Here is an example:


You Can Say That Again! Oh Parent, at present deemed to be domiciled in the stratosphere, May Your name be established and maintained on the highest level of sacrosanctity, May You be allotted and obtain an area of control with appropriate powers of administration. May Your policy be fully executed on a geo-political basis as well as in the normal stratospherical sphere of influence. Translation: Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Nearly every group builds up a special vocabulary and manner of speaking and writing. The example above is just a form of obtuse bureaucratic jargon contrasted with the simple poetic English of the King James Bible. As shown earlier, legalese is probably the most reviled jargon. In most fields practitioners argue their innocence, saying they use a special vocabulary to be precise, to avoid misunderstanding or ambiguity. That’s the case put by lawyers. Medicine and pharmacology use Greek and Latin terms in their jargons. In the United States, the Pentagon has taken military obfuscation to new lows, but it is just an extension of age-old military circumlocution (studied indirection of speech). Social workers and psychiatrists, bankers and brokers — even broadcasters and journalists — have jargon. There is a special language in sports. It’s used by small groups of cognoscenti (knowledgeable fans) in individual sports — the languages of professional hockey, or baseball, or thoroughbred horse racing. Jargon that starts as an insider’s fashionable bureaucratic vocabulary can soon sneak into other applications and into the popular vocabulary. For just a few that corrupted our discourse in the nineties, consider: dimensionalization, holistic profit, ideation, Millennial Generation, paradigm shift, scenario-based planning, think out of the box, and push the envelope. It isn’t enough to condemn jargon as grandiloquent bureaucratese. Admittedly, there is an element of that in most jargons, as in the Lord’s Prayer above. But lawyers use a combination of “whereas’s” and “wherefores” and “parties of the first and second part” along with their own peculiar syntax which grows like mould on old velum. Their jargon is a combination of specialized terminology and wilful affectation designed to keep the uninitiated in the dark.


Word Origins We find jargon baffling in tax returns and insurance contracts. And the jargon barrier can prevent professional groups from achieving their public-relations goals. Too often members of such special groups forget how to communicate with anyone outside their group. Sometimes the problem for those receiving their message is not lack of understanding but boredom. Rawson’s Dictionary of Euphemisms and Other Doubletalk (1993) introduced the idea of a “fog or pomposity index.” The FOP compares the length of the euphemism to the word or phrase replaced, with an extra point given for each extra letter, syllable, or word in the jargon. For example, medicine is eight letters, three syllables, but medication has ten letters and an extra syllable, thus earning eleven points for the comparison (8 into 11 for a FOP index of 1.4). Intestinal fortitude rather than guts gets a FOP index of 6.5. At the beginning of the twentieth century, newspapers aimed to simplify the language so immigrants learning English would be able to read them and benefit. The Flesch test offered a way to measure the readability of the prose, rating it by age levels. A twelve-year-old’s reading ability was the target. (How much has changed?) Examples of jargon expressing business hypocrisy are: dehire, deselect, dislocate, excessed, surplused, transitional, and downsizing, all of which deal with expedient firing and ignore the personal trauma of job loss. The emotive reality is taken out of the situation; a euphemism pretends to take a technical or clinical approach to a necessary evil. The human consequences of the acts are made secondary to “the bottom line.” Of course, this means someone can escape from a social responsibility. If you don’t mind being misled by fuzzy language, grab your curriculum vitae (resumé) for a holiday career open house for seasonal positions. These will be Christmas-holiday, part-time, short-term jobs at minimum wage — nothing to do with careers. Look out for the ads for business development assistants. These advertisers are really looking for low-cost receptionists. The same goes for the term sales associate when Walmart and other employers look for low-wage sales clerks. And, in real-estate ads, be sure to translate handyman’s special into “This place will need a lot of timeconsuming and costly restoration work.” Governments always try to put a positive spin on their acts, such as the Canadian government changing Unemployment Insurance to Employment Insurance. And when the Chrétien government changed the Canada and Quebec Pension system and Old Age Security, they invented the term Senior’s Benefit (higher contributions for lower payouts and a lower threshold-tax clawback)! Sometimes a euphemism is simply an insult. We are in a war of words, or, more precisely, a war about a fog of words designed to soften or hide reality — in short, to lie. Convoluted claptrap turns up in car-rental agreements, politics, insurance policies,


You Can Say That Again! legal contracts, mortgages, banking documents, consumer-product warrantees, government advertising, and so on. It is the obfuscators versus the proponents of plain English. Once again, caveat emptor! The Plain English Campaign in the United States, with headquarters in Miami, preaches the advantages of simplicity over pomposity. Founder Chrissie Maher used to send cow entrails to obfuscators in Britain. “Tripe for tripe,” she said. Micki Oster, CEO of the U. S. campaign, provides the following examples of obnoxious jargon: Involuntary conversion of a 747 — a plane crash Negative patient-care outcome — death Vertically deployed anti-personnel device — a bomb Customer conveyance mobile lounge — a bus Chrissie Maher came to public attention when she shredded hard-tounderstand British government forms in front of Parliament. When a Bobbie arrived at Westminster and read her a two-hundred-word sentence from an 1834 police act, Chrissie made her point by asking, “Does that mean we have to stop?” The media loved it. Maher was a plain-English legend. She even got to the Iron Lady, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. It took time to start the change, but the U.K. government reviewed more than 170,000 forms, abolished 36,000 of them, and revised 56,000. Brevity is not just the soul of wit. It’s the hallmark of strong, clear writing. It makes sense to say it with economy and simplicity. If the goal is to be readily understood, there is no point in adding words, using multisyllabic words or words that only specialists can comprehend. The best guide to effective editing is The Elements of Style, the little paperback style guide by Strunk and White which has been reprinted many times. It argues against jargon, against unnecessary words, against affectation and for simplicity. It makes a powerful argument for short, strong words. It echoes Julius Caesar’s statement that “an unusual word should be shunned as a ship should shun a reef.” A String of Euphemisms “What the Sam Hill!” instead of “What the Hell!” Patrick “Paddy” James Nolan departed Ireland in 1889. He practiced law in Calgary, Alberta, until his death in 1913. At one point in his career he had to inform a father that his son had been executed. The deceased was a remittance man. His father was an English baronet. Nolan remembered an obituary story written by his friend Bob Edwards of the Calgary Eye-opener about the hanging of a man named Clancy at Fort Saskatchewan. So Nolan wrote his letter as follows:


Word Origins “My Lord, I regret that I have to inform you that your son met his death last Friday morning whilst taking part as a principal in an important public ceremony. Unhappily, the platform on which he was standing gave way. I have the honour to remain, Sir, Your Most Obedient Servant, Patrick James Nolan, Barrister-at-Law.” When there was still a Fleet Street of newspapers in London, their journalists would describe a member of Parliament as a “swordsman” or a “fighter pilot.” These terms were widely understood to mean that the individual was, to use another euphemism, a “ladies’ man.” In other words, the M.P. was known to be “a man of affairs.” These days the tabloids in the United Kingdom and in North America are less likely to use euphemisms. They might use the term family jewels to mean “genitals.” And they are more likely to headline their stories of indiscretions with clarion banners like: SEX-DRIVEN SENATOR RESIGNS or SEXAGENARIAN SEXPOT QUITS LORDS U.S. President Bill Clinton faced direct accusations of indiscretions while he was governor of Arkansas and while in the White House, and the newspapers, including the Washington Post as well as other reputable journals, spelled out the charges in minute detail. The suggestion of peculiar private parts made it into news columns everywhere and headlined supermarket tabloids. So things have changed from the days when this headline hid a message: MINISTER APPEARS FATIGUED If an indiscretion doesn’t compromise the office and if the disclosure of the act will only hurt an individual and his or her family, why bother disclosing it? Is the story just amusing gossip or does the character flaw jeopardize the public interest? Some circumlocutions are clearly deceitful, designed to hide something or to misinform. Watch for them in advertising promises to protect the environment or public health — or in military prose. Defence departments were once war departments. A Canadian politician in the House, provincial legislature, or municipal council might be described as “tired when he rose to speak in the house today.” It is generally understood that in this context tired


You Can Say That Again! meant the politician was “in his cups,” “merry,” or “somewhat the worse for drink.” Perhaps the M.P. spent too much time over cognac in the parliamentary dining room. In ancient Greece, anyone who overindulged (drank too much of the usually watered wine) at a symposium was said to be wet, or dipped, or chest protected. Other substitutes for snackered or drunk are: mellow, happy, merry, pixilated, tipsy, in a fog, inebriated, intoxicated, fuddled, feeling no pain, under the influence, ripped, waxed, blotto, legless, embalmed, paralytic, pissed, pie-eyed, high as a kite, and pickled. Add to the list: fried, boiled, and falling down drunk. In the 1960s, a member of the Canadian House of Commons who was sometimes described as “tired” would occasionally hold impromptu news conferences in his office while clearly in his cups. Once, he stood with his back to the door talking over his shoulder as he relieved himself into an office sink while reporters gathered at the door to hear his heavily accented and slurred words of wisdom on national affairs. He’d had a snootful. He was ivre mort, as the French say. Unwell is another euphemism for inebriation, as in the play Jeffrey Barnard Is Unwell, a piece about a London Spectator writer whose column was sometimes missing because the author was “indisposed.” Now, if you ever read the following kind of newspaper story about a cabinet minister, you will know what it means: CABINET MINISTER STOPPED BY POLICE ... when stopped by police, the minister appeared tired and emotional. Charges are pending according to police sources. The minister ... Horsin’ Around Sometimes the vocabulary of a vocation or a technological sphere becomes jargon or slang; at other times it is stretched for more popular application. Think of computer terms. Or, for instance, the term horse’s ass which refers to somebody making a fool of himself. Also from the horsey set come terms like horse power, applied to engines: “How many horses have you got under the hood?” “Never look a gift horse in the mouth,” meaning one shouldn’t question a gift by checking the nag’s teeth to determine age or health. Someone has the bit in his teeth or is in the saddle when acting with determination and enthusiasm on a project or having taken the reins of leadership. When people act without consideration for others, we accuse them of running roughshod. And


Word Origins there’s the saying, once applied to someone about to lose control, “Hold ’er Newt! She’s headed for the barn!” We say the coach has a tight rein on his players. We say a person excited or agitated about something is lathered. Which is akin to what we say when someone has worked to exhaustion and been ridden hard and put away wet. If you are annoyed you have a burr under your saddle. Someone is cavalier when haughty, but the term once meant a “gallant or fashionable man escorting a woman.” The word comes from Italian cavallo derived from the Latin caballus. Cavalry comes from the same source. A gay caballero (KAB-alYER-o) is not a homosexual cowboy but a Spanish gentleman. A cavalier (a horseman) was a supporter of Charles I in England’s Civil War. Limericks Some samples of limericks were promised. A limerick is a humorous fiveline verse. The first and second lines rhyme with the fifth. The third and fourth lines also rhyme. “Will you come up to Limerick?” is an invitation to offer another limerick, more ribald (RIB-uld) than the first. Limerick is a county in North Munster in the Southwest of Ireland. There was an old man of Cape Horn, Who wished he had never been born, So he sat on a chair, Till he died of despair, That dolorous old man of Cape Horn. (DAWL-ir-us) — Edward Lear There was a young lady of Madras, Who played croquet on the grass; She swung with great might, To her lover’s delight, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Puzzle George Bernard Shaw was once asked by the military theorist and historian B. H. Liddell-Hart, “Do you know that sumac and sugar are the only two words in the English language that begin with su and are pronounced “shu”? Shaw replied, “Sure.” A Riddle? A riddle goes, “Angry and hungry are two words ending in -gry. There are three words in the English language ending that way. What is the third


You Can Say That Again! word? Everyone knows what it means and uses it every day. Look closely, for you have already been given the third word. What is it?” An incorrect reading of the riddle or a misunderstanding of it can lead to a list of words: aggry — glass bead found buried in the earth in Ghana and England anhungry — hungry puggry — scarf worn around a hat (Hindi?) begry — obsolete form of beggary conyngry — rabbit warren (obsolete) higrypigry — medicine used up to the 1700s to induce vomiting kingry — child’s ball game in which the winner is declared king meagry — having a meagre appearance (obsolete) nangry — poetic form of angry podagry — gout (foot + ...) skugry — scuggery, meaning concealment (obsolete) The Answer is “language,” because the first sentence is a ruse to mislead you. The key sentences are the second and third. “There are three words in ‘the English language.’” What is the third word in the phrase “the English language”? Let’s hope Internet bores and pedantic word worriers will let this pointless question rest. It isn’t even an entertaining riddle, but it’s included here because it has had a new lease on life on the Internet. There is nothing instructive about it. Vowels Missing There are some words without vowels but they aren’t very useful. A crwth is an ancient stringed instrument. A cwm is a step-walled mountain basin shaped like half a bowl. A brwk is a brook, while a bwrch is a burgh or town. A hws is a house of course and a pwl is a pool. Swrd, you guessed it, is a sword. And trsw once spelled true, while wp spelled up. If you wss (use) any of these words in a written sentence you may send your reader to the library with a headache. We may have problems with English spellings today, but for the most part they make more sense now than when words that consisted of consonants were current. Thanks to the Greeks for adding vowels to the Phoenician alphabet. James Thurber is credited with asking the muse, “What seven-letter word has three u’s in it?” The muse is said to have thought and then said, “I don’t know, but it must be unusual.” – 30 – The – 30 – found at the bottom of a page now simply means “The


Word Origins End,” but at the end of news copy it also means there will be no adds or folos on the story. What you have in hand is the final edit. There will be no rewrites. Apocryphal or not, it is said that a surly editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer used a heavy lead pencil to scrawl: – 30 – across any copy submitted. His intention, so the story goes, was to let reporters and editors know their copy could benefit by cutting thirty words. The editor insisted on tight copy. Writers and reporters soon caught on. They started typing – 30 – at the bottom of their copy to indicate the cut had already been made. Another tale about – 30 – at the end of a story relates that it began as a telegrapher’s slang expression with 30 meaning “GN” or “Goodnight, we are closing up and going home.” In Morse code, numbers stood for words and sentences. The number 73 meant “kind regards.” The number 88 signified “love and kisses.” Railway telegraphers used a number code as well: 1 2 3 4 77

Wait a minute. Very important. What is the time? From which point shall I repeat? I have a message for you.

Yet another story is told about the origin of – 30 – ; it suggests that the symbol comes from typesetting. The maximum line or length of slug on Linotype hot-lead casting machines was thirty picas, or five inches. When an operator reached thirty picas, the limit had been reached. End of story. – 30 – Notes 1. Cannabis, pot, marijuana, Mary Jane. 2. Hollywood’s Hays office made Clark Gable in Gone With The Wind change the emphasis in the sentence: “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t GIVE a damn!” They said, if he was to say the word damn, he’d have to put the emphasis elsewhere in the sentence — on give! 3. “All animals are sad after intercourse,” is the translation. The lawyers’ names mean, “Mankind fornicates and grieves.”


You Can Say That Again! Quiz 4 ? 1)

The Spanish word cojones refers to Write cojones phonetically.


Define spoonerism and give an example.


The word algebra comes from which language?


Bible, the word, comes from which ancient Phoenician city?


Fan comes from which Latin word for an overwrought religious person?


Give an example of an eponym.


Riding, for an electoral district, comes from an old English word, an arithmetic term. What was the word?


Umbra means


In a word, what is negative patient care outcome?

10) The FOP Index deals with what problem in writing and speech? 11) In a telegrapher’s number code, what did 30 mean? 12) Thug originated in which language? 13) Which language gave us Yankee? 14) Petard, which means in English “a small bomb” or “a firework,” comes to us from Latin pedere via French pétard. The original meaning referred to what embarrassing problem? For answers, see Appendix A.


Chapter Four English: from Sanskrit to Chaucer

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Chapter Four English: from Sanskrit to Chaucer The day the gates go up, that day it begins to die. — H. L. Mencken (commenting on the living language) Change is inevitable in language. Usage changes over time, as do spelling and pronunciation. In the fourteenth century, when English was in a turmoil of diverse influences including French and Latin, Chaucer wrote of the “gret diversite in English and in writyng of oure tonge.” William Caxton, England’s first printer, offered an example of this lack of uniformity in 1490. He wrote about some merchants headed for Holland but becalmed in the Thames. They needed food and drink, so they went ashore. One of them “cam in-to an hows and axed for mete; and specyally he axed after eggys. And the good wyf answerde that she coude not speke no Frenshe.” The merchant was annoyed because he thought he had been speaking good English. But a friend with a wider vocabulary helped out by telling the woman they were looking for “eyren.” We presume they got their eggs. Caxton asked, “Loo, what sholde a man in thyse dayes wryte, egges or eyren. Certaynly it is harde to playse eueryman by cause of dyuersite and chaunge of langage.” Eventually we settled on the Scandinavian word egg. But in Caxton’s language you can certainly see the variety of spelling. You wonder about the various pronunciations. And you can see the French influence in the word-ending e and in words like langage, pronounced in French lawnGAHZH. This chapter traces the history of the English language and takes a look at the many English words that come from other languages. One source of frustration for people trying to learn English is its inconsistency. Its spelling doesn’t necessarily point you to the correct pronunciation. While phonics help children learn to read, English can be misleading. Often is AWF-’n, vegetable is said VEJ-tuh-bul and slough is SLOO. Slow sounds like flow, blow sounds like no, but now sounds like cow. Our brief history of English ends with some samples of the tricks the language can play on us just when we think we understand it.

You Can Say That Again! Back in the Neolithic age, about 3000 B.C., the Indo-Europeans were living in either eastern or north-central Europe. Some of the language differentiation began with migrations into India, Greece, and western Europe. The earliest documents in Sanskrit and Greek date from between 3000 and 500 B.C. From 500 B.C. to 300 A.D., the Germanic tribes and the Celts had contact with the Romans. The Gothic Bible was created around 350 A.D. Patterns set by the Greeks and Romans permeate our civilization. Half our vocabulary comes from the so-called dead languages — words and concepts like politics, science, art, music, religion, athletics, and philosophy. Barbaros is what Greeks called anyone who didn’t speak Greek in the Hellenic world of the ninth century B.C. (see barbarous, Chapter 3). The Greek culture had a broad reach over time and geography. For example, they named Naples (Neapolis), meaning “new city.” By 500 A.D., Anglo-Saxon invasions led to the emergence of Old English. The English names for almost all domestic animals come from that time: cat, dog, horse, hound, sow, pig, sheep, cow, ox, duck, hen, and chick. The first appearance of dog turned up in a translation of the Latin canis in 1050 as docgena. About two hundred years later it turned up again as dogge. Hound was the common word for the animal until the sixteenth century. Between 700 and 1000 A.D., there were Danish and Norse raids. The Viking raids left their marks but the West Saxon dialect was the main language in England. Old French and other Romance languages were developing. The Norman Conquest (1066) led to the replacement of the ruling class in England by French speakers.1 At this time nearly all the names of wild animals entered the language: lion, tiger, elephant, bear, and wolf. Before this period there had been much borrowing from Norse. Between 1300 and 1475 the emergence of English (the East Midland dialect as it was spoken in London) coincided with the literary production of Chaucer, Wyclif, and the mystery and morality plays. “Be there proclamacioin, that sure they be, that willen toward our liege lord the kyng, beying atte harfleure, in the costes of Normandye, that god him spede with corne, brede, mele, or flour, wynde....” That’s part of a proclamation issued to assemble supplies for King Henry V who was invading France in 1415. The complete proclamation illustrates just how much the language has changed. At that time there was no standardized spelling. As mentioned above, there were lots of e’s on the ends of words and many influences from French. A hundred years


English earlier French had been even more dominant. The English of that time is almost totally unfamiliar and indecipherable for most of us today. Of course, with the Norman invasion, French had become the official language of Britain. It is appropriate to point out that class and social distinctions influence our views, even our value systems, let alone our language. Anglo-Saxon words were considered lower class by the Normans who took over England. The prejudice continued for generations. It is with us today in the view that certain short Anglo-Saxon words are unacceptable in polite company. Certainly we can say “cow,” “pig,” and “dog,” but when it comes to defecation we had better say “merde.” In summary, here are some of the important events and developments in the history of English: 3000 to 500 B.C. — Indo-European languages including Germanic. Early documents written in Greek and Sanskrit. 500 to I B.C. — Celts in Britain. The Roman Empire’s first contacts with German tribes. Latin’s influence starts to spread. 1 to 300 A.D. — The Romanization of Britain. The migrations of German tribes. 300 to 500 —Anglo-Saxon invasions. Beginning of Old English. The Gothic Bible. 500 to 700 — Adoption of the alphabet. 700 to 1000 — Norse raids. West Saxon dialect. More Latin borrowings. 1000 to 1150 — Viking raids. Norman Conquest. Borrowings from Norse. French becomes the official tongue. 1300 to 1475 — Chaucer, Wyclif. Emergence of English, a London dialect. The Middle English period. 1475 to 1650 — Caxton and printing. Revival of the study of Latin and Greek. Shakespeare and Milton. Loss of the final e. Beginning of the standardization of spelling. 1650 to 1800 — Attempts at conformity of English usage, pronunciation, and spelling. English spreads around the world and borrows widely.


You Can Say That Again! 1800 — Rapid change under the influence of science, technology, education, literacy, dictionaries, radio, television, and the computer.2 The Language of Shakespeare The printer Caxton (1422-1491) had a problem Shakespeare didn’t have. Caxton had to choose from various dialects. He chose the ones most commonly heard in London. He printed his first English text in 1474 and produced, among other works, editions of Le Morte d’Arthur and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Caxton himself was advised at one point that his polished and ornate diction “could not be understande of comyn people.” The pamphleteer Thomas Nash wrote words full of praise in 1592 about the poets of the time of Good Queen Bess who had, “made the vulgar sort here in London ... to aspire to a richer puritie of speach, than is communicated with the Cominalitie of any nation under heaven.” As Ben Jonson (1572–1637), Christopher Marlowe (1564–93), and William Shakespeare (1564–1616) created their works of genius in the new language, a major infusion of Latin continued. Less than fifty years before the Bard was born Sir Thomas More wrote his Utopia in Latin. Latin was the Esperanto of More’s time. Bacon’s Novum Organum was also written in Latin (1620). As the language of London was developing and becoming the standard for English, foreigners regarded the tongue as “the scum of many languages.” It was a time of invention of words, of alteration and adaptation. In Elizabethan grammar almost any part of speech could be used as another. Shakespeare’s English was one of great vitality. Poetry and flights of rhetoric were part of its charm. The prime quality of Elizabethan English was its passion for free experiment, its willingness to use every form of verbal wealth, to try anything. The dramatists and poets brought to it not just the language understood by Londoners, but a lot of foreign input as well. Among other works, Marlowe wrote Doctor Faustus, while Jonson created Volpone and Bartholomew Fair. By Shakespeare’s time the English of London was considered the best spoken form and was established as the language of literature. It was, “the usual speach of the Court and that of London and the shires lying about.” Phonologists are unable to completely capture the true sounds of Elizabethan English. Often what was a good rhyme then no longer works for us. Falstaff pronounced reasons as raisins. So there was fun in “If reasons were as plentie as Black-berries...” English is still changing of course. It changes in pronunciation, spelling and punctuation, accidence


English and syntax; words fall into disuse or change their meanings. Accidence, by the way, is the part of grammar that deals with the variable parts or inflections of words. In Shakespeare’s time words were given different meanings as it suited. Context determined their sense. Bombast originally meant “cotton wool” or “stuffing.” Baste came to apply to both sewing and cooking. For another example, confederate was a common verb in Tudor times. Shakespeare loved puns, but as vocabulary has changed over the years our understanding of his wit has withered. Now footnotes are necessary to explain Shakespeare’s puns, and a pun looses its point if it has to be explained. Malvolio would baffle Sir Toby but has to bear Olivia’s pity: “Alas poore Foole, how have they baffl’d thee....” Change and adaptability are characteristic of English. Certain words used just a few decades ago are now obsolete. Words that meant one thing a decade ago mean something very different today. Consider the word gay. Consider the word bop. Grammar and pronunciation change too, sometimes so slowly we don’t even notice. Schedule is pronounced SKEDjul in the United States. It’s SHED-jul in Britain. It can be either way in Canada. The SHED-jul pronunciation came from French influence. The word ending -our is still common in Canada, but the American -or spreads and the debate goes on. English continues to evolve. It is alive and adaptable, always in flux. That is one of its greatest strengths. While it adopts words from many cultures, English has invaded numerous other languages. The French had to decide if microchip was masculine or feminine, le or la, un or une. The Russians have adopted komputers and miksers and tosters for use in their homes and in their conversation. In Japan a gin and tonic is a jintonikku and ice cream is aisukierimu. Among the flavours of yoguraeto are chokoreto, banira, and sutoroberi. Aardvark to Zebra — Afrikaans to Bantu Language is an inventory of human experience. — L. W. Lockhart English is a voracious language. It devours words as it needs them. If a word in another language conveys a unique meaning, then English makes it its own. Aardvark, bazaar, ukelele, teepee, and zebra are words that make that point. Can you link them with their languages of origin? aardvark moose alcohol

Afrikaans Algonkian Arabic


You Can Say That Again! poncho boomerang zebra anchovy bungalow typhoon hurricane Eskimo polka teepee skill boss oasis sauna kindergarten jaguar jukebox canoe ukelele camel saber whisk banshi opera orenda tycoon, tapioca batik tundra bantam ketchup (catsup) kiwi coyote shingle wigwam bazaar mazurka molasses pal vodka sugar rodeo smorgasbord boondocks tattoo

Araucanian Australian Bantu Basque Bengali Cantonese Carib Cree Czech Dakota Danish Dutch Egyptian Finnish German Guarani Gullah Haitian Creole Hawaiian Hebrew Hungarian Icelandic Irish Italian Iroquoian Japanese Javanese Lapp Malagasy Malay Maori Mexican Indian Norwegian Ojibwa (Chippewa) Persian Polish Portuguese Romany Russian Sanskrit Spanish Swedish Tagalog Tahitian


English polo jackal flannel kibbitzer

Tibetan Turkish Welsh Yiddish

So, while Anglo-Saxon may be the foundation of English, 70 percent of its vocabulary comes from other sources. English is eclectic. As Richard Lederer states in his book The Miracle of Language (1991), prime sources are Latin (circus), Greek (drama), and French (garage,) but English is truly cosmopolitan.3 Because English picks up words wherever it finds them, and because spelling and pronunciation are in flux, there are some inconsistencies in the language. For instance, we say worm, but storm. We say chaos with a k sound but we also say chair. Viscous is pronounced VIS-kus while viscount is VY-count. And usage changes over time. We may not find it tasteful when a waiter asks, “What would youse (YOOZ) like?” But youse was once acceptable as a plural form of you. English Is Not Phonetic English breaks its own rules — a lot. It may be a lingua franca but it is a difficult language to learn to speak flawlessly. Phonics may be a useful tool for teaching children how to read. But the phonics method fell out of favour with some people for a time because of the traps English lays for the newcomer. Its inconsistencies are demonstrated by Dr. Nolst Trinité, a Dutch linguist and jurist. His poem appeared in the January 1969 edition of De Nederlandse Post: Dearest creature in creation, Studying English pronunciation, I will teach you in my verse, Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse, It will keep you, Suzy, busy, Make your head with heat grow dizzy, Tear in eye your dress you’ll tear, So shall I. Oh, hear my prayer, Pray console your loving poet, Make my coat look new, dear, sew it! 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!). Made has not the sound of bade, Say – said, pay – paid, laid but plaid.


You Can Say That Again! Now I surely will not plague you With such words as vague and ague, But be careful how you speak, Say – break, steak, but bleak and streak, Previous, precious, fuchsia, via, Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir, Cloven, oven, how and low, Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe, Hear me say devoid of trickery Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore, Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles, Exiles, similes, reviles, Wholly, holly, signal, signing, Thames, examining, combining; Scholar, vicar and cigar, Solar, mica, war and far, From desire: desirable — admirable from admire, Clatham, brougham, renown but known, Knowledge, done but gone and tone, one, Anemone, Balmoral, Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel, Gertrude, German, wind and mind, Scene, Melpomene, mankind, Tortoise, turquoise, chamois, leather, Reading, Reading, heathen, heather, This phonetic labyrinth, Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth, Billet does not end like ballet, Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet, Blood and flood are not like food, Nor is mould like should and would. Banquet is not nearly parquet, Which is said to rhyme with “darky.” Viscous, viscount, load and broad, Toward, to forward, to reward. And your pronunciation is o.k. When you say correctly croquet, Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve, Friend and fiend, alive and live, Liberty, library, heave and heaven, Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven, We say hallowed, but allowed, People, leopard, towed but vowed, Make the difference, moreover,


English Between mover, plover, Dover, Leeches, breeches, wise, precise, Chalice, but dice and lice, Camel, constable, unstable, Principle, disciple, label, Petal, penal and canal, Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal. Suite, suit, ruin, circuit, conduit, Rhyme with “Shirk it” and “beyond it.” But it is not hard to tell, Why it’s pall, but Pall Mall, Muscle, muscular, goal, iron, Timber, blimber, bullion, lion. Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair, Senator, spectator, mayor. Ivy, privy, famous, clamour, And enamour rhymes with “hammer.” Pussy, hussy and possess, Desert, but desert, address, Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants, Hoist in lieu of flags, left pennants. River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb, Doll and roll and some and home. Stranger does not rhyme with anger, Neither does devour with clangour, Soul, but foul and gaunt, but aunt, Font, front, wont, won’t, grand and grunt, Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger, And then singer, ginger, linger, Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge, Marriage, foliage, mirage, age. Query does not rhyme with “very,” Nor does fury sound like bury. Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth, Job, job, blossom, bosom, oath. Though the difference seems little, We say actual but victual. Seat, sweat, chaste, Leigh, eight, height, Put, nut, granite, but unite, Reefer does not rhyme with “deafer,” Feoffer does, and Zephyr, heifer. Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late, Kink, pint, senate but sedate. Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,


You Can Say That Again! Sentence, conscience, scientific, Tour but our, and succour, four, Gas, alas and Arkansas! Sea, idea, guinea, area, Psalm, Maria but malaria. Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean, Doctrine, turpentine, marine. Compare alien with Italian, Dandelion with battalion. Sally with ally, year, ye, Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay! Say aver, but ever, fever, Neither, leisure, skein, receiver. Never guess — it is not safe, We say calves, valves, half but Ralf! Heron, granary, canary, Crevice, and device, and eyrie, Face, but preface, and efface, Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass. Large, but target, gin, give, verging, Ought, out, joust and scour, but scourging. Do not rhyme with “hear” and “ere.” Seven is right, but so is even, Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen, Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk, Asp, grasp, wasp, and cord and work. Pronunciation — think of Psyche! Some English Phonetic Values Just to offer some guidelines for English pronunciation in spite of the language’s notorious inconsistencies, a list of phonetic values follows. But keep in mind that English is not dependably phonetic. Nor do some common combinations of letters inevitably get the same sound, as the doggerel above illustrates abundantly. There are a few things, however, you can usually count on (letters in bold represent sounds): ae ai air au ay ea, ee ear, eer

e as in aegis as in pain ar as in fair aw as in maul a as in say e as in beet er as in beer


English ei eu, ew ie ier oa ou oy c cc dg g n ph qu tch

i, y as in fife, fire, or by yu as in few e as in thief er as in pier o as in boat ow as in bound oi as in coy hard k as in cob, cry, talc, but soft s before i, y, e (ice) k-s (access, succinct, flaccid) j as in judgement soft j before e, i, y, as in age, gin, orgy (OR-jee) ng before a hard consonant such as c, q, x, as in zinc, uncle, banquet, tank, minx f as in photo kw as in quit ch as in batch

Values of Terminations: -age -ate -ey -ous -sm -tion -ture

ij as in garbage it as in incarnate or ate as in mandate i as in donkey (DONG-i) us as in furious (FYOOR-ee-us) zm as in atheism (AY-thee-izm) shun as in salvation cher as well as tur, especially in some common words

Again, it is important to remember that these values are useful as a guide but English is not as faithfully phonetic as French or Italian. And full phonetic value is not always given to each syllable. Vegetable is correctly said VEJ-tuh-bul and insatiable is in-SAY-shuh-bul. As the Farmer’s Almanac points out, “The English language has more lives than a cat. People have been murdering it for years!” Black English “We doin’ this.” “He be at the store.” These are two examples of so-called Black English. It may seem paradoxical that some black people in the United States argue that acceptance of it will be harmful to black children.


You Can Say That Again! They argue that children will be stereotyped and denied opportunity. On the other hand, the Oakland, California, school board was the first to vote for Black English, or Ebonics. In 1996 they created a program to train teachers to understand Black English. They argue that it is a reality and has cultural validity. The jury is still out. How different is Black English as it is spoken in California from that of Jamaica? Very different it seems. California has its own blackcommunity vernacular, as in Watts, in Los Angeles. Even sound values differ. But a more important point may be that many varieties of English are heard not just in North America but around the world. The next issue is whether it is possible to accommodate these derivative, local, and culturally narrow languages and still maintain the universal usefulness of the English language. The question is, as always: how flexible can we be? When are we pedantic? When are we so democratic that anything goes and communication suffers? Do we “dumb down” the language and speech so nobody feels left out? Or do we draw the line at some point in order to preserve the poetic subtleties and descriptive precision of English? In California, teachers are not to teach the special vocabulary, spelling, and syntax. The goal is simply to have teachers understand what their students are saying. Students will be expected to learn to use standard English, “but not in a way that puts them down.” One view has it that the origins of the street tongue are African. Proving this will take a lot more research and persuasive argument than has been undertaken so far. Some critics argue that the acceptance of Black English is racist. They say it creates a lower standard for black students. Others are of the opinion that demanding standard English usage is discriminatory because this usage is not the everyday speech of many black people in America. But the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association classifies Black English as a social dialect with its own lexicon and syntax. Some examples: Consonants are dropped to simplify word endings. Hand becomes han. The final ng sound drops the g, so walking becomes walkin. The final d is dropped after vowels, so good becomes goo. The final th is sometimes replaced with f, so with becomes wif. Done is used to emphasize a completed action as in “He done did it.” Another characteristic of Black English is the lack of conjugation of the verb to be as in “She be here.” And you hear the use of double or triple negatives as in “He ain’t got no money.” To diss someone is “to show disrespect.” Bad means “good.” Another characteristic is built-in expletives for punctuation and emphasis: mxxxxx-fxxxin’, ... &c. Black English also has its own vocabulary such as bootsie meaning “bad” or “awful,” sup? for “what’s up?” and gunna meaning “going to.”


English Around the world there are many types of English. But the language that is spoken in the streets is not universally understood. It is unlikely that local patois, whatever its origins, will have significant influence. The street language may add some vocabulary to standard English and occasionally change a pronunciation, but the standard for the broader society and for global communication is language largely free of local peculiarities. As for Black English, it may offer some fun syntax alternatives, but it is unlikely to become dominant even in all-black American communities. The need to communicate beyond the community will force conformity even on those who learn Ebonics first.4 There have been slang attacks in English for years. As we mentioned earlier, jazz is a case in point. A southern U.S. term perhaps meaning “to copulate,” it was used by musicians entertaining in the brothels of New Orleans to describe their improvisations. Considered a taboo verb by white southerners, it gained acceptance eventually as a description of a certain kind of music.5 But much of the speech, grammar, and vocabulary of the early days of jazz disappeared and did not make it into the mainstream, not even with altered meanings. And, while there have always been regional and social language distinctions and vocabulary as well as pronunciation may differ widely, the grammar of educated people is almost universal. Cockney Cockney is the dialect or accent of Londoners born within the sound of the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow Church (Bow Bells). An ancient church in the heart of the old city, it was among the London landmarks hit by Luftwaffe bombs during the Blitz of World War II. In medieval times a “cokeney” was a “cock’s egg,” a small, imperfect egg which, according to folklore, had been laid by a rooster. In Chaucer’s time, in the late 1300s, the term Cockney was applied to a mama’s boy or a sissy. By the sixteenth century it had become a derisive name for a townsman. Later its meaning narrowed to apply to a native of the East End of London. One story about the use of the term Cockney, which we are not obliged to take seriously, is attributed to John Minsheu, who wrote his Guide to Tongues in 1617. He told the tale of a city boy and his father riding in the country. When a horse whinnied the boy asked what the sound was. His da’ said, “The horse doth neigh.” Soon a cock crowed and the boy asked, “Doth the cock neigh toom?” According to Minsheu, that’s how the word Cockney was born, meaning “raw or unripe in countrymen’s affairs.” And, if you believe that, there’s a Cockney waiting to sell you a river-front lot on the Thames at Westminster.6


You Can Say That Again! The author’s paternal grandfather, son of a publican on the Islington Road, affected a Bow Bells accent. He would salute one and all with, “’Allo ol’ cock, ’n’ ’ow are ye?” In George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, Eliza Doolittle and her dustman father speak Cockney to the chagrin of Professor Higgins. Of course they call him ’iggins. A common Cockney habit is to drop the “aiches” (AY-chiz). In the Broadway musical and in the film version of My Fair Lady, music and lyrics help both Eliza and the professor make the point about poor English speech largely by having fun with Cockney sounds and pronunciation habits. Another characteristic Cockney habit is rhyming slang along with the substitution of similar-sounding words. Eventually single words substitute for whole phrases, so it’s hard for outsiders to know what is being said. ’Ows your strife? (owz-yer-strife) is short for “How is your trouble and strife?” which means “How is your wife?” If someone says he is headed up the apples and pears to see a china plate to get the brass tacks, what he really means is that he’s going upstairs to see a mate who will give him the facts. Now if he’s just got his Gregory Peck and is headed to the rub-a-dub for a pig’s ear, he’s got his pay cheque and is on his way to the pub for a beer or some other tumble down the sink (drink). Vera Lynn is gin, gold watch is Scots whiskey, Lord Gort is port wine, make-you-merry is sherry and ginger beer means queer. To find a true Londoner while in the great city you are advised to ask passersby for directions. You will be answered in many accents but eventually somebody will ask, “Lorst mate?” This is a Londoner. Correct response is “Yus cock.” If in a London pub (rub-a-dub) and you say in a loud Hobson’s (voice, from Hobson’s choice to rhyme with voice), “You can stick this city up your Khyber,” all the people hitting you over the loaf with chairs and Aristotles (bottles) will be Londoners. Differences of Accent, Vocabulary, Slang, and Inflection In today’s world it is foolish to strive for uniformity and universality of English speech. There are many variants and the language is still evolving in various corners of the world. We talk about a Scottish burr or an Irish brogue. Often we are talking about inflection as much as pronunciation — the “lilt” perhaps. Of course there is a difference between the speech of a person who teaches at the University in Edinburgh (ED-in-BUR-ah) and someone from the Gorbals district of Glasgow (GLAZ-go) who may not have had the opportunity of getting a university education. Sometimes it’s a matter of different vocabulary. Jamaican English has its own “lilt” and pronunciations but it also has a vocabulary all its own. In


English England there are terms in use which baffle Americans and Canadians. Brits say nappy for diaper, cue for a line-up, bonnet for a car’s engine hood, boot for trunk, petrol for gas, trousers for pants, and jumper for sweater. And, as the Canadian Oxford Dictionary shows, there are lots of words peculiar to Canada in spite of the heavy influence of American popular culture. In Canada we talk of regional accents in the Atlantic provinces and especially in Newfoundland. We recognize the Irish influence in Newfoundland, but French has also had an impact on the special sound heard, especially in communities outside St. John’s. A Newfoundlander once gave the author what he called a “Newfie speech lesson.” He presented what appeared to be a coded message and asked that it be read aloud: M R FISH. M R NOT FISH. S M R C D B D I’S! WHALE OIL BEEF HOOKED! M R FISH! Wacky Ways with Words Even without the introduction of regional, ethnic, or social strata distinctions, English is difficult to master for those of other mother tongues who make the valiant effort to learn it and use it. The results are often amusing. But even those who learn the language at their mother’s knee frequently twist the tongue into meaningless jabber or palaver. We don’t make it easy. We have traffic that slows to a crawl in rush hour. We know olive oil comes from olive trees but we don’t reveal where baby oil comes from. The following examples are culled from insurance reports containing statements by policy holders who are seeking reimbursement after accidents: Circumstantial Evidence “A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.” “The guy was all over the place, I had to swerve several times before I hit him.” “I was on my way to the doctor’s with rear-end trouble when my universal joint gave way causing me to have an accident.” “The telephone pole was approaching fast. I was attempting to swerve out of its path when it struck my front end.”


You Can Say That Again! Mysterious Accident “An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my vehicle and vanished.” I Went Out of My Way to Avoid an Accident, Officer “The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran him over.” “The indirect cause of this accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth.” Around the World in Fractured English For examples of baffling pronouncements served up overseas, the International Educator is our source. In a Paris elevator, “Please leave your values at the front desk. If you lose them in your room, we are not responsible.” In a hotel in the Balkans, “The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.” Off to Hong Kong for a visit to a tailor’s shop where the sign reads: “Ladies may have a fit upstairs.” In Bangkok we take our new suit to a dry cleaner: “Drop your trousers here for the best results.” Back to Europe where a Paris dress shop advertises: “Elegant dresses designed for street walking.” In Rome, evidence of an even more liberated attitude at a laundry: “Ladies please leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.” A car rental company in Tokyo offers this advice: “When a passenger with heavy foot is in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage, then tootle him with vigour.” Don’t Drink the Water We end our amusing, if confusing, trip around the world at a hotel in


English Acapulco, Mexico, where Montezuma’s Revenge is alive and dangerous to gringos: “We are pleased to announce that the manager has personally passed all the water served here.” As we’ve seen, English is widely travelled. It is eclectic in its borrowings. It has invaded nearly all of the world’s languages. It has come a long way from its Indo-European origins in either eastern or northcentral Europe in the Neolithic Age (about 3000 B.C.). We’ve seen how the roots of English reach back to early documents written in Sanskrit and Greek between 3000 and 500 B.C. The Gothic Bible was created about 350 A.D. And by 500 A.D., Anglo Saxon invasions meant the emergence of Old English in Britain. Between 700 and 1000 AD, when there were Danish and Norse raids on Britain, West Saxon was the main dialect on the island. There was much borrowing from Norse. The Norman conquest led to a major language infusion from the continent. The Saxon monosyllables persist in the words for domestic animals, like cat and pig, while the names for nearly all the wild animals, such as tiger and elephant, were introduced by the Normans.7 Between 1300 and 1475 a London dialect called English coincided with the literary flowering of Chaucer, Wyclif, and the mystery and morality plays. When Chaucer wrote his poetry in English he took a chance. In an important sense, the language didn’t really exist. The heavy burden of Norse and Anglo-Saxon still echoed in the countryside of England. Chaucer wrote in a language that was a mix of Anglo-Saxon, French, and Latin. It was the idiom of the court and the “well-to-do” of London. Aristrocrats were likely to switch to French, or even Latin, when they spoke to one another. But, even as the language continued to change, use of English spread and it eventually became the dominant language of all of England. Later, Caxton, who brought his first printing presses to England from Flanders, set up shop at Westminster. Soon a flood of printed books influenced a wider society. The books were cheaper than manuscripts. They began to create a useful conformity in the language. And they helped people communicate across the counties and across generations. The study of English became respectable. Eventually this conformity made possible the literary bloom of Elizabethan England: Jonson, Shakespeare, and Marlowe. English started its journey around the world and began to puzzle students of language who wondered about -nyms, -phobes, collectives, and the inconsistency and unpredictability of the language. Time and geography change language. Consider the letter z. It began


You Can Say That Again! as the Greek zeta. The French called it zède. Due to the French influence after 1066, zed was adopted in England. Except in Norfolk, Suffolk, and other areas where it was called zee. Early colonists to America from these areas called it zee and set the pattern. But most early settlers in Canada came from zed areas of England, Scotland, and Ireland. In 1828, when Noah Webster produced his American Dictionary, he adopted zee, partly to distinguish American English from British English.8 He also changed tyre to tire and dropped the u from ou words such as colour. There are many examples of the difference between Canadian and American spelling, some of them created by Webster’s desire to make American English distinct from British. Honour is Canadian. Honor is American. In Canada, which is metric, it’s a litre while Americans spell it liter. Also theatre (THEE-a-tir) versus theater (thee-AY-tir). In Canada it’s amoeba. In the U. S. it’s ameba. Canadians say lef-TEN-unt. Americans say loo-TEN-ant (see Chapter 5). Americans usually say RE-zors-ez (resources) while Canadians, except for some radio and TV performers of late, say ruh-ZOR-sez. As George Bernard Shaw put it, “England and America are divided by a common language.” Ditto Canada vis-à-vis the United States. Notes 1. A struggling student had the events of 1066 wrong on his exam paper: “At the Battle of Hastings the Angels and the Saxons were defeated by the Mormons.” 2. Icelanders speak the same words as ancient, ninth-century Vikings but, in spite of history and admirable persistence, all Icelanders are also proficient in English as their second language. And software giant Microsoft takes advantage of that fact. It won’t translate Windows into Icelandic. The company translates the program into at least thirty languages, including Slovenian and Catalan. But Microsoft says the Icelandic market is too small. In Iceland a video monitor is a skjar, the Icelandic for “amniotic sac of a calf,” which was used as a window in sod huts of old. 3. For more fun with English, check out Lederer’s More Anguished English (1993). 4. The Ebonics question isn’t the only controversial language issue in California, where the clumsy tool of the referendum decided the Latino quarter of the population in the south of the state would no longer get bilingual education. For some the issue is whether a minority should get something not available to everyone. But certain teachers argue that the Spanish-English approach puts Mexican immigrant children at a


English disadvantage. Some statistics appear to support that view but Canadian experience does not. 5. See Jazz, Word Origins, Chapter 3. 6. See the Introduction for a more likely story. 7. Eventually even Norman French nobles — or their children — learned the Saxon tongue. Many were bilingual. In France the battle to keep English vocabulary out of French continues. But it isn’t the only place where the fight goes on to preserve a language. Icelanders struggle to preserve their Viking tongue. In Quebec, language police control signage and use of English and other languages. And in Algeria, Berbers have taken to the streets to demand official recognition of their language while authorities enforce a law making Arabic compulsory for all official businesses. The Arabization came on the thirty-sixth anniversary of Algerian independence from France in 1998. 8. The sound of the letter in a word is the same in both the United States and Canada: tip of tongue at the back of the lower incisors, lips slightly parted, and the breath forced along the top of the tongue: zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Quiz 5 ? 1) In the sixteenth century, the common word for dog was 2) Aardvark is from which language? 3) Rodeo is from which language? 4) Boondocks is from which language? 5) If you ordered a Vera Lynn in a pub within sound of Bow Bells, what would the publican pour for you? 6) “The day the gates go up [what] begins to die?” 7) What were the English merchants looking for when they asked for eyren? 8) What does Gregory Peck mean in Cockney rhyming slang? 9) The word flannel comes to us from which language? For answers, see Appendix A.


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Chapter Five Words: Say What You Mean!

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Chapter Five Words: Say What You Mean! The ill and unfitting choice of words wonderfully abstracts the understanding. — Sir Francis Bacon If someone asks for an AH-va-ka-DOO (a mispronunciation of avocado once heard on CBC radio), you may be puzzled but there’s no harm done. When we hear such an innocent mispronunciation we smile. But sometimes an incorrect way of saying a word hampers understanding.1 It’s easy to slip and use the wrong word or use a word incorrectly. A story about Noah Webster, the U.S. lexicographer2 (1758-1843) illustrates the point. Mrs. Webster entered the parlour one day to discover her husband embracing their maid. “Noah, I am surprised!” she exclaimed. Webster released the maid and corrected, “No, my dear, it is I who am surprised, you are merely astonished.” Many of the words listed in this chapter look straightforward enough, but some of them trip us up repeatedly. We are sure we have heard them said a certain way or used in a certain context. They look as though they can be pronounced phonetically. Or we have never asked ourselves how to say them or use them, until, one day, we are suddenly saying a word we have only written, or read silently, until that moment. We ignore that nano-second of doubt and blurt out the word. All too often, we say it or use it incorrectly. Just a momentary embarrassment, we think. But we may have done some harm to our credibility. Unlike Humpty Dumpty in Through The Looking Glass, we can’t afford to be arrogantly ignorant. “When I use a word,” Humpty said, “it just means what I choose it to mean — nothing more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, ignoring the view that without some standard for correct usage we wouldn’t be able to communicate at all, “which is to be master — that’s all.” To get it right, look it up. Check the dictionary. Ask an expert. If you assume you can handle it correctly because it’s not unfamiliar, or if you simply don’t have the time to check, you take a flying leap of faith. In this section of the book we list some common “trouble” words. The

You Can Say That Again! idea is to provide some word fun along with guidance. Say the words aloud and make them yours. This list of oft-misused or mispronounced words is extensive but not comprehensive. Most of them make the list because they have been heard on radio and television, both commercial and public. Private broadcasters may offer the excuse that incorrect pronunciations tend to be in popular use. That alibi can’t be tolerated in the case of the CBC which has a higher standard to uphold. This is not to say that none of the guidance offered here is contentious. These are simply recommendations. Some are in dispute. We acknowledge that the language is in flux and traditional educated usage may change through popular practice. A dictionary is always a friendly companion. The reader may be shocked at some of the mispronunciations recorded here or may wonder why certain words are included. One might be tempted to consider a certain mispronunciation ludicrous. But few will read through this list without finding an amusing surprise or two. When reading the list aloud, do use the phonetic guide when provided. Even those who have always enjoyed words and language, occasionally stumble over a pronunciation. If you don’t hit a couple that surprise you, go to the head of the class. At the very least you will find yourself checking another authority or arguing a preference for one pronunciation over another. The logophile will most likely enjoy this quick trip and pick up some entertaining trivia along the way. An — the choice between a and an is made on the basis of sound. The decision to use an rather than a, which is the other form of the indefinite article, is a good illustration of how the sound of language influences the way we write it. A precedes words that begin with consonants. An is used before words starting with a vowel. But it is the sound that matters. If the following word begins with a w or a y sound, the article used is a, as in one or unified. And a is also used before words starting with h, as in house. But if the h is silent as in honour or hour, we use the article an. When in doubt, sound it out. accede (ak-SEED) — assent to. For more acc-words, see C-sounds below. accessory (AK-ses-ur-ee, NOT ass-SES-o-ree) — an additional thing. accompanist (a-KUM-pan-ist, NOT a-KUM-pan-ee-ist). acetylsalicylate (ah-SEET-il-sul-ISS-il-ate) — a salt or ester of acetylsalicylic acid. acetylsalicylic acid (ah-SEET-il-SAL-is-IL-ic) — aspirin. adapt (a-DAPT) — to make fit or modify. It does not mean “to adopt.” adopt (a-DOPT) — take on, appropriate, accept, or choose. adjective — a word modifying a noun, either subject or object. adverb — a word modifying a verb. Examples: quickly, speedily, erroneously. Illustration: “The fourth runner raced speedily to take the


Words baton.” There is a growing tendency to ignore adjective/adverb distinction. We hear “Drive safe!” and “See you real soon!” We also hear “Good,” in reply to the question, “How are you?” The reply to that question and to “How’s it going?” should be, “Well, thanks.” We may have simply lost this fight to preserve a useful distinction — another example of our ever-changing language. advertisement (ad-VER-tiz-m’nt). adverse (ad-VIRS) — contrary, hostile (see averse). affect vs. effect (uh-FEKT) — to assume, pretend, or attack (as in disease), to move, touch, produce, or have an effect on. As a noun an affect (A-fekt) is a feeling or emotion. Effect is a noun meaning “result” or “consequence.” It can also mean “property” as in personal effects. As a transitive verb, effect (e-FEKT) can mean “to bring about” or “accomplish.” again (uh-GEN, to rhyme with amen. Seldom: ah-GAYN, to rhyme with rain). a.k.a. — also known as. Abbreviation synonymous with alias, but appropriate only in informal situations. alga, algae (AL-ga, AL-jee) — seaweed. From Latin. alimentary (AL-i-MEN-tree) — related to digestive system (see elementary). Sherlock might say to Dr. Watson, “Alimentary, my dear Watson.” Truth is, Holmes never even said, “Elementary, my dear Watson,” except perhaps in old Basil Rathbone films. alumna, alumnus, alumnae, alumni (ah-LUM-na, ah-LUM-nus, ahLUM-ny) — graduate of a particular college or university (female, male, female and male plural respectively). amity vs. enmity ( AM-it-ee) — friendly relations. See enmity. among — see divide. an — see a. and — a conjunction usually pronounced “n” or “nd,” unless “AND” for special emphasis. (Usually “This ’n’ that.”) anecdote (AN-ik-dote) — short interesting or amusing story. antidote (AN-ti-dote) — remedy to counteract, relieve, prevent. anxious — concerned, full of anxiety. aphorism (AF-or-izm) — concise, pithy statement of a principle. apocrypha (a-PAWK-rif-ah) — writings of dubious authenticity. apotheosis (a-paw-thee-O-sis) — deification; glorification of a thing. applicable (AP-lik-a-bul). archetype (ARK-uh-tipe). archipelago (ARK-uh-PEL-uh-go) — group of islands. archivist (ar-KY-vist, or ARK-iv-ist) person in charge of archives. argot — the jargon of a group or class, formerly especially of criminals. Ar-GOT is an acceptable English pronunciation (ar-GO in French; either way in Canada).


You Can Say That Again! ascetic (a-SET-ik) — someone who practises extreme self denial, see esthetic. asphalt (ASS-fahlt, NOT ASH-fahlt). aspirant (ASS-pir-ant). athlete (ATH-leet, NOT ATH-uh-leet). averse to and from — opposed, disinclined. Both prepositions are acceptable. Bacteria, plural of bacterium (bak-TEER-ee-ah, singular: bak-TEER-eeum) — unicellular micro-organism. A bacterial infection is different from a viral infection, a virus being a non-cellular organism. banal (buh-NAL; BAN-ul in The Concise Oxford Dictionary) — commonplace, dull, trite. From French, meaning originally “obligated to use the lord’s mill.” It is seldom pronounced BAY-nul, probably because that rhymes with anal. bastard canoe — nine-meter-long fur trader’s birchbark canoe. From Canadian French canot bâtard. Compare with the canot du maître (kan-O duh MET’ruh), which was the largest birchbark canoe of the fur trade, measuring up to twelve metres. beam (BEEM) — as in high beams (car lights), not high beans as actually heard on radio. been — This is pronounced BIN, as in has been (HAZ BIN), seldom BEEN. behalf of, on — for, in aid of, in the interests of. It doesn’t mean “by.” between — see divide. The correct expression is “between you and me,” not “between you and I.” bilingual (by-LING-wul, NOT by-LING-yoo-awl). boatswain (BOS’n) — a ship’s officer in charge of equipment and the duties of the crew. Check other nautical terms such as gunwale, buoy, forecastle (FOK-s’l) in the dictionary, in this list, or with a sailor. bobby — police constable. The term originated with Sir Robert “Bobby” Peel, London chief of police. Synonyms: peeler, fuzz, heat, cops, and so on. boutique (boo-TEEK, NOT bo-TIK). bromide (BRO-mide, rhyming with hide) — a trite, boring, common remark. buoy (BOY) — floating marker. Pronounced BOO-ee in the United States. C-sounds One of the minor sources of confusion in the English language is the letter c. How come we don’t spell Canada with a k? How come it isn’t kar and karousel? It appears that when the Roman alphabet was


Words introduced in Britain, c had only the k sound. It is still this way in the Celtic languages. But in the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, the Old English and Middle English periods, other sounds were added. C became the k sound before a, o, and u and before a consonant, except h, and when final. The letter c had the soft s sound before e, i, and y. To make things more complicated, ci before another vowel often has the sh sound as in the endings: -cious, -cial, -cion. Two c’s (cc) give us a KISS (k/s that is), as in succinct, accent, and flaccid (sukSINKT, AK-sent, FLAK-sid). Also consider the common double-cc words: accede, succeed, and access. In Italian names other rules apply. Check Appendix B. Sometimes c is a ch sound. Sometimes it’s k. And there are rules for double c and for ch as well. In English there are lots of exceptions to the k/s rule, of course: Accadian (a-KAYD-ee-an) — Sumerian. acciaccatura (A-cha-ku-TOOR-ah) — short grace note (musical term, Italian). acclamation (ak-la- MAY-shun) — loud shout; unanimous vote. acclimate (AK-li-mate) — to accustom to something. acclivity (a-KLIV-i-tee) — upward slope. accolade (AK-uh-lade) — awarding of praise. accolated (AK-i-LATE-id) — overlapping portrait profiles on a coin. accommodate (a-KAWM-i-date) — to oblige, do a kindness. accompanist (a-KOM-pa-nist) — one who plays accompaniment. accomplish (a-KAWM-plish) — carry out, perform. accord (a-KORD) — agreement. accost (a-KAWST) — approach. accouchement (a-KOOSH-m’nt) — childbirth. account (a-KOWNT) — description. accoutre (a-KOO-tir) — equip, outfit, and accoutrements (equipment). accra (AK-ra)— wood from Accra (a-KRAW), capital of Ghana. accretion (a-KREE-shun) — growth by organic enlargement. accumulate (a-KYOOM-yoo-late) — gather. accurate (AK-yoor-it) — conforming to truth, precise. accuse (a-KYOOZ) — charge with a fault.


You Can Say That Again! Calliope (kal-LA-yuh-pee) — steam organ, after the Greek Muse of epic poetry. Canadien (m.), Canadienne (f.), pronounced kan-a-DYEN, but say “Montreal Canadians.” careen — turn on side. From Latin carina (keel). career — vocation. Or: to run or move at high speed. From Latin carrus (car). celebrate (SEL-uh-brate, NOT SAL-u-brate). chamois (SHAM-ee) — pliant skin of European antelope. Chanukah (HAHN-i-kuh) — eight-day Jewish festival of lights. chargé d’affaires (shar-ZHAY-da-FAIR) — deputy ambassador. Charybdis (kar-IB-dis) — dangerous whirlpool; daughter of Poseidon. cheap — poor quality. To avoid ambiguity, use inexpensive for “not costly.” chimera (kai-MEER-a) — fire-breathing monster, in Greek mythology, with a lion’s head, goat’s body, and serpent’s tail; mythical beast, fantastic creature of the imagination; mutation. From Greek khimaira (she goat). chinook (shin-UHK) — warm wind (like the Santa Ana) in southern Alberta. Also a language (with capital C) and name of a salmon. cirrus, cirrocumulus, cirrostratus, cumulus, cumulonimbus (SEER-us, SEER-o-KYOOM-yoo-lus, SEER-o-STRA-tus, KYOOM-yoo-loNIM-bus.) — various types of clouds. See also weather. coccyx (KAWK-siks) — bottom end of the vertebral column. cognoscente (KAW-nyuh-SEN-tee) — the wise ones, connoisseurs. cogito, ergo sum (KAW-ji-toe AIR-go SOOM) — “I think, therefore I am.” René Descartes (run-AY day-KART) coined this formula. cohort — a group; a military unit in Ancient Rome. It doesn’t mean a “friend” or an “associate.” Use confrere, colleague, or associate instead. collage (kuh-LAHZH) — static art of various items glued on a surface. Sometimes used to mean montage, q.v. collocate (KAWL-uh-kate) — arrange; place together side by side. It also means “to habitually associate certain words,” as in winning team or hot coffee. commiserate (kuh-MIZ-er-ate) — to sympathize. comparable (KAWM-pra-bul) — can be compared. compensatory (kawm-PENS-a-TOR-ee) — compensating. comprise (kum-PRIZE) — should not be used in the passive. Do not say something is “comprised of various parts.” Say, “The band comprises brass, reed, and percussion sections.” confute (kon-FYOOT) — to refute (ruh-FYOOT) conclusively. consist — (a) to be composed of: “The mixture consists of lime and sand,”(b) to lie, reside: “Virtue consists in being good.”


Words construct — Build is a better word in most situations. So, rather than constructed, say built. Simpler is better. contemplate (KAWN-tem-playt, but kun-TEM-pluh-tiv). content (kun-TENT) — as in content to say, or contented himself with, but pronounced KAWN-tent it means “what is in a book, box, jar, or on radio or television.” contumely (KAWN-tyoom-lee) — insulting language or treatment; disgrace. cordial (KOR-de-ul) — medicine, food or drink. Or: hearty, friendly, sincere. Corp., short for Corporation — This is pronounced “KOR-por-AYshun,” not “KORP.” consortium (kon-SOR-te-um, or kon-SOR-shum). consummate (KON-sum-it, or kon-SUM-it) — complete, perfect (adjective). Used as a verb, however, to consummate (KAWN-sumate) means “to complete,” “to confirm,” as in “to consummate a marriage by having intercourse.” crises (KRY-seez) — plural of crisis (KRY-sis). criteria — set of standards (plural). “By which of the criteria do you judge?” criterion — a standard (singular). “By which criterion ...” culinary (KEW-lin-ary). cupidity — greed for possessions. Derived from Cupido (Cupid), Roman god of love. Dais (DAY-is) — a raised platform (not a lectern but it may be a podium, q.v.). decimate (DES-im-ate) — to kill or remove one in ten; to destroy a large proportion of. decorous (DEK-er-us) — dignified. demagogue, demagogic (DEM-a-gawg, DEM-a-GAWJ-ik) — a leader who makes false claims and promises. desultory (DES-ul-TOR-ee) — disconnected; unmethodical. detritus (de-TRY-tus) — loose fragments; result of disintegration. different — used with prepositions from and, sometimes, to. Than is not recommended. diocesan (dy-AWS-es-an) — of a bishop’s district. diphthong (DIF-thong) — sound, in one syllable, starting as one vowel then turning into another. dirigible (DIR-ij-ib’l) — airship. dis — prefix for forming nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Dis- reverses the meaning of the root (disengage, disable, displace, dissociate, q.v.). Dis- seldom gets prime stress but there is an unfortunate and inexplicable tendency in the media to emphasize this and


You Can Say That Again! other prefixes such as re-, pre-, in-, and so on. disinterested — unbiased; unselfish. It doesn’t mean “not interested.” dispatch (dis-PATCH) — to send, execute, or kill (verb). Or: a message such as a news report (noun). dissident (DIS-id-unt) — someone who disagrees. dissociate — The preferred pronunciation is “dis-SO-she-ate.” Also accepted is “dis-SO-se-ate.” Meaning: “to sever a connection.” divisive (di-VY-siv, or di-VIZ-iv) — creating dissension. divide — usually between two, or among more than two. DNA (de-OKS-ee-RIB-a-noo-KLAY-ik) — deoxyribonucleic acid, the molecular basis of heredity. doctrinal (DOK-tri-nal, sometimes dok-TRY-nal.). duodenum (doo-AWD-en-um, or doo-aw-DEE-num) — upper part of the small intestine. Ecdysiast (ek-DEEZ-ee-ast) — stripper. From the Greek ecdusis (to shed). echinacea (EK-in-AY-shuh) — purple corn flower, herbal remedy. ecstatic (ek-STAT-ik). educate (EJ-uh-kate). efficacy (EF-ik-ah-see) — power to produce an effect. elevator (EL-i-VAY-tur, NOT AL-i-VAY-tur). Emmenthal (EM-en-THAWL). enclave (EN-klayv, NOT AWN-klayv) — portion of territory, group of people. enclitic (en-KLIT-ik) — word or part of word voiced as part of preceding word (prithee, cannot). engine (EN-jin, NOT IN-jun). enigmatic (en-ig-MAT-ik) — puzzling. enmity (EN-mit-ee) — mutual dislike. entomology — the study of insects. See etymology. entrepreneur (ON-truh-pren-UR, NOT ON-truh-pren-OOR) — someone who starts a commercial enterprise. envelope (EN-vel-ope). environs (en-VY-runz) — neighbourhood. envoy (EN-voy). epicurean — An epicure is a person with refined tastes, especially in food and drink. From Epicurus, Greek philosopher, who taught that pleasure from the practice of virtue was the highest good. epistrophe (uh-PIS-tra-fee) — repetition of a word at the end of successive sentences or phrases: “for the people, by the people....” err (pronounced IR), to rhyme with fur, not air — to make a mistake. esoteric (ESS-o-TER-ik) — intended only for the initiated. esthetic, also aesthetic (es-THET-ik) — concerned with beauty. See ascetic.


Words etc. (et-SET-er-a, NOT ek-SET-ra). etymology — the study of the sources of words ( history, derivation). ewe (YO or YOO) — female sheep. execrable (EKS-eh-kra-bul, eks-EK-ra-bul) — very bad. exigency (ek-SIJ-en-see) — an urgent need or demand. expertise (eks-per-TEEZ, NOT -TEES) — expert skill. exquisite(ly) (EKS-kwiz-it [lee] ) — extremely beautiful; acute. extraordinary (eks-TROR-di-nary). February (FEB-roo-er-ee). ferkin (FUR-kin) — not a euphemism for the F-word (see below), but a container for beer. fiefdom (FEEF-dum) — a territory under control, feudal estate. film (FILM, NOT FIL-um). flaccid (FLAK-sid) — limp or flabby. NOT pronounced FLAS-id, as in the United States. flaunt (FLAWNT) — boastful display, ostentatious flourish. fleur-de-lys or fleur-de-lis (flir-duh-LEE or -LISS) — three-petal lily symbol of Quebec and in the former royal arms of France. flout (FLOWT) — defy, disobey a law or custom. f.o.b. — free on board. formidable (FORM-id-ab-ul). fort (FORT) — Fortified place. From Latin fortis (strong) via French or Italian. forte (FOR-tay or FOR-tee) — (a) performed loudly (in music): f, ff, fff, (b) a person’s strong point. fortuitous (for-TYOO-it-us) — due to chance. fortunate —favourable, auspicious. foyer (FO-yay, sometimes FOY-ir, especially in the United States) — entrance hall. fricative (FRIK-a-tiv) — consonant sound produced by frictional passage of breath: t, k, d, etc. fuchsine (fyook-SEEN) — blue-red dye. f *** — If the F-word you are looking for isn’t here, try Chapter 3. fucoid (FYOOK-oyd) — resembling rock weeds, seaweed. fucose (FYOO-kose) — a sugar. fugacious (fyoo-GAY-shus) — evanescent, quickly disappearing. fungi, plural of fungus (FUN-gy) — mushrooms and other sporeproducing organisms. Fungicide is pronounced FUN-gi-side or FUN-ji-side. fungible (FUN-ji-bul) — can serve for, can be replaced by. (Legal term.) furcula (FUR-kyoo-luh) — a forked organ or structure, especially the wishbone of a bird. Hence furculated. futz — to waste time, perhaps from Yiddish arumfartzen (to fart around).


You Can Say That Again! Ganef (GAN-ef) — scoundrel, thief. From Yiddish. gaol, gaoler — jail, jailer. Especially British, but also archaic Canadian. garage (Canadian gar-AWZH; British GAR-ij). Gargantuan — gigantic. From the book Gargantua by François Rabelais (fran-swaw RAB-uh-LAY). genome (juh-NOAM) — the genetic material of an organism. gibbet (JIB-it) — gallows. gibbous (GIB-us) — said of the moon when smaller than a circle but larger than a semicircle. Gila Monster (HEE-la -) — large venomous lizard of the southwestern United States and Mexico. gleek —to joke, jest, scoff, trick, or sneer; seventeenth-century English card game. gleet — thin morbid discharge from a wound; slime. gnomon (NO-min) — pin or rod on a sundial. gondola (GAWN-duh-la) — long flat-bottomed boat with high prow. Gordion knot — intricate knot; difficult problem. Gordius, a Phrygian workman, became king by being the first to enter the temple of Jupiter at Gordium after an oracle had said that whoever got in first would be king. His son, Midas, gave the temple Gordius’s chariot which contained a knot impossible to undo. Another oracle said that whoever untied this knot would conquer Asia. Alexander cut it with his sword. grandeur — pronounced GRAN-dyer. Grawn-DUR is the French pronunciation. grievous (GREE-vus, NOT GREE-vee-us). gunwale (GUN’l). gustatory (GUS-ta-TOR-ee) — concerned with tasting or the sense of taste. See Chapter 8. Harass — pronounced HAR-as, rhyming with embarrass. haute couture (OAT KOO-TOOR) — high fashion. haut monde (O MAWND) — high society. The t is not followed by an e, so it is not sounded. haute cuisine (Oat kwiz-EEN) — cooking of a high standard. he — See she (subject/object distinction: when to use I, me, we, us, they, them, he, him, she, her, etc.). hegemony (heh-JEM-o-nee) — dominance of one over a group. heinous — pronounced HAY-nus, rhyming with anus, NOT Hee - or HY-nee-us. her — see she (subject/object distinction). herb (URB or HURB) — a plant for medicinal or flavouring purposes. homage — pronounced HAWM-ij or AWM-ij, NOT ho-MAHZH or o-MAHZH. It is an English word when in an English context, in spite of current Hollywood fashion and affectation.


Words hopefully — as controversial as the who/whom issue, hopefully is both a normal adverb (“He prayed hopefully ...”) and a sentence adverb, which may modify an entire sentence or clause (“Hopefully, they will get there in time.”) There is no problem with hopefully, thankfully, and so forth, as long as the meaning isn’t ambiguous. There are lots of sentence adverbs: frankly, honestly, briefly, seriously, interestingly, and so on. how — a greeting in Sioux and Omaha tongues. hundred — pronounced HUN-dred, NOT HUN-urt. See ninety. hyperbole (hy-PUR-buh-lee) — extravagant exaggeration. hypercritical (HYP-ur-KRIT-ik-al) — excessively fault-finding. hypocritical (HIP-o-KRIT-ik-al) — professing, pretending to be what one is not. Identical — The correct preposition is with, not to. imply — to strongly suggest the truth of something. It doesn’t mean to infer, q.v. impotent — pronounced IM-puh-t’nt, NOT im-PO-t’nt. impugn (im-PYOON) — to assail as false or lacking integrity. impute — to attribute or ascribe. Inc. — abbreviation for Incorporated. It is NOT pronounced INK, any more than Corp. (Corporation) should be pronounced KORP, except in very informal situations. inchoate (in-KO-et) — imperfectly formed, just begun. incomparable (in-KAWMP-er-a-bul) — cannot be compared. indefatigable (IN-duh-FAT-i-gu-bul) — tireless. indict — pronounced in-DITE, rhyming with insight. infamous (IN-fuh-mus) — well-known for being bad. infer (in-FUR) — to deduce, conclude. It doesn’t mean to imply, q.v. infringe — to violate (a law); restrict (rights). initiative — “He took the initiative in [not of] moving the factory.” integral (IN-tuh-grul) — essential to the whole. interest, interesting — pronounced IN-trust, IN-tres-ting, NOT in-turEST-ing. interment (in-TUR-mn’t) — burial. From Latin terra (earth) via Old French. It isn’t spelled “internment.” internment (in-TURN-mn’t) — confinement. interstice (in-TUR-stis-ee) — intervening space. ironic — disguisedly sarcastic (NOT curiously appropriate or coincidental). irrefutable (eer-REF-yoo-ta-bul) — cannot be refuted or denied. irregardless — There is no such word. The correct term is regardless. irreparable (eer-REP-ur-ub’l, sometimes said eer-ruh-PAIR-ubl) — not amenable to repair.


You Can Say That Again! irrevocable (ee-REV-uh-kuh-bul) — unalterable. Jewel — pronounced JOOL, but JOOL-ree for jewelry, NOT JOO-welur-ee. jojoba (ho-HO-ba) — (Spanish) plant, oil from seeds used in cosmetics. junta — pronounced JUN-ta in English (as in sun), HOON-ta in Spanish. just — pronounced as it is spelled, to rhyme with rust, NOT JIST to rhyme with fist. Kilometre (KIL-uh-MEE-tur) — a thousand metres. Does not rhyme with thermometer! See Metric and Measurement Units. Laboratory — pronounced LAB-ir-ah-tree, or la-BOR-ah-tree. lambada — belly-to-belly Brazilian dance (from Portuguese: “to beat”). lambaste — (rhymes with in haste) to thrash, beat, criticize. lamentable (LAM-uhn-tuh-bul, or la-MEN-ta-bul) — regrettable. larynx (LAR-inks, NOT the common mispronunciations LARN-iks or LARN-inks) — upper trachea, contains vocal cords. lasagna (le-ZAHN-ya) — flat noodles baked with cheese, meat, tomato sauce. See Gustatory, in Foreign Terms, Chapter 8. lascivious (la-SIV-ee-us, NOT las-VISH-us) — lewd, lustful. lay — a transitive verb, takes an object: “to lay something down.” lecithin (LES-i-thin) — hygroscopic phosphatide. From the Greek lekithos (egg yolk). lectern (LEK-turn) — a reading desk or a tray on a stand or table. lees (LEEZ) — sediment of wine. leeward (LOO-ard) — in or toward the sheltered side. (Nautical term.) legal terms: coroner — an Anglo-Norman term for “officer of the crown.” judge — from juger (Anglo-Norman) from Latin judicare. juror — Anglo-Norman from Latin jurator (jurare: to swear). subpoena (SUB PEENA) — under penalty. trial — from Old French trier (to try). verdict — from Old French voirdit from Latin verum (true) + dictum (saying). voir dire (VWAR-DEER) — another Anglo-Norman term from the Latin verus (true) and dicere (to say). It means “a preliminary examination.”


Words legume (LEG-yoom) — nitrogen-fixing plant: peas, peanuts, alfalfa, clover, etc. leisure (LEZH-ur, or LEE-zhur) — free time. length — pronounced LENG-th, sometimes LENTH. See strength. lever (LEE-ver, as in leverage, in Canada; LEH-ver in the United States) — bar used to pry, raise. From the French verb lever (luh-VAY). leviathan (luh-VY-a-thun) — large, formidable thing. From the Hebrew for “sea monster.” lexicographer (lex-ih-KAWG-rif-ir) — writer or editor of a dictionary, “a harmless drudge,” according to Dr. Johnson. lie — an intransitive verb which means “to be at rest,” “in repose,” or “in a horizontal position,” or “reclining.” The verb is conjugated as follows: lie, lay, lain, lying. It doesn’t take an object. Lay is the past of lie. “On the other hand,” said the comely teacher, “lay is a transitive verb which means ‘put’ and always takes an object.” “You can lay books on the desk,” the teacher continued beyond the point of no return, “but you couldn’t lay me on the desk.” From somewhere in the class: “Wanna bet?!” Laid is the past of lay. And lain is the past participle of lie. lingam — phallus (Sanskrit). lingua franca — common language. Once it signified a mixture of Italian, French, Greek, Arabic, and Spanish, used in the Levant. lingual — of or formed by the tongue. listener — pronounced LIS-nir, NOT LIST-en-ir. lithography (lith-AW-graf-ee) — printing from plane surface (stone or metal) with ink-repellent areas. From the Greek lithos (stone) and graphe (writing). locate (lo-KATE) — place. The past participle located is usually superfluous, as in, “Their office is located in ...” Say simply, “Their office is at [address] ...” longitude — pronounced LAWNJ-i-tood. long-lived (and short-lived) — the i can be long or short. Ltd., abbreviation of Limited — pronounced “limited,” not “L-T-D.” lugubrious (luh-GOO-bre-us) — doleful, dismal, mournful. Machination (mak-uh-NAY-shun) — act of scheming. machismo (ma-CHEEZ-mo) — exaggerated pride in being male. From Spanish macho (male) derived from Latin masculus. mandarin — bureaucrat, federal civil servant. Historically: highranking Chinese official.


You Can Say That Again! maniacal — pronounced man-EYE-a-kal. mano a mano — hand to hand, not man to man (as in combat). masterful — domineering, controlling; masterly — very skilful. mayoralty — pronounced MAYR-ul-tee, NOT may-or-AL-i-tee. McGuffin, a — an artificial, misleading digression in a mystery (Hitchcock), or an object driving the plot but never fully explained. me, myself, and I — The use of I doesn’t pose a problem. But combine the word with a pronoun for a second person and there’s suddenly confusion. It’s easy, though. “He and I will do something.” Not “Me and him ...” Still easier, “We will do something.” It is never “Me and my friend,” but “I and my friend,” or “My friend and I.” But “Join me and my friend for a drink.” When the pronoun is the sentence’s object, confusion reigns again. But it is easily avoided. “Join us for a drink, join me and my friend for a drink, join me and him.” Not “Join he and I.” Not “Join him and I.” Again, “Join us or join me and him.” I is the form for the subject, along with you, they, he, and she. Me is the form for the object, along with you, him, and her. media — the main means of mass communication (newspapers, broadcasting) regarded collectively. It is the plural of medium (see below). “The media are ...” mediate (vs. arbitrate) — intervene to produce agreement. A mediator, “in the middle,” helps arrange compromise or accommodation. An arbitrator often decides simply by allocation: “One for you, one for them....” medium — a single means of communication such as radio. It can also signify the material (clay, paint) or form used by an artist. mensuration (men-suh-RAY-shun) — measuring (area, length, volume). merkin — hairpiece for pubic mound (mons Veneris). Metric measurements Kilometre is pronounced KIL-o-mee-tur because it combines kilo (Greek khilioi meaning “thousand”) and metre (Greek metron for measure). The pronunciation kilAH-met-ur (to rhyme with thermometer) shows how language can change over time defying even the logic of word origin and meaning. The metric system was devised by the French Academy of Sciences after the revolution of 1789. The Academy hoped to make trade easier by establishing uniform units of measure. At the time, measures varied widely across Europe. The Academy decided to base its new system on the number ten. The basic unit would be one ten-millionth of the length of a line from the North Pole, through Paris, to


Words the equator. This was the metre. The distance from the Pole to the equator is ten thousand kilometres, a kilometre measuring a thousand metres. Everything was based on the metre. The gram was the weight of a cubic centimetre of distilled water at four degrees Celsius. A litre — the unit of volume — was a thousand cubic centimetres. The hectare (HEK-tur) is a hundred times the size of the “are” which is an area of a hundred square metres. There is, however, an error underlying the metric system. The actual distance from the North Pole to the equator is not 10,000 km, but 10,002 km. So now the metre is the distance “travelled by light in a vacuum during 1/299,792,458th of a second.” Before the metric system, Roman measures were used for some purposes. For instance, an inch is the width of a man’s thumb. A hand, still used to measure the height of a horse, is four inches wide. The inch is actually twenty-five millimetres, that is, twenty-five times one thousandth of a metre. The Romans had twelve inches to their foot, so it was almost the same as the imperial foot which is three hundred millimetres. The Anglo-Saxons took the length of a man’s belt to be a yard (thirty-six inches or nine hundred millimetres). It is said that King Henry I of England, early in the twelfth century, standardized the yard by measuring the distance from his nose to the end of his thumb with his arm stretched out. A furlong is equal to 220 yards. In horse racing it’s an eighth of a mile. It is an old English term, a combination of furrow and long, or the length of a furrow in a square ten-acre plot of land. minority — pronounced min-OR-it-ee, NOT MY-nor-it-ee. minutia (min-OO-sha) — trifle, minor detail. The plural is minutiae. mischievous — pronounced MIS-chuh-vus, NOT mis-CHEE-vee-us. missile — pronounced MIS-ile, usually MIS-ul in the United States. mobile — said MO-bile in Canada, rhyming with dial; MO-bul in the United States. module — pronounced MAW-dyool or MAWD-jul, NOT MAW-dyoo-el. montage (mon-TAWZH) — composite of images in quick succession (film, television). motive — for.


You Can Say That Again! Mulligan — a stew, or a free ball placement in golf costing no strokes. myself — should be used only for emphasis (“I, myself, worked late.”) or as a reflexive pronoun (“I chastized myself soundly.”) But myself quite commonly substitutes for I and me in informal speech. mystic — mysterious and awe-inspiring. Originally from Greek mustes (initiated person). Naive, naivety, naïveté (nah-EEV, nah-eev-et-TAY). Nanaimo bar (na-NY-mo, NOT nuh-MAY-o) — a confection. news — pronounced NYOOZ. Newfoundland — pronounced nyoo-f’nd-LAND. See list of geographical names. ninety — said NINE-tee, NOT NINE-dee. See hundred. noisome (NOY-sum) — offensive, harmful. Does not mean “noisy.” none — both none is and none are are correct. But if none means “no part of the total or whole” it needs is, as in, “None of the meal is edible.” noosphere (NO-us-feer) — the sphere of human consciousness and mental activity, especially in regard to its influence on the biosphere and in relation to evolution. notorious, notoriety — widely but not favourably known. nuclear — said NOOK-lee-ur, NOT NYOOK-yoo-lur. nucleus — pronounced NOOK-lee-us, NOT NOOK-yool-us. Obligatory — pronounced awb-LIG-a-tor-ee. oblivious — followed by the preposition of. obloquy (OB-luh-kwee) — the state of being ill spoken of; abuse. oenology, oenologist (ee-NAWL-o-jee) — science that deals with wine and wine-making. often — pronounced OFF-’n, seldom OFF-TEN. O.K. or okay — all correct. First seen in Boston Morning Post, 1839. omnipotent — awm-NI-puh-t’nt, NOT AWM-ni-PO-t’nt. omniscience — awm-NIS-yence. op. cit. (AWP SIT) — in the work already quoted. Abbreviation of Latin opere citato. op-ed — the feature page opposite the editorial page of a newspaper. Oregon — OR-i-gun, NOT OR-i-GAWN. See place names in Chapter 6. orgy — OR-jee. orient, oriented — is the preferred Canadian form; orientated is British. Pamphlet — pronounced PAM-flit. pasacaglia (PAS-a-KAL-ya) — Spanish or Italian dance tune. pastoral (PAS-tor-al) — rural picture or scene. pastorale (pas-tor-AL) — a musical composition having a pastoral theme or plot.


Words peer — an equal; a member of one of the five ranks (as duke, marquess, earl, viscount, or baron) of the British peerage. pejorative (PEJ-ur-a-tiv, or pej-OR-uh-tiv) — belittling. penchant (PEN-ch’nt, NOT pawn-shawn) — liking, inclination. From the French present participle of pencher (to incline) derived from Latin pendere (to weigh). perpetrate — to take an action, commit, be guilty of. perpetuate — to cause to continue. perquisite (PERK-kwiz-it) — extra profit, customary extra right. pertinent (PERT-i-n’nt) — relevant. phenomenon (fe-NAW-meh-NON) — perceived occurrence. The plural is phenomena. phi (rhymes with pie) — twenty-first letter of the Greek alphabet. -phile — suffix, meaning “lover of ...” as in anglophile, francophile. -phobe — suffix, meaning “who dislikes ...” as in anglophobe. Pictou County — pronounced PIK-to (as in toe), NOT PIK-too. County in Nova Scotia. See the place-names list in Chapter 6 for other regional peculiarities. pidgin (PIJ-in) — simplified form of a language, usually containing words from several languages. plethora — pronounced PLETH-er-a, NOT pleth-OR-a. It means “an abundance.” podiatrist (po-DI-a-trist) — foot doctor. podium (PO-dee-um) — a dais for orchestra conductor or for speaker; sometimes a lectern (q.v.). From Greek podion for foot. police — pronounced puh-LEES, NOT PLEES. politically correct — avoiding expressions that exclude certain groups such as women, racial groups, etc. Examples: the use of fishers instead of fishermen, utility cover instead of manhole. political terms and names — See separate list at the end of this chapter. posthumous — said POS-tyoo-mus, NOT POST-hyoo-mus. pot pourri — pronounced PO-POOR-ee. prefer — prefer one thing to another, not than another. preferable — said PREF-ur-ab’l. premise (PREM-is) — a statement in logic from which a subsequent one is inferred; a house or building with adjacent property belonging to it. prerequisite (pre-REK-wiz-it) — required as previous condition. See perquisit. prerogative (pre-RAWG-a-tiv) — a right; right of the sovereign. From Latin praerogativus (asked first). presage (PRES-ij) — omen, portent. The verb to presage is pronounced pres-AYJ, meaning “to portend.” prestige, prestigious — pronounced prest-EEZH, pres-TIJ-us, NOT pres-TEEJ-ee-us.


You Can Say That Again! prix fixe (PREE-FEEKS) — set price. proboscis (pruh-BOS-is, NOT pruh-BOSS-kis) — nose. prolix, prolixity (PRO-liks, pro-LIKS-it-ee) — lengthy, tedious, verbose. pronunciation — pronounced pro-NUN-see-AY-shun, NOT proNOWN-.... prorogue (pro-ROAG) — discontinue meetings of (parliament, etc.) without dissolving it. prosaic (pro-ZAY-ik) — dull, ordinary. From Latin prosaicus (like prose). prostate — prostate gland. From Greek pro (in front) + histanai (cause to stand). prostrate (PRAWS-trate) — extended in horizontal position. protean (PRO-tee-an) — like Proteus, able to assume different shapes, roles. protein (PRO-teen) — any of the complex combinations of amino acids. provost — in North America: high administrative officer in a university, pronounced PRO-vust. In Canada and Britain: member of military police, pronounced PRO-vo. Qatar (KA-tar, NOT kuh-TAHR) — state in Arabian peninsula. quandary (KWAWN-dree or KWAWN-dar-ee) — dilemma, state of perplexity. quasi (KWAW-zee, KWAW-zy, or KWAY-ZY) — seemingly, almost. quay, quayside (KEE-side) — paved bank by the water. Quebec (kuh-BEK, kay-BEK or kwe-BEK, NOT KWEE-bek. quick, quickly — adjective and adverb. See adjective and adverb. Quito (KEE-to) — capital of Ecuador. See Place Names in Chapter 6. quixotic (kwiks-AW-tik) — impractically idealistic. See below. Quixote (kee-HO-tee), Don ~ — hero of Cervantes’ romance. q.v. (KWOD VI-de) — abbreviation of quod vide, Latin for “which see.” Used in cross-references. Raffish (RAF-ish) — disreputable, dissipated. raison d’être (RAY-zawn DET’r) — purpose that accounts for a thing’s existence. French expression meaning literally “reason for being.” realty (REEL-tee, NOT re-AL-i-tee) — real estate. recitative (RES-ta-TEEV) — declamatory speech-like singing, especially in opera. recondite (REK-on-dite) — dealing in abstruse knowledge. recur (re-KUR) — to happen again. Preferred to reoccur (RE-o-KUR). redundant — superfluous. As in, “At 7.00 a.m. tomorrow morning.” relative vs. relevant — relative: proportionate to, comparative. Relevant: pertinent, significant. remonstrate (REM-on-strate, or re-MAWN-strate) — make a protest, urge against.


Words repeat — pronounced ruh-PEET (as noun or verb), but REE-PEET in the United States. reportage — said ru-por-TAWZH, or ruh-POR-tij. reputable — pronounced REP-yu-ta-bul. resource, resources — pronounced ri-ZORS, re-ZORC’Z, NOT RE-zors. respite — RESS-pit. restaurateur — RES-tra-tur, NOT RES-tor-awn-TOOR. restaurant — RES-trawnt, NOT RES-TOR-awnt. revocable — ruh-VO-ku-bul, or REV-uh-kuh-bul. ribald (RIB-uld) — coarse, wanton. riparian (ri-PAR-ee-an) — of or on a river bank (“riparian rights”). rodomontade (ro-duh-mon-TAD) — boasting, blustering speech. rout (ROWT) — put to flight, defeat completely. route (ROOT) — a way to get somewhere. Pronounced ROWT in the United States. routine — pronounced roo-TEEN in Canada, ROO-teen in the United States. Saskatchewan — Sas-KACH-uh-wun, NOT sas-KACH-uh-WAWN. See Place Names in Chapter 6. schedule — SHED-jool in Canada and the United Kingdom, SKED-jul in Canada and the United States. schism (SIZum) — division, split of church into two groups. The Canadian Oxford now offers SKIZ-um. In Webster SKIZ-um is a second choice. In the Oxford, it’s SIZ-um. From Old French scisme, derived from ecclesiastical Latin schisma. science — For some science bloopers, fast-forward to the end of the chapter. seasonable — Add salt, pepper, or other condiments if you like. Also: “timely.” seasonal — characteristic of the season : “seasonal temperatures.” segue (SEG-way) — move smoothly from one thing to another. semiotics — study of symbols, especially in language. From Greek semeiotikos. sensible of — aware of. As in “sensible of your kindness.” seraglio (sir-AL-yo) — harem, Sultan’s palace. settler (SET-lir, NOT SET-el-ir) — person who settles in a new place. she, her — she, like he, they, we, and I, is a noun and subject. Her is a noun used as an object, like him, them, and us. “She and I will visit them.” “They will listen to her but probably not to me or to us.” siblings — brothers and/or sisters. simulacrum (sim-uh-LAY-krum) — a deceptive substitute. sinecure (SINN-i-kyoor) — a position that requires little work but yields profit or honour.


You Can Say That Again! sine die (sy-ne-DY-ee) — without an assigned future date. Latin expression. situated — placed. Usually an avoidable word. It’s advisable to simply say “at” or “on.” slough (SLOO) — swamp, marshy pool. slough (off) ( SLUF) — to shed (skin), to discard (troubles). slub — a thick spot in yarn. solecism (SOL-es-izm) — a grammatical or idiomatic error. sophomoric (SOF-uh-MOR-ik) — immature while pretending to be sophisticated. soporific (SOP-or-IF-ik) — sleep-inducing. A dull after-dinner speech is soporific. sorbet (SOR-bit in English, sor-BAY in French) — a fruit-flavoured ice served between courses as a palate refresher. squaw — woman. An anglicized form of an Algonkian word, now disliked by Aboriginal people. It became a derogatory term. Considered offensive. starboard (STAR-bird) — right side of ship or plane when facing to the front. Port (larboard) is the left side of the ship or plane when you face forward. strata, stratum — levels or a level of something, as in social standing or in geology. strength — pronounced STRENG-th, but some pronounce it STRENTH. subaltern (SUB-ul-tern) — subordinate. sub judice (SUB JOO-dis-ee) — before the court, under judgement. succinct (suk-SINKT, NOT sus-SINKT) — terse. sui generis (SOO-ee JEN-ir-is) — of its own kind, unique, peculiar. susceptible to — vulnerable to. As in “susceptible to flattery.” Susceptible of — allowing. As in “susceptible of another explanation.” subsidiary — pronounced sub-SID-jar-ee, or sub-SID-yar-ee. syllepsis — A single word is applied in two senses: “He took the bus and an aspirin.” syllogism —A conclusion is drawn in logic from two premises. May be invalid as in: “Flowers are pretty. Birds are pretty. So birds are flowers.” sympathy — either with or for. syneresis — contraction of two vowels into a diphthong or a single vowel. Terpsichore (terp-SIK-or-ee) — Greek Muse of lyric poetry and dance. terse — concise, expressed with economy. that — Ideally, that introduces a defining (restrictive) clause, while which, preceded by a comma, begins a non-defining clause. For example: “I like the house that Jack built.” But: “I like the house, which doesn’t require much upkeep.” Most writers, however, use which for both, so only the comma tells the reader how to interpret the sentence. “Of all the new cars, that’s the one which (that) gets the highest praise.”


Words that, which and who, whom — It is customary, but not obligatory, to refer to people with who and to things with that or which: “The centre forward, of all the players mentioned, is the one of whom most sportswriters wax enthusiastic.” Or, “He is the greatest poet that ever lived.” See also who, whom. the — article usually pronounced THUH or TH’; THEE before a vowel or when stressed: “The army ... the orange ... the idiot.” theatre — pronounced THEE-a-tur, sometimes thee-AY-tur in the United States. their — a possessive adjective as in “They have their problems.” Not to be used as a singular adjective as in “Somebody left their pen there.” Say instead, “Somebody has left a pen there.” Or, “... his or her pen there.” them — not recommended as an adjective as in the song, “Them bones, them dry bones ...” Standard English would be “Those bones, those dry bones ...” timbre — said TIM-bur or TAM-bur, or in French TAHM-bruh. tourniquet — pronounced TOOR-ni-kee, TURN-i-kit, or TURN-i-kay. tortuous — full of twists and turns. torturous — painful, agonizing. trait — Pronounce the final t. triskaidekaphobia (TRIS-ka-DEK-a-FO-bee-a) — fear of number thirteen. trivet (TRI-vit) — three-footed stand, tripod, under hot dish at dinner. twopence (TUP-’nts) — two pennies. Ukase (yoo-KAYZ) — proclamation by a Czar or Russian government having the force of law. unctuous (UNKT-chus) — unpleasantly flattering. From Latin unctus (anointing). unequal — “He was unequal to (not for) the task.” uninterested (un-IN-tres-t’d) — not interested. See disinterested. us — See she, subject/object distinction: we/us, I/me, she/her, he/him. uvula (YOO-vyoo-la) — fleshy lobe in the soft palate. Valet — pronounce the t, rhymes with mallet. See sorbet. vegetable — said VEJ-tuh-b’l, NOT VEJ-uh-tuh-bul. venal (VEE-nul) — willing to act dishonestly. venial (VEEN-yal) — pardonable. As in “a venial sin.” veracious (ver-AYSH-us) — truthful, accurate. See voracious. veracity (ver-ASS-it-ee) — truthfulness. via (VY-ah) — by way of. Pronounced VEE-ah in Via Rail. victual (VIT’l) — vittle, food. view — “With a view to conserving hydro power ...” or “In view of these facts ...”


You Can Say That Again! virtually — actually, truthfully, NOT almost or nearly. If it is “almost” or “nearly,” why not say so? If it is “exactly,” let’s say so. viscid (vissid) — glutinous, sticky. From Latin viscum (birdlime). viscous (VIS-kus) — same as viscid. viscus (VIS-kus) — soft internal body organ (heart, liver, etc.). voracious (vor-AYSH-us) — having a big appetite. Weather (see also cirrus) blizzard — might be derived from the German blitz meaning “lightning” but has meant a violent snowstorm since the 1850s. cyclone — can mean “tornado” in the United States or “hurricane” in India. From Greek kykloma (wheel, coil). gale — a strong sustained wind of 34–47 knots. hurricane — tropical cyclone with winds greater than 65 knots, ranked by barometric pressure on the SaffirSimpson scale. Hurricanes start and often finish as tropical storms. They are given men’s and women’s names when they begin as tropical depressions. Also rated by wind velocity. From Spanish huracan of Carib origin. orthographic lifting — the lifting of an air current as it passes over surface elevations like hills or mountains. tornado or twister — rotating column of air, funnelshaped, a destructive vortex on the ground. From Spanish tronar (thunder) and tornar (to twist). See sucking funnel of wind under Spoonerisms in Chapter 3. we — see she for subject/object distinction (I/me, we/us, she/her, he/him, they/them). which — see that, which and who, whom. whine — a plaintive wail or cry. Rhymes with wine. whinge — a peevish complaint or gripe. Rhymes with hinge. who and whom — Which is which, when, and who cares? See also that. Who is a pronoun often used to ask a question, as in “Who won the race?” Or, “Find out who.” Grammarians usually object to its use as the object of a verb or after a preposition, as in, “I don’t know who you saw.” Many writers and speakers use it freely, however, in less formal contexts. Who is also used for that, as in “the person or persons who ....”


Words Whom is also a pronoun, the objective case of who. It represents the object of a verb or follows a preposition, as in “to know for whom the bell tolls.” Sometimes it is used as an indirect object. It is now considered stilted in most situations and is often used inappropriately. If you do use whom, most of your readers or listeners will regard this as a minor affectation. Some grammarians, however, will be pedantic about it. They will argue vehemently about its use. It seems to be another one of those issues of fashion and popular usage. The Webster Collegiate Dictionary deals with whom this way: “... now often considered stilted, especially in an interrogative and especially in oral use; occasionally used as a predicate nominative with a copulative verb or as subject of a verb especially in the vicinity of a preposition or a verb of which it might mistakenly be considered the object....” Perhaps it is all right to talk about “copulative verbs” in polite company, and a “predicate nominative” might not lead to violent argument. But why bother? Will use of whom lead to better understanding? Does whom confer prestige? Or does it draw attention to itself instead of aiding communication? To sum up and take the mystery out of an arcane issue, who the hell cares if whom dies a natural death? Wilkes Barre (WILKS BAR-uh) — city in Pennsylviania. See also Place Names in Chapter 6. Wimbledon (WIM-bel-dun, NOT WIM-bul-TUN) — London suburb, one of the world’s major tennis championships. See Sports section, below, for other names. wreak (REEK) — cause (damage, etc.). “The hurricane wreaked havoc on the crops.” Xanthippe (zan-THIP-ee) — shrewish wife (of Socrates). Xavier (ZAY-vee-er). xenophobe( ZEN-uh-FOBE) — one who deeply dislikes foreigners. A xenophile is someone who is very fond of foreigners. From the Greek xenos (strange). Especially in American writings one occasionally finds the spelling zenophobe. Youse (YOOZ) — There was a time when this way of distinguishing the singular you from the plural you had currency. In merry ol’ England the word was in regular use. It sounds common to our modern ear. But it ain’t dead yet! How many times have we been asked in restaurants and stores: “What would youse like?” Zoology — pronounced zo-AWL-o-gee, NOT zoo-AWL-o-gee.


You Can Say That Again! Political Terms and Names Words are weapons. They can kill. He marshalled the English language and sent it off to war. — John F. Kennedy about Winston Churchill. The world of politics has its own esoteric (q.v.) parlance. For a few terms, here goes: Alderman — city councillor. From Old English aldor (patriarch), which is derived from ald (old), and man. Bleus — the Conservatives of Quebec, including supporters of the former Union Nationale. Now blue is the colour, along with white, of the Parti Québécois, the party dedicated to achieving sovereignty. Bloc Québécois — separatist party that states Quebec will leave Canada’s federal government if it achieves sovereignty. Bob’s your uncle — “No problem, it will work out.” The expression originated in England in the 1850s when Prime Minister Robert Cecil appointed his nephew, Arthur Balfour, chief secretary for Ireland. Cynics accused Cecil of nepotism (c.v.). The phrase is often followed by “and Fanny’s your aunt.” boondocks — backwoods, rough or isolated country. From Tagalog bundock for mountain. boondoggle — a wasteful project. U.S.-coined word, 1957. See the Word Origins list in Chapter 3. borough — town, self-administered district. From Old English burg (fortified town). See Rotten borough. Caucus (KAW-kus) — members of a legislative assembly belonging to a particular party, sometimes from a particular region; a closeddoor meeting of either of these two groups. Charter — See notwithstanding clause. chauvinist — blindly patriotic; prejudiced, misogynistic, as in male chauvinist. From Nicholas Chauvin, 1815, a French soldier excessively devoted to Napoleon. closure (KLO-zhur) — imposed end to parliamentary debate prior to a vote. congress — the national legislative body of the United States, comprising the House of Representatives and the Senate. Comparable to Parliament. Conservative, Progressive Conservative — socially conservative, loyal to crown and free enterprise. Red and Pink Tories, however, are more liberal or populist. See Tory.


Words Dáil (DOY-il) — the lower house of parliament in the Republic of Ireland. democracy — government by the people, directly or by representatives. Democratic Party (U.S.) — formed in the early nineteenth century, favouring restrictions on federal powers and in favour of enhanced states rights as well as diminution of federal powers; to the left of the Republicans on most social and economic issues. diet — a legislative assembly in certain countries; conference or congress of princes or estates. From Latin dieta (probably “day’s work”). Often used in English as term for the Japanese parliament. dissolve (diz-AWLV) — dismiss or disperse (an assembly, especially parliament). donnybrook — a fight, free-for-all. The term recalls the notorious country fair held annually at a village near Dublin called Donnybrook. The fair was closed down because of debauchery, but the name for a brawl lives on (as in “I went to a donnybrook the other night and a hockey game broke out!”). Duma (DOO-maw) — Russian parliament. Fabian — The term comes from Quintus Fabius Maximus who avoided direct battle with Hannibal and thus foiled him in the Punic War, 317 B.C. The name was adopted by the British Fabian Society, a socialist organization founded in England in 1884, opposed to change by violence. Family Compact — governing Tory elite in Upper Canada in the early nineteenth century. Fascist — member of dictator Mussolini’s right-wing party in Italy in the Second World War; member of any similar movement. See Word Origins in Chapter 3 and Nazi below. Fenian — member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood aiming for the overthrow of English rule in Ireland. Fenians also staged raids from the United States into Canada. Fianna Fáil (feen-a foil, rhyming with toil) — Irish centre-right political party. filibuster — prolonged speaking to delay a vote. The term recalls pirates of the Spanish Main, freebooters. A flyboat was a swift ship, a privateer in English but a pirate in Spanish. Flibote (probably from Dutch) became filibote in Spanish and the Spanish sailor was a filibustero. What was once privateering in the legislature soon became an organized group activity, although an individual member can still hold up the business of the house. It is a procedural technique for delaying government business while bringing an issue to public notice. Fine Gael (feen-a gayl) — Irish centre-left political party. See also Sinn Fein.


You Can Say That Again! F.L.Q. — Quebec Liberation Front (Front de Libération du Québec). A separatist terrorist organization responsible for the October Crisis of 1970 involving mailbox bombings, kidnapping of a British diplomat, and kidnapping and murder of a Cabinet minister. Prompted Prime Minister Trudeau to invoke the War Measures Act, a draconian abridgement of civil rights and enhancement of police powers. fuddle duddle — expression coined by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. He insisted he said it to the Opposition in the Commons as a euphemism for drop dead or go to hell. Gerrymander — to alter electoral district boundaries to weight them in favour of one’s own party or re-election. Named after Governor Gerry of Massachusetts and combined with salamander to convey odd shape of districts redrawn to give election advantage. Grit — Liberal (Canadian). IRA — Irish Republican Army, terrorists dedicated to unification of Ireland. Knesset — Israeli parliament. Labour — British socialist party, party of organized labour. Also in Ireland. left — see right. liberal — capitalist in favour of moderate reform but of free enterprise. Compare libertarian. lynch law —summary punishment and execution carried out by a selfconstituted illegal authority. This practice is associated with mob action against blacks in the U.S. South but is actually Irish. In the fifteenth century the mayor of Galway, James Lynch Fitzstephen, condemned his son to death for murder. No one would carry out the sentence, so the mayor hanged his own son. Mackenzie, William Lyon — rebel, reformer, newspaper editor (Colonial Advocate) in Upper Canada, first mayor of Toronto (1834), opposed the Family Compact (q.v.). See also Papineau. mayor — chief executive of a borough. From Old French maire, derived from Latin major. See mayoralty on the previous list. Meech Lake Accord — 1987 agreement between Ottawa and the provinces accepting Quebec’s conditions for signing the Constitution Act of 1982. The deal lapsed when Newfoundland and Manitoba legislatures failed to ratify. The accord was named after a small lake in southwestern Quebec, north of Ottawa. mob — disorderly crowd. From Latin mobile vulgus (excitable crowd).


Words Nazi — originally a member of Hitler’s National Socialist party, actually Fascist (q.v.). Like the Fascists, the Nazis rehearsed World War II in Spain on the side of Franco in the thirties. nepotism — favouritism shown to relatives in giving employment and privileges. Derived via Italian from Latin nepos (nephew). In the past, the popes’ illegitimate sons were called “nephews” in Italy and received many privileges. Simony is the buying or selling of church positions and privileges in the Middle Ages. From the name of Simon who, in Acts 8:18, proposes to buy the power of blessing. New Democrats — a left-of-centre political party (N.D.P.) born of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.) which began during the Depression as an assembly of labour groups, farmers, Fabians, Marxists, Methodists, and others, in the Prairies, British Columbia, Cape Breton, and Ontario. notwithstanding clause — Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights. It can be seen as an embarrassing and dangerous provision; it permits provincial legislatures to override Charter protections. A safeguard lies in the fact that provincial governments will face public criticism if they move to curtail a right to suit a narrow interest or even the prejudice of the majority. October Crisis — See F.L.Q. oligarchy — government by a small group of people. on the pig’s back — Irish expression meaning “well-to-do.” Papineau, Louis-Joseph — leader of the 1837 Rebellion in Lower Canada (Quebec). parliament — upper and lower houses, Commons and Senate or Lords. Includes the sovereign. From Old French parlement (speaking). partisan (PAR-tiz-an) — a zealous supporter (noun); biased (adjective). From Italian partigiano. Sometimes the epithet political (q.v.) is used to signify partisan. patriotism — ardent devotion to the interests of one’s country. Les Patriotes — supporters of Papineau in the Rebellion of Lower Canada (1837). plebeian — commoner, especially in ancient Rome. Opposite of patrician. plebiscite — direct vote of all electors (comitia tributa). See also referendum. plutocracy (ploo-TAWK-ra-see) — rule of the wealthy. polis (PAWL-is) — originally a Greek city-state. Now by extension a state or society, especially when characterized by a sense of community. political — concerning public affairs (not simply partisan, q.v.) The polity is a form of government or an organized society, from Greek polis (city).


You Can Say That Again! Progressive Conservatives — the Conservative Party of Canada, party of John A. Macdonald and Étienne Cartier, aligned with business (see Tory). prorogue — discontinue meetings of parliament or legislative session without dissolving the House (see dissolve). Referendum — the referring of a question or issue directly to the electorate for a general vote. The correct plural is referenda but referendums grows more common. The risk of the practice is that questions put are either absurdly simple, ignoring the complexity of most issues, or too complex, which leads to ambiguity. Canadian constitutional experience suggests the practice is not a good one. Separatist governments in Quebec have put referenda questions so complex they could be interpreted as allowing for separation from Canada while retaining all the benefits of membership in the federation. And when a direct vote on capital punishment is held just after a horrendous murder, it is likely to bring a vote for hanging in spite of the absence of evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent. It can be seen as a great tool for a demagogue and a mob. See plebiscite. Reform Party — Alberta-rooted federal party, populist, right-of-centre, built by Preston Manning in the nineties (son of Ernest Manning, former Social Credit premier of Alberta). Fiscal-free-enterprise fundamentalists, favouring recall, referenda, and capital punishment; opposed to gun control. red — someone endorsing radical change, a socialist or communist; the colour chosen by the Liberals of Canada. A rouge in Quebec is now a Liberal; red is also the colour of the toque identified with the Patriotes. riding — electoral district; one of three administrative jurisdictions into which Yorkshire was once divided. From Old English thriding (third part). right — the left/right division across the political spectrum, from conservative on the right to socialist on the left, dates from the time of the Estates General called by Louis XVI in 1789. Nobles sat to his right, the clergy and representatives of commoners to his left. After the French Revolution conservatives sat to the right of the presiding officer, with liberals, socialists, and radical progressives to the left. rotten borough — electoral district with very few voters. Sinn Fein (shin fayne) — Irish movement, political wing of terrorist IRA. Socialist — advocate of collective and co-operative solutions to social problems; in favour of government or “Crown” or public ownership and moderate redistribution of wealth. Democratic socialists support the idea of a mixed economy: private capital ownership along with


Words public ownership through government (N.D.P. in Canada, Labour in the United Kingdom). Often opponents on the right make no distinction between democratic socialism and communism (state ownership of all the means of production). Social Credit (Créditiste in Quebec) — populist right-wing party born in western Canada, known for its economic theories (anti-usury, printing of money). Tammany Hall — central organization of the Democratic Party in New York City. Often used as synonym for a corrupt political organization. Ward heeler is another derogatory political term. Taoiseach (TEE-shuk) — prime minister of the Irish Republic. Tory — originally a tory was an outlaw. From Irish Gaelic toraidhe (pursued man, robber). It became the name of a member of a political party in 1689 while still a pejorative term. It designated those supporting the Stuarts in the eighteenth century. Later still, it was applied to Irish papists or loyalists. The term came to mean “those who support king and church and oppose democratic parliamentary reform.” In an American context it signified a supporter of the Crown during the Revolution. A conservative, someone of the right. A Pink Tory is a Canadian who believes in free-enterprise capitalism and limits on government interference in the market economy but also believes there is a role for government in the redistribution of wealth, in the provision of social welfare, and the provision of services where unlikely to be adequately provided by business. truth — “The truth is so precious in war time it must be accompanied by guardians of lies,” said Winston Churchill. In war the first casualty is truth. Ward — administrative division of a city, electoral district, seat for a councillor or alderman. Same root as warden, warder. Whig — short for Whiggamore, member of Scottish group that marched to Edinburgh in 1648 to oppose the court party. The term has come to mean: (a) member of a British political party of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which tried to limit the power of the monarchy; (b) in Canada: the Liberal Party, left of the Tories, right of the Socialists, traditionally strong in Quebec and Ontario; (c) in the United States: an individual favouring independence from Britain; (d) member of a party formed in 1834 that was opposed to Jacksonian Democrats and was succeeded in 1854 by the Republican Party. whip — a party member appointed to ensure attendance and voting in a legislature. In Canada: “The Liberal whip pressed reluctant members of the caucus to attend.” In the United States: “The majority (minority) whip in the Senate (or House)...”


You Can Say That Again! Zionism — Movement for the re-establishment of a Jewish nation in Palestine. Science Bloopers The Greek and Latin roots of scientific terms don’t always make for clarity: “Water is composed of two gins, oxygin and hydrogin. Oxygin is pure gin.” “Hydrogin is gin and water.” “Thomas Edison invented the pornograph.” “I would like to become a veterinarian. I have had some experience with animals. I have volunteered in dog kennels and cat houses.” The Human Body “When you breathe, you inspire. When you do not breathe, you expire.” “Three kinds of blood vessels are: arteries, vanes, and caterpillars.” “A permanent set of teeth consists of eight canines, eight cuspids, two molars, and eight cuspidors.” Physiology (fiz-ee-AWL-uh-jee) “The body consists of three parts — the brainium, the borax, and the abominable cavity. The brainium contains the heart and lungs, and the abominable cavity contains the bowels, of which there are five: a, e, i, o, and u.” Medical Terminology “There’s a Word for It” See DNA, genome, and Latin words in the Foreign Terms section of Chapter 8. The following are offered in jest: Caesarean section — a district in Rome chiropractor — Egyptian doctor coma — punctuation mark


Words enema — opposite of a friend impotent — distinguished, well known (im-PO-tn’t) prostate — for government (PRO- ) urine — opposite of “you’re out” vertigo — where the tour guide tells you zinc — where you wash your face Q. “Do you perform any surgery, doctor?” A. “I do not perform surgery in the classical sense. Endoscopic procedures have been considered by third parties to be in the surgical class.” Q. “Such as?” A. “Such as gastroscopy (gas-TRAW-skaw-pee), esophagoscopy (eeSAWF-ah-GAW-skuh-pee), esophagastroduodenoscopy (ee-SAWF-aGAS-tro-doo-AW-den-AWS-kuh-pee), and colonoscopy (KAWL-unAW-skaw-pee), and endoscopic retrograde cholongiopanerectography (kaw-LAWN-jee-o-pan-EER-ek-TAW-graf-ee).” “The patient experienced sudden onset of severe shortness of breath with a picture of acute pulmonary edema at home while having sex which gradually deteriorated in the emergency room.” Astronomy and Geography “The moon is a planet just like Earth, only it is even deader.” “The equator is a menagerie lion running around Earth through Africa.” Biology “In biology today, we digested a frog.” Botany “The pistol of a flower is its only protection against insects.” “Germinate: to become a naturalized German.” Health (First Aid Might Help) “To remove dust from the eye, pull the eye down over the nose.” “To prevent contraception, wear a condominium.”


You Can Say That Again! “For fainting, rub the person’s chest, or, if it’s a lady, rub her arm above the hand. Or put her head between the knees of the nearest medical doctor.” “The big artery in your neck is called the jocular vein.” ★★★

Sports Spit, Scratch, and Shout “Déjà vu all over again!” Writing a daily column is easy. You sit in front of a typewriter until a few drops of blood form on your forehead. — Red Smith There are many sportswriters and broadcasters who care about language. They proudly and ably bear witness to elite performance and the meritocracy of sport. They also write with insight of the modern greed which has tainted athletic competition, threatening to end the loyalty of fans. Their writing is almost always colourful. But it is true too that some of the worst abuses are perpetrated by the media sports fraternity, especially sportscasters. The thrill of watching and praising the determination, skill, and endurance of athletes still makes the job fun. The chronicler of sport is a witness to the best and the worst of humankind. The excesses of modern nationalism — the petty politics, the drug dependency, the commercialization, the decline of sportsmanship — have all been part of the story. But idealism persists, and we still admire the individual athlete or the team that demonstrates excellence or rises above adversity. The glory of victory and the ignominy of defeat keep us interested. The storytellers of sports and the participants themselves keep us amused, sometimes with their errors of syntax, usage, or pronunciation: “Osborne chased it around behind the back of the net, dug the puck off the boards, and fired a pass to Podubny, who beat Buffalo goaltender Tom Barrasso between the legs!” No doubt the crowd was sitting “on the edge of their tenter hooks” during that display of descriptive skill, if not for the hockey prowess described. It’s assumed Barrasso recovered fully. That flight of fervid fancy happened in the fleeting moments of play-by-play description. Some of the more amusing sports goofs happen after the game or between periods or innings. Coaches and managers, after due consideration, still say the darndest things:


Words “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.” Or, “We can’t just sit on our duff and rest on our laurels anymore.” The mixed-metaphor vein is rich: “We got talent here, but we obviously need some shoring up in several positions, depth wise. This year we have to do a lot of weeding out and see what cream comes to the top.” Of course, if you fill those gaps in the roster, “You’re on gravy street.” Lots of laughs, not just baseball-related, are attributed affectionately to Yogi Berra. The great Yankee catcher was Most Valuable Player in the American League three times. At one point, when the Yankees weren’t drawing well, Berra handled the problem philosophically, “If the public don’t want to come out to the park, nobody’s gonna stop them!” Then there was Casey Stengel’s memorable: “Good pitching always stops good hitting — or vice versa.” We can’t tackle here, with any hope of real influence, the heavyweight problem of mispronunciation or other verbal abuses in the world of sports. But we can illustrate the problem. The sports world boasts some impressive ungrammatical word manglers, some of them former professional athletes and coaches. Their enthusiasm for bashing the language is often amusing, sometimes mind-boggling. Sometimes it is just a matter of not knowing any better. Sometimes it’s a matter of arrogant nose-thumbing, similar to the hockey and baseball habit of spitting with abandon or like the disdainful habit of public genitalscratching on the way to the dugout. Maybe it’s a macho thing. Perhaps speaking properly is considered a bit precious, not very manly. In the world of hockey, Don Cherry, a former player from Kingston who toiled with the Rochester Americans, later coached the Boston Bruins, and still later starred in “Coach’s Corner” on “Hockey Night In Canada,” set a new standard for broadcast language. Always entertaining, Cherry is renowned for his inventive syntax and his Popeye-like elocution about hooking penalties “and thinx like that!” In his opinionated commentary on everything, Russian, Swedish, and French names are grist for his xenophobic mangling mill. If he can slam them into the end boards, he does. Eventually he succeeded in correctly pronouncing the French name Roy, which means “king.” RWA, to rhyme with saw, is the usual anglophone way to say it. But for a time Cherry and other hockey commentators said it to rhyme with toy, even though they knew the Avalanche goaltender was born in French Canada.


You Can Say That Again! Lots of sports reporters and broadcasters think of themselves as writers. And there is a proud tradition involving the likes of Bat Masterson, Grantland Rice, Westbrook Pegler, and contemporary Washington political commentator, Republican apologist, and knowledgeable baseball fan George Will. They are just a few of the American wordsmiths worthy of respect. In Canada, the list of skilled writers who have used language respectfully includes Trent Frayne, Scott Young, Dick Beddoes, and Jim Proudfoot. And there have been many other clever wordsmiths in newspaper sports pages. That said, some of the most amusing goofs in sports reporting turn up on the printed page. To be fair, many of them are typos: “After the homecoming queen is crowned, the band will strike up ‘Pomp and Circumcision.’” Broadcasters contribute to the art of colourful description, too. In the pantheon belongs Mel “How about that!” Allen, Foster “He shoots, he scores!” Hewitt, Brian MacFarland, Fred Walker, Brian Williams, Don Chevrier, Ron Black, Ron “the punster” MacLean of CBC’s “Hockey Night In Canada,” and Bruce Dowbiggin of the CBC and the Calgary Herald, to name just a few. They care about the sports they describe. They care about the fans they serve. They try to show respect for athletes by saying their names correctly. And they care about the artful and correct use of the language. They know larynx is pronounced LAR-inks, not LAR-niks! But nearly everyone can recall a mispronunciation from a sports broadcast or a grammar groaner from the world of professional sport. Here are some clangers from the baseball field: “He threw a hundred pitches in six innings and that’s a mouthful!” “‘Our relief pitching was damned good, great,’ said manager Whitey Herzog, who violated a sacred cow for the second time in a week and got away with it.” Lots of memorable dingers from the world of Ty Cobb. In a contract dispute, Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley and ex-manager Dick Williams were captured in the headline: FINLEY WON’T RELEASE DICK! Which brings back the headline: PRO BALLER DIES IN BED!


Words Sometimes a tiny typo trips the best crafted prose into an unfortunate stumble: “Jason Thompson, who had four RBIs in August, four in September and one homer since July 26, smashed a blast off a poet high in the upper deck for his grand slam!” Still with typos: “David Cone’s one-hitter was all but overshadowed by his rookie teammate’s shitting.” On hitting: “Nine times out of ten the official scorer will always call that a hit.” Mixed-metaphor category again: “Varney lit the spark that turned the tide in the ball game.” Coach’s admonition: “If we don’t watch out they’ll pull the rug out from under us in midstream!” Add: “The coach’s popularity is at a high ebb.” Hall of Fame pitcher, Bob Feller, on his autobiography: “You won’t find a single four-letter word in there. I don’t go for that bullshit!” Pitcher Roger Clemens (Cy Young winner, Red Sox, and Blue Jays): “When I get too much rest, I’m usually erotic.” As illustrated, another problem in sports commentary is that clichés abound. Yet another difficulty is the term sports reporter. To argue that it is an oxymoron would be going too far, but let’s face it, most of the media coverage of sports is the work of cheerleaders, not unlike most business reporting. A phonetic guide for some names and terms from the world of sports may be helpful:


You Can Say That Again! Abreu, Bob — uh-BROO. Arazi, Hicham — HEE-shum uh-RAH-zee. athlete — ATH-leet, not ATH-uh-leet. Berasategui, Alberto — behr-ah-sah-TAY-gee. Boetsch, Arnaud — ahr-NO BUTCH. Brugera, Sergi — SUR-jee broo-GEHR-uh. Chaisson — not CHAY-sun, but shay-SAWN. Curious that in a country where there are two official languages and French Canada produces a large proportion of hockey’s stars, mispronunciations of French names should be so common. Chiasson —not CHAY-sun but shya-SAWN. Chi Chi Rodriguez — not CHY CHY RAWD-ree-gez, but CHEE CHEE raw-DREE-gayz. (From the great sitcom series of yesteryear and newsman Les Nessman at “WKRP in Cincinatti.”) Cicarelli — The hockey player’s name is always pronounced SIS-ar-EL-ee, but, using Italian phonetic rules, it should be CHIKH-ar-EL-ee. There are other examples of players with Czech, Finnish, Italian, Russian, and Swedish names who quietly accept the careless anglicizing or mispronunciation of their names. Coetzer, Amanda — KUT-sur. Corretja, Alex — kohr-REHT-chah. Delaitre, Olivier — o-LIV-yay duh-LAY-truh. Federov, Sergei — SEHR-gay FED-eh-rawf. Fetisov — fuh-TEES-awf. Galarraga, Andres — gah-lah-RAH-gah. Geoffreon — Boom Boom’s name is not pronounced JEF-ree-awn, but ZHAWF-re-awn. Grand Prix (auto-racing circuit) — GRAND PRIKS (We did not make this up! It was actually heard on air!). Try GRAWN PREE. Habsudova, Karina — hahb-SOO-do-vah. Hoch, Scott — HOHK (rhymes with oak). Ivanisevic, Goran — ee-van-EE-seh-vich. Jagr, Jaromir — YAHR-o-meer YAHG-ur. Kozlov, Vyacheslav — vee-YAH-cheh-slawv KAWZ-lawv. Krajicek, Richard — KRY-chek.


Words Kuerten, Gustavo — KWAYR-ten. Lemieux, Claude — luh-MYUH, NOT luh-MYOO, KLODE. Luyendyk, Arie — EHR-ee LY-ehn-dyk. Majoli, Iva — EE-va mah-YOH-lee. Mantilla, Felix — man-TEE-yah. Maple Leafs — plural is Leafs, not Leaves. Montreal Canadians (Canadiens) — always ka-NAY-dee-enz in English. Muster, Thomas — MOO-stur. Novotna, Jana — YAH-nah noh-VAWT-nah. Olajuwon, Hakeem — haw-KEEM ah-LAW-zhoo-wawn. Pizzichini, Gloria — pits-ih-KEE-nee. Richard (the Rocket and the Pocket Rocket) — rih-SHAR. Rosset, Marc — raw-SAY. Roy — the Avalanche goalie, should be RWAW (to rhyme with saw). Spirlea, Irina — spur-LAY-uh. Stich, Michael — SHTEEK. Sugiyama, Ai — EYE soo-jee-YAH-maw. Tauziat, Nathalie — TOH-zee-ah. Testud, Sandrine — tes-TOO. Tolles, Tommy — TOHLZ. Tomjanovich, Rudy — tom-JAHN-o-vich. Trlicek, Rick — TRIL-ih-chek. Tuscon Open Golf Tournament — should be TOO-SAWN, not TUKson, as once heard on air. Weibring, D.A. — WY-bring. Weibe, Mark — WEE-bee. Wimbledon — The tennis venue in London is pronounced WIM-buldun, NOT WIM-pul-tun. Yzerman, Steve — EYE-zur-muhn. Zvereva, Natasha — zvehr-AY-vah. Again, the best advice for the sports enthusiast is to check at source if possible. Ask about the pronunciation of the athlete’s name. The athlete’s


You Can Say That Again! country of origin or ethnicity, if you know it, should be a guide. If you are dealing with a language usually approximated phonetically (like Japanese or Chinese), say it as it looks. Add your own names to this list. It will grow. Unfortunately, having determined the correct pronunciation once is no guarantee you’ll remember it the next time it pops up. And then there was the London radio announcer’s: “Experience shows that sweeping generalizations about broadcasting are invariably wrong.” To close off, here are a few more gems: On the morning of an Illinois–Ohio State football game, Illinois is without the services of star running back Frosty Peters. The newspaper headline reads: ILLINI FACE BUCKS WITH FROSTY PETERS OUT Also from the sports pages: “If they ever take the emotion out of football, the stadiums will be full of no-shows.” From the real world of typographical errors: “At that point the gallery of golf fans deserted the championship to watch Miss Farley, whose shorts were dropping on the green with remarkable regularity.” Or the goof by a BBC interviewer talking to a British champ’s wife about how she helped his luck on the day of a tournament. “I kiss his balls,” she said innocently. BBC reporter, taken aback, “Oh, you mean his golf balls!” Another sport, another headline: TWO RECRUITS SATISFY ESU WOMEN’S COACH And the Sleuthing Goes On ... For pronunciation guidance on names, refer to the Geographical and Biographical Names in Chapter 6 of this book or the appropriate listings in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. Canadians will consult the Canadian Oxford Dictionary as their first choice. This book has a short list of place names, many of them Canadian, but the Oxford or Webster would be your best bet. The Webster is also an excellent guide to current usage regarding everyday words. It tends to be American but often offers Canadian or British pronunciation as a second choice. If this book’s language guides don’t provide clues to help you figure


Words out the pronunciation of a name or word, it’s time to pick up the phone and call an embassy, consulate, trade mission, or a university or high school language department. For medical or pharmaceutical guidance, call a doctor or druggist. While the Canadian Oxford and the Webster are very useful, Latin or Greek rules don’t always apply to the professions, including law. They have developed their own preferred pronunciations. Do not trust the police for a correct pronunciation unless you talk to an officer with the appropriate ethnic background. Reporters are wise to ask for the help of the person named in the story. Or ask a relative. One doesn’t need to be quite as intrusive or adventurous as the reporter in Ben Hecht’s story who climbed through a dining-room window to steal a photo of the deceased off the piano, but getting pronunciation guidance from someone central to the story pays off. As so many journalists have learned, you can kill a good story by having one simple fact wrong. The same is true for a mispronunciation. Make an error and out the window goes your credibility. As Lord Chesterfield remarked, “The manner of your speaking is full as important as the matter, as more people have ears to be tickled than understanding to judge.” Notes 1. Not everyone knows that the Gilbert and Sullivan musical The Mikado is pronounced mik-AH-do. We’ve heard it called MIK-ah-doo on the radio! 2. Webster created the forerunner of the Webster dictionaries (1828).

Quiz 6 ? With accented syllables in upper case, write out the following words phonetically: 1) accede 2) bilingual 3) coccyx 4) epistrophe 5) flaccid


You Can Say That Again! 6 ) homage 7) integral 8) lascivious 9) mischievous 10) orgy 11) pasacaglia 12) plethora 13) quayside 14) reputable 15) ribald 16) sub judice 17) twopence 18) ukase 19) viscid 20) zoology 21) Whig and Grit refer to what Canadian political party? 22) A conservative who argues that the government has a role to play in the economy, especially in social issues, is often called a Tory.

For answers, see Appendix A.


Chapter Six Names, Names, Names ...

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Chapter Six Names, Names, Names... Fictional, mythological, musical, biographical, and geographical

A story about Horatio William Bottomley (1860-1933) illustrates “what’s in a name.” He was a British journalist, financier, and member of Parliament. One day he called on Lord Cholmondley. “I wish to speak to Lord Chol-mond-ley,” he told the butler. “Lord Chumley, sir,” said the butler, correcting the pronunciation. “Oh all right,” said Bottomley. “Tell him that Mr. Bumley would like to see him!” Get a man’s name right and you’re off on the right foot. Get it wrong and you’ve begun with an insult, intentional or not. When speaking in public, you have an obligation to get personal, historical, and geographical names right. You don’t want to undermine your credibility. You want to show you know and care. Whenever you can, ask. Or look it up. Don’t assume anything when it comes to names. Go to a source familiar with the area or with the language concerned. As we recommended in the previous chapter, do not take pronunciations from police sources at face value. Most police officers are not linguists however hard they might try to say a name correctly. Journalists know it’s important not to have the wrong person arrested in a report or the name of the deceased mispronounced. Your responsibility on the platform is similar. For instance, to offend an Italian you need only pronounce it EYE-tal-yan rather than the correct ih-TAL-yan. Show your ignorance of the way to pronounce the name of the Italian coastal city Genoa and who will take anything else you say seriously? It’s JEN-o-a, not jin-OH-a. The most common mistake in pronunciation of Italian names is to say JEE-awn-ee instead of the diphthong JYAWN-ee for Gianni. Pronounce the lake in Ontario ni-PISS-ing and the locals will know you didn’t take the trouble to ask. It’s NIP-iss-ing. Glossary comes from the Greek glossa, which means “tongue,” “mother tongue,” or “word book.” As has been pointed out earlier, this volume is not a pronouncing dictionary. The lists presented here offer only a few of the most troublesome and most frequently mispronounced

You Can Say That Again! names and terms. The reader will find a lot of familiar names. But even some of those may turn out to be pronounced differently than commonly assumed. In this chapter a few historical, musical, and geographical names are offered. More troublesome names will be found in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, or in the New Webster Collegiate Dictionary under Biographical and Geographical headings. Other sources offer even more extensive listings. In many cases it is possible to come up with the correct pronunciation simply by following the rules of the relevant language. Some Names from Fiction, Mythology, and History Name: Achates Acheron Actaeon Admetus Aegeus Aeneas Aeolus Aesculapius Agamemnon Ahriman Alcestis Alcides Amphitrite Amphitryon Andromache Antigone Aphrodite Bucephalus Cassiopeia Clytemnestra Cressida Cymbeline Cytherea Daedalus

Pronunciation a-KA-teez

Description: companion of Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid AK-er-awn river in Hell, Hades ak-TEE-awn hunter changed into a stag by Diana ad-MEE-tus king of Thessaly EE-jus king of Athens and father of Theseus ee-NEE-us Trojan warrior EE-o-lus god of the winds as-ky-LA-pe-us god of medicine and healing ag-a-MEM-nawn king of Mycenae Or-im-en evil spirit in Zoroastrianism al-SES-tis wife of Admetus, Thessalian king; also a play by Euripides al-SI-deez nickname given to Hercules and his descendants. am-fi-TRY-tee sea goddess am-FIT-ree-awn king of Tiryns an-DRAWM-ik-ee wife of Hector an-TIG-a-nee daughter of Oedipus af-ro-DY-tee Greek goddess of love and beauty boo-SEF-a-lus the war horse of Alexander the Great kas-ee-o-PEE-a mother of Andromeda kly-tem-NES-tra wife of Agamemnon KRES-i-da daughter of a Trojan in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida SIM-buh-leen British chieftain sith-AYR-ee-a Aphrodite DEE-duh-lis mythical architect


Names, Names, Names... Don Quixote


Epimenides ep-i-MEN-i-deez Euripides yoor-IP-i-deez Halley’s comet HAL-eez, not HAY-leez Hermes HER-meez Laertes la-ER-teez Laocoon la-O-ko-awn Lysistrata ly-SIS-tra-TA

Mercutio Morgiana

mer-KOO-she-o mor-jee-AN-a

Oedipus Sophocles Tannhäuser Theseus

EE-di-pus SAWF-uh-kleez TAN-hoy-zer THEE-syoos

Utrillo, Maurice oo-TREE-yo, mor-EES

hero in Cervantes’ romance by the same name Greek sage Greek dramatist a bright comet, reappearing about every seventy-six years messenger of the Greek gods father of Ulyssis Trojan priest woman in ancient Greece who reportedly spurred women on to withhold their favours in a bid to end war Romeo’s friend clever female slave in the Ali Baba story King of Thebes Greek playwright German knight and poet hero of Athens who slew the Minotaur French painter

Musical Terms and Composer’s Names “A harp is a nude piano.” “If it’s not baroque, don’t fix it!” “Stradivari sold his violins on the open market with no strings attached.” Even when we inject humour in a speech before a friendly audience, credibility can be lost in an instant with one mispronounced composer’s or musician’s name, or even that of a violin maker. Term or Name: accelerando adagio agitato Alard Albéniz andante aria arpeggio Bach

Pronunciation: ah-chel-er-AN-do a-DAH-jo a-je-TAH-to a-LAR al-BAY-neeth awn-DAHN-tay AH-ree-a ar-PED-jo bahk (as in Scottish loch)


You Can Say That Again! Balakirev Beethoven Berlioz Bernstein Bizet Blüthner Boccherini bravura von Bülow cadenza cantabile canzone capriccio Casals Charpentier Cherubini Chopin Cimarosa concerto con furore Couperin crescendo Czerny De Falla Debussy Delius Drdla Dvorák Fauré finale von Flotow forte (f) Franck (César) Gianni Schicchi (Puccini) Gigli Glazunov Gounod Halle (orchestra) Haydn Hindemith Honegger Ibert d’Indy intermezzo

bala-KEER-ef BAY-toe-ven BEAR-lee-oz BURN-stine bee-zay bloot-nair bawk-er-EEN-ee brah-VOOR-a or BRAH-voo-ra fawn BOO-low ka-DENZ-a kan-TAB-ee-lay kan-SO-nay ka-PREE-cho ka-SALS shar-pawn-tchay (ch = sh) kay-roo-BEE-nee (ch = k) show-pan (nasal -an) chee-ma-RO-sa (c = ch) kawn-CHAYR-to kawn foor-OR-ay koo-per-an (nasal -an) kreh-SHEN-do chair-nee day FAH-ya duh-boo-SEE DEEL-yus DER-dia d’VOR-zhak FO-ray fee-NAL-ay fawn FLO-TOE FOR-tay say-zar frawnk JAWN-ee SKEEK-ee JEEL-yee GLAHZ-oo-nof GOO-no hal-ay HY-d’n HIN-de-mit HO-neg-air ee-bair DAWN-dee in-ter-MED or MET -so


Names, Names, Names... Leoncavallo Liszt Lulli maestro Mascagni Meyerbeer Milhaud Mozart Onegin Paderewski Paganini più pizzicato Poulenc Puccini, Giacomo Purcell Respighi Saint Saëns scherzo stringendo von Suppe Szell Tchaikovsky Thomas (Ambroise) Verdi, Giuseppe Wagner Wolf (or Wolf-Ferrari)

lay-awn-ka-VAL-o list loolee mah-EST-ro or MY-stro mas-KAHN-yee MY-er-beer meel-O MOAT-sart o-NAY-gin (not-jin) pad-er-EF-skee pag-a-NEE-nee pyoo pit-see-KAT-o poo-LAWNK poo-CHEE-nee, JAK-uh-mo PUR-s’l res-PEE-gee (not -jee) san sawnz SKAYR-tso strin-JEN-do fawn SOO-pay zel chy-KAWF-skee TO-mah VAYR-dee, jyoo-SEP-ee VAHG-ner volf

Even when you are sure of your pronunciation, syntax still matters as shown in two quotes from the musical film Mary Poppins: “I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith.” Question: “What’s the name of the other leg?” “At one time singers needed musicians to accompany them. Since synthesizers came along, singers can now play with themselves.” Troublesome Names — Biographical and Geographical Some foreign names are translated into English or anglicized, as in the case of Florence for Firenze, Italy. Paris is spelled the same in both French and English but we say PAR-is instead of pa-REE. The French usually convert foreign names, as in Londres for London. Düsseldorf, on the other hand, stays the same. The capital of Austria is really Wien after a


You Can Say That Again! river that flows into the Danube but we don’t say VEEN. We say Vienna. The capital of Canada is Ottawa, but in Quebec the Ottawa River Valley is known as the Outaouais (OOT-a-way). The Ojibwa (or Chippewa) people who gave the place its name were called Odawas (o-DAW-was). Copenhagen is pronounced KOAP-en-HAY-gen. As cultural influences change over time, pronunciations change for family names as well as for place names. Canada offers a case in point. In Quebec and other largely French-speaking areas of the country, French pronunciations dominate for places originally named by coureurs de bois and voyageurs. But in anglophone areas of the country those place names have often been anglicized. Sometimes there is no apparent logic to a pronunciation. When one is learning new geography, one needs to check the terms. Broadcasters are being tripped up every day. Place names in North America offer a clue as to who reached those places first. Lake Superior was named “the upper lake” by the French. Lac came first, as it does in French. When the term grand is part of a place name, this indicates a coureur de bois or French explorer probably got there first. Great indicates a name given by someone speaking English. We don’t really know how the Aboriginal people originally said Manhattan. Canada and Toronto were just generic terms and not Native names for the places they described. Europeans distorted the sounds and made the names their own. And we are still doing that with place names and personal names, just as immigration officers did with unfamiliar European family names. When it comes to the capital of China, we have had a variety of ways of spelling it and saying it over the years. We have gone from Peiping and Bayping to Bayzhing and Bayjing as we have tried to approximate the sounds. For anyone who wants to be both respectful and credible it is necessary to keep checking. And the way we say a place name may not be the way it’s pronounced somewhere else, even in the same country. Assumptions can be wrong. For instance, it may be correct to say Benjamin Netanyahu as BEN-ya-meen NET-an-YA-hoo in Israel, but in North America it’s BEN-ja-min. And, while Alberto Fujimori might find the j pronounced like an h in his Spanish-speaking homeland, in North America his surname is said FOOJ-ee-MOR-ee. When in doubt, look it up. There are lots of troublesome names. The following is just a handy list of a few of them. No doubt you will add some of your own. Name: Aachen Aberystwith Abidjan Abruzzi Accra

Pronunciation: AWK-in ab-er-IST-with ab-i-JAN a-BROO-tsee a-KRAW


Names, Names, Names... Aden Mehemet Ali Agca Agadir Agassiz Agincourt Ahmadabad Ahousat Aix-la-Chapelle Aklavik Algeciras Almonte Andhra Pradesh Annan, Kofee Antietam Antigua Appomattox Aran (Islands) Arkansas Armagnac Attawapiskat Aung San Suu Kyi Baden Baden Powell Bagehot, Walter Baja Balliol Baluchistan Bangor Baton Rouge Bayreuth Beausoleil Belo, Carlos Filipe Ximenes Benacadie Bengough, Sask. Bergamo Bienfait, Sask. Blackfoot (Pieds Noirs) Blenheim

AYD-in MEH-met AW-lee AH-juh ah-gah-DEER AG-uh-see AYJ-in-kort (Cdn.), ahzh-in-KOOR (Fr.) AWM-ad-a-BAD uh-HAW-sit AYK-sla-sha-PEL, or EKS-la-sha-PEL a-KLAH-vik AL-ju-SEER-us al-mawnt AN-dra pra-DESH KOH-fee AH-nahn an-TEE-tum an-TEEG-a a-puh-MA-tuks AR-an ARK-an-SAW(state); ar-KAN-zas (river) arm-an-YAK at-a-WAW-pis-kat ahng SAN-soo-CHEE BAWD-in BAD-in POLE BAJ-et BAW HAW BAY-lyul (bah-LOIL in Toronto) ba-LOO-chis-tan BANG-er BA-tun ROOZH by-ROYT bo-so-LAY fih-LEE-pay shuh-MAY-nays BAY-loo ben-AK-a-dee BEN-gawf BUR-guh-mo BEEN-fayt BLAK-fut. Plural: Blackfoot (not Blackfeet) BLEN-im


You Can Say That Again! Boca Raton Boisé, Idaho Bondi Beach Bougainville Boutros Boutros-Ghali Brc˘ko Breadlebane Brechin Brindisi Brisbane Brougham Buctouche Bukavu Burrard Inlet Burundi Butte

BO-ka ra-TAWN BOY-zee BAWN-dy (rhymes with fly) BOO-gan-veel BOO-tros BOO-tros GHAL-ee BURCH-ko brid-ALL-bin BREK-in BRIN-dee-see BRIZ-bin BRO-am buk-TOOSH boo-KAV-oo buh-RARD boo-ROON-dee byoot

Cabot Cádiz Cadogan, Alta. Caius College Cajon Calais, N.B. Canberra Canterbury Cartegena Cataraqui Celebes Celtic Chaldea Chebucto Chedabucto Chemainus Cheops Chernomyrdin, Victor Chéticamp Chicoutimi Chignecto Chillicothe, Ohio Chimo, Qué. Chinook Chirac, Jacques Chisholm Ciudad Juárez

KAB-ut KA-diz or KA-deeth ka-DOAG-an KEEZ ka-HOAN KAL-as (kal-AY in France) KAN-ber-a KANT-eh-bur-ee kart-a-GEE-na, kart-a-HAY-na kat-ar-AK-wee SEL-uh-BEEZ SEL-tik or KEL-tik kal-DEE-ah shuh-BUK-toe shed-a-BUK-toe cheh-MAY-nus KEE-awps chayr-no-MEER-din SHET-i-kong shi-KOO-tim-ee shig-NEK-toe CHIL-a-KOATH CHY-mo shin-OOK zhahk sheer-AWK CHIZ-um SEE-yoo-dad, WAR-ez


Names, Names, Names... Clayoquot, B.C. Cockburn Colquhoun Copenhagen Coquitlam Courtenay Cowichan Craigellachie Crapaud Croat, Croatian

KLAK-wut KO-burn kul-HOON KOAP-en-HAY-gen (not KOAP-en-HAW-) ko-KWIT-lum KORT-nay KOW-ich-an kray-gel-AK-ee KRAP-o KRO-at, kro-AY-shun

Dacca Dagenham Dalhousie, Ont. Dalhousie, N.S Dartmouth Dauphin, Man. Delhi, India Delhi, Ont. Deng Xiaoping Derby Des Moines Des Plaines Detroit Devonshire Dunfermline Durham Duskiewicz

DAK-ah DAG-num duh-LOOZ-ee dal-HOWZ-ee DART-muth DAW-fin DEL-ee DEL-HY dung ZHOW-ping DAR-bee di MOYN dez-PLENZ di-TROYT DEV-un-shir dun-FIRM-lin DUR-um DUHS-kuh-wits

Ecum Secum Ely Entebbe Esquimalt, B.C. Estevan, Sask. Etobicoke

EE-kum SEE-kum EE-lee en-TEB-ee as-KWY-mult ES-teh-van uh-TO-bi-ko

Fauquier, B.C. Fermanagh Fianna Fáil (Irish party) Fine Gael (Irish party) Framboise, N.S. Alberto Fujimori Hiroshi Fujisaki

fo-KEER (fo-kee-AY in Ont.) fur-MAHN-ah FEE-na FOYL FEE-na GAYL (see also Sinn Fein) FRAM-boiz foo-jee-MOR-ee heer-O-she foo-jee-SAH-kee


You Can Say That Again! Gabon Gallipoli Galloway Gananoque, Ont. Ganges Ganic, Ejup Genoa Gibran, Khalil Giffard, Qué. Gila (River, Mountains) Gisenyi Gloucester Grand Manan (Island) Greenwich Grenada, W.I. Grosvenor Gros Ventres Groton Grozny Guelph, Ont. Guyana

ga-BAWN ga-LIP-aw-lee GAWL-way gan-an-AWK-way GAN-jeez AY-oop GAH-nich JEN-o-a ka-LEEL zhee-BRAN ZHEE-far HEE-la ji-SEN-yee GLAW-ster gran-ma-NAN GREN-ich gren-AY-da GRO-vin-er GRO-VAWN-tra GRAW-tun GRAWZ-nee GWELF gee-AN-a

Haida Hanegbi, Tsahi Hebron Hecate (Strait) Helena, Montana Home, Sir Alec Douglas Hue, Vietnam Huron, Lake

HY-da (rhymes with Ida) TSAW-hee haw-NEG-bee HEB-rawn HEK-ut HEL-en-a HYOOM HWAY (rhymes with hay) HYOOR-on

Igloolik Iguchi, Toshihide Islay, Alta. Izetbegovic, Alija

ig-LOO-lik to-shee-HEE-dee ih-GOO-chee Y-lee AWL-yuh ee-zet-BEG-o-vich

Jaipur Jakarta Jalapo Jiang Zemin

JY-poor ja-KAR-ta ha-LAP-ah jawng zuh-MEEN

Kaczynski Kangiqsualujjuaq, Qué. Kapuskasing, Ont.

kah-ZIN-skee KANG-ik-soo-al-LOOJ-oo-ak KAP-us-KAY-sing


Names, Names, Names... Radovan Karadzic Kearny, Kearney Keewatin Kenogami Kljuc˘ Kluane Kootenay Kouchibouguack, N.B. Kupljensko

RAW-do-van KA-ra-jich (or -jits) KAR-nee kee-WAY-tin ken-AWG-a-mee KLOOJ kloo-AWN-ee KOOT-nee KOOSH-i-be-kwak koo-PLYEN-sko

Lagos La Jolla La Paz Las Cruces Latakia Layte (Gulf) Le Bourget Leicester Le Mans Lesotho Lévis, Qué. Liard (River) Liu Huaqiu Llandudno Lodz Longueuil L’Orignal, Ont. Louisbourg, N.S.

LAY-gaws la HOY-a la PAZ la-SKROO-ses la-ta-KEE-a LAY-tee luh boor-ZHAY LES-tur luh mawn (mawnz in English) luh-SO-to (as in toe), luh-SOO-to luh-VEE or lay-VEE LEE-ard lyoo waw-CHOO lan-DID-no lawdz lawng-GAY lor-NEL LOO-is-burg

Macon (Georgia) Mâcon (France) Magaguadavic, N.B. Magdalen College (Oxford) Magli, Bruno Magnetawan Magog, Qué. Maisonneuve Majorca Manzanillo Maori Margaree, N.S. Marseille Marylebone Marcello Mastroianni

MAY-kun ma-KAWN MAG-a-DAH-vik MAWD-lin MAW-lee mag-NET-a-wan MAY-gog mez-an-UHV ma-YOR-ka MAN-zan-EE-yo MOW-ree mar-ga-REE mar-SAY MAR-li-bone mar-CHEL-o mas-tro-YAWN-ee


You Can Say That Again! Mfume, Kweisi Milosevic, Slobodan Mladic, Ratko Mindinao, Philippines Mississauga, Ont. Monaco Montreal Mubarak, Hosni Musquodoboit

kwa-EE-see oom-FOO-may slo-BO-dan mi-LAW-shuh-vich RAT-ko MLAH-dich MIN-din-OW MIS-is-AW-guh MAWN-i-ko MUN-tree-AWL HAWZ-nee moo-BAHR-ak mus-ko-DAWB-it

Nadi or Nandi, Fiji Nagy, Imre Nanaimo, B.C. Natal Navajo Necum Teuch, N.S. Netanyahu, Benjamin Nevis, W.I New Delhi Newfoundland New Orleans Nez Perce (source of Apaloosas)

NAN-dee IM-ray NAZH na-NY-mo na-TAHL NAV-uh-ho nee-kum-TAW net-an-YA-hoo NEH-vis DEL-ee nyoo-f ’nd-LAND nyoo OR-linz

Nice Nippissing Nogales Nokomis, Sask. Nottawasaga Norwich

NAY payr-SAY or NEZ PURSE (U.S.) nees (rhymes with fleece) NIH-pa-sing (not ni-PISS-ing) no-GAL-is no-KO-mis NOT-a-wa-SAW-ga NOR-ich or NOR-ij

Oaxaca, Mexico Okanagan, B.C. Opinipiwan, Man. Orange, New Jersey Orange, France Oregon Orono, Ont. Osoyoos, B.C. Otonabee River

wuh-HAWK-uh o-ka-NAW-gan o-PIN-ip-i-WAWN OR-inj or-AWNZH OR-i-gun OR-an-o o-SOO-yus o-TAWN-a-bee

Padua Pago Pago Palatinate

PAD-uh-wa PAN-go PAN-go puh-LAT-in-ayt


Names, Names, Names... Pall Mall Pecos Pelee Island Pembina, Man. Pen d’Oreille, B.C. Penetanguishine, Ont. Pepys, Samuel Perugia Peshawar Phnom Penh Pictou, N.S. Pinochet, Augusto Portage and Main, Winnipeg Portage (elsewhere, French) Potomac Pouce Coupé, B.C. Ptolemy Puget

pel MEL or pawl MAHL PAY-kos PEE-lee PEM-bi-na PAWN-do-RAY pen-a-TANG-wish-EEN peeps pir-OO-jya peh-SHOW-ur (puh)-NAWM PEN PIK-toe (rhymes with toe) PEEN-o-shay POR-tij por-TAWZH puh-TOE-mak POOS-KOO-pay TAWL-um-ee PYOO-jit

Quebec Queen’s Quay Quesnel, B.C. Quinte, Bay of Qumran

kuh-BEK KWEENZ kee ku-NEL KWIN-tee koom-RAWN

Rahman, Sheik Omar Abdel


shayk O-mar AWB-del RAWK-man RAWL-ee RUH-mih-seez RED-ing ruh-SEEF-eh remz ree-KYA-vik rish-a-BUK-toe riv-YAIR-duh-LOO RAWN-ses-vaylz (street in Toronto, Ont.) RAWN-seh-val (Spanish village in the Pyrenees) roo-AWN (pronounced ROO-awn in Ontario) ruh-WAHN-duh

Sainte-Foy, Qué.

san FWAH

Raleigh Rameses Reading Recife Reims Reykjavik, Man. Richabucto, N.B. Rivière-du-Loup Roncesvalles

Rouyn, Qué.


You Can Say That Again! Salonika San’a or Sanaa Sandys San Jose San Juan Sault Sainte Marie (Sault Ste. Marie) Sarajevo Sarawak Scone, Scotland Seoul Sese Seko, Mobutu Seul, Lac Shoshone Shubenacadie Sinn Fein Skagit Skidegate, B.C. Sligo Slough Sotheby Sonora Souris, Man. Souris, P.E.I. Southwark Spokane Srebrenica St. Croix, N.B. St. Hyacinthe, Qué. St. John (surname) Stouffeville, Ont. Strachan Sudbury Swift Current Synge

sal-AWN-i-ka or sal-awn-EE-ka SAN-aw sandz san (H)OZ-ay san (H)WAWN soo saynt muh-REE sar-a-YAY-vo SAR-a-wak skoon so-el (as in role or roll) mo-BOO-too SES-ay SAY-ko lak sool shuh-SHO-nee shoo-ben-AK-a-dee shin fayn SKAJ-it SKID-a-get SLY-go slo SUTH-uh-bee suh-NOR-ah SOO-ris SOO-ree SUTH-urk spo-KAN SREH-breh-neet-sa SAYNT KROY SANT-HY-a-santh SIN-jun or saynt jawn STO-vil strawn, sometimes STRA-kan SUD-bur-ee (not sud-BERRY) SWIFT kur’nt sing

Tabriz Tacoma Taipei Temiskaming Temiskamingue Tanzania Tenerife Tenochtitlán

ta-BREEZ ta-KOAM-ah TY-pay ta-MIS-ka-ming ta-MIS-ka-MANG tan-zan-EE-a ten-uh-REEF ten-awk-tit-LAN


Names, Names, Names... Terre Haute The Pas, Man. Thule Tiananmen Timagami Tigris Timor Toronto Tortuga Tudjman, Franjo

tar-uh-HOAT the PAW TOO-lee tyawn-awn-men tim-AWG-am-ee TY-gris TEE-mor tor-AWN-toe tor-TOO-gah frawn-yo TOOJ-man

Uganda Ural

yoo-GAN-dah YOOR-ahl

Vaudreuil Venice

vo-DROY VEN-is

Wadena, Sask. Warwick Wetaskiwin, Alta. Wilkes Barre Willamette (River) Woomera Worcester

wah-DEE-na WOR-ik wuh-TAS-ki-win WILKS BAR-uh wil-AWM-et WOO-mer-uh WOOS-tir

Xinhua (news agency) Xochimilco

SHIN-wah so-chi-MIL-ko

Yakima Yeats Yeo (surname) Ypres

YA-ki-ma yates yo eep

Zagreb Zaire Zeballos, B.C.

ZAW-greb zaw-EER ze-BAL-us Quiz 7 ?

Write phonetically, with acccented syllables in upper case: 1) Lord Cholmondley


You Can Say That Again! 2) Lysistrata 3) Albéniz 4) Boccherini 5) Cherubini 6) De Falla 7) Gigli 8) Wagner 9) Arkansas River 10) Craigellachie, B.C. 11) Des Moines 12) Fianna Fáil 13) Brindisi 14) Gloucester 15) Hecate Strait 16) La Jolla, California 17) Magdalen College 18) Nadi, Fiji 19) Oaxaca, Mexico 20) Skagit, B.C. 21) In which large South American country is Spanish not the primary language? 22) Say aloud and write phonetically the following: a) Baja, California, Mexico


Names, Names, Names... b) Delhi, India c) San Juan, Puerto Rico d) Phnom Penh e) Nice f) Copenhagen g) Pago Pago For answers, see Appendix A.


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Chapter Seven A Jam of Tarts

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Chapter Seven A Jam of Tarts Nyms, phobes, and philes defined. Prefixes and suffixes, singulars versus plurals, and a few collectives. A word after a word after a word is power. — Margaret Atwood We specialize in quick erections. (Construction company sign) In this short chapter we will take a look at various “-nyms,” including antonyms and homonyms. Epigrams, similes, and metaphors also get some attention, along with “-phobes,” “-philes,” and other suffixes and prefixes. Singular and plural word endings pose problems as the language changes and the strict rules of Latin are no longer applied. We take a cursory look at the problem in this section. But first we offer a brief examination of an entertaining but sometimes troubling issue. A Jam of Tarts Collective nouns are fun. We are familiar with collectives such as “a flock of birds, a school of fishes, a pride of lions, a herd of cattle, a ramuda of horses, a coven of witches, a haunt of ghosts,” even a “sloth of bears” or “a bale of turtles.” Less familiar are “a husk of hares” or “a charm of finches.” It is also fun to create new, appropriate, or humorous collectives like “a gang of thugs, a clutch of ..., a gurgle of ..., a jam of ..., a crush of ..., a lope of ...,” and so on. For example, “a school of trustees” or “a calumny of candidates.” Probably the most-repeated collective-noun story is the one about the five Oxford dons strolling through town when four ladies of the evening pass by. One of the dons describes the group as “a jam of tarts.” The second don tries “a flourish of strumpets.” The third professor proffers, “an essay of trollops.” The fourth man suggests “a frost of hoars.” And the fifth asks, “How about an anthology of pros?” Then, one of the ladies shouts, “Surely you’ve overlooked the obvious, ‘a pride of loins’!” Keep in mind, a collective noun takes a singular verb: “The family is having lunch together.” Or, “That team has led the league for weeks.” “That couple is (not are) deeply in love.”

You Can Say That Again! Acronyms, Antonyms, Eponyms, Homonyms, and Synonyms Acronym — An acronym is a word formed from the initial letters of a term or phrase, such as WAC (Women’s Army Corps), GI (general issue), SNAFU (Situation normal: all fouled up), FUBAR (f——d up beyond all recognition), WOG (worthy oriental gentleman — term imposed to stop bigoted references to colonials from British military or other imperial officers). Perhaps it is an invention, but the story goes that POSH is derived from “port side out, starboard side home” as a reservation direction for the trip by sea from Britain to India in imperial times. Travellers preferred not to be on the sunny side of the ship but sought the shade, avoiding the sun and heat on the way out and on the way back to England. Acronyms are being invented every day and the brevity of E-mail and faxes has prompted many. Among them: AFAIK — as far as I know; BRB — be right back; CUL8R — see you later; IMO — in my opinion; KWIM — know what I mean?; OTOH — on the other hand; PITA — pain in the ass; PTMM — please tell me more; TTFN — ta ta for now; TTYL — talk to you later; WUF — where are you from?; YIU — yes I understand; POOF — out of here, signing off. Acrostic — This is a word puzzle in which certain letters in a line form another word. It is also the word that is the solution to such a puzzle. An example comes from the Christian symbol for Jesus. The Greek for fish is ichthus and it was an acrostic for Iesous Christos Theou Uios Soter (Jesus Christ God’s Son, Saviour). Antonym — A word that means exactly the opposite of a given word; hot versus cold, good versus bad. Epigram — A short, witty poem or expression, a maxim. Eponym — The person after whom something is or is thought to be named, from the Greek eponymos. Also: the name given. There are many examples: SFA: sweet Fanny Adams, meaning “nothing at all.” It is sometimes shortened to sweet f.a. and is apparently derived from the name of a girl murdered in Hampshire in 1812. Her body was found in pieces in a river. Sailors complaining about a meal of tinned meat are alleged to have found a button in it. That is when they referred to the contents as Fanny Adams.1 Other familiar words derived from names include cardigan, the sweater named after the foolish seventh earl of Cardigan who led the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade to doom in the Crimean war. Sandwich is from the fourth earl of Sandwich who couldn’t bring himself to leave the gambling table long enough to eat properly. There’s also chesterfield, a sofa. And a topcoat named after the nineteenth-century earl of Raglan. The raglan sleeve is named after him, too. Then there’s boycott


A Jam of Tarts after Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott who did such a poor job of running the Irish estates of the earl of Erne that workers left his employ, tradesmen refused to supply him, and he eventually had to flee. Chauvinist and chauvinism are derived from the name of Nicholas Chauvin de Rochefort (sho-VEN duh rosh-FOR). He was honoured for his blind, unswerving devotion to Napoleon, but the term his name spawned has become pejorative, meaning someone who shows prejudice against certain groups of people. Étienne de Silhouette (eh-TYEN duh sil-oo-ET) was an eighteenthcentury controller general, unpopular for tripling the head tax on bachelors, for making elected officials pay taxes, for slapping on a sales tax, for reducing pensions of the nobility and for slashing the royal budget. A style of trousers came to be known as “à la Silhouette.” But his name lives on in his hobby of cutting silhouettes out of black paper. See also Luddite and sabotage in Chapter 10. John Dun was a Scottish borderer, a great philosopher of the Middle Ages whose disciples were called Dunsmen or Dunses. Their hair-splitting teachings, however, were discredited in the Renaissance. Dunce became a term of ridicule. Other names have stayed alive as words, including guillotine (Dr. Joseph Ignace Guillotin) for an invention first introduced to make executions more humane — it was in use until 1977. Other wellknown eponyms are ampere, diesel, daguerreotype, pasteurize, doily, leotard, and nicotine after Jacques Nicot who, as we saw in Chapter 3, introduced tobacco to France in 1560. Another eponym is martinet, after General Jean Martinet who built a modern army for Louis XIV with precision drill. He was not popular in the ranks and was killed by so-called friendly fire at the siege of Duisburg in 1672. His name lives on as a word for ruthless discipline. Letter from Bonaparte to Joséphine: “What is this I hear about a pair of men’s boots under your bed in recent days?” Joséphine’s eponymic reply to the Emperor: “Don’t concern yourself, Boney. They are only wellingtons.” Homonym — A word that sounds like another but has a different meaning. Feat and feet are homonyms. Homophone also means “sound-alike.” Two, to, and too are homonyms and homophones. Hyperbole (hy-PER-bo-lee) — Exceptional exaggeration for emphasis but not for deception. Irony — A figure of speech whose meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the words used, like Mark Antony’s statement in


You Can Say That Again! Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “Brutus is an honourable man....” The term is often mistakenly considered to mean “curiously coincidental.” Lexeme — A basic linguistic unit made up of one or several words, the elements of which do not, on their own, express the meaning of the combination (demarcation, indefatigable). Lexicon — A dictionary of a language, a vocabulary. The Greek lexicon derives from lexis (word) which is a derivative of lego (speak). Metaphor — Figurative language suggesting a likeness between objects or ideas. Example: A glaring error. Or, “That time of year thou may’st in me behold / Where yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang ...” (Sonnet X). Other metaphors: “One’s home is one’s castle.” “He’s a brick”. “She’s a doll, a princess.” Or, in the Cockney vernacular, “’e’s a proper Charley!” Then there are mixed metaphors, to be avoided but common in Parliament, on municipal councils, and in sports play-by-play: “When we opened Pandora’s box, out came a Trojan horse.” A professor once asked his teenaged son, “What is a metaphor?” The son replied, “For cows to graze in.” Metonym — Substitution of an attribute for the whole, for example: the turf for horse racing. Palindrome — A word, line, or verse reading the same backwards as forwards, such as the word rotor or “Poor Dan is in a droop.” Paradox — An apparently self-contradictory statement which actually has a basis in truth: “Ignorance is bliss.” Sometimes people will say something is ironic when they mean paradoxical. Pun — The humorous use of a word to suggest different meanings. See Puns in Chapter 3. Simile — A figure of speech explicitly comparing one thing to another: “My love is like a red, red rose” (R. Burns). Synonym — A word having the same, or almost the same, meaning as another. Automobile and car are synonyms; so are sun-up and dawn; game, match, and contest. Phobes and Philes The suffix -phobe comes from the Greek phobos (fear). People who have phobias are said to be phobic. Agoraphobia is a fear of the agora, a fear of public places. Coprostasophobia is a fear of constipation. Gametophobia is a fear of marriage. A zeno- or xenophobe is one who fears or deeply dislikes foreigners. The suffix -phile means “lover of.” So we have anglophiles and francophiles, bibliophiles, and so forth. The syllable can also crop up at the beginning of a word, as in the name Philadelphia. It derives from the Greek philos (dear, loving). For more prefixes and suffixes, read on.


A Jam of Tarts Prefixes Know what prefixes (and suffixes) mean and you are on your way to parsing multi-syllable words for their meanings. Knowing the function of the first and last syllable can also help with syllabification and pronunciation. abadambiantearchautodisdysepiheteroholohyperinterintraintrometamonomultiob-

from, away toward, to, at, or near about, around before chief, head, ruling self apart, asunder, in two bad, ill, difficult upon, over other, different whole, entire over, beyond between within within, into after, beyond, among (denoting change) single many against


see oball beside almost through around, about many forward, forth after, behind above, beyond before, forth first, original backward, after without under, inferior above together, with across, over, beyond beyond, over

Suffixes Tack a syllable or two on the end of a word and the suffix alters meaning. A suffix makes a word do double duty. Like the prefix, a suffix, if understood, can help us to understand new words. Suffixes expand our vocabulary. For fun, try to find a word to go with each suffix and write it in the right margin. Suffix: -able -ac -aceous -age -al -ance, -ancy

Meaning: that may be, capable of being pertaining to partaking of the properties of abstract or collective pertaining to denoting state or action


Example Word*:

You Can Say That Again! -ane -aneous -ant -ar -cie, ule -ee -eous -escent -esque -ferous -ible -ic, ical -ile -ish -ism, -asm -ist, -ast -kin -lence, -lent -logy -ment -metre, meter -mony -ock -oid, -oidal -or -ous, -ose -pathy -phorous -scope, -scopy -some -ster -tor -trix

adjectival suffix belonging to denoting existence or action pertaining to diminutive suffix one who is acted on, recipient pertaining to, containing becoming gradually partaking of bearing, producing same as -able pertaining to belonging to pertaining to implying doctrine, a system one who diminutive suffix full of doctrine, science act of, state of measure state, condition diminutive suffix resembling one who full, abounding with state of feeling bearing, carrying what assists sight, seeing full of one who masculine suffix feminine suffix

*Some examples: portable, crustaceous, relevance, simultaneous, tumescent, fanaticism, thermometer, hegemony, spheroid, verbose, winsome, aviator, dominatrix. Singular or Plural? Lots of people, including media people and even U.S. President Clinton, say, “The media is responsible,” whether they mean to blame them or to say they are acting responsibly. But the media are either responsible or irresponsible. One medium is or is not responsible. Media is a plural! The


A Jam of Tarts a is the clue. It’s the plural ending which we owe to both Greek and Latin. The media are. A medium is. Some singular/plural distinctions seem to be dodo-like. Dead. Doctors and biology profs are likely to say these days, “A bacteria is a single-celled organism.” They mean a bacterium. It is true, however, that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now a serious threat. Then there’s the doubly confused student who writes, “The bacteria is a one-celled orgasm.” Other such errors include phenomena when a phenomenon is intended, and vice versa. Or data. These days people feel no selfconsciousness whatsoever when they enter data in the computer or compile it (not them). When did you last see a datum anyway? Most of us wouldn’t know a datum if it fell on us. One more pet peeve while we’re at it: Criteria are plural. A criterion is on its own. So the dialogue ought to go like this: “And what are the criteria by which you measure the solution proposed?” Answer: “Well, my first criterion is ...” In conclusion, how about a classroom double entendre and a termpaper blunder: “Romeo’s last wish was to be laid by Juliet.” “Shakespeare wrote his plays in Islamic pentameter.” Notes 1. There is a distinction to be made between initialized eponyms like sweet Fanny Adams, acronyms like POSH and initialized abbreviations like PMO (Prime Minister’s Office).

Quiz 8 ? 1) Give an example of an acronym. 2) A gametophobe is one who fears 3) There are several prefixes that convey the meaning of “over” or “beyond.” Use one in an example 4) What prefix has the meaning of “between”? For answers, see Appendix A.


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Chapter Eight Coming to Terms with ... Foreign Terms

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Chapter Eight Coming to Terms with ... Foreign Terms The chief merit of language is clearness, and we know that nothing detracts so much from this as do unfamiliar terms. — Galen, On The Natural Faculties Potable Latin Perhaps the most quoted joke in the huge body of work by comedians Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster (CBC radio and TV, CBS TV), was in their version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “The Ides of March”: A Roman private eye enters a Roman watering hole and sits at the bar. He says to the bartender, “Give me a martinus.” The bartender replies, “You mean martini.” The private eye responds impatiently, “When I want two of them I’ll ask for them!” The gag makes the point about Latin singular and plural word endings. We seldom say stadia for more than one stadium. We may say referenda for more than one referendum. We do say criteria for more than one criterion. And the dispute continues over medium and media. It is logical that media refers to more than one, so, “The media are all following the story, determined to get to the bottom of the alleged scandal.” Too often these days we hear, “The media is all over the story.” Marshall McLuhan said helpfully, “The medium is the message.” The ending -um is used for the singular form, -a for the plural. A medium is radio or television or print, or someone who helps us contact the spirit world, or something like clay or paint or wood with which we create a work of art. Media are all of the above. Clarity is everything in communications. Economy of expression helps. And so does the use of familiar, simple vocabulary. Seldom does a Latin, French, or Italian turn of phrase help us communicate more effectively in English. Sometimes it gets us into a mire, as in the redundancy “Déjà vu, all over again.” But there are times when, for sake of precision, or to amuse or ornament, it is appropriate to use a term from Latin or some other language. The law, medicine, religion, and the sciences favour Latin. Greek is at the root of much of the language of

You Can Say That Again! science. The language of food is largely French. And there are important Italian contributions. Think of vino and formaggio. This chapter takes a look at a few of the most common culinary and gustatorial terms. If and when we use them, we should get them right, both meaning and pronunciation. Often the foreign term is simply an affectation. But even when it isn’t, it will appear as foolish posturing if used or pronounced incorrectly. So this chapter offers a short list of common Latin as well as other foreign words and phrases and their pronunciations. Also, just to amuse, we explore the core vocabulary of the age of romantic love, when medieval troubadours composed their songs. And we take a look at some unintentional humour found in church bulletins. The best approach, of course, is to keep your language simple and avoid unnecessary trips into foreign waters. The terra incognita of foreign terms (to mix our metaphors) can lead to egregious gaffes like one the author once found in an office memo: “The changes are a fete accompli, so....” It should have read “fait accompli” because the French verb faire (fait) should not be confused with fête, meaning “party.” Unless the intention was to say something like “the party’s over”...? When in doubt, avoid the foreign term. If the situation really calls for it, look it up. Check the meaning and pronunciation. Try the Canadian Oxford or the Foreign Words and Phrases section at the back of the Webster. Latin Nil Illegitimi Carborundum (Don’t let the bastards grind you down!) Latin is the Italic language of ancient Rome and its empire, originating in Latium. It is the foundation of much of English. The two languages share Indo-European roots. Latin is an aid to understanding English words and even for pronunciation. Break a word into its components and often you will find the Latin roots dictate even a contemporary meaning. Know the prefixes and suffixes and you are halfway home. But pronunciation can be a problem because usage changes over time and because favourite, unique pronunciations may develop within a field, as in medicine or law. When using or reading a Latin phrase, it is necessary to know the exact meaning. A public speaker or broadcaster should only use Latin phrases that are common enough to be readily understood and are in the dictionary. Simple English equivalents can usually be found. Occasionally it is necessary to use a Latin legal term when it has been used by a lawyer or judge because it happens to be the correct, appropriate term. Do not use a Latin phrase simply to impress. Erudition needs no fancy clothes.


Coming to Terms with ... Foreign Terms Phrase ab incunabulis ad arbitrium ad extremum ad infinitum ad majorem Dei gloriam ad nauseam

Pronunciation: ab in-ka-NAB-yoo-lis ad ar-BIT-ree-um ad ex-TREE-mum ad IN-fin-Y-tum ad ma-JOR-em DAY-ee GLOR-ee-um ad NAW-ze-um

alias alma mater

AY-lee-as AL-ma MA-ter

alumni, alumnae (plural) al-UM-ny (m.), al-UM-ny (f.) alumnus, alumna (sing.) al-UM-nus (m.), al-UM-na (f.) amicus humani generis AM-i-kus hyoo-MAN-ee JEN-er-is amor vincit omnia a-MOR WINK-it OM-nee-a angina pectoris an-JY-na PEK-tor-is anno Domini

AN-o DOM-i-ni or -i-ny

anno mundi

AN-o MOON-dee


ap-AWL-o-jee-a, or ap-o-LO-jee-a

a priori

a pry-OR-eye

ars longa, vita brevis

arz-LONG-a, VEE-ta BREV-is BO-na FEE-de or FY-de BO-na FEE-dayz or FY-deez

bona fide bona fides casus belli

KA-sus BEL-eye


Meaning: from the cradle at will at last forever to the greater glory of God to a sickening degree also known as university, school or college which one attended graduates of a specified school or university friend of the human race love conquers all pain in the chest brought on by exertion in the year of the Christian era in the year of the world formal defence of one’s opinion or conduct proceeding from causes to effects art is long, life is short genuine honest intention or credentials an act that provokes or justifies war

You Can Say That Again! causa sine qua non cave canem


cogito, ergo sum

KO-jee-to AYR-go SOOM

de facto

day FAK-to

de gustibus non est disputandum

day GUS-ti-bus non est dis-pyoo-TAN-dum

Dei gratia

DAY-ee GRAT-ee-a

de jure e contrario emeritus

day-JOO-re ay kon-TRAR-ee-o em-MAYR-i-tus

eo ipso e pluribus unum

ay-o IP-so EE PLOOR-ih-bus YOO-num ir-AR-ee hyoo-MAN-um eks AN-ee-mo eks ka-THEE-dra

errare humanum ex animo ex cathedra ex necessitate rei

eks ne-KES-i-TAT-ay RAY-ee

ex nihilo nihil fit

eks NEE-hee-lo nee-hil FIT

ex officio

eks awf-ISS-ee-o

fiat justitia hic et ubique

FEE-at jus-TEE-tee-a HIK et oo-BEE-kway

homo sum

HO-MO soom


indispensable condition beware of the dog Descartes’s principle: “I think, therefore I am” being such in fact, whether legally acknowledged or not there is no disputing about tastes by the grace of God rightful on the contrary retired and retaining one’s title as an honour by that fact one out of many to err is human from the heart with full authority from the necessity of the case from nothing, nothing is produced by virtue of one’s office or status let justice be done here and everywhere I am a man

Coming to Terms with ... Foreign Terms id est in absentia

id EST in ab-SEN-she-a

in dubio in DOO-be-o in statu quo ante bellum in STA-tyoo KWO AN-te BEL-um inter nos in-ter NOS in vino veritas

in VEE-no VAYR-ee-tas

ipsissima verba justitia omnibus

lapsus linguae

ip-SIS-i-ma VUR-ba jus-TIT-ee-a AWM -nee-bus lab-or-AR-ay est or-AR-ay LAP-sus LING-wi

locus in quo mea culpa

LO-kus in KWO may-a KUL-pa

me judice meum et tuum modus vivendi

may JOO-di-KEE may-um et TOO-um MO-dus vi-VEN-dee

morituri te salutamus

mor-i-TOOR-i tay sal-oo-TAM-us

ne plus ultra


nolens volens nolle prosequi

NO-lenz VO-lenz NOL-le PRAWS-ek-wy

nolo contendere

no-lo kawn-TEN-dre

panem et circenses paucis verbis pax vobiscum pleno jure post hoc, ergo

PAN-em et kir-KEN-sis POW-kis VIRB-is PAKS vo-BIS-koom PLEN-o JOOR-ay post HOK, AYR-go

laborare est orare


that is in his (her, etc.) absence in doubt as it was before the war between ourselves there is truth in wine the very words justice for all to work is to pray slip of the tongue place in which ... acknowledgement of one’s fault in my judgement mine and yours way of living or coping we who are about to die salute you the furthest attainable point willy-nilly the relinquishment of a lawsuit plea acknowledging validity of a conviction but not guilt bread and circuses in a few words peace be with you with full right after this, there-

You Can Say That Again! propter hoc


fore on account of it ... post obitum post AWB-i-tum after death prima facie PRY-ma FAY-sha based on the first impression pro bono publico pro BAW-no POO-bli-ko for the public good pro rata PRO RA-ta proportional(ly) quod erat kwod AYR-at which was to be demonstrandum dem-on-STRAN-dum proved q.v., quod vide kwod VEE-day which see (in cross-references) requiescat in pace re-kwee-ES-KAT in may he or she PA-chay rest in peace sal Atticum sal AT-i-kum Attic salt: wit semper fidelis SEM-pur-fu-DAY-lis always faithful sine die sy-ne DY-ee or sin-ay with no DEE-ay appointed date sine qua non sin-ay kwa NON or an indispensable sy-ne- or see-nicondition SPQR, senatus SEN-a-tus pop-oo-LUS- the senate and populusque Romanus kway ro-MAN-us people of Rome status quo STAY-tus KWO the existing state of affairs sub judice SUB JOO-dis-ee under judicial consideration Te Deum TEE DEE-um or Christian hymn TAY DAYtempus fugit TEM-pis FOO-jit time flies ultra vires UL-tra VEE-rez beyond one’s legal power veni, vidi, vici WEN-ee, WEE-dee, I came, I saw, WEE-kee I conquered (J. Caesar) vice versa VY-sa VUR-sa the other way around vincit omnia veritas WINK-it AWM-nee-a truth conquers VAYR-ee-tas all viva voce VEE-va VO-tshay out loud vox et praeterea nihil VAWKS et pry-TAY-ree-a voice and NI-hil nothing more The Latin list could be much longer. Add your own terms as you see fit. Or make it a point to check the dictionary as they turn up.


Coming to Terms with ... Foreign Terms More Foreign Words and Phrases Phrase: à bouche ouverte à droite à gauche alo ha oe, or aloha

Pronunciation: a BOOSH oo-VIRT a DRAW-t a GOASH a-LO-ha-O-e, or a-LO-ha

après moi le déluge

a-PRAY MWA le del-OOZH

à propos de rien chacun à son goût che sera sera

a pra-PO de ree-EN sha-KUN a sawn GOO KAY sayr-a sayr-A



d’accord Dieu et mon droit

da-KOR dyuh ay mawn DRWA

eureka! faux-naïf

yoor-EEK-a FO na-EEF

fleur de lis (lys)

flur duh lee, or flur duh LEEZ (pl. fleurs) HAS-ta la VEES-ta on-ee SWA kee mal ee PAWNS

hasta la vista honi soit qui mal y pense


la reine le veut la REN le VUH plus ça change, plus c’est ploo sa SHANZH, la même chose ploo seh la mem SHOZ


Meaning: open-mouthed to or on the right to or on the left Hawaiian greeting after me the deluge (attributed to Louis XV) about nothing to each his own what will be will be fantastic product of the imagination agreed God and my right (motto on the British royal arms) I have found it! pretending to be childlike the French or Québécois lily goodbye Motto of the Order of the Garter: “Shamed be he who thinks evil of it” part transliteration of Greek word for Jesus the queen wills it the more things change, the more they stay the same

You Can Say That Again! tant pis


tranche de vie Uebermensch vaya con dios


so much the worse, too bad slice of life superman go with God

Gustatory terms (From the Latin gustare for “to taste”) “Please wait for hostess to be seated.” “Hors d’oeuvres will be served. Souses are welcome.” The sign at the door of a restaurant may confuse us even when it’s in English. The language of food is often French, Italian, or Chinese, so we shouldn’t be surprised when the message in English is corrupted and amusing. From antipasto through Escoffier to zabaglione, the language of food can trip us up. Knowing what the words mean is one thing. Saying them with authority is something else. And the best advice — again — is, when in doubt, either look it up or use an English equivalent. Don’t call soup potage when it really is just soup. Vin ordinaire is an unnecessary term when the wine is simply plonk, a marginally palatable but potable blend. Give it full deference when it is a respectable, praiseworthy varietal of a good year, but otherwise keep the hyperbole and French to a minimum. The language of food may be largely French but that’s no reason for affectation. Better to be prosaic and understood than to try to sound like a gourmet only to reveal you don’t know your asafetida from your empanada. An epicure needn’t put on airs. (See Word Origins, Chapter 3.) “We Highly Recommend the Hotel Tart.” This little notice clipped to the menu means well but shows how an innocent error can mislead. Larousse Gastronomique is a fine source of guidance on correct usage of terms related to food. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary is helpful with meanings and pronunciations for most terms you are likely to find in cookbooks and on menus. But here is a short list of terms related to food and the palate. Compile your own list as you look up the words that confound you on your culinary expeditions. Term: agnolotti

Pronunciation: an-yuh-LOT-ee


Meaning: triangular pasta filled with cheese or meat

Coming to Terms with ... Foreign Terms à la carte

à la mode antipasto arugula asafetida aubergine au beurre au jus au lait au vin à votre santé baccala baguette Bare Buttocks in the Grass Béarnaise sauce bisque

bocconcini bordelaise sauce bouillabaisse brewis

a la KART

ordered as separately priced items from a menu a la MOAD “in fashion,” pie (as in road) with ice cream small portions to whet the appetite a-ROO-gyoo-la a salad green as-a-FEE-te-da Asian fennel, bitter, onionlike, in oil o-bur-ZHEEN eggplant o BUR in butter o ZHOO served with its natural juices (meat) o LAY in milk o VAN in wine a VAWT-ruh sawn-TAY to your health BAK-a-LA dried and salted cod ba-GET long loaf of white bread Dutch dish of navy and string beans bare-NAYZ rich sauce containing egg yolks BISK thick cream soup with shellfish or pureed vegetables bok-awn-CHEE-nee a mild cheese bor-del-EZ a red wine sauce (Bordeaux) boo-ya-BAYS spiced fish soup or seafoodstew BROOZ as in fish and brewis stew (hardtack and water)


You Can Say That Again! broccoli

from Italian





carne, as in chili con-


cerise champignons Chartreuse

sir-REEZ shawm-pee-NYAWN shar-TRUHZ






coq au vin couscous


crème brûlée

krem broo-LAY


brocco (sprout); diminutive: broccolo, plural broccoli broccoli in Italy, named after Calabria a kind of soft, creamy cheese the Spanish for “meat” (compare carnivore) cherry mushrooms green or yellow liqueur dry red Italian wine perhaps from French coquetier (egg cup). A New Orleans apothecary, Antoine Peychaud, dispensed a tonic of cognac and bitters in egg cups. Elsewhere, Robert Benchley: “Get me out of this wet coat and into a dry martini.” orange-flavoured liqueur chicken in wine steamed seminola (French, from Arabic kuskus) baked custard with a caramelized sugar topping

Coming to Terms with ... Foreign Terms crème glacée cremini crevettes cuisine

KREM glas-AY krem-EEN-ee kre-VET kwiz-EEN

culinary cuvée

KOOL-in-ayr-ee koo-VAY





du jour




escargot five-spice powder


focaccia formaggio fromage

fo-KACH-ya for-MAJ-yo fro-MAZH

fumé fungi galore

foo-MAY FUNG-gy guh-LOR



gâteau au chocolat

ga-TOE o shok-o-LA


ice cream brown mushroom shrimp style of cooking (French for “kitchen”) grape harvest (see vendange) large white oriental radish Dijonnaise (dee-zhawn-EZ): type of mustard of the day, as in soup du turnover, usually filled with highly spiced meat (Spanish). snail mix of cloves, cinnamon, fennel, anise, and Szechuan pepper corns flat bread with herbs cheese (Italian) cheese (French), not necessarily just the soft white cheese from Normandy smoked mushrooms in abundance (Irish go leor meaning “Enough is as good as a feast”) a waiter in a French restaurant, but North Americans find it hard to call a waiter “boy” chocolate cake

You Can Say That Again! gelato Gorgonzola gourmand gourmet

jel-AH-to gor-gawn-ZO-la goor-MAWND goor-MAY


haute cuisine homard hors d’oeuvres mahi mahi

OAT kwiz-EEN o-MAR or-DOOV-r or or-DUHRV-r MAW-hee MAW-hee

maître d’






Molson muscle Naughty Children’s Toes noix Nun’s Tummy


oenologist ouzo

een-AWL-o-JIST OO-zo

pablum (pabulum)


ice cream pungent blue cheese glutton a connoisseur of good food named after British admiral Edward Vernon (1684–1757)who ordered sailors to take rum and water daily. He was called “Old Grog” because he wore an old grogram coat in foul weather. fine cooking lobster appetizers, see antipasto dolphin meat (Hawaiian) headwaiter (maître d’hôtel) food from heaven (Aramaic). Mana is also Maori for “supernatural power.” fermented soy soup, paste beer belly a Brazilian peanut brittle nuts sweet Portuguese pudding wine expert Greek anisette drink like Pernod cereal for infants (from the Latin for “animal feed”)

Coming to Terms with ... Foreign Terms parmigiano




pêche penne





FY-lo, or FEE-lo



poivre potation, potable




ragout restaurant restaurateur

ra-GOO RES-trawnt RES-tra-tur, owner or manager not RES-tor-awn-TOOR of a restaurant roo-LAWD rolled meat chicken fat, sentimentality (Yiddish) SEK (of wine) dry, not sweet SEL salt shee-TAK-ee black mushroom SIL-a-bub cream and wine mixed into a soft curd, gelatin sometimes added SAW-mel-yay steward or manager of wine cellar fine spaghetti

roulade schmaltz sec sel shiitake sillabub, sillyebubbe, syllabub sommelier spaghettini


Parmesan cheese — a dry, usually grated cheese originally made in Parma served with Parmesan cheese peach large hollow pasta noodles anisette, licorice beverage very thin pastry (from the Greek phyllon for “leaf ”) gravy and cheese curds on French fries (from English pudding) pepper, as in steak au~ drink, drinkable (from the Latin potare) red chicory, used in salads stew

You Can Say That Again! Szechuan




tarte aux pommes tourte aux pommes toad in a hole tranche vendange

tart o PAWM toort o PAWM TRAWNSH vawn-DAWNZH











Welsh Rabbit Worcester zabaglione

WOO-stir za-bal-YOAN-ee





cooked in the spicy style of the Chinese province of Szechuan large brown bean pod, tart, fruity (in chutney) apple tart apple pie sausage in pastry slice wine of a particular harvest fine spaghetti (from Latin vermis for “worm”) cold soup made of pureed leeks, potatoes, chicken stock dressing made with oil, vinegar, seasonings wine of a particular year hot green Japanese horseradish rare-bit, melted cheese on toast pungent sauce dessert made with eggs yolks, sugar, and wine blend of ground sumac, roasted sesame, and powdered thyme (N. Africa) anissette liqueur like Pernod or ouzo

Chefs often write their own menus and, as something is often lost in translation, we may come upon different spellings and unusual uses


Coming to Terms with ... Foreign Terms of French and Italian terms. Sometimes the accents are missing. Sometimes words are left out as in gâteau [au] chocolat. Is it rôt or rôti? Does it mean a poultry course or any roasted meat? The restaurant owner or chef decides. But a fairly typical menu might look like this: MENU

Hors d ’o e u v r e s

(or DOOV-r): savoury appetizers, hot or cold. Little items at cocktail parties are canapés (KAN-a-PAYZ).

Pota g e

(paw-TAZH): soup. It might be a consommé, bisque, or bouillabaisse (bisk, boo-ya-BEHZ ).


(pwa-SAWN): fish, seafood course, a filet perhaps (FILL-it).


(sor-BAY in French, often SOR-bit in English): palate-cleansing ice.

E n t r e’e

(ON-TRAY): main course: meat and vegetables in North America. It is the introductory course in France.

Ro ^ t or r o ^ ti

(ro-TEE): meat or poultry course


In North America most restaurants bring it after the appetizer to give the chef time to prepare the entree. In Italy it’s served afterwards.


cheese, nuts, fruit.


crème glacée, gâteau au chocolat, tarte, etc.


(lik-ER): cognac or other.

C a f e’

coffee, tea, or other beverage.


You Can Say That Again! The world of food is full of surprises, and the culinary art is such an international one there are sometimes amusing misunderstandings — more than a nuance may be lost in translation. For example: “We serve dead shrimp or warm vegetables with a smile.” In the same restaurant where that notice is posted we find some other curious offerings that show how language can trip us up when it comes to food. Soup — We Have Wanton, Spit Pea and Gestapo Soup. Also, Hamburger, Spaghetti Fungus. Prawns in Spit. Mushed Potatoes and Groin Salad. Sweat and Sour Chicken. Crocktails and Canopies. Finish it off with a fortune cookie and the message: “You will gain admiration from your pears.” Another restaurant promised “Half Baked Chicken,” while a newspaper headlined a victory for a reader’s recipe: FRIED CHICKEN COOKED IN MICROWAVE WINS TRIP! Then there was the sign in the Japanese hotel: “We now have a Sukiyaki Restaurant with lodging facilities for those who want have experiences on Japanese bedding.” Finally, the typos of the fast-food and take-out industry can’t be ignored: “Hot males delivered to your home in minutes!” (Probably from Tijuana Gourmet — that’s tee-ah-WAN-ah goor-MAY) The Language of Love Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence. — H. L. Mencken


Coming to Terms with ... Foreign Terms One of the polite conventions of motion pictures, until they became much more explicit, was to show a couple entering a room and closing the door behind them. It signified an assignation1 without being too graphic. The author recalls an unintended example in one of the fine wilderness documentaries shot by John and Janet Foster on the north shore of Lake Superior. As a transition to a new sequence in a new location they entered an old log cabin. When the door swung shut it left the impression they were going to spend a few intimate and private moments. They intended only to end one scene and dissolve to shots of a new location. That delicatesse is now absent from most movies. Explicit is in. The cynics have had their way with love, romance, and the institution of marriage. Who was it said, “Marriage is a fine institution. But who wants to live in an institution?” The G. K. Chesterton view: “Free verse is like free love: ... a contradiction in terms.” And Ambrose Bierce put it his way: “Marriage is a noun. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.” While there are many euphemisms, today’s films are inclined to use the blunt, Anglo-Saxon terms for both amours and the body parts involved. Breasts may be called hooters. But the old word tit is likely to be used in everyday conversation today. All the age-old synonyms for penis are in common use today in popular fiction and in the movies. Everydayconversation is replete with the full range of terms for vagina and derrière, to use one of the alternatives to ass. Every sexual position and act known since the Kama Sutra is now described bluntly in a vocabulary once considered too crude. Radio is a bit more circumspect, but television pushes the envelope with each new season of drama and sitcoms. In the movies it is almost a case of anything goes. But it wasn’t always thus. There was a time when the Hays2 office imposed a firm limit on Hollywood’s product, a bit like Victorians calling legs limbs and putting frilly stockings on piano legs. Of course, in Victorian days, women didn’t sweat or even perspire. They glowed. In an even more distant past there was another language of love, the language of the troubadours, the wandering, romantic minstrels of the


You Can Say That Again! Middle Ages. In those days, romance was more than sex. The troubadours composed and sang in Provençal, which is closely related to Italian, Catalan, and French. The language of love was spread across Europe by the troubadours. It was the somewhat formal language of the courtship ritual — a long way from lyrics made up of pick-up lines at singles bars. The ritual had several distinct phases: Fegnedor was the mutely gazing stage. The amorous adorer is apparently struck dumb. Speechless! Precador was the next stage; a declaration of adoration. The aspiring lover admits he is totally besotted. Entendedor. Now we’re getting somewhere! At this stage the poor fool is accepted — as a suitor, that is. Drut sounds less romantic, but drut is the purpose of the entire tedious effort, the consummation. Out of the formalized romantic-love ritual a competition developed. Troubadours competed at a tenson, as in Wagner’s Tannhäuser. A similar music festival and competition is the Welsh eisteddfod. A jongleur (zhawng-LIR) was an itinerant minstrel. The word is French and a variant of jougleur (juggler). André Maurois once said we owe two inventions to the Middle Ages: romantic love and gunpowder. Lord Chesterfield has the last word: “The pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous and the expense damnable!” Let Us Pray (For Fewer Typographical Errors in Church Bulletins) Typos sometimes convey a misleading message to the flock, as the following examples from the Congregational Clarion illustrate: “Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.” “The rosebud on the altar this morning is to announce the birth of David Alan Smith, the sin of Reverend and Mrs. Julius Smith.” “Wednesday, the Ladies Liturgy Society will meet. Mrs. Jones will sing ‘Put Me In My Little Bed,’ accompanied by the pastor.” “Thursday, there will be a meeting of the Little Mothers Club.


Coming to Terms with ... Foreign Terms All wishing to become little mothers, please see the minister in his study.” “A bean supper will be held Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.” “At the evening service the sermon topic will be ‘What is hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice.” Notes 1. One term for sex is hanky panky. To swing is to engage in sex. Other terms are bonk, ball, screw, diddle, bang, and hump. There are probably as many terms for copulation, or sexual congress, as there are for drunkenness. One theory about the word jazz is that it once meant “sex” in the lively brothels of New Orleans. Shakespeare’s term in Othello was “make the beast with two backs.” Then, as a favourite song in Atlantic Canada has it, there’s “friggin’ in the riggin’.” In the movies today the F-word is sometimes used to mean intercourse, but often it is simply punctuation or is used solely for emphasis. 2. Will H. Hays, president of the Motion Picture Producers Association from 1922 to 1945 and keeper of the Production Code. The Code was created to censor films and to counter popular and political criticism of Hollywood’s liberal ways with screen kisses and costume. For a long time people weren’t shown in bed unless they were dying. See Halliwell’s Filmgoer’s Companion (1988).

Quiz 9 ? Write the following terms phonetically and look up their meanings: 1) a priori 2) sub judice 3) à gauche 4) prima facie 5) sine die 6) ultra vires


You Can Say That Again! 7) viva voce 8) eo ipso 9) honi soit qui mal y pense 10) tant pis For answers, see Appendix A.


Chapter Nine Presentation

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Chapter Nine Presentation

Speech is a mirror of the soul, As a man speaks, so is he. — Publilius Syris, 1 B.C. How you say something is at least as important as what you say. But, apart from concern about using a word incorrectly or mispronouncing it, people have a deep fear of speaking in public. This chapter offers tips on making a few remarks into a microphone from the speaker’s rostrum or in a studio. As the late comedian George Burns put it cynically, “If you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.” Many people are now very skilled at delivering empty public-relations rhetoric. Politicians and CEOs working with spin doctors and media trainers make the reporter-interviewer’s job more difficult (reporters know they must be well prepared, aggressive, and persistent). In these pages the emphasis is on preparation. For fake sincerity you’re on your own. A dramatic point made succinctly gets the message across. Here you will find some tips on writing an effective lead and on the value of tight writing. And timing copy is a valuable skill for anyone who has to get that message across in limited time. Verbosity gets weak applause. “Unaccustomed As I Am ...” Cold sweat on the brow, clammy hands, shortness of breath, dry mouth, butterflies in the stomach, and fear that all thought will vanish and prepared remarks will disappear from memory — these are the symptoms of public-speaking phobia. Fortunately there are simple techniques for dealing with these familiar fears. This chapter offers some tips that will help to improve vocal technique.1 But the real secrets to platform success are preparation, a core message, organization, and having a beginning, a middle, and an end. A Bird in the Hand ... There are many good reasons for speaking when the opportunity arises. To make that point, there is the story of the mom who bought her son a

You Can Say That Again! talking parrot as a fiftieth-birthday gift. It cost five hundred dollars because it spoke five languages. The next time she saw her son, Mom asked, “How did you like the bird?” “Delicious!” replied the son. “Heavens!” Mom is shocked. “Don’t tell me you ate the bird! That bird could speak five languages!” The son’s reply: “If he could speak five languages, why didn’t he say something?!” Your Goal You want to communicate persuasively and with ease. You want to entertain and inform. How you approach the public-speaking opportunity depends on whether the speech must be immediate and impromptu or whether you’ll have time to prepare. Consider the occasion and the length of the address. Calvin Coolidge, when asked to make a speech, wanted to know how long it should be. When asked why he needed to know, he replied he could manage it immediately if it was to be a long speech. If it was to be brief, he said, it would take him some time to prepare.2 Always make your speech shorter than the time available. Off the Cuff or from Notes? A Checklist. Will you memorize it? Will you speak from script, from notes, or from bullets or points? Will you illustrate it in some manner (slides, video, flip chart)? Will you include a question-and-answer period (in the middle, at the end)? How large a type face? How will you space the text on the page? (How you format your cards or script pages is important.) How many pages or cards? Your checklist will help you come up with content and help you edit. Who are you speaking to? How many people? What do you know about your audience (age, gender, education, special interest, and so forth)? Is it a dinner or a business meeting? Are you speaking from the head table or somewhere else? Speech Sir Winston Churchill, when asked once if he was impressed that ten thousand people had gathered to hear him speak, replied, “No, because ten times as many would come to see me hanged.” There are few self-improvement projects more rewarding than polishing one’s platform-speaking ability. It’s a confidence builder. Demonstrate your ability a couple of times and you will be in demand. When the occasion suddenly calls for some appropriate remarks, your


Presentation facility with words will make you the natural choice. The terror will be gone. Your assurance will pay off in social and in business situations. It’s worth the effort. One good way to go about it is to join a speakers’ club like Toastmasters for regular practice and friendly feedback. Demosthenes Demosthenes (dem-AWS-then-eez), the great Greek orator (c.384–322 B.C.), is famous for the Philippics, denunciations of Philip of Macedon who was determined to subjugate the free cities of Greece. But when Demosthenes first took part in public debates, his speech was so tortuous and feebly delivered the audience laughed him out of the assembly. One day, the actor Satyrus caught up with him and gave him a lesson on how to deliver a speech. Demosthenes shaved one side of his head so he would be too embarrassed to show himself in public while he practised his oratory for weeks. He cured his stammer by speaking with pebbles in his mouth. He cured his shortness of breath by declaiming poetry while running up a hill. He became the greatest orator of classical antiquity, able to hold a critical Athenian audience spell-bound. His story suggests anyone can be an orator given some help, some determination, and some practice. Consider Your Audience — Another Checklist Who will you speak to? What does your public care about? How old, how well informed, how well off are they? Men, women, or a mixed audience? Demographics and psychographics are crucial. If you are speaking to a business group, consider the following possible personality types in your audience: emotives (creative people, who like to take charge), directors (all business, single-minded decision makers), reflectives (they need details and time to think; they don’t like to be rushed), supportives (who want to know: “What does it mean to me?” — once persuaded they’re loyal followers). The Greeks Had a Word for It Rhetoric wasn’t always a derogatory term.3 It didn’t always mean empty, flowery talk meant for effect only and not to be taken literally. Once upon a time rhetoric was the art of using language effectively. It was considered an essential part of a good education. Another important Greek word, and part of the rhetoric package, is proem. It is the preface to a book or a speech. It is the beginning, or prelude. It comes from the Greek pro and oime (song). In practice it


You Can Say That Again! means five components at the start of a public address: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)

the thank-you and acknowledgement of the opportunity, the thesis (the central point), stated briefly and dramatically, the benefits to be derived from the experience by the audience, a call for action or conclusion, and a description of your authority or your credentials.

So a proem comprises: a salutation, a statement of your credibility, the main point, an explanation of the main benefit, and the conclusion (including a thank-you and a call for action). The prime benefit of using the proem as an outline for the start of an address is that it can be done extemporaneously, ad libitum. It is easy to remember who you are and why you have been asked. It is easy to remember the main point you wish to make, the implications of your argument, and the value of your remarks to the audience. This means you do not have to be trapped by notes and can leave the lectern, stand freely and move naturally, speaking with proper expression and gesture. With the opening done and some physical activity, you have dispelled the butterflies in your stomach or at least have them flying in formation. From there on it will be easy to speak from bullets or brief headlines with little attention to the details of the script and no fear of getting lost. Some other Greek words still important for anyone interested in the art of public speaking and persuasion are pathos (emotional arguments), ethos (your credibility), taxis (the form of your presentation), lexis (the style of your presentation), and logos (your argument). The emotive argument, the pathos, should not be neglected. Of the elements in a communications transaction most likely to be remembered and influential, facts are worth perhaps 20 percent, while credibility and the feelings engendered or shared are worth about 40 percent each. Facts — 20%

Emotive Argument — 40%

Credibility — 40%4

Without an emotional bridge, you will be only marginally successful in your effort to convey facts and influence opinion. Build the feelings bridge and send your ideas and facts across it. The closing, or peroration, is a repeat of the points you made at the start. You make your main point again. You repeat succinctly any especially persuasive arguments in support of that central point, subtly reminding your audience of your credentials in order to bolster your authority and make your argument more persuasive. You remind your public of their self-interest and the benefit they will receive. You invite them to take appropriate action. Then you thank those who invited you and those who have listened so attentively.


Presentation “Three Tells” You will have noticed that the simple, structured opening and closing not only free you from word-for-word scripting (at least for the beginning and end), but they also dictate a simple structure for your speech. You have a start, a middle, and an end.5 This is the “Three Tells” approach:

• • •

Tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you’ve told them.

The basic “tell” is your thesis expressed with dramatic economy. It is a headline or like a radio or television lead. The work put into this basic “tell” will pay off. Refine and polish it. It will pay dividends as you muster your arguments and illustrations in support of it. But, as you develop your material, you may find yourself returning to your key point to refine it further or even to change it. Try to write it in twelve words or less. The arbitrary limit will force you to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. The middle of the three “tells” is the one in which you mount your arguments and illustrate them with anecdotes and statistics. If you can use humorous metaphor to make your points, go ahead. But the gags or stories should not detract from the case you are building. Humour should be appropriate and in good taste. When in doubt, leave it out. The last “tell” is much like the first — repeat the main point, remind the audience of the benefit they will receive, remind them of your relevant credentials, draw the conclusion with a recommendation for action, and thank them for their invitation and attention. Remember, you’ve been asked to speak because of who you are and your qualifications. You have been given a leadership role and leadership authority. You don’t have to ask for permission to speak. They’ve given it to you. They will listen. If you pause, they will wait attentively. If you signpost a laugh or applause or other emotional response, they will oblige. Take charge. Speak up. Smile. Script Your script starts with a scramble of notes on a legal-size page or just points, words, or phrases as they occur to you as you sit at your computer. This is the brain-storming stage. Try starting with checklists. Ask yourself: who am I speaking to? What do I know about my audience’s demographics: age, gender mix, interests, professional or industry characteristics, education, and other attributes? Try the journalist’s five W questions: “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and sometimes a “How.” You may come up with


You Can Say That Again! several responses to each of those questions. Do you see the nucleus of an idea for your main point yet? Can you write a lead line to express that point in twelve words or less? Until you can, you probably haven’t refined your thoughts enough. If you get ideas, explore them. Write them. Don’t worry about the order. Don’t even worry about the thoughts too much. You will soon be cutting some of them and embellishing others. You will be sent to your dictionary and thesaurus and probably to your files or other resources. And try to stick with the twelve-word limit for the core sentence. It is an artificial limitation but it imposes a discipline. It forces you to wrestle with the idea and to economize in the expression of it. Once you have a main point or a lead line, your speech will almost write itself. Your job will be to edit it. And edit it again. Reorganize and change the sequence of ideas. Find the spot that needs a story or an illustration or an anecdote. You want to make your remarks fit the time available. Make your speech shorter than the time allotted to you. Your hosts and your audience will be grateful. Don’t let typographical errors trip you up: “He is a charismatic speaker and a major farce in politics.” 6 And watch your syntax. Avoid confusions like, “We saw many bears driving through Algonquin Park.” Page Format Use lots of paper. Give yourself big margins — top, bottom, and sides. Make it easy for your eye to find your place on the page. One method is to use only half the page. Leave the left margin very wide and at each paragraph make a point to the left in bold, UPPER CASE. Remarks to Acme Annual Shareholders Meeting by John Doe Royal Moonlight Hotel Ballroom, June 15, 1999 OPENING

It’s a pleasure and an honour to speak to you today.


Thanks to Charles Charlesworth and the Board for their invitation.


Presentation Ladies and gentlemen, head table and invited guests.... My association with Acme parallels my professional career.... TOPIC

Today, my topic is.... You will appreciate the importance of.... I’ll begin by exploring....


My main point.... -1-

Page 2 would look much the same: points in the left margin, text to the right, probably no more than two short paragraphs per page. No sentence would continue onto the next page. Do your best to avoid turning a page in the middle of a paragraph. If you find it easy to read UPPER CASE and a LARGE BOLD FONT, go ahead. Experience shows that most people find it easier to read a mix of upper and lower case using a typeface much like this one. Triple space and leave twice that space between paragraphs. Numbers If you must use numbers, round them off to tens or hundreds. Round off the fractions when you can. Say “almost half” or “fewer than a third” or “four out of five.” Decimals are deadly, so it’s better to turn them into fractions and, again, try to round them off. This is partly to make it easier for you to read the numbers, but also to make it easier for your listeners to understand. Remember they are hearing the figures, not reading them. This is true even if you have visuals or handouts. Don’t say, “38.65 percent.” Write and say, “almost (or less than) 40 percent.” Extensive use of statistics can be boring enough to put your audience to sleep. So use them judicially. And don’t leave yourself open to the charge that you have used statistics the way a drunk uses a lamppost — more for support than for illumination. You won’t persuade with the sheer weight of statistical evidence. You may influence opinion with a few carefully chosen statistical arguments. Give yourself cues with bold headings and brief margin notes. Use a highlighter if it helps. If you feel comfortable delivering your remarks from the cues in your margin notes, consider transferring your speech to file cards. But make sure they’re clearly numbered and in order. And have a copy of the set, carefully bundled and available should the others go missing.


You Can Say That Again! Pronunciation Aids If there are problem pronunciations in your copy, spell the words phonetically, using bold upper case for the accented syllables and a phonetic system that means something to you at a glance. For instance: a-SEET-a-SAL-a-SIL-ik SOO-per-KAL-a-FRAJ-a-LIS-tik EKS-pee-AL-i-DOASH-us in-duh-FAT-ig-uh-bul When you are satisfied with the speech you’ve written, try delivering it to a mirror. Does your script leave you free to move around a bit? Are your gestures appropriate? Do you see any mannerisms you’d like to curtail? Now record it, either on videotape or audio. Be critical. Ask colleagues to hear you deliver it. Go back to the drawing board and make the necessary changes and cuts. Did it fit the time allowed? Do your stories make sense and amuse? Answer these questions to your satisfaction and then leave the text for a couple of days and take another, fresh look at it before the big day. Edit again. Good luck. You’re ready to knock ’em dead. Venue Remember to check out the venue ahead of time. Find out where you will speak. Will it be at a lectern to the side of the room, beside or at the head table? Will you have a microphone? If so, what sort? On a stand, a gooseneck, or hand-held? What are the acoustical properties of the venue? Will you be on a riser? Will you need an “apple box” to stand on? If possible, have the hotel or the organizing group alter the arrangements to suit you. Will you be able to get out and around any barrier between you and the audience if you wish? Is the room airconditioned? Is it noisy? Any kitchen sounds? Other distractions? Interviews It’s not unusual for reporters to be on hand for public speeches. It can be a print, radio, or TV reporter. It may be the camera person who has shot portions of the speech asking some clarification questions. And when the questions come in quick succession, it’s good to have in mind a brief and dramatic way to sum up your remarks in a single statement. A sound bite is like a radio or television lead. It should attract attention and speak to the self-interest of your target audience. It should be something you can repeat in a natural way with illustrative or anecdotal support each time. It should include your main point. To avoid being misquoted or quoted out


Presentation of context, keep your message in mind and in the forefront. Keep it simple and brief. And don’t be afraid to repeat it. Do not ramble and don’t respond to hypothetical questions. Don’t say, “No comment.” That is almost always a provocation and raises suspicion that you might be hiding something. When asked confrontational questions or presented with a counter-argument, state your own view, then acknowledge and deal with the point raised before returning to your main point. If you don’t know something, say so and suggest a source of information. Remember that the media like colourful statements and drama. Remember you are really talking to the reader, listener, or viewer. The reporter/interviewer is an intermediary, a facilitator, or — sometimes — an impediment. Your real target audience in interviews is the person who will read the story (based on the interview) or who will hear or see just a brief clip of your remarks surrounded by copy written by the reporter or an editor. Media workshops train people from business and politics in the arts of public presentation and media relations. Trainers teach CEOs how to handle hostile interviewers. They teach politicians how not to put their feet in their mouths. They teach prospective interviewees how to take charge of opportunities; how to get their message across rather than being purely reactive and vulnerable. It isn’t just assertiveness training. There are skills involved. And some reporters find the enhanced media-skill level of many people in public life extremely frustrating. They find it hard to get the answers required by their readers, listeners, and viewers. In the next chapter we explore the issue from the reporter’s point of view. Narration A rewarding and sometimes challenging chore is the recording of voiceover narration for film, television, industrial videos, or commercials. These days business people as well as broadcasters and actors often find themselves in the studio putting a voice track on video annual reports or explaining charts and graphs at a sales meeting or at the annual shareholders gathering. It can be a daunting chore but there are ways to ease the tension. Make sure the script is double- or triple-spaced with lots of margin space. Make sure the text for video sequences is blocked to leave space between them. Check that the text is the right length for the time allotted. Mark your copy clearly for breath pauses and for any longer pauses necessary for sound-on sections or music. Print in any necessary pronunciation aids. Indicate where there are volume or inflection changes. Underline words or phrases that should get special emphasis. But don’t clutter your script. And figure out how you will move the pages if you are reading from hard copy rather than a monitor. You don’t want paper noise as you


You Can Say That Again! move from one page to another. That is why paragraphs usually begin and end on the same page: so you aren’t moving paper mid sentence. And experiment with microphone technique so you aren’t “popping” your p’s or t’s or putting saliva sounds on the track. You don’t want gasps for breath heard either. Lots of today’s broadcasters have this problem. Inhale with mouth wide open to avoid the sound of air over your teeth or lips. Turn your head away from the microphone for each breath if you can. An editor can easily erase breath sounds, but why make work? Record a bit and check it. Usually you will find yourself cramped in a tiny studio in uncomfortable proximity to the microphone and lectern, but you need to be as physically active as possible. You need to be free to give energy and emotive colour to the text. You need to gesture. Find a comfortable posture. Sometimes it is necessary to sit, but it’s almost always better for voice production, breath control, and phrasing to stand. Do some relaxation exercises before you start. Sing a little if that relaxes your neck and throat. Do not drink coffee or tea with cream in it. Do not munch on nuts sometimes provided for the client in sound studios. Have some water handy. Often the text is ungrammatical but natural. Sometimes thoughts are unnaturally expressed. Consult. See if you can make it natural. Reduce the technical jargon and multi-syllable words. It is usually better to “talk” the script rather than to “announce” it. Unless the script calls for it, do not emote! KISS Caution: verbosity is deadly. The Latin word prolix means “lengthy,” “wordy,” “tedious.” Prolixity (praw-LIKS-i-tee) should be avoided in speech and writing. Thus the KISS formula: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Avoid technical terms and jargon. If there’s a simpler way of saying things, find it. If there’s a shorter, simpler word, use it. George Orwell’s advice for writers and public speakers was: (1) Never use a metaphor or simile which you see often in print. (2) Don’t use a long word where a short one will do. (Use buy instead of purchase, build rather than construct.) (3) If it is possible to cut a word, delete it. (4) Avoid the passive. Use the active. (5) Avoid foreign, scientific, and jargon words. Long before Orwell’s time, Publilius Syrus confessed, “I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.”


Presentation The Rule of Three The Rule of Three in humorous storytelling involves setting the pattern, confirming it with repetition, and then making a switch in the pattern. It’s a bit like bait-and-switch advertising. You don’t get quite what seems to be advertised. For example: A veteran just back from the front is looking for a seat on a crowded train. He pauses by a woman with a small dog which is occupying a seat. “Ma’am, would you mind holding your dog on your lap? I’d like to sit down.” “No such thing,” says the woman. “I paid full fare for the dog. Find another seat!” The vet walks away but soon returns. “Ma’am, there are no other seats. Let me sit here. I’ll hold the dog.” “No!” says the woman. “Fifi is entitled to a seat. You’ll have to find another place.” The soldier limps off. But he’s soon back with a new idea. “My final offer. I’m tired and my wounded leg is killing me. I must sit down. I’ll rent a pillow for Fifi. Then she can sit on my lap.” “Young man,” the woman responds, “You’ve annoyed me long enough. Fifi stays! Any more annoyance from you and I’ll call the conductor!” “Okay,” says the soldier. “If that’s your attitude!” He reaches down, picks up the Pomeranian and throws it out the open window. Another passenger, quite upset, says, “Young man, you’ve done the wrong thing!” “How so?” demands the soldier. “You’ve thrown out the wrong bitch!” The Voice Some public speakers are said to have “great voices.” That’s a compliment, of course, but it’s an imprecise term often used to mean speech in general, including enunciation, accent, timbre, pitch, resonance, pronunciation, and other characteristics. Simply put, the voice is the column of air pushed up and out over the vocal cords and through the mouth. Most of the work is done by the diaphragm muscle. The larynx is a valve which can completely block the mouth-to-lung connection. It controls the flow of air from the lungs to the mouth and nose. The vocal cords and glottis are in the larynx. They are muscle and ligament stretching from front to back, connected to the Adam’s Apple at the front and to the two moveable arytenoid (ar-i-TEEnoid) cartilages at the back. See diagram on page 243. But most people aren’t aware of how they are producing their voice


You Can Say That Again! and how much more voice they could have with a little attention to detail and some practice. The following comments may help. Timbre is what allows us to distinguish one voice from another or a trombone from a trumpet or flute. And a good ear can distinguish between the timbre of a metal clarinet and that of a wooden one. In people, the character or timbre of the sound is largely determined by the unique shape and size of the body’s air columns and resonance chambers. Among the chambers are the sinuses. Of course vocal cords make a difference too — to both pitch and timbre. And another factor determining timbre is cultural. Within families or in communities people tend to emulate one another and take on similar characteristics, not just of pronunciation but other speech habits too, even the very sound of the voice — more or less nasality, for instance. Breath Control. Most people don’t make the best use of the instrument they have been given. If they have trouble controlling exhalation, they tend to talk in the upper register of their natural range. And they tend to sound nasal. More diaphragm control can mean more potential resonance and more variation of inflection or tonal colour. A slow, controlled, and subtle release of breath is desirable. Those who play wind instruments enjoy an advantage. They have conditioned their diaphragm muscle and can control their breathing. They increase their lung capacity and can prolong the exhalation process. The author once had the pleasure of meeting the Mexican trumpeter Raphael Mendez. The great soloist demonstrated with a straw and a glass of water how much he could inhale and how long he could prolong a musical phrase. He was able to exhale so fine a column of air so slowly that he created no bubbles in the water in the glass. He could play one entire variation of the “Flight of the Bumble Bee” on one breath. Like a musical performance, public speaking takes controlled energy, but it is not like running a race. Many people are better endowed vocally than they realize. Often they just don’t know how to make better use of their instrument. Sometimes it’s a matter of being unaware of an easily corrected bad habit of speech, voice production, or posture. Even if you don’t develop the voice of an orator, the one you habitually use should be able to convey nuances of meaning. It should be pleasant and under your control so you are heard to say what you wish people to understand. You should be able to use it without tiring yourself or doing damage to your throat. Bad habits die hard, however. Change feels strange or even unnatural. To cultivate good breath control and proper voice production can feel artificial. Step one is to identify what we do wrong, even when that habit feels natural because we have had it for so long. Family models influence our speech and even the way we produce our voice, so listen carefully to voices you admire.


Presentation Nasality, pitch, and even levels of projection and resonance may be influenced by those around us. It can be a matter of accent or of a few phonetic values, such as the unpronounced r in some English and American speech or the Canadian vowel sound in house. Sometimes the whole complex of speech, from sound to articulation, is influenced by the region where we grew up, as is the case in the Ottawa Valley, Australia, and the Ozark Mountains in the United States. In Canada we try for what we call mid-Atlantic or standard English. In Britain, standard English means the speech of educated Londoners, the least regional of British accents. Our goals, in voice improvement, include better breath control so we can have a full voice, big enough to reach the back of the hall and sustained enough to permit us to phrase our thoughts naturally rather than interrupting them for gasps of air. Another goal is to improve the quality of the voice or timbre, so that it is full and resonant rather than thin and nasal. We want to have a built-in volume control so we can drop to a confidential whisper and then, the next moment, call the assembly to urgent action with full voice. We want to be able to project without strain. To improve your ability to project naturally, without shouting, practice is essential. A tip on perspective might help too. Fill yourself with your voice instead of trying to hurl it into the farthest corner. Chances are it will be heard in the rear seats of the balcony if you make it as big as you can for yourself. For resonance, sing. Try directing your voice onto the front of your hard palate. Sing vowel sounds (ooo or owww or eee or aaah), but nasalize the sound by sending the airstream through your nose. Next, try to resonate it as much as possible in the pharynx. Repeat the process using a tape recorder with the microphone set several feet away. Change the vowel sound and do it again. Another trick that will help enhance resonance is to try imitating musical instruments. Do not try to force your voice to low-pitched trombone pedal notes. Work within your natural range. For better volume control, the same exercise can help. Simply go from pianissimo to double or triple forte and then back again for a long but comfortable exhalation. Gradually increase and decrease the volume. Practise this at the upper end of your range and then at the low end. Bad Habits There are a few common bad habits which can limit or distort our voice production. Among them is the tendency to pull the head back, stretching the neck while taking in breath to speak. It may be a subtle move or quite obvious to others. Discovering it in yourself is a major step towards correction. The problem is that the action closes part of the throat, tends to create nasality, and reduces resonance.


You Can Say That Again! Another bad habit is pulling the jaw down, which lowers the rib cage and results in diaphragm and lung restriction. This can lead to a monotonal delivery and insufficient breath for natural phrasing. Some people pull in their backbone thinking they are standing up straighter. This, too, restricts diaphragm control and reduces resonance. Use a mirror. If you find yourself doing any of these things, force yourself to experience the unnatural feeling of correcting them. Stand straight with feet apart. Be balanced but don’t stand stiffly at attention. Practise reading aloud using a video camera or a tape recorder. Resonance is often heard as pitch. Many male broadcasters are thought to be baritones but they are usually tenors. They are able to add warmth and reverberation by using their natural, built-in echo chambers. Mouth, nose, throat, and the sinuses give you resonance. Sound reverberates in these chambers if you know how to use them. They have particular acoustic qualities and help give you your unique timbre. There are sinuses in your cheeks (maxillary), above and behind your eyes (frontal, sphenoid, and ethmoid, anterior and posterior). A common fault is to let the voice quality be modulated only by the nose and the front of the mouth. Obviously posture is important. A cramped diaphragm means less lung capacity and less control. The result is often thin, reedy, and even nasal. With the sound shaped in the nose and over the teeth there is greater likelihood of sibilance and breathiness. See diagram of larynx, diaphragm, and resonance chambers. Inflection, Colour, and Dynamics Good speech is not just a matter of delivering the proper vowel and consonant sounds with the correct stress. Modulation of voice is also important, along with articulation of individual sounds and the intonation that is appropriate to the ideas being conveyed. A voice growling on in a narrow, low range is boring. Inflection variety and changes of pitch and resonance aid understanding if they are used naturally to indicate mood change. Enthusiasm, excitement, anger, dread, sorrow, joy, fear, and other feelings can be conveyed more effectively if the emotive burden of the words is understood and conveyed by tone of voice. But be careful. Artificial pitch, resonance, and inflection variations are immediately apparent. The listener’s perception is that the speaker is a phoney. Don’t develop a speech pattern — the sing-song, up-and-down, predictable phrasing of some preachers. Practice pays off. Read aloud daily. Use a tape recorder. Listen for diction and pronunciation. Listen for colour (pitch variation, pace, and pauses). Listen for resonance and projection. Invest energy and you will hear it in the playback. Send your voice to a microphone across the room.


Presentation If you are like most people, you’ll discover that your performance was much less dynamic than you thought. Just hearing the playback will give you permission to heighten your delivery and lower your natural inhibition barrier. Take care of your instrument. Don’t shout. You can cause real strain and create a harsh, unattractive sound. Your voice will tire quickly. Don’t smoke. Don’t eat popcorn, nuts, or crackers before turning on the microphone. Eat later. Avoid coffee or tea with cream before making a speech. Drink it black to avoid the throat-fogging fat. Do not chew gum but do have a sip of water or even sherry handy. Be careful about clearing your throat. Done too often or too harshly, it can do serious damage. Don’t push your voice from the throat. Use your abdomen and diaphragm muscles to provide the air you need and the loudness required. Take full, deep breaths. Pause more often. Move your body. And gesture when it is appropriate. You’ll be more relaxed and we will hear it in your voice. Voice production can be learned. The natural gift can be enhanced. Exercises and practice will reward you. Your lungs are the bellows of your instrument. Resonance is the reverberation and amplification of sound as it passes through the body cavities (mouth, nose, sinuses, throat, and chest). Nasality is a common indication of lazy speech and voice production. Careless habits of articulation are easy to remedy. Listen to a playback of yourself reading or speaking. Do you hear WAJASAY for What did you say? Do you hear IZEE for Is he? Do you hear distinct t’s? Do you hear fully formed word endings like -et, -ed, -ing? Do you hear the vowels distinctly? For instance, is tomorrow heard tuh-MOR-o, or as tuh-MORah? Window as WIN-do and not as WIN-dah? Lingual dexterity, like natural resonance, can be greatly enhanced by focusing your attention on what you’re doing. And by practice. Be conscious of what it takes to form sounds and you will instantly improve articulation and put an end to the bad habits of lazy speech. Whether it is true that we developed language because we have more flexible tongues than apes or because the human brain is programmed for language as Noam Chomsky has argued, we do have the hypoglossal canal which permits us to develop the lingual dexterity to make a broad range of sounds and thus articulate complex and subtle thoughts. If we have the facility, why not make the best of it? Here are some useful words for your read-aloud list: access, asphalt, authoritative, behemoth, bellicose, belligerent, cacophony, celebrate, cerulean, dreaming, eccentric, elevator, envelope, envoy, err, exegesis, filet, flaccid, grievous, harmonious, heinous, homage, ignorant, integral, interment, judiciary,


You Can Say That Again! kilometre, luminous, magnanimous, mischievous, non sequitur, omnipotent, onerous, perpetrate, perpetuate, pusillanimous, quintessential, remonstrate, research, repeat, rodomontade, schism, sorbet, succinct, temerity, undetermined, valet, vase, vindicated, windward, xenophobe, ziggurat. Look them up. In this list are words which are frequently mispronounced. For instance, harass is HAR-is, schism is SIZ-um, flaccid is FLAK-sid, homage is HAWM-ij, kilometre is KIL-o-meet-ir, and interment is NOT in-TURN-ment! Listen for added sounds as in ath(uh)lete or fil(u)m. Listen for commonly mispronounced words like accompanist, asterisk, elevator, hundred, relevant (a-KUMP-an-ee-ist, ASS-ter-iks, AL-i-vay-ter, HUNerd, RAL-i-vant).7 But remember, most dictionaries record educated usage. Terms like “correct,” “incorrect,” “right,” and “wrong” are not helpful. Even “good use” is not rigidly fixed. It changes with geography, time, and local practice. Other factors are level of literacy and the speaker’s objective and target audience. With that said, it is usually better to strive for correct, educated usage than to stoop to the lowest common denominator. Try not to draw attention to the pronunciation either way. If you do, you will just distract the listener and the ideas won’t be heard. Natural is best unless it’s clearly ignorant. Stress, Nervousness Preparation is the best way to reduce tension. The next best method is practice. The more often you speak in public the easier it will get. But nearly everyone has experienced the panic of stage fright with shortness of breath, tight, hunched shoulders, muscle tension, abdominal upset, dry mouth, and sweating. Get lots of rest before making your speech. Clear the day of other major duties if you can. Don’t have competing stressinducing preoccupations that day. Avoid drinking cola or coffee for a couple of hours before your speech. Give yourself lots of time to get to the meeting or luncheon where you will speak. Once there, give yourself some time and space. Get away from the hustle and bustle for a few minutes. Take a short walk around the hotel if necessary. Or take a quiet moment or two in the washroom or in a stairwell if there is nowhere else for a moment of quiet privacy. Try some deep breathing. Breath in through the nose. Hold your breath. Slowly exhale by mouth until you have expelled all your breath. Repeat. You are trying to establish regular, rhythmic breathing rather than the rapid gasps of the fight-or-flight response. Try light physical exercises to relax your neck, jaw, and back muscles. Swing your arms and do some


Presentation stretching or a few deep knee bends. Don’t overdo it. Make sure you have water to sip before you speak and during your remarks. A sip of sherry is a great lubricant, but do not drink milk, or coffee or tea with milk or cream before speaking. If you must clear your throat, do it gently. Do not grip the lectern like a white-knuckled flyer. Do not jingle change or keys in your pockets. Move around as freely as circumstances will permit. Using your pent-up energy will dissipate nervousness and energize your speech. Tongue Twisters Tongue twisters can be fun and good practice. They can be used as a loosening-up exercise, oral callisthenics, if you’ll pardon the Greek expression (kallos meaning “beauty” and sthenos “strength”). “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” is probably the best-known tongue twister in English. But there are lots of them and in other languages too. Try the examples that follow. Read them aloud and pick up the pace. Record your efforts if you can. À Roquevire, la rivière se verse vers les verres du ver vert. This sentence is designed “à décrocher la mâchoire ou à délier la langue.” (To unhook the jaw or loosen the tongue.) Another in French: Didon dîna, dit-on, du dos d’un dodu dindon, which means: “Dido dined, they say, off the back of a plump turkey.” A single word tongue twister in Spanish: anticonstitucionalisimamente. In Italian: Appelle, figlio di Apollo, fece una palla di pelle di pollo, which means: “Appelles, son of Apollo, made a ball of chicken skin.” There isn’t a lot of call for the expression in everyday conversation. Try saying “toy boat, toy boat, toy boat” repeatedly and rapidly. Do not try it while waiting on a crowded subway platform or while in a packed elevator. Be discreet. Try saying “yellow leather, red leather” over and over again quickly.


You Can Say That Again! Try, “She sells sea shells. Does she sell sea shells?” or, “Some shun sunshine, some shun shade.” Have others stand well back. This can be a showery exercise. And if you are truly serious about lingual dexterity, why not attempt this one: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers? If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked? Simplicity From Mark Twain we have advice on the value of simplicity. Twain told the story of Jim Watrous of Missouri who aspired to a seat in the state legislature. Anxious to make a good impression, he used every big word in the dictionary. His speeches were almost impossible to follow. His campaign stalled. “One evening,” recounts Twain, “Jim was milking a cow and practising one of his speeches. The cow, evidently fed up with his harangue, kicked him in the jaw, causing him to bite off the end of his tongue. You might think that was the end of his career. But it wasn’t. After that,” says Twain, “he could use only words of one syllable and it made his speeches so simple and appealing to farmers that he was elected.”


Presentation Larynx, Diaphragm, and Resonance Chambers The larynx is the modified part of the human trachea where the voice is produced. The diaphragm muscle beneath the lungs enables us to inhale and exhale, controlling the amount of force of the air column over the vocal cords. The mouth, nose, lungs, throat, and sinuses provide the resonance. Articulation is the job of the tongue, teeth, and lips. Timbre is determined by the individual’s vocal cords, the degree of nasality or throatiness, the degree of resonance, and the quality dictated by the conformation of the resonance chambers.

sinuses resonance nose and nasal cavity hard palate soft palate

tongue teeth lips

uvula pharynx

epiglottis vocal cords

esophagus lungs



You Can Say That Again! Notes 1. Not everyone has a naturally mellifluous voice. But some attention to voice production and some practice can make the best of the instrument one is born with. Mellifluous comes from Latin. The root is mel (French miel, “honey”). See the section on Voice for a few tips on voice enhancement. 2. Coolidge was known as a man of few words. That prompted a man to approach him once saying he’d wagered he could get Coolidge to say three words. Coolidge replied, “You lose!” 3. Plutarch wrote of Pericles, “He proved that rhetoric ... is the art of working on the souls of men by means of words, ... its chief business is the knowledge of men’s passions ... the strings and stops of the soul....” See The Rise and Fall of Athens; Nine Greek Lives (1960). In ancient Rome oratory was the chief mode of expression. The first Latin rhetoric school opened in 95 BC with studies in gesture, delivery, diction, and the art of argument. Cicero won his consulship largely on his rhetorical skills. Julius Caesar was regarded as second only to Cicero as a speaker. 4. Credibility (ethos) is largely established by posture, manners, speech, appearance, dignity, and authority of expression. 5. The “Three Tells” approach is also used as an organizational approach to writing reports, essays, books, and even chapters in books. 6. A schrdlu (SHIRD-loo), or typo, can sometimes baffle you completely. So check your copy before you take it to the platform. Don’t assume anything. Imagine your problem and the cold sweat if you were reading from your script, “Porpoises converse in complicated patterns of whistles, clivkd, sdsvsnmimin dpokra Isnhushrd.” 7. Continuance is important in words that call for prolongation of some consonants like s in remiss(sss), r in defer(rrr), n in renown(nnn).


Presentation Quiz 10 ? 1) Name four of the elements that constitute a proem. 2) If the taxis of your presentation was divided in three, what would those parts be? 3) Resonance is created in several body cavities. Name two. 4) Write flaccid phonetically and define it.

5) Write succinct phonetically and define it.

For answers, see Appendix A.


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Chapter Ten Radio and TV

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Chapter Ten Radio and TV

For evil news rides post, While good news baits. — Milton From cuneiform to the binary code, we’ve come a long way. Once upon a time a few priests painstakingly cut symbols into clay tablets. In Homer’s day, rhetoric and poetry preserved the laws and traditions, taught the body of knowledge and entertained.1 The spoken word kept tribal memory alive. Later, in the days of the Roman Acta Diurna, a few learned individuals conveyed their thoughts, not just by writing Latin but by speaking well. Centuries later the town crier spread the word. In the twentieth century, radio broadcast the news. In this chapter we consider popular distrust of the media, along with declining standards, the need for public broadcasters, and commercial broadcasting’s dependency on pop-taste advertising. Related issues are the so-called democratization of the media and the trivialization of news. It makes sense (by definition) for private, commercially driven broadcasters to slip into the common man’s vernacular even if it includes faulty syntax and mispronunciations. On the other hand, public, taxsupported broadcasters have a broader mandate and a higher standard to maintain. In recent years, however, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has been neglectful of its role as a guardian of good speech. It is natural and excusable that, from time to time, a foreign name trips up even the most alert news reader. Syntax lapses are inevitable in spontaneous, live broadcasting. And of course not every voice must be honey-dipped. But many of the lapses of usage and mispronunciation are not so easily forgiven. Too often they are the result of carelessness, ignorance, or laziness. They are not a victory over “elitism.” What we hear is simply a “dumbing-down” of the media. With the trivialization of news we ingest a diet of sugar-coated, nonnutritional entertainment in the guise of news, while the media neglect the popular dissemination of information critical to a healthy democratic society. This chapter explores that critique. It also offers tips for practitioners and argues for conscientious attention to correct usage and pronunciation, because the media still need people with language skills.

You Can Say That Again! “There have been many gradual changes since the early days; ... only a few years ago the first message went out over the ether. Perhaps ... radio announcing has become more highly specialized but the fundamental principles are the same.”2 This was Morris Boddington’s reply when he was asked in 1937 for a few thoughts on announcing. Boddington was renowned for his work on children’s and music programs. He also said the new profession demanded broad general knowledge and familiarity with the rules of grammar and pronunciation: “In pronunciation, usage is a most important factor.... Did not an English professor say, not long ago in the United States, that if it was the custom to say BIN for ‘been,’ it is correct....” Boddington added, “Get your syllables out. It may sound affected in ordinary conversation but ... not on the air.” Crude early microphones and radios forced announcers to strive for clarity above all. Clear enunciation was required to cut through the hiss and hits of interference. Amplitude modulation (AM) was vulnerable. Other sounds cut in and out. Frequency modulation (FM), better transmitters, better microphones, printed circuits, and transistors gradually made it easier to get the message across. The batteryless radio that gave CFRB its call letters (Rogers’ Batteryless3), was an early and important step in the technical development that improved home reception over the years. In the 1990s digital technology improved broadcasting again. The need for a standard of broadcast speech more precise than that of everyday conversation declined. A more natural delivery evolved. But, even in the thirties, Boddington had good advice about being natural: “Avoid elocution as you would the plague.” On the announcer’s responsibility for pronunciation, “Thresh out what is the correct pronunciation for words under dispute ...” and, “Remember ... when in doubt, leave it out. This applies to foreign words and names when one is unable to consult the authority.” It isn’t always possible to “leave it out” or wait to find out how to say a name. For instance, if a king dies it is not acceptable to say in a newscast, however unpronounceable the monarch’s name, “His name is being withheld and will be released on notification of next of kin.” Avoidance is not always an option. “They [announcers] are in a way our shop window and they have a great responsibility ... to establish and maintain good standards of speech ... [a task requiring a person of] ... wide general culture....” These were the words of E. “Ernie” Bushnell, Director General of Programs for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, speaking before a parliamentary committee in 1946. He also said announcers “must be easy, natural.”4 Announcers were expected to write copy, describe live events, read news bulletins, introduce music programs, and perform any other hosting


Radio and TV chore. They were expected to have a pleasant voice, good projection, and flawless pronunciation. Pronunciation and accent were determined by the standards set by educated Canadians generally and Americans living on the East Coast, in New England, and in New York City. Western American and Canadian speech were also acceptable, along with the speech of the southern British Isles, standard Scottish, northern English (Birmingham and north), and the southern variety of American English. Then, as now, there was often more than one correct pronunciation for many words. Announcers were expected to be readily and completely intelligible. They had a responsibility to “set a good example,” as Professor Higgins put it in My Fair Lady. When they came upon a foreign name, announcers were expected to check with an authority. They weren’t expected to sound like a native but they were expected, as the CBC announcers’ handbook put it, to offer “an approximation to the correct pronunciation.” CBC announcers were expected to have a working acquaintance with French, Canada’s other official language, and “Every announcer must know the elementary rules governing the pronunciation of French, German, Italian and Spanish.” That is still a reasonable expectation. Not everyone needs to know all the musical terms or most composers’ or musicians’ names. But anyone connected with news and current affairs should know how to handle names popping up from major world languages. At the very least, they should know how to look them up and spell them out phonetically so they won’t stumble over them on air or mispronounce them and draw attention to the fact. Credibility is soon lost if Genoa is said jen-O-a. At the same time, Bruxelles should be anglicized to Brussels. There have been remarkable developments in electronic technology, but the essentials haven’t changed. Writing and presentation skills are still necessary. The electronic media are still about people connecting with people. So it makes as much sense as it ever did to strive for correct usage and pronunciation. The precise, deliberate enunciation of the early days may be inappropriate, but an effort should be made to pronounce words correctly. At the same time, it should be understood that contractions and elisions are good speech. Most of the time, emphasis on articles, conjunctions, and prepositions should be less than on nouns, verbs, and key adjectives or adverbs. We strive to convey ideas, not words. And, of course, redundancy should be avoided as in “raise up,” “three a.m. in the morning,” “join together,” “join up,” and “link together.” Broadcasters should also be careful about using the right word. To be precise, we must know the difference for example between sensuous and sensual. Sensuous means “appealing to the senses.” It is not pejorative. Sensual often is, meaning “of the senses” rather than “of the intellect,” so


You Can Say That Again! “carnal,” “licentious.” You’ll find other examples of problem words in Chapter 5. As mentioned, meticulous enunciation of every syllable is unnatural. Many syllables are completely dropped in good speech. And many are not said as they are spelled. Phonics may be a useful way to teach children to read and phonetics may be helpful in other languages, but in English the spelling can be misleading. Render unto Caesar ... Julius Caesar introduced the earliest-known official written news in 59 B.C. with the handwritten Acta Diurna (Daily News). It was posted in the forum of Rome. Scribes were sent to copy the news and send it on by letter. Some slaves bought their freedom with money earned by sending the news to various clients. Later, troubadours and town criers spread the news as the oral tradition persisted for all but a literate elite. Not until public education was widespread did the popular press arrive on the scene. Newspaper journalism followed the invention of the moveable-type printing press in the 1450s. It was the fortuitous invention of Gutenberg, who combined the skills of goldsmiths working with alloys with those of winemakers who used a press to extract juice from the grape. Several important newspapers appeared in the early 1600s. Thursday, September 25, 1690, “Publick Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestick” appeared in Boston. The editor, Benjamin Harris who was an English pamphleteer, returned to England but got into as much trouble there as he had with authorities in the colonies. His work was both sensational and seditious. Journalism Suspense in news is torture. — Milton Journalism is a term that covers a multitude of sins. Journalism is not just news gathering and reportage of events likely to have some impact on our lives. Journalism covers opinion, titillation, entertainment, sports. Practitioners range from reporters to editors, from columnists to editorial writers, from sportscasters to documentary film makers. The TV-news anchor considers his or her role journalism just as much as does the reporter in the field or the radio newscaster who selects, writes, and edits.5 The interviewer who fires the questions at the politician or the film star is a journalist. The announcer who describes a major public event is a journalist. The editorial writer who rants and the radio open-line host


Radio and TV who vents spleen consider themselves journalists — even the juvenile vulgarian Howard Stern. They all argue that they serve our psychic need to know. They are not all involved in investigative work or research. Digging for the facts is not of paramount importance to some of them. Most of them do not serve as a balanced early-warning system. But all of them consider themselves journalists, even those who are involved in the consumer-exploiting masquerade of infomercials for financial institutions or the makers of car wax. Pay the piper, choose the tune. PR practitioners outnumber reporters these days. Media consumers are well advised to take a close look at sponsorship and underwriters. Early on, radio news was the business of newspapers. Newspapermen and -women wrote the news and personal “columns” and often read them on air. Sometimes announcers read material written by others. To a degree, Marshall McLuhan was right when he said each new medium’s content is the previous medium. Early radio news depended on newspapers. Gradually the style of writing changed to meet the oral/aural needs of radio: shorter, less complex sentences; shorter words. Colloquialisms and descriptive pictures were used more often. Radio stations set up newsrooms to rewrite news copy. Announcers sometimes functioned as reporters in the field. Some newspaper reporters, editors, and writers decided radio offered respectable career opportunities. Eventually the reader became the “anchor,” largely dependent on a newsroom and a staff of reporters. It took time, especially at the CBC, to break down the barriers that prevented individuals from combining the range of skills and talents found in narrowly specialized fields. For some time the CBC even resisted offers from the unions to pool their jurisdictions so individuals from both streams could give the Corporation greater flexibility. Eventually the medium dictated the development of the “broadcast journalist.” People like Norman Depoe and Douglas Lachance (CBC) in Canada and Edward R. Morrow and Walter Cronkite (CBS) in the United States personified the new role in TV, followed eventually by anchors like Lloyd Robertson (CBC, CTV) and Peter Jennings (CBC, ABC). The big names of radio and television news have been thoroughly professional, recognizing that their journalistic responsibilities included high standards of presentation. They have described live events, they have brought their verbal abilities to the task, whether describing war, other tragedy, or a royal or papal visit. They have written “stand up” pieces and “walked and talked” in London or Hong Kong to introduce minidocumentaries on the nightly news. They have covered political conventions and provided wall-to-wall facts and balanced interpretation during election broadcasts. And they have made an effort to say the names correctly. A constituency name mispronounced betrays a lack of homework, if not ignorance of important geography. For anyone from


You Can Say That Again! the area involved, mispronunciation of a riding or of a candidate’s name is an insult and shows that the broadcaster’s knowledge is shallow. The big names of the industry worked hard to enhance their credibility. The same can’t be said for all on-air people today. There are notable exceptions of course, but on-air standards of speech and pronunciation have slipped a lot since the early days of radio. Carelessness has developed, sometimes excused as “democratization.” CBC CBC no longer sets the standard for Canadian broadcasting. You are just as likely to hear incorrect usage and mispronunciation on CBC today as on a private station. One argument heard is that broadcast language should not be any better than that heard on the street. And it is considered elitist to require “standard English” or to adhere to a standard of “educated usage.” An argument can be made that language should suit the demographic and psychographic target of the program or station. There’s no point talking over the head of your audience. And if your accent and adherence to high standards alienate your target audience, you have failed to communicate. But if you seek to serve a general audience, especially with news or current affairs, an effort should be made to get the message right in every respect, including delivery. If the intent is to inform with a modicum of intelligence, it makes sense to set a fairly high standard of usage and to pronounce words and names correctly. It’s easy to be “low brow” and to “dumb down” content. It takes some effort to offer a higher standard. To say there has been a decline in standard of performance at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation does not mean that all its programming suffers from inferior presentation. There are still many intelligent and diligent individuals meeting a very high standard. It’s just that a large number of their colleagues are, by contrast, not up to that standard maintained so conscientiously over so many years. The decline cannot be dismissed as simply the evolution of language. It isn’t just a matter of a more popular, casual presentation style. It is carelessness and an inexcusable neglect of part of the public broadcaster’s responsibility. Declining federal budgets for the Crown corporation may be somewhat responsible. And administrative change is part of it. When news and public affairs broadcasters are forced to make “stone soup” with tight budgets and small staffs, the product is bound to suffer. The luxury of a full-time adviser on broadcast usage is a fading memory at the CBC. Pity. Faithful listeners complain that mispronunciations are common. Too many on-air people exhibit poor reading skills, not knowing where to place the emphasis in a sentence or where the accent falls in words like


Radio and TV repeat. They will say REE-peet as in the common American parlance. It should be ruh-PEET in Canada unless a conscious decision has been made to conform to American usage.6 Some of the same faults pop up on CTV, Global, and many private TV stations too, of course. CBC administrators may think these changes are egalitarian, but listeners should not be challenged by a babble of difficult accents, poor articulation, poor voice production, and careless pronunciation. There are still quite a few intelligent readers and articulate talkers at the CBC, people who are careful about syntax, voice production, meaning, and pronunciation. But increasingly in recent years CBC appears to give any moderately capable individual access to microphone and camera whether he or she can read or not. Some of these novices, in a misguided attempt to be correct, pretentiously over-articulate, saying AWF-TEN for often, for instance. Then they mispronounce common words like mischievous. All too frequently CBC radio carries reports from so-called broadcasters who can’t be understood even at full volume. Their diction is poor and their voice production is lazy — thin, reedy, throaty, and raspy.7 It’s not enough for someone on air to have a certain expertise in a field such as the arts or business. People should have to meet a certain standard of presentation before they are permitted on air. In commercial broadcasting, which has a more limited mandate, on-air people must communicate effectively with the target audience or they’re off the air in a thrice. It may be necessary to set a simpler standard of language for a particular demographic target (people learning English or those with modest educations), but it isn’t necessary to confirm and compound errors. When the Hearst, Pulitzer, and Ochs newspapers of the turn of the century in New York adopted a style and standard suited to a huge flood of immigrants, they didn’t throw out all the rules. They simplified the language. They wrote short, declarative sentences. They avoided polysyllabic words. They made sure the grammar was correct and they spelled people’s names correctly. Surely that’s the way it should be. Ignorance should not set the standard. Broadcasters, especially news people, have a higher duty. Perhaps it is time for CBC to reintroduce auditions, not in order to exclude applicants, but to ensure that those doing on-air work accept their presentation responsibilities along with their editorial and entertainment duties. The need for in-house training and supervision is obvious. News (NYOOZ, not NOOZ) News has been defined as widespread information about public affairs. Horace Greely had a quirky view of the word. He felt the word news was


You Can Say That Again! plural. He once cabled the New York Tribune (he was the editor) asking, “Are there any news?” He got a prompt reply: “Not a new.” “News is what I say it is,” says the editor — a view often attributed to the CBS TV anchor Walter Cronkite. Another anchor, Chet Huntley, who toiled with David Brinkley for NBC, said news was “the wart on society’s nose.” Others argue it is an early-warning system for society. News has been the diurna of ancient Rome and word about the battle at Waterloo delivered to bankers in London. But, while coming up with a simple definition might be fun, it doesn’t help the practitioner or the consumer very much. Some would settle for Rudyard Kipling’s “six honest serving men” and their answers. Pose the “who, what, when, where, why,” and “how” and you have the operative definition of the craft. Still others suggest that news is the response to our psychic need to know. And they will add that we have an appetite for word of tragedy, threat, catastrophe, for sensationalism, gossip, and anything that qualifies as human interest. When another jumbo jet lands safely at Pearson International airport or at Orly, it is not news. If it has trouble, we’re interested. People condemn the news as too sensational or morbid, but there is a public appetite for that kind of diet. TV viewers tune in for pictures of the tragedy they first heard about on the car radio. They read the shocking, intimate details about personalities exposed in the tabloids. Human frailty and deceit are news. Sex sells, as they say. News is what is novel, new, transient. It matters more if it happens nearby. Proximity matters. If an event threatens our pocket book and if it reflects the human condition, so much the better. News is facts and feelings. It is history in the making. But news stories have short lives. A newspaper makes the trip from newsstand to the bottom of the birdcage in a day. In radio the life of a news story can be even shorter. And if the story continues to go to air, it is constantly undergoing rewrite. Writers and reporters hunt for the new angle and a new lead, for whatever moves the story along and keeps it fresh for the listener. Usually, except during the summer news doldrums, new events push old material out of the lineup. News falls off the bottom the same way editors cut stories written in inverted pyramid form from the bottom.8 Soren Kierkegaard (KEER-kuh-GOR), the existential philosopher, said about the endless nature of news: “Like eating some dish ... in which there are long, stringy bits ... just as one is about to put it into one’s mouth, a whole lot remains dangling outside, so that one must resort to the fork again to gather up the loose ends; ... in the end a waiter has to hold a plate or a bowl underneath — it is enough to drive one mad....” If we lose the thread, we lose the meaning that connects events. Then everything is a surprise, nothing makes sense. The question is always, “What is the meaning in events?” Or, the question journalists like to pose


Radio and TV for themselves, “What does it all mean?” But too often we end up with a diet of disconnected, apparently random events — no cause, no effect, no continuity or responsibility. Spot news about fires, car accidents, and random urban crime excites but doesn’t satisfy our need to know or help us create order out of the anarchic ambiguity of life.9 News matters most when it is an effective early-warning system and when it reveals the emperor parading around nude. News has an honourable history with some notable exceptions. But there is a question as to whether it has much of a future, except as a facet of the entertainment industry.10 One disturbing change is that a highly selective information diet is becoming readily available to many people while the news found in the popular media, so valuable to the maintenance of a sense of community, is more often designed to entertain rather than inform. Those with money and power have always had an appetite for information and the means to satisfy that need. But now the once widely held belief that a healthy democracy needs an informed public is at risk. Too often the media appear to be prepared to play along with government- or business-staged pseudo-events. In the past, government and politics got dominant play in the media, far beyond the level of interest of most readers, listeners, and viewers, as surveys show. Now the editors compete for commercial success with sensational entertainment, fashion, and features. How big is the audience? What value can we put on the demographic profile? There are three forces at work undermining our news diet. First, powerful groups have learned how to manipulate the news. Sophisticated spin doctors abound. Increasingly, business refuses to respond to a journalist’s questions or requests unless there is the promise of a publicrelations gain. Prior restraint in government and business is the norm, not the exception. Intimidation of reporters is all too common. Second, the Internet moves a mountain of information and users can download their narrow selection with a click of their mouse. And third, news functions in a commercial/entertainment milieu. TV news is like a diet of snacks — fattening but not nutritious. Newspapers try to be as colourful and graphic as TV. You can call a paper or station for quick updates on stocks, sports, or weather. TV and radio are exciting, amusing, and friendly. Controversy and titillation abound, but ultimately the content of radio and TV is vapid, thin gruel.11 But we need to know what is going on, not just about film stars, athletes, and the glitterati, but about the implications of legislation and about the values debates that impact on our lives. We need a healthy skepticism about our political representatives and the institutions that circumscribe our lives. We need to heed I. F. Stone’s warning: “Every government is run by liars. Nothing they say should be believed.” These days we need to apply the same critical judgement to the media because news has become less and less a public service. The news that


You Can Say That Again! once united us in our responsibility to family, community, and nation has been marginalized. John Locke wrote that news is “widespread information about public affairs.” His assumption was that government is a form of social contract, a deal between the governed and the government. That requires widespread information about public affairs, the broader, news-for-all diet developed in the nineteenth century. The rotary press, the Linotype machine, advertisers, and public education all came together, along with a new style of writing which we might call “the Ernest Hemingway economy of expression.” It was simple and direct — short words and short sentences. Unfortunately the nineteenth century also brought a new emphasis on pop content: interviews, crime, personalities, sports, courts, and human interest. A century later, in the 1990s, trivialization had become the trend. As to a more challenging information diet, the problem is that only a quarter to a half of the North American adult population can read well enough to hold down a menial job or read the tabloid-press headlines. The rich/poor gap is growing and with it the gap between literacy levels. The newsglue that once held us together as a society is less and less important to the mass of the population. Faith in the news has eroded. News works when information is broadly shared by a common audience.12 But that is less often the case these days. The mass media are increasingly trivialized while the economic and technological elites get the important information they seek from other sources. The History of Business and the Media For a couple of centuries, businessmen and investors have helped define the newspaper and serious journalism. At first, gossip and special intelligence about shipping and foreign affairs were exchanged over cups of coffee and tea. News from the battlefield at Waterloo was important to bankers in London and Paris. It’s no accident we have the Wall Street Journal and the Dow Jones Index or the Financial Times in London and the FTSE index. Printed information became the lifeblood of the traders and bankers, so they soon took a serious interest in publishing. The great collapse of the tulip market in Holland in the seventeenth century happened because word of escalating values for unusual Turkish bulbs spread quickly and widely, enticing people to leverage their way into disastrous debt. Would the rush to escape the market in the Crash of ’29 have brought it tumbling down so quickly if the word had not been on the front pages of the broadsheets of the time? Would so many people have bought on precipitous margin? Would the crash of that dark October day in 1987 have taken so great a toll if the media had not continued to hype the climbing market? What about the bloodletting of Asian economies in 1998? Nothing has changed when it comes to media


Radio and TV hype about a boom that will confound gravity and, unlike all preceding it in history, never end. By the time the media get around to telling the real story, it’s too late. Naturally, business likes to influence media content. Anything that promotes consumer spending and investment is to be encouraged. So we have lots of business news. But true consumer service is hard to find. Much of what we see and hear is underwritten by financial institutions and mutual-fund companies. The so-called experts want us to stick with the risky market even when the bear is on the prowl. They want us to put our money into mutual funds and stocks. They want us to believe government pensions are unsound so we will put our last dollar into unprotected funds. Most business journalism on radio and television is simply uncritical cheerleading. Reporters, producers, and editors give top executives, bank CEOs, and investment house economists respectful exposure and an easy ride. Their views are heard on every major economic event or issue. But clerics, environmentalists, social activists, organized labour, and other nonbusiness people don’t enjoy the same access. Issues like economic sovereignty, unemployment, education, government expenditure, even health care, are discussed in a business context with business gurus. Investigative reporting is expensive. Reporter hours cost money. News and current-affairs people work hard on tight budgets to keep the product exciting enough to gain rating points. So broadcasters seldom rock the boat. Employers like financial news but not if it alienates sponsors. Organized labour gets little air time unless it is to explore the inconvenience of a strike. The media generally assume that labour leaders are able to put their members on strike without reference to the very tough politics of the labour scene. The truth is, it is hard to persuade people to give up their pay and security to fight for their rights. But seldom does business news reflect that fact. Social issues get feature treatment or, as in the case of a street person who freezes to death, spot news coverage like a fire or an auto accident. There’s a lot of gossip about prominent people in sports or entertainment. But critical journalism that alerts us to the monarch’s nudity finds its outlet in books, in narrow-interest journals printed in black and white on cheap newsprint, or occasionally in public broadcasting like CBC, TV Ontario, or PBS. No Business Like Biz Business Consumers seldom get practical, unbiased financial advice from the media. They get a sugar-coated, pro-business diet. They are told to entrust their discretionary dollars to salesmen. The financial institutions receive


You Can Say That Again! an uncritical welcome to the financial forums of radio and TV. They pay the piper. They call the tune. There are a few exceptional reporters and columnists who serve with integrity and balance. There are some independent journalists who take an investigative, critical, consumer-advocate approach to business “news.” But generally on the business beat, the staple is the gospel of right-wing think-tanks like the C. D. Howe and Fraser Institutes, sources as biased as the Chamber of Commerce, the Manufacturers’ Association, or the Business Council On National Issues. They believe in unfettered capitalism and a vestigial state. In their media releases they make assumptions about the inefficiency of government, the efficiency of the market, the disincentive of the tax burden, the negative impact of regulation, the cost of the social safety net, the inconvenience of organized labour, and the annoyance of informed consumer criticism. These views dominate the media. Other views drown in the downpour. Federal finance ministers are in the loop. In September 1998, Paul Martin appeared sanguine about globalization and its inevitable destruction of national economic sovereignty, even while he said, “Clearly, financial markets do not always get it right. They travel in herds. They run on rumour, they often ignore fundamentals, and all too often they overshoot.” Martin referred to the damage done in Mexico, Indonesia, Malaysia, and elsewhere by the free and profitable flow of currency. Yet Martin and others, while warning of the threat of a global meltdown to rival 1929, argued against regulation of currency trade, insisting on the unbridled freedom of capital in their beloved global economy. They don’t get much argument in the media. When the MacKay Task Force on Financial Institutions decided not to decide whether big-bank mergers were a good idea, the media missed the point that it was essentially a carte blanche for the Canadian banks. The media also ignored the instructive point that the banks were heavily invested in Asian economies which were dismembered by the unregulated action of speculating currency traders. And the media missed the point that Canadian banks were heavily involved in currency trading which resulted in the trashing of the Canadian dollar. The media also missed the MacKay Report point about banks having to serve “the public interest.” Use of that term was news. The public interest was seldom even given lip service in the eighties and nineties. Of course, the public interest should be paramount when it comes to managing the economy. Reporters are expected, like finance ministers and investment gurus, not to frighten the sheep who are about to be dipped and fleeced. When there’s a bear on the prowl and journalists utter the R- and D-words, they are accused of perpetrating a self-fulfilling prophecy.13 It doesn’t matter that layoffs threaten, pensioners are about to lose their retirement investments, or that small businesses are about to go belly up.


Radio and TV The Cons of the True Believers The hired economists and propagandists of high finance insist that the market is efficient and well regulated. It isn’t. It is volatile and it is gambling. It is wasteful. It may make brokers rich, but little of the money is actually invested in development of new and better widgets. Another myth is that the shareholder rules. True, in one sense. Profit matters more than social responsibility. Otherwise, simply not so. Those who enjoy the inside track of information, preferred voting shares, and access to company management, rule. Common shareholders are in steerage and usually the last to know the ship is about to sink. The gurus say you can make a fortune if only you get good advice, are smart and willing to take a chance on the market over the long haul. The truth is, teams of dedicated mutual-fund managers frequently lose money for their investors. Big banks occasionally report quarterly losses even in their Balanced Funds, let alone for their Equity Funds. Yet the stock market is touted as best in the long run. Chances are, though, you’ll do just as well and sleep better with your money in GICs or Treasury Bills. There is less and less opportunity for critical financial journalism on radio and television. Underwriters discovered they could fund shows designed to look helpful without running the risks of balanced journalism. Why fund a money show for a mention and a brief company-logo shot if there’s a risk interviewers might offer advice that runs counter to company interests? Why not an infomercial made up of interviews with the company’s own people? Why not a sympathetic, trained-seal host rather than an investigative news approach? No awkward questions that way. So that friendly TV countenance, advising us about our preparation for retirement or how to avoid income tax or about estate planning or how to manage an inheritance, could be working indirectly for one of the big financial institutions hungry for a piece of each dollar invested. As for the daily business segments in the news, they do little but give us the stock-market numbers, currency comparisons, and a few items of corporate news. We hear the economists telling us we can’t afford a social safety net and that business is regulated and taxed too much. Business needs incentives they tell us, while the poor need a kick in the pants. But let’s be clear, there is no conspiracy. Most media managers share the assumptions of the monied movers and shakers. They happen to agree on the inevitability of the global economy, on the free flow of capital and on the efficiency of the market. They believe in the efficacy of free-enterprise capitalism and the inefficiency of anything done by government. They believe in the deserving rich and the undeserving poor. So we end up with media cheerleaders while business enjoys a greatly reduced tax burden. Government revenues decline. The social safety net is weakened. The gulf between rich and poor grows.


You Can Say That Again! A Bit of Balance Would Help If the media truly served the general public, they would start with the assumption that it is wise to take a conservative approach to managing a few discretionary dollars while trying to pay the bills. The media would remind consumers that credit card debt is too expensive. Commercials don’t tell you this. The news media would warn people not to gamble in stocks, options, commodity futures, or derivatives like indexes or index funds. Responsible media would tell people not to leverage to invest in anything. They would advise people to pay down debt and pay off the mortgage quickly for big savings. Really helpful media advisors would tell consumers to ignore the zealots preaching the religion of greed but to invest, instead, to the limit in Registered Retirement Saving Plans or in TBills or CSBs for a payoff you can count on. As to stock-market investment, bank shares are probably best. Top management likes to keep the profits high. Their cut off the top is in the millions and they get star treatment like professional sports heroes. The media could improve the situation a lot simply by supplying the news and information we need in order to express informed views on issues crucial to a democratic society. The values debate should be part of that daily diet: a variety of views on issues such as globalization, trade, regulation, foreign investment, capital movement, currency trade, taxes, labour policy, and the social safety net. Financial institutions should not set the agenda. The needs of people should be the prime concern of consumer-service journalism. It needn’t be muckraking if that is too expensive or too threatening to advertisers. But it should consist of practical advice for those trying to buy homes, educate children, stay out of debt, and save for that rainy day. While many people aspire to the lifestyle of the rich and famous, most could just use a little help coping with the insecurity of daily life. But the media aren’t much help because they treat us not as citizens to be informed but as consumers — sheep to be sheared. Business Terms A man who has a million dollars is as well off as if he were rich. — John Jacob Astor IV, in the early 1890s. He died when the Titanic sank in 1912. He left a fortune of $87 million. The following terms may pop up in a business context. Pronunciation is seldom a problem, but a careless use of these words can lead to misunderstanding.


Radio and TV Accrual accounting — standard approach: transactions recorded (sales when invoiced) but not taken into account when cash is paid or received. Cash-basis accounting is rare. amortization — systematic apportioning of an amount over time. annuity —an investment which guarantees to pay set amounts over a set period. arbitrage (AR-bi-TRAZH) — buying and selling of identical commodities, currencies, or securities to profit from price differences in different markets. audit — an official examination and verification of accounts. Balance sheet — listing of assets and liabilities at a point in time; balancing of the two columns. bear or bear market — a bear predicts the market will fall, share prices will drop; a bear market is one that is falling, with stock values dropping (see bull). blue chip — stock shares in well-established companies with histories of dividends and safe investment. boiler room — sale of stocks of doubtful value over the telephone. bond — certificate of debt (see strip bond). bond discount — sale price of bond below face value. book debts — banking term for receivables, probably assigned to the bank as security. book value — net difference between assets and liabilities. break even — point at which sales, less cost of goods, equals overhead (zero profit). bucket shop — broker operation where customers’ orders are not processed immediately but held in hope a price change will make money for the broker. bull — a person who believes stock prices will rise. Prices rise in a bull market. bullion — metal bars, especially gold and silver. Call — a transferable option to buy a number of shares at a stated price within a set time. capital cost allowance — depreciation for income tax purposes. capital gain — profit on sale of an asset. Chapter 11 — American term, meaning “protection from creditors, opportunity to reorganize finances, especially debts, to avoid bankruptcy.” churning — buying and selling stocks to show market action and to push up prices (see also bucket shop). commodities — futures trade in metals, forest products (pulp, plywood, lumber), soybeans, hog bellies (bacon), energy, and so on


You Can Say That Again! (contracts for future sale). Croesus (as rich as ~) — sixth-century-B.C. Lydian king. Debenture — written obligation of company to pay specified amount on a certain date. defalcation (DEF-ul-KAY-shun) — a kind of embezzlement (not to be confused with defecation). deferred annuity — payments to begin sometime in the future. delist — take a stock off the exchange listings. depression — extended period of financial decline, contraction, deflation, high unemployment. (This is when you lose your job, as opposed to a recession, q.v.). derivatives — financial products like Index Funds. Or The Toronto Stock Exchange’s stock index, which enables a fool to part with his money by gambling on the performance of the top sixty stocks listed. dividend — profits distributed to shareholders. Dow Jones average — thirty stocks on New York Stock Exchange, averaged to measure market performance and trends. As with averages of FT (Financial Times) in London, S & P (Standard and Poor) in New York, Nikkei in Japan, TSE in Toronto, and so on. Equity — (a) the difference between assets and liabilities of a company or that part of a property’s value after subtraction of mortgage obligations; (b) stock or share investment (see shares). GNP — gross national product: annual total market value of output of goods and services. green mail — the practice by a company of buying a stock of a raiding company to prevent hostile takeover. Gresham’s Law — bad money drives out good. GIC — guaranteed investment certificate: debt security with set maturity period of one to five years. Institutional investor — insurance company, pension, or mutual fund. intestate (in-TES-tate) — not having made a will before death. Kiting — depositing in one account a cheque drawn on another account with the drawing not recorded until a day later, so that the cash shortage is covered on the day of the transfer. Laffer curve — graph charting tax rates and revenue. Named after economist Arthur Laffer. laissez-faire (LES-ay FAIR) — economic theory which argues that trade and industry (even society) fare best when left unregulated.


Radio and TV leverage — money borrowed and reinvested to gain return above the cost of borrowing. liquidity — ease of converting assets to cash without penalty. Savings Bonds, for example, are more liquid than five-year GICs. listing — as in newspaper: ABC (name of company), Div (dividend if any), 50.95 (bid price or high price), 49.10 (ask or low price), 50.20 (last price), and 1.20 (change), then the value and highs and low prices over the last year. load — front end, rear end, no load: reference to charges to investor in a fund. Luddite — Luddites were artisans who smashed labour-saving machinery in the early nineteenth century hoping to keep their jobs. Progress often comes at a cost, usually paid by workers. Luddites are perhaps named after Ned Lud, an insane Leicester (LES-tir) workman who destroyed machinery about 1779. In France, workers tossed shoes (sabots, “clogs”) into the works. Thus sabotage. Margin — deposit to broker as part payment for securities to be bought. Midas (The ~ touch) — ability to make money. The Phrygian king had the power to turn all he touched into gold. See Croesus. mortgagee (MOR-ga-JEE) — the creditor in a mortgage (contract to pay and conditions of payment). Historically, a mortgage was the eldest son’s pledge to pay on his father’s death (French mort + Germanic gage). Mortgagor (MOR-ga-jir) — borrower. NASDAQ (NAZ-dak) — National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations. OAC — on approved credit. oligopoly (AWL-i-GAWP-o-lee) — market dominated by a small number of sellers (perhaps a sector such as the banks, petroleum, or automotive). oligopsony (AWL-i-GAWP-sun-ee) — market dominated by a small group of buyers. Peculation (PEK-yoo-LAY-shun) — embezzlement of funds by a person entrusted with their management. poison pill — a tactic such as increasing corporate debt in order to make a company less attractive to a hostile takeover bid for the shares held by shareholders. price earnings ratio — market price of a share divided by annual earnings per share (used as a guide to the underlying value of a stock rather than this just being the daily price on the exchange). (P/E = )


You Can Say That Again! prime rate — interest charged by banks to preferred customers: a lower rate of interest (usually determined by the central bank rate [Bank of Canada]). Recession (re-SESH-un) — drop in economic activity and prosperity, increased unemployment, two consecutive quarters of economic contraction. (This is when your neighbour loses his job.) See depression. RRIF — Registered Retirement Income Fund: registered investment which earns interest free of tax, until cashed. At an age determined by the government, set amounts must be cashed in and become taxable income. RRSP — Registered Retirement Savings Plan (an IRA in the United States): an investment which earns interest free of tax until cashed. Can be converted to RRIF. Secured creditor — person with claim against a debtor. The claims are supported by assets pledged to creditors. shares — common stock, usually one vote per share in the company. Preferred shares rank ahead of common in case of liquidation (but after other creditors). small caps — non-blue-chip stocks: lower priced, more speculative, like penny mine stocks or moderately capitalized businesses. spread — difference between bid and ask prices of a stock. stock option — right to buy shares under preset conditions covering the number of shares, price, and time of purchase. strip bond — bond with detachable coupons. stripped debentures — separated from other securities such as warrants, originally issued as a unit. Tobin Tax — proposed minimal tax on currency transactions designed to slow down international currency trade. Named after an American economist. Uttering — use of a forged document while knowing it is bogus. Warrant — a certificate which gives the holder the right to buy securities at a specific price within a set time. Yield — effective rate of return. Objectivity — in the Eye of the Beholder There’s no such thing as completely objective journalism. There may


Radio and TV be balance and fairness in a newscast and there may even be lots of journalists who strive to be objective in their reporting and writing. But we all see the world through our own prejudiced viewfinder. Each of us is formed by our own life experience with our individual biases and unique value systems. Someone who doesn’t see the world as we see it may accuse us of bias. A newsroom adage has it that if both Jews and local Palestinians are complaining bitterly about your coverage of events in the Middle East, you probably have the balance about right. When caught in the crossfire of day-to-day journalism it is natural to complain about the biased coverage. It is natural to accuse journalists of slant, of quoting out of context, of having a hidden agenda or even to be working in the service of some éminence grise (em-ih-NAWNS GREEZ). There is a widely held view that the media are part of a broad conspiracy to keep us, like mushrooms, in the dark and on a diet of horse manure. One distinction often missed is the one between the broad term journalism and the more narrowly defined news. As mentioned earlier, journalism covers a multitude of sins from those of the columnist to those of the editorial writer, from the radio phone-in host’s rant to the TV tabloid show’s reports. All of these deal as much with opinion as with facts. They like to turn up the emotional heat. They thrive on dispute, not on resolution. They excite, they incite, they insult, they rant, they spin, they influence popular opinion — they entertain! KISS Formula Media “There’s much less here than meets the eye.” — Robert Benchley, after seeing an art film Oversimplification is the approach of much of talk radio. The trend is toward tabloid journalism in both radio and TV. “Keep It Simple, Stupid!” is the motto. Avoid complexity and ambiguity. Make every dispute a black versus white, either/or debate. Delete the qualifiers and do not encourage reasonable debate. That’s boring! Evoke an emotional response and let the facts fall where they may. No one ever lost money by appealing to poor taste, prejudice, and minimal intelligence. In the U.S. broadcasters compete to see who can be the most outrageous and who can get the most dogs barking. The success of a talk-show host depends on innovation and sensationalism. Outraged reaction is provoked. Extremism in the pursuit of First Amendment licence prevails. Balance and fairness have nothing to do with it. It’s about pushing hot buttons. As Hedda Hopper, the gossip columnist, once put it, “Nobody is interested in sweetness and light.”


You Can Say That Again! While the tone is usually less strident in the Canadian media, the fare is similar and almost exclusively right wing. The underlying ideology is usually simplistic populism of the sort that finds civil liberties and the rule of law cumbersome and inefficient. The view seems to be that the majority rules and minority views will not be suffered gladly. But the greatest fault with sensationalist journalism is that — for anyone willing to live with life’s ambiguities and complexities and for anyone with some tolerance and intelligence — it’s soon a bore! It takes some effort to deal with a complicated world in which there are no easy answers. It takes a special effort from media practitioners to help the public with this. And it takes sophisticated consumers willing to devote time to a critical examination of the news of the day to tackle this task. News involves a different set of obligations from those of talk radio. For the reporter, editor, writer, or radio or TV anchor, the responsibility is to be accurate, balanced, and fair. It is necessary to provide some context and background in a manner that doesn’t prejudice the story. It is necessary to reflect the complexity of the situation, especially the different perspectives of the people involved. The five W questions are answered. And an effort is made to achieve that impossible objectivity. It’s not easy, especially when the non-news-media environment is highly opinionated or commercial. Satisfying the need to know and the practical need for the facts is a straightforward chore. Being an unbiased earlywarning system is a bit more challenging. The goal is to serve these ends and make the story interesting as well. Few media consumers analyze media content according to the distinctions made here. Even dedicated and conscientious news people are lumped with those guilty of notorious media extravagance. Media people — like politicians, lawyers, and used-car salesmen — get little respect. A study done in the United States in 1997 found the public “more critical of press practices, less enthusiastic about the news product and less appreciative of the watchdog role played by the news media” than it was in 1985. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in Washington found that the American public gave the press low marks for accuracy and fairness. The survey also found people were much less engaged by the news itself. There is a contradiction between what people say they don’t like about the media and what they actually look for in the media. The Pew survey found that 64 percent of Americans now think TV newscasts unnecessarily invade people’s privacy. Fifty seven percent criticize newspapers for the same sin. Like Canadians, more than half of Americans (54 percent) believe the media get in the way of society solving its problems. And fewer people think press scrutiny of politicians is good because the close attention keeps them honest.14


Radio and TV Add another inconsistency in the public view of the media. Those surveyed condemned the media for their intrusiveness into people’s privacy. Yet people are drawn to tabloid-style news coverage. They say they don’t like the way the media do their job but people hungrily devour the sensationalism. James Winter of the University of Windsor and author of Democracy’s Oxygen: How Corporations Control The News (1997) says Canadian media seem to be following the American lead. No wonder misunderstandings arise, as in the following courtroom incident: Q.: You say this woman shot her husband with his pistol at close range? A.: Yes, sir. That’s right. Q.: Any powder marks on his body? A.: Yes, sir, that’s why she shot him. In the United States people are preoccupied with the sexual lives of politicians and the media feed that frenzy. Allegations get the play of convictions: headlines in newspapers, hours on talk radio as well as relentless exploitation and innuendo on tabloid TV. While President Bill Clinton was being attacked, however, for allegedly importuning women for sexual favours (“Zippergate” in the “Oral Office” on Pennsylvania Avenue), his presidential approval rating soared. The media compete for the lowest common denominator because the rewards are a bigger audience and higher advertising sales. It should be said, though, that traditionally the Canadian media pay less attention to the personal lives of their politicians, their attitude being more like the one in France, where mistresses are assumed and get little media play. But in Greece, where the late Papandreou married an airline attendant toward the end of his life, the public role of his new bride was widely criticized and thoroughly explored in the media. In the United Kingdom, the dalliances of politicians make tabloid headlines as do the moral lapses of members of the royal family. Consider what you get from TV news nightly. You get a “news family” reflecting the audience target in age and gender. You get male and female anchors, a weather person, a sportscaster (the ultimate fan), a breathless show-business promoter, a fashion enthusiast (“eye candy”), and perhaps someone on the science and health beat. You will also have: not a consumer advocate, but a business reporter (another fan). The Case for Muckraking: Investigative Journalism “Muckrakers were people who wrote about the sordid aspects of life such as Ida Tarbell.” The student who wrote that got the definition


You Can Say That Again! right even though the sentence inadvertently insulted one of the best-known muckrakers. Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle, is the prime example of the species. He researched and then attacked scandalous conduct by government, big business, and other institutions. The Jungle exposed the criminal and dangerous meat-packing industry in Chicago. In the same era, Ida Tarbell targeted the Rockefellers and Standard Oil. More recent instances of the craft are those exposing environmental hazards or government and industry deceit. Rachel Carson and Ralph Nader come to mind. In Canada, Maude Barlow, Walter Stewart, and Linda McQuaig are examples. Muckraking efforts have focused on the banks, the stock market, politicians and true believers, pharmaceutical firms, the arms industry, and the high cost of death (the funeral industry). The term muckraking was originally used to attack journalists. Muck means “filth,” “dirt,” “manure.” To muckrake means “to expose political corruption,” but the targets accused their opponents or journalists of sifting through muck in order to find some which — when thrown — would stick to the target. For a time the word had a negative connotation and was used as an epithet directed at reporters. The word muck comes from Latin mucare, “to wipe the nose,” a gesture used to convey scorn. The verb mucare is derived from mucus. In Greek mykton means “nose,” myxa means “slime.” Via Old English, the word went from meuk for “soft” to muk for “manure.” A man who pokes around in slime is a muckraker. Over time it became the honourable pursuit of “investigative journalism.” The term attained broad, popular usage in connection with the Watergate story about the transgressions of the Republican committee charged with the re-election of Richard Nixon as American president. Two Washington Post reporters gained fame and fortune by exposing the robbery at the Watergate Hotel offices of the Democratic Party and by staying on the scent all the way to the White House. The movie All The President’s Men prompted a lot of young people to choose journalism as a career and muckraking as their approach. But investigative journalism is not just a matter of detective work and cultivation of “Deep Throat” informants. It is more than exposing the transgressions of those in high office. It has always been a matter of gathering information. Of checking sources. Research is the key and today the Internet is a primary tool. The public would be better served if interviewers adopted a more aggressive approach and if they did the necessary homework. Persistently asking tough questions is a difficult skill to master. It is easy to alienate both interviewee and the radio or TV audience by being a pest. Impatience with rehearsed BS (platitudes and obfuscation) is rarely seen in the media today. If the examples of investigative journalism are dated


Radio and TV and almost exclusively print, it’s because commercially dependent radio and television don’t encourage their news people to rock the boat or embarrass the comfortable and powerful. Headlines and Leads Suspense in news is torture. — Milton Succinct headlines and leads can be misleading: EMBEZZLER SPENDS FOOLISHLY Evidence at Trial Reveals Spendthrift ... The embezzler endorsed cheques for $90, 299.77 last year. For nine months he played the daily double, sipped dry martinis, dallied with expensive prostitutes, flew first class city to city, and spent the rest foolishly. Or, GRAMMARIAN GETS LIFE SENTENCE And, DENTIST RECEIVES PLAQUE We’ll return to the issue of misleading headlines, but first a brief look at the lead. The comprehensive lead of print journalism’s inverted-pyramid style should contain the five Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why and sometimes How). It makes up the first paragraph. And the print story will be written so that it can be edited from the bottom — the most important facts at the top. That’s the way we read the paper, editing as we go, impatient to get the essential facts and then moving on. We are even more impatient with radio and TV. The broadcast lead, at its best, is a bit like the newspaper headline — it grabs attention, addresses the listener’s self-interest, and goes right to the core of the story. In each case, print and broadcast, the lead should be simple, direct, active, and in the present tense if possible. Conditional modifiers and passive expressions should be avoided. Not: “The finance department announced it is hoping to increase revenue in the near future.” But: “The finance department hopes to increase revenue soon.” And, if the story really warrants it, “Taxes could go up soon!” It may be possible in print these days to back into stories and even to


You Can Say That Again! bury the lead like a Sunday-feature writer. In such pieces the writer introduces someone who is involved in the story. It is an emotive and dramatic device pulling you into the story before introducing the burden of facts, statistics, and sociology. But on radio and television it is wise not to try the patience of the listener or viewer. It’s too easy to change stations. So, get to the point quickly. If time permits, build in the essential core facts again near the end or in voice-over narration in the case of TV. But say it simply. Make it a “now” event. Immediacy is the greatest strength of the electronic media. Use present tense whenever possible and avoid any expression that emphasizes the past or dates the story. Interviews In the past, a politician with a good platform presence, capable of dealing with reporters and various media opportunities, stood out from the pack. A key to electoral success — on the stump or from the back of a campaign train — oratorical skill paid off. There have always been individuals capable of getting their message across simply, briefly, and with emotional impact. We don’t have to go back to the orators of ancient Athens. More recent political examples come readily to mind. Kennedy’s edge over Nixon in the TV debate. Nixon’s edge on radio. F.D.R.’s successful “fireside” chats and a personal style ideal for radio. Churchill’s wartime speeches. In Canada, John Diefenbaker, René Lévesque, Jacques Parizeau, and Tommy Douglas from the platform and on radio. Pierre Trudeau’s successful cool disdain on TV. For business people, even for bankers and labour leaders, communication skills have boosted careers. In the past, these especially able communicators were the exceptions. While there are still a few with what is often called natural charisma, today many people understand the importance of polishing their emotive skills. Now, nearly everyone dealing with the public or the media is trained in the art of “sound bites,” focused responses to questions fired in the heat of scrums or news conferences. They hew to their “core” statements, they return to them often, they smile, and they frustrate the interviewer. They have been coached and rehearsed to the point where the reporter can’t get straight answers. At some point, of course, the law of diminishing returns comes into play. When the public finally notices that the politician or CEO never really responds but offers only hollow rhetoric and general assurances, that individual’s stock falls and the public gives interviewers tacit permission to get tough with their questions. That’s when the homework really pays off. That’s when the reporter’s preparation leads to direct, precise questions that demand concrete responses. An unresponsive interviewee raises doubts in the public mind. The trick for the reporter is to be assertive and persistent,


Radio and TV not aggressive and belligerent. Journalistic competence is a prerequisite for that balancing act. That means preparation, doing the homework. Sometimes the question is more important than the answer! Write Concisely — The Need to Edit The strongest of all human emotions is neither love nor hate. It is the need to change another person’s copy. — Sign in a “60 Minutes” office at CBS in New York Even if you aren’t doing it to satisfy an editor, it’s a good idea to take another look at everything you write. Invariably there’s a way to improve it, usually by cutting words and simplifying vocabulary. Tighten. Simplify. Shorten. All writing is better for editing. The art of writing must include the discipline of editing. For radio and TV it is especially important. Metaphors should be short, simple, and readily understood. The best are “as common as dirt.” The challenge is to create a fresh expression rather than using a cliché. See Orwell’s advice in the previous chapter. Editors have always argued for the benefit of editing. Strunk and White put the case for brevity in their Elements of Style. Churchill argued for brevity and simplicity of expression. He exercised a tight discipline on his own writing and proved the value of it with his great speeches during World War II and after: “Never in the field of human conflict ...,” “... blood, toil, tears and sweat....” And, “An iron curtain has descended....” A short example illustrates the benefit of taking a second look and making some edits. The wire service slug and first lead read: FATALS Three youths and one motorist perished in a single-vehicle accident when the driver failed to negotiate a curve in the road. It happened on Highway 27 near Barrie, Ontario, at two fiftyfive this morning, according to a spokesperson for the Provincial Police. The automobile came to rest on its roof in a ditch. Names and ages have not been released until next of kin have been notified. Authorities are seeking persons who may have been witnesses to this fatality. Edited for radio the item is reduced to: FATALS A driver and three teenagers are dead after their car rolled into a ditch on a Highway 27 curve near Barrie just before three this morning. Police would like to hear from anyone who may have


You Can Say That Again! seen the accident. The names and ages of the victims have not been released. Tautology is a form of redundancy — to be avoided, of course: “The plane carrying the Pope on his papal mission....” Avoid: “Seven a.m. in the morning.” (“Seven in the morning” will do.) Avoid saying something is “imminent any moment now.” And an “upcoming event” is just a “coming event.” Other examples of more than enough are: “Fears continue to remain high,” or “... continue to persist.” Enough said if one writes: “Fears remain high,” or “... persist.” “Not yet decided upon,” is yet another example. Drop “upon.” And do avoid the tired tag and its various forms, “Only time will tell,” or “We’ll have to wait and see....” Another common style error is the practice of breaking radio and TV leads arbitrarily only to start the next sentence where the first one left off. For instance: “The Cabinet minister rose in the House today to defend government policy. This, after an impassioned attack from the Opposition benches.” The form seems to result from the need to make leads as short and pithy as possible. But it makes little sense to begin the next sentence with “This.” There’s no grammatical logic to the practice, so the example above might just as well be written as: “The Cabinet minister rose in the House today to defend government policy (...) after an impassioned attack from the Opposition benches.” No break is necessary. No conjunction is needed. Putting the two parts of the sentence together doesn’t make it longer. The listener hears the same information broken into the same two phrases. So why the current practice? It is artificial and doesn’t accomplish anything. Hoary Headlines, Misleading Leads, and Skewed Syntax Father Murphy’s Ass Let’s return to the problem of misunderstandings caused by the determination of writers and editors to abbreviate. In writing and vocal expression, as in so many other things, less is more. Brevity is the soul of wit, and so on. Tight writing is especially important to advertising writers, photo-caption editors, and headline writers. Editors demand strong, exciting leads. They want stories to start with a bang. But oversimplification can be hazardous. By all means say it simply, but be careful lest you mislead. Clarity is essential in headlines, leads, and news copy. But distortion is likely and double entendre possible when the messenger has one idea and the listener or reader another. Father Murphy, a priest in a poor parish in Northern Ireland, needed


Radio and TV money for the church. Aware that some of the rich English made money with racehorses, Father Murphy went to an auction. The guileless priest made a poor buy — a donkey. He entered the beast in the local races anyway and the donkey finished third. The next morning’s headline in the local Protestant-owned newspaper announced: FATHER MURPHY’S ASS SHOWS Naturally, the archbishop was displeased. He said nothing. But in the next day’s races the donkey came first. The following day’s headline: FATHER MURPHY’S ASS OUT IN FRONT This time the archbishop complained. He was too late. The donkey was entered in the third day’s races and came second: FATHER MURPHY’S ASS BACK IN PLACE At this point the archbishop got on the phone and told Father Murphy not to enter the donkey in the final day of races. The ensuing headline was: ARCHBISHOP SCRATCHES FATHER MURPHY’S ASS The archbishop was so distressed by this headline he ordered the poor priest to get rid of the donkey. Unable to sell it, Father Murphy gave it to Sister Agatha as a pet. The next headline in unionist print told the truth: NUN OWNS BEST ASS IN TOWN This was the last straw for the archbishop, who ordered Sister Agatha to dispose of the animal, to sell it. So: SISTER AGATHA PEDDLES HER ASS The impact of this headline on the archbishop is not reported. Point made about the danger of ambiguity in tight heads that grab attention. Obviously, the point applies to radio and TV and sometimes the problem isn’t apparent until the head or lead is vocalized. Read on for more misleading headlines and some syntax-challenged leads: CAMBODIA LAUNCHES CRASH COURSE, TRAINS NEW PILOTS


You Can Say That Again! HOSPITALS SUED BY SEVEN FOOT DOCTORS POLICE TO STOP PUBLIC URINATING MORALITY CRUSADE Montreal police don’t hesitate to use whatever laws, regulations or persuasion they feel they need to control morality in the city and prevent it from getting a foothold in any one part of the city. MARRIAGE LICENCE PERMITS MOUNTING NUDE MAN PULLS KNIFE ON WORKERS Part of the problem is brevity. It shows up in advertising too. Some of it is just faulty syntax: FOR SALE Pair Holstein oxen, 3200 lbs., 8 years old, with horns capped by local blacksmith with brass balls. Try our cough syrup. You’ll never get any better! THE QUEEN’S ENGLISH? “Princess Anne is the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and a noted equestrian performer.” GIRL BECOMES METHODIST AFTER DELICATE OPERATION There are also occupational-hazard leads and headlines: The judge condemns the chiropractors as manipulative. The meteorologist — who hails from Vancouver, B.C. — took the reins of a team of forecasters. SEAMSTRESS PINNED UNDER CAR HAIRDRESSERS SUFFER CUTBACKS GEOLOGIST CLAIMS IT’S NOT HIS FAULT!


Radio and TV And keep an eye on the want ads for unintended double meanings: AUTO REPAIR SERVICE — Try us once and you’ll never go anywhere again. DOG FOR SALE — Eats anything and is fond of children. EXCITING! Our bikinis are exciting.They are simply the tops! FOR SALE — Antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers. GIRL WANTED to assist magician in cutting-offhead illusion. Salary and Blue Cross. MAN WANTED to work in dynamite factory. Must be willing to travel. USED CARS. Why go elsewhere to be cheated? Come here first. Bring Me Your Tired, Overworked Words and Phrases One of the easiest copy cuts to make is the deletion of clichés. They slip into everyday speech because they are handy. They are overused because they are readily understood and we are too lazy to come up with brighter, less-worn ways of saying things. But it is better to find our own, fresh expressions. The following are just a few of the many clichés and threadbare phrases to be avoided. As we speak — why not say “now”? As a matter of fact — isn’t this just an “um”? At this moment in time — it’s still “now.” Axe to grind — just plain tired, dull. Back to square one — was this once a chess metaphor? Basically — no more useful than essentially. Leave it out. Bitter end — aren’t they always? Burning issue — ditto. By the same token — usually unnecessary. Can of worms — tired. Chalked up a victory — not in the day of the Jumbotron. Chips fall where they may — wooden. This axe is dull.


You Can Say That Again! City fathers — try council, put it to a vote: councillors, aldermen. Crystal clear — just muddies the prose. Close encounter — is this sci-fi? Cognoscente — if they’re so smart how come we don’t have a better collective? Collision course — fine when in a traffic report. Coveted trophy — aren’t they all? Cutting edge — how modern can you get? Different drummer — and the beat goes on. Doomed to disappointment — tears are next. Down the tubes — like flushed with success? Extra mile — enough is enough. Eyeball-to-eyeball — the eyes glaze over. Fast lane — or life with the jet set. Father Time — is elderly and can be forgiven if he pops up only at New Year’s. Foe — an enemy or opponent. Foe has been appropriated by sports. Foregone conclusion — we knew this was coming. From the get-go — doomed from the start. Game plan — appropriate to football. Garbage in, garbage out — tired and starting to smell high. Given the green light — caution. This could lead to gridlock. Goes with the territory — an unwelcome imposition. Grassroots — starting to wilt from overuse. Gridlock — appropriate to traffic reports. Grilled (for questioned) — stale, unpalatable. Happy camper — probably doesn’t understand the situation. Hard ball — mock macho, out of date. Hit the nail on the head — dumb. Watch your thumb. Ink (for sign) — another term appropriated by sports. In terms of — a lazy habit. In the limelight — theatrical. In full swing — maybe on the fairway. Interesting enough — another unnecessary “um.” Jack Frost — is this frozen in time, or what?! John Q. Public — from the mists of time, vox pop. Lady Luck — when is a lady not? Like gangbusters — anyone remember Elliot Ness? Long arm of the law — there ought to be a law. Man in the street — jaywalker or vagrant? Mano a mano — see “one on one.” Mind-boggling — exactly!


Radio and TV Miraculous escape — any other kind? Moment of truth — and not a second too soon. Mother Nature — in a world of her own. Name of the game — precisely. This is cumbersome. Nitty gritty — not hip, not cool. One on one — unnecessary. Is this hand-to-hand? Ongoing — this keeps happening and it’s tiresome. Only game in town — the longest-running permanent crap game? Operation ... (whatever) — Pentagon-ese. On the drawing board — but fading. Over and above — high flying for “in addition” or “also.” Pact (for agreement) — try deal if you must. See “ink.” Part and parcel — see over and above. Pecking order — for the birds. Powers that be — who’s in charge here? Probe (for investigate) — just tired and often inappropriate. Pros and cons — is this better than reasons for and against? Right on — dated, usually meaningless. Rubber-chicken circuit — indigestible oldie. Says it all — who says? Simmering, boiling point (re war, labour) — old and tired. Single most (anything) — is this like uniquely something? Slippery slope — we can hope this is the slope to oblivion. Smart money — like bottom line and megabucks and other pecuniary phrases. Spirited debate — hope so. Otherwise it’s idle chat. Storm of protest — let Mother Nature take care of the weather. Take a dim view — does not prompt enthusiasm. Tell it like it is — must mean shooting from the lip? Upcoming — try coming or soon. The up is redundant. Up for grabs — clumsy, crude. Venture a suggestion — an affectation. Wealth of information — must mean lots of it. Where it’s at — as in real estate: location, location, location. Won’t fly (or wash) — if at first you don’t succeed ... World class — isn’t everything? You’re damned if you do ... — damned right if you utter this one! You win some, you lose some — what an insight! Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. Among single words that have lost their precision of meaning are virtual, exclusive, and actually. Build


You Can Say That Again! your own list of tired words and phrases to avoid. Keep an eye out for the clichés hiding all around you. They pop up and smite you when you let your guard down. Another short list of words and phrases to avoid is compiled from Lake Superior University’s twenty-first annual list of candidates for banishment from everyday language. Each year the University comes up with a list based on entries from all over North America. Doing the ... thing. As in the lunch thing, or the mom thing. Phone tag. Attitude, used to describe an overly aggressive person. Multi-tasking. Get a life. Bridge metaphors, as in bridge to the twenty-first century. Whatever. Usually an elongated and dismissive teen expression. As if. Same attitude as whatever. Often, when the t is pronounced. No doubt about it. Winningest. And a few additional redundancies: Extra added. Free gratis. Separate it out. Oscillating back and forth. Numbers When dealing with numbers in copy to be read aloud, it is wise to write them in words. News practice is to write out all numerals up to and including ten, sometimes using numerals above that. When you get to thousands, millions, and more, it is helpful to use numerals for the first part and words for the rest. It’s easier for the reader. So: 200,139,000 would be written (and said) 200 Million, one hundred and thirty-nine thousand. The distinction between millions and billions is very important, so it is common to type the first letter — m or b — in upper case. Round off fractions. Decimals should be avoided if possible. So .5 would be written and said “half,” while .75 would be “three quarters.” Unless finely detailed precision is crucial, it is best in most situations to round off numbers by saying nearly 90 percent for 89.75 or just under 50 percent for 49.5. The print rule for newspapers is one to ten written out, then 11, 12, 21, 116, and so on in numerals. For oral presentation numbers should be


Radio and TV written to make it easy for the reader and for accurate timing. The data should be understood at a glance, written so the information can be lifted off the paper and delivered without hesitation. Punctuation A dash ( — ) marks a break in the continuity of a sentence. Or it precedes an attribution. A hyphen ( - ) is used to indicate division of a word at the end of a line, or with some prefixes, as in “He will re-cover that chair.” Ellipsis points ( ... ) show that one or more words or even a sentence has been left out of a quotation or that a sentence is unfinished. News writers use ... as punctuation to indicate a new thought, or to separate one set of facts from another, or to approximate the disjointed phrasing of conversation. There is an oral grammar, a syntax of conversation, and the ellipsis breaks copy into the idea- and breath-sized bites of the spoken word. Parentheses ( ) set apart explanatory material or a digression. They enclose numbers or letters in a series. Quotation marks ( “ ” )indicate a quoted passage. Single quotation marks ( ‘ ’ ) indicate a quotation within a quotation. A semicolon ( ; ) links clauses not linked by a conjunction: “Some ride well; others do not.” The virgule ( / ) is used to separate alternatives. It is also used to mean “per” in abbreviations: km/hr. The apostrophe ( ’ ) indicates the possessive case as in “the man’s dog.” It also shows where letters have been left out in contractions like “wasn’t.” And it can form plurals as in “M.A.’s and Ph.D’s.” The colon ( : ) introduces an explanation or illustration or sometimes a quote. The comma ( , ) separates main clauses connected by a conjunction. “He rode badly, and the horse knew it.” The comma also separates words, phrases, or clauses in a series. And it can set apart asides like “so,” “what’s more,”“but,”“however,”“on the other hand.” Timing Copy Quickly A standard TV-script page devotes the left side to video directions. The right side consists of copy lines of about four inches at three seconds each: MONTAGE OPENING ANIMATED TITLES “NEWSDATE”



Channel Two presents ... Newsdate! Here’s Jack Smith!

You Can Say That Again! DISSOLVE TO ANCHOR C.U.


VCR No.:___________

Good evening. Our top story tonight is garbage — the angry debate at city council over the garbage disposal issue. Channel Two’s Jane Doe has the story:

To establish a reading time, it helps if even radio script is written with wide margins so one can simply count the copy lines and multiply by three (10 lines x 3 s = 30 s [seconds]). With a bit of practice you can simply look at a page and come up with an estimate within a second or two of the time by stopwatch. If you are trying to guestimate how long it will take to read that speech to the service club or a report to the board, here’s a tip. Working with copy on a standard eight-and-a-half-by-eleven page with twoinch margins, and lines running the full width, it will take most people sixty seconds to read half a typewritten, double-spaced page. So, figure on at least two minutes a page or — to be comfortable and sure you won’t run on too long — calculate three minutes a page. Two pages is enough for most speeches unless you are getting big bucks or being paid by the minute. Back Timing Back timing is an important skill in broadcasting and for platform presentation. The vaudeville adage is “Have a good opening and a socko finish!” You want to be sure you have ample time for your prepared closing. You don’t want to end in apparent disarray. Therefore you time your ending in advance. In radio news, for example, this means knowing how long it takes to do the closing weather, the last words of format, and the last item (both the recorded item and the opening and tag words around it). That total is subtracted from the total time of the newscast. For instance, if the newscast runs ten minutes, and the final item, weather, and closing come to one minute and thirty seconds, the note on the top of the page of the last news item will be 0830. As you read along, you have that number before you so you can edit or drop stories in order to hit that item right on time. And you time preceding must items and subtract those times from the hard times you must hit later in the program. For instance, the must item (including actuality and intro) preceding the final item runs thirty seconds, so, at the top of that page, you write or type 0800.15 If you are making a speech, you want to have time for your conclusions and strong finish. Material


Radio and TV before that might be cut, but only if you are ready to keep an eye on the time and make the jump to the last page knowing exactly how long it will take to read it. Sound Bites The sound bite (or clip) may have begun with radio news, but television has imposed a demand for brevity that has created a new way of talking, a new rhetoric. Politicians can’t hope to succeed if their speech is rambling and filigreed. The carefully crafted speeches of Winston Churchill showed the way, but even they would be too long-winded for radio and TV today. U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wooed the American electorate with his fireside chats, but those were the days of speeches made from caboose platforms as campaign trains wound their way from whistle stop to whistle stop. Our impatience today demands simple, dramatic expression. We don’t tolerate rambling preamble and cautious qualifiers. Radio reporters are expected to file “voicers” of no more than thirty seconds. If they are to include a voice clip or actuality, that insert must be no longer than fifteen seconds, preferably five or ten. And TV news items, which may run longer than thirty seconds, must limit direct quotes to dramatic sound bites. In addition, the TV story must provide entertaining visuals. And, now that politicians know they will be edited, they pre-edit their remarks so these won’t be truncated, abbreviated, or quoted out of context. Digital editing with the use of visual waveform guides makes the editing process “quick and dirty” with little time for the niceties of nuance or subtlety. So the trend toward simplicity and brevity has its downside. It leads to oversimplification of complex issues. It prompts “either/or” thinking, black or white with no complexities or ambiguities. Streeters When Bryant Gumble of NBC’s “Today Show” interviewed a mother and schoolboard member in Dunblaine, Scotland, after the shooting of a class of kindergarten children in March 1996, he found that the Scots were not aware of the grammar of TV. U.S. networks were amazed that the parents of the murdered children were unavailable for comment. TV reporters had a different experience when talking to bereaved parents after the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City the year before. The parents spoke openly and emotionally. They repeated their comments in a long succession of interviews, with one reporter after another. Television has become the central fact of U.S. culture, helping to shape the way people talk and relate to one another.


You Can Say That Again! In his book Boxed In: The Culture Of TV (1988), Mark Crispin Miller of Johns Hopkins University writes: “Everyone is camera ready. Everyone is quick with a certain level of flippant self-display ... ready to perform to the mini-cam....” Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post says Americans know “they should speak in seven-second sound bites ... short and sweet and preferably punchy.” On “infotainment” programs the worst sin is to be boring. Canadian broadcasters have long known that Americans have been easier to interview than Canadians. TV has made that difference more obvious. Americans are usually articulate and ready with a comment. They speak in clip form. Canadians are more reticent, less likely to share their feelings. The author’s experience is that Americans are outspoken and even ready to share their innermost feelings. But, do streeters (gather views from passersby) on Regent Street in London, and you will find that the usually reserved Britons are ready to talk too. They often preface their comments with something like, “Now I don’t know much about that, mate.” But then they tell you precisely what they think. Except for the publicly expressed sorrow over Princess Diana’s death, the British are less likely to reveal private thoughts and feelings. They are articulate but more private and discreet. They do not always speak in sound bites, but that is changing as comfort with television becomes universal. Canadians, on the other hand, are more reluctant to offer a bold opinion. They talk less freely to the media but they are learning how to get to the point. Politicians have shown the way. Still, it seems likely there will always be a distinct difference between Canadians and Americans in media interviews. Marc Gilbert (mark zheel-BAYR) — a former news editor with Radio Canada (rad-YO kan-a-DA), Montreal — reported it was easier to do streeters in Washington. People know exactly what is needed, “They speak in clips of six or eight seconds. They have the habit of speaking in sound bites.” Gilbert described his experience after the 1989 murders of fourteen female students at the École Polytechnique to illustrate the difference between U.S., TV-influenced culture and Canadian attitudes. In Montreal he had trouble finding journalists who would interview parents of the victims and even more difficulty finding parents who would speak to reporters about their grief. There could be an economic reason for the difference between Canadian and American reporters. Unlike many of their Canadian counterparts, American local TV reporters are unlikely to be unionized and are on short contracts. If a competitor beats them with a weepingsurvivor interview, chances are they’re out of a job.


Radio and TV Sex, Fame, and Scandal These days, tabloid journalism in all the media puts a lot of emphasis on sensationalism and personalities. It is enough to be well-known for being well-known, for prominence. Journalism no longer means the collection, writing, editing, and presentation of news without an attempt at interpretation. Now entertainment is the primary goal. If an audience is attracted, advertisers will buy time or space to support the project. The assumption is that people have short attention spans, whether for newspaper or magazine content or radio or TV. If it is also assumed that the average vocabulary is quite limited, simple bold headlines can provide the level of information necessary as long as they are accompanied by photographs and easy-to-read captions. Another assumption is that there is an insatiable appetite for the excitement of sex, showbiz personalities, the rich and famous, psychics, astrologers, diet tips, and scandal. The appetite for gossip is the lifeblood of the freelance photographer and the root cause of the paparazzi phenomenon and their predilection for invasion of privacy. Their hounding of Diana, the Princess of Wales, went far beyond Ben Hecht’s efforts to get that photo of the deceased from the piano in the mourning family’s parlour. CNN anchor Bernard Shaw, who rose to fame in the 1991 Gulf War when U.S. bombs landed on Baghdad, has warned that too much coverage of crime and crisis will ultimately kill TV news. Speaking to the annual convention of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters in 1997, he said, “Our daily overdose of crime and violence has become a blunt instrument against the very interests ... of our listeners and viewers.” He blamed TV’s preoccupation with the sensational for raising anxiety levels in society and, ultimately, turning viewers off. Shaw called the local TV news shows “an orgy ... of shootings, murders, abuse.” He was right on target. While crime statistics have been falling, the public perception is that crime is increasing. The “law and order” demands have grown. Politicians oblige by pressing that hot button. Shaw urges more coverage of school boards instead of car crashes but admits the agenda is driven by “the hot breath of competition ... by the race for ratings and revenues.” Man Bites Dog Human interest — tragedy, scandal, the unusual, babies, and animals — has always been grist for the journalistic mill. For a long time, however, the so-called serious media assumed that important events that touched people’s lives were news for that reason alone. This relevance, as well as immediacy, made news inherently entertaining. Little effort was made to lighten the load. Snatch-and-grab journalism — robberies, petty crime,


You Can Say That Again! traffic accidents — may matter to the individuals directly touched by them but is not important to society as a whole. If newspapers and radio stations ran all the stories on the police blotter there would be no space or time left for anything else. Michael Eisner of the Disney Corporation recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the low road can lead to a dead end. He was arguing against the growing momentum of “the race to the bottom.” He said, “We separate ourselves from the rest of the animal world by learning manners ... and suppressing our primal instincts ... [but] if all we do ... is feed those suppressed desires, we will simply encourage barbarism.” The price of milk or gasoline, tax policy, and Supreme Court judgements can touch us all. So can the actions of our political leaders. That is why these items have been given priority in the traditional news lineup. But these days, thanks largely to the influence of television, pictures of car crashes and house fires are likely to get front-page space and lead TV newscasts. They are sensational and entertaining. They offer eye candy. We are not better informed. Fortunately television does offer drama, and some of the best of it focuses on the crucial social and moral issues of our time. Shows like “Law and Order,” and even the hospital dramas and cop shows, often deal with the underlying issues of the real world of our time. Buyer Beware Contributing to the distortion of journalistic values is the competition for more readers, listeners, or viewers. What we get is the dumbing-down of the media. Concentrated, big-business ownership of the media influences our news diet. Neo-liberal economic views are treated like a “commonsense reality,” while contending assumptions are treated as eccentric and given short shrift. Globalization is treated as a new truth, as an undeniable assumption; neither right nor wrong, desirable or undesirable, just an inevitable fact.16 When big names like Black and Desmarais turn up on the masthead of so many dailies and in the end boardroom chair at so many newspapers and TV and radio stations, of course their value systems dominate the media. Freedom of the press clearly applies to those who own a newspaper or a radio or TV station. Citizens are part of the problem too. We don’t listen very well. Studies show we recall only about 25 percent of what we’ve heard in the last few days. We’re busy and drowning in a flood of messages. So we demand that messengers get to the point. We turn to the channelselector switch quickly. We surf impatiently through the options on the car radio. We demand tight headlines, colour, boxes, and subheads in the newspapers. We say we want the whole story but we demand to


Radio and TV know just “the bottom line.” We insist on oversimplification. We like spoonfed pablum. We tell pollsters we want more “good news” and our habits suit the advertisers just fine. Result: a “feel good” environment for their ads and passive, uncritical media consumers. Most people speak at a rate of about 120 to 150 words a minute. But our brain can process more than 500 words a minute. That leaves lots of time for mental wandering or preoccupation with irrelevant stuff like unintended distractions from the messenger. Impatience and interruption are common today. They are encouraged on radio and television. We are addicted to “eye candy” and so many jolts per minute. Our manners have changed and messengers had better adapt if they want to communicate. We all know how hard it is to concentrate when a speaker is slow and monotonal. A boring speaker is one reason people don’t listen well. There was a time when after-dinner speakers as verbose and long-winded as Saddam Hussein or Fidel Castro were sought for the “rubber-chicken circuit.” Not anymore. Today you have to be a story teller. You have to get to the point. You have to inform and entertain from start to finish. There is clearly no single source of all the necessary daily information. So it is a good idea to have a range of regular sources. Specialty stations, narrow-interest journals, and the Internet may mean fewer people will get the broad, rich diet of the metropolitan daily newspaper of the past. Part of our problem is that we are rich in specialized sources of information. Our choices grow while our individual focus narrows. If sports is your interest you can select only sports from any of the media, from magazine to Internet, from cable television to radio station. We share less of the media diet. Community declines. The wired world knows no boundaries. Is this the “global village” Marshall McLuhan wrote about? While individuals may get electronically close in Internet chat, there’s less true sharing, less intimacy, and therefore less community. The fourth medium of the fourth estate is the Internet. Most major media outlets are accessible via the Net. Many major newspapers offer indepth, formal journalism on it. Microsoft-NBC is an example of the valuable journalism available to the writer/reporter doing research and to anyone equipped to scan the Net with search engine and curiosity. The Net is the second-most-important source for journalists now.17 This new facility may (the jury is still out) effectively counter the establishment media. It is certainly where you can find the most anti-media activism. It’s largely unregulated. But that’s both good and bad. Conspiracy theories abound on the Net. Much of the writing is clumsy and verbose. Internet theorists argue that the day of the “authoritative news source” is gone. The trouble is, the Net alternative is largely undisciplined. Any paranoiac can participate. Solid research and


You Can Say That Again! verification are not always part of the Internet story. Second-sources and attribution rules don’t apply. So-called news stories grow like mould on the Web, pegged to doubtful sources and dependent on conspiracy contributors for their longevity. Critics wonder why the mainstream media aren’t telling the story. While conspiracy to hide the truth is suggested, the answer may be the same as the one that explains why the nightly TV news doesn’t tell the stories seen headlined in supermarket tabloids. Later — often much later — the Internet story is shown to be untrue, largely invention, if not a hoax. Accountability is exactly what’s missing in what some enthusiasts are calling the truth, the stew provided by the new alternative to the established media. When absorbing the media diet, it’s wise to keep in mind some basics. First there is the “bandwagon effect” which means the tendency of the media to run like lemmings in one direction, pushed by a momentum made greater by their collective impulse and by a competitive fear that they’ll miss the story. It comes down to the assignment editor’s prerogative. Other influences leading to distortion or neglect of complex story elements are the impatience factor and the excitement factor. The combination of these influences leads to hyperbole, exaggerated headlines and leads. Brevity compounds the problem. Shorter is better because of limited space or time but mostly because of our impatience to get the story in a nutshell without preamble, qualification, annoying detail, or background. Context is neglected. Overall, the commercial imperative prevails and news is trivialized by presentation and editorials, by juxtaposition with features and commercials. On television, visuals are most important, so scenes of car crashes, fires, and natural disaster dominate the diet. Visual features involving fashion, film stars, and athletes push out news that might really touch our lives. And dictating much of the lineup for newscasts and newspapers is the ability of government, business, and other power centres to create news with releases and news conferences. Ask yourself about the underlying values and assumptions of those who most influence the content of the media. Their perspective dominates, and it is difficult for the individual editor or reporter to alter or reverse the slant. Most of all, keep in mind that news operates in a showbiz environment designed to attract consumers for the advertising that is the lifeblood of most of the information industry. In order to really know what is going on and have a range of perspectives on events and issues, we need to graze over the broad range of media sources. No single medium — not even the Net — can be counted on to provide all we need to know. It’s a good thing we still have newspapers. For all their faults, they serve us well by bringing us the important ideas and debates. If we didn’t have competing, conscientious newspapers like the Globe and Mail,


Radio and TV Toronto Star, La Presse, Le Devoir, the New York Times, Washington Post, Observer, and Guardian, the other popular media — especially commercial-dependent radio and television — would serve us even more poorly than they do now. The commercial broadcast media entertain. They keep us up to date on murder, mayhem, and scandal. But they don’t meet their responsibility of informing the public — so necessary if we are to have a healthy democracy and a civil society. “You Will Observe a Vast Wasteland.”18 As Pete Hamill puts it in News Is a Verb (1998), even newspapers emphasize conflict at the expense of analysis. He writes that “the bottomline preoccupation of accountant and business school grads” leads to “reader-driven” journalism increasingly filled with “dumbed down ... press-agent flackery” and “bloated trivialities.” Throughout the Monica Lewinsky / Bill Clinton affair, the media, including some of the major newspapers, offered a “diet of brainless ... junk food” excused by expressions like “if true,” “alleged,” “sources say.” Polls showed that reader trust declined. If newspapers — and this goes for radio and television, too — want to be socially valuable and trusted over the long term, they had better not patronize their readers, listeners, and viewers. Hamill is right when he suggests they must first succeed as media by building trust if they want to succeed as businesses. They must be rooted in the community, and that means serious, faithful service through a journalism that matters. If it does, consumers will automatically find it entertaining. And advertisers will line up to be part of the exchange. You’re on the Air As to those who want to get their message across in the media, one thing hasn’t changed. It helps if the language used is readily understood and respected. Good English is still essential. In radio and television and on the platform, accurate, correct pronunciation is an aid to understanding. Style of presentation should not draw attention to itself. The presentation should not impede the transfer of information. If one says infer when one means imply, credibility is undermined. If the term virtually leaves the listener wondering whether it means “completely” or “almost all,” then it’s better to avoid the word. If rhetoric is pronounced ruh-TOR-ik, as a provincial Cabinet minister said it not long ago, confidence in the source drops. And if proper names are mispronounced, this is interpreted as wilful ignorance, even as an insult. Although it still pays to take some care with speech and it’s a good idea to couple you and I as a subject while making it you and me as an object, it isn’t necessary to be a perfectionist. Some rules really are made


You Can Say That Again! to be broken. Go ahead, split the odd infinitive. And don’t cripple your speech by worrying about who versus whom. Hark back to Shakespeare and the rich, experimental, and creative English of Elizabethan times. Keep your language simple, sparse of metaphor, devoid of long words and jargon. Try to get it grammatically correct. Look up the pronunciation if you’re not certain. And keep the expression active and immediate. Voice your message with confidence and you’re sure to enhance your credibility. Notes 1. See Eric Havelock’s Preface to Plato (l963) for the transition from the oral tradition to writing. Havelock argues that Plato found the oral mode emotional and non-scientific, mimetic in fact. 2. As the old photos in radio station archives show, announcers in “the good ol’ days” dressed in white tie and tails, as formal in dress as in speech. Precise but unnatural elocution was the norm. 3. In CFRB’s (Toronto) Tenth Anniversary Yearbook, 1937 (KDKA Pittsburgh also went to air that year). E. S. “Ted” Rogers developed the world’s first batteryless receiving set, a far cry from Marconi’s first stuttering sparks. In 1927 someone with a “cat’s whisker” crystal set would have heard, “Nine – R.B. – testing ... Nine R.B. ... testing.” The Rogers Batteryless station, CFRB Toronto, went on the air from studios in Ryan’s Art Gallery on Jarvis Street. Two years later the station began its long association with CBS. 4. Bushnell was quoted in the CBC’s Handbook for Announcers (1946). 5. Journalism is based on the word journal, from Old French jurnal, “daily.” Jurnal came from the Latin diurnalis from diurnus, “of the day.” It came to mean a daily record, then a daily newspaper, and eventually a periodical dealing with matters of current interest. The word journal turns up in the name of many newspapers around the world, along with terms like Chronicle, Record, and Gazette. Telegram and Post are other favourites because they were ways urgent news arrived. Bulletin and Telegraph hark back to the time when the telegraph and Morse code brought the latest news to the presses. Voice and Word turn up in names of newspapers, too, even though they predate radio, television, and Movietone News. 6. Resources should be ruh-ZOR-sez, not RE-zor-sez. Also consider restore, restraint, restrictive; demote, demoralize, demerit, and so on. The habit appears to be spreading for no good reason except carelessness and American influence.


Radio and TV Examples of emphasis inappropriately placed on the prefix are heard daily on radio and TV. Traditionally it was useful to say RE-surch or ruh-SURCH to distinguish between verb and noun. 7. The CBC’s editorial integrity is also at risk, more seriously than ever before. Governments have never liked it when the CBC has displayed its mandated independence and exposed the weaknesses of politicians. Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats, and Reformers have all attacked the Crown corporation even more pointedly than the media in general. Successive Conservative and Liberal governments have stripped funding to the bone. Recently the risk arose that administrators could lose their jobs if they were unable to keep CBC journalists in line — a threat to the healthy arms-length relationship which has served Canadians so well for so long. Bill C 44 got first reading in June 1998. The element directly threatening CBC was expunged in the fall of 1998, but the basic idea of government control persists like a threatening virus. Inadequate funding is now the norm. 8. Another reason they insist that reporters not bury their leads. First, it’s important to get the essentials of the story across immediately. Second, if the story must be cut, the core facts should survive the editing. 9. A paper given at a meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco was summed up in the headline: TV NEWS FRIGHTENS KIDS. Psychologists found that more than 90 percent of children believe TV news is truthful all or most of the time. One researcher warned that children may develop exaggerated fears of things. American children grow up in a culture where violence is pervasive. Many of them trace their fears to television news (Reuters, 98.8.18). Stats may show a crime decline but adults fear crime is a growing threat. 10. See Roger Bird, The End of News (1997); and Neil Postman and Steve Powers, How to Watch TV News (1992). 11. “In order to progress, radio need only go backward to the time when singing commercials were not allowed on news reports, when there was no middle commercial on a news report, when radio was rather proud, alert and fast,” remarked Edward Roscoe Murrow in a speech to Radio and Television News Directors in Chicago in 1958. The commercial is not just an interruption. It compromises editorial judgement. Story selection and treatment change when advertising considerations rule. Saleable and promotional features take more air time. 12. “A free press is not a privilege but an organic necessity, ... a great society is simply a big and complicated urban society,” according to Walter Lippmann, the great American journalist and author.


You Can Say That Again! 13. Recession and depression. See list of business terms in this chapter. See

also Tobin Tax. 14. Another Pew study released in 1999 was based on interviews with American journalists and found the majority extremely critical of their profession. The journalists were very concerned about the blurring of the line between entertainment and news and the line between reporting and comment. They worried that their credibility was at risk. Forty percent said there was too much emphasis on the bottom line with limited time and resources devoted to journalism. They warned of a growing dependence on press releases. 15. Computer programs may do automatic timings and provide a running time or even a back time but it’s a good idea to do your own in advance in order to be prepared. 16. Another example was the campaign to undermine the Canadian universal old-age-security system. Financial institutions argued it would fail because it was not fully funded and because the capital was loaned to provincial governments at too low an interest rate. A number of financial analysts and accountants disagreed with the negative assumptions of the Reform Party and the mutual-fund salesmen but got little attention in the media and no support in editorial-page leaders. Investment in mutual funds was promoted as the only option. But a government plan doesn’t need to be fully funded. Not all “employees” will need the money at once and the “company” isn’t going to disappear. The lending rate is about the same as the federal government pays when it borrows. But polls show the incessant propaganda worked. “Boomers” and “Gen-Xers” feared there would be no worthwhile pension for them. The state had been removed from the “marketplace,” even though two provinces had shown how the CPP could have been reformed less expensively simply by having those who can afford more contribute more. 17. In the fourth annual Middleberg/Ross Media in Cyberspace Study (1997) almost half the journalists responding said they or their staff logged on to the Net daily. The live source still comes first with reporters but the Web is next. And more and more story ideas are found on or generated by the Web. On major, continuing stories, a Web check is essential to keep up with developments and the competition. The Net is also a “push factor” in story development. As it races on with a story, major media practitioners find themselves pressed to keep up and that can lead to neglect of the traditional checks. As in the Clinton-Lewinsky coverage, innuendo, allegation, and rumour can take on a more substantial life than they deserve because of the impatience factor. MSN Newsview (Canadian)( offers high-res pictures. Internet users are drawn by images, of course.


Radio and TV 18. Thus Newton Minow of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in a speech about television to the National Association of Broadcasters in 1961. His assessment has been echoed by many critics over the years.

Quiz 11 ? 1) In Rome they called the daily news the 2) The word journalism comes from the same root as the French for 3) Kipling’s six honest serving men are 4) An ellipsis is 5) Television scripts are often written in timing easier. For answers, see Appendix A.


-second lines to make

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When we speak, our goal is to be readily understood. We start with agreement on the meaning of a word. We agree on how to say it and that it can mean something else if we say it a bit differently. When we first speak as children, we say things simply. Slowly we learn to talk about more complex things and situations. And our vocabulary grows. Eventually we learn to exchange thoughts about abstractions. Yet we also learn that it pays to say things simply to ensure we will be understood. At the same time we learn that if we say things too simply we risk being misunderstood. Simplicity can lead to ambiguity, as the following leads and headlines show. KIDNEY PATIENTS TO GO ON THEIR OWN STEALS CLOCK, FACES TIME This evening’s meeting of the Clairvoyance Society has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. From the Church Bulletin: Organist to give St. John’s Rectal. Couple to take on missionary position. Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt by day but a ball of fire by night. Sister Anna Maria is a Catholic nun who is currently between missionaries.

You Can Say That Again! Point made. It is easy to mislead or be misunderstood. It is important to take care. Good speech is also a matter of good manners. Correct pronunciation helps. It is part of the necessary veneer of civility. When we make mistakes, however, we are often not aware of it. A friend may quietly let us know, but usually even family members fear to correct us lest they offend or embarrass us. In this book we set out to have some fun while improving our way with words because the value of speaking well is apparent everyday. There are intelligent and charming people who have less success than they should have, simply because they lack a certain polish when they speak. So the hope is the reader will have gained confidence by removing common errors from everyday speech. Good speech may not matter as much as it once did in the media, but many people still aspire to good grammar and correct pronunciation. A balanced approach, neither too prescriptive nor too lenient, is the goal. Via the time machine of words we have unearthed the roots of some of the languages of the Middle East and Europe. “Lox on a bagel” will never be just lunch again. I Knew You’d Say That! There are about five thousand distinct human languages. And most of them are adaptable — ready to assimilate, evolve, and grow. But they have also been shown to be predictable. For instance, about 60 percent of all English letters are consonants, while 40 percent are vowels. The frequency of a letter can be predicted statistically. E turns up consistently. There is an inverse relationship between the length of a word and its frequency. Monosyllables are the most common words in English: yes, no, thanks, mom, and, to. And, in any sample of writing, whatever the subject matter, fifteen of the most common words will make up about one quarter of the total text. In biology, scientists at Boston University compared these statistics from language to DNA, the genetic-coding material of all living things. They found that the millions of chemical sub-units linked to form DNA appear to be organized the way words are in language. An interesting discovery, but puzzling too. The word-pattern analogy works for 97 percent of DNA. But it is the DNA we have yet to understand. For the 3 percent of DNA that does all of the coding and patterning in the reproduction of life, there doesn’t seem to be a similar organizational system. Perhaps — just perhaps — the great linguist Noam Chomsky had it figured out all along: All languages are variations on a single, basic language in the human brain. Another view is that our ability to create


Conclusion language is generic, not a computer-program blueprint, but a strong disposition.1 While people have anthropomorphized apes and whales to the point of assuming that those mammals communicate with humans and vice versa, those animals clearly have not created self-aware language. The Language Tool Humans, like animals, transmit the collective group experience to the young by example. Language, however, gives us a remarkable additional tool with which to achieve this purpose. Because of the structure of the larynx, tongue muscles, and other organs, humans can emit an extensive range of noises which we call articulate sounds. The earliest proto-human skulls show marks of a swelling of the brain in the speech regions suggesting language is as old a human trait as other toolmaking. In society, and with expansive brains, human beings give these sounds meaning. By agreement the sounds become words, signals for action, and symbols for things and events familiar to other members of the group. Compared to animals and birds, the human range of vocal symbols is much richer. Man’s first words may have been onomatopoeic, but soon sounds were arbitrarily assigned, and then convention made them useful tools within the group. Society agreed certain sounds would have certain meanings. That is the essence of the study of semantics: we agree that words will have meanings. We also agree that conventions will change. Pronunciations change over time as do meanings. Language is always changing. We resist that change because we need to understand one another and because we like to preserve our group’s cultural character. Canadians insist on zed for z while Americans say zee. We speak of trucks; the English say lorries. Because meanings of words are conventional, children must be taught to talk. With language we can teach inexperienced progeny how to deal with an emergency before it happens. This is a huge advance over having to learn how to deal with a threat by experience. When dealing with wild animals, experience can be fatal. Social inheritance, made possible by language, is also a communitybuilding experience. Human experience is pooled. That’s why the information-sharing function of education is so important to civil society. That’s why news should communicate more than entertainment and gossip. Real news helps us co-operate in the building and defence of community. Language also affects what is communicated. The accepted meaning of a word is nearly always somewhat abstract. A seat may or may not be a chair. We agree it is something to sit on while ignoring details irrelevant to the basic concept. In this way every word has an abstract aspect. We are


You Can Say That Again! able to reason because of these abstract mental pictures conveyed by sounds. We are able to share our reasoning as well as create and pass on community conventions and intelligence. To this end we try to agree on what a word means and how to say it. For instance, political becomes a less precisely useful word if we also employ it to mean partisan. As pointed out, Humpty Dumpty’s anarchic approach to language just won’t do. Ba Ba Baa On our trip through language history we eavesdropped on the hunters and gatherers of prehistory to hear them ba baa-ing, la laa-ing and poo poo-ing. We heard their distant chants and the beginnings of formal language. Then, in the ancient world at the east end of the Mediterranean and down through Egypt and Persia, we saw pictures become symbols. We wonder if the petroglyphs of the ancient world in Europe and North America ever had their own sounds attached to them. We wonder at their meanings. We wonder if the sun symbol representing a day, painted in red ochre by early North Americans on the rock of Agawa Bay, Lake Superior, would eventually have stood for Manitou. We watched as ancient Greeks brought a new system to language, creating Linear B and cursive writing. We learned how words and meanings evolved among people living along the Danube River. We marked the adventures of the Celts, the Vikings, the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons. We followed the Norsemen from Normandy across La Manche to England (Angles-land, Anglia) and watched as, for at least a third time, words and sounds of Latin origin took root in Britain. Back and forth across the English Channel the French and English monarchs wrestled for kingdoms. The language grew and changed. Eventually Caxton and Shakespeare left their marks, and, in Londinium/Londres/London, a tongue called English was finally acknowledged. And then it started its greatest journey — around the world. The route taken by language is revealed in the history of individual words, a sort of literary archeology and anthropology. We discovered how ancient the word for fish is. We learned that three sounds almost the same from Dublin to the Indus valley and that the old English practice of dividing a territory into thirds has given us the name for an electoral district (riding). We remember a general for a boot and a Frenchman who gave his name to a plant that is smoked. Our excursion into the jungle of troublesome words has reminded us of words that trip us up because they sound quite different from the way they look, words that confuse by sounding like other words but that actually mean very different things. We got a hint of the cultural weight words must carry and how some of them bear heavy burdens and anti-social loads. We learned that,


Conclusion while English spread around the world like mycelium, spores from other tongues “infected” English. But there’s been no resort to any pesticide of parlance. The infusions are simply absorbed, enriching the language. Some people strive for better presentation skills to take on a leadership role or to enhance a career. Others may aspire to be broadcast journalists. Today’s candidates for that industry have the requisite computer skills. They edit video and audio digitally. Their technical know-how is up to date and on a steep learning curve. But sometimes their writing and editing skills don’t match their technical knowledge. Few get the presentation training once considered essential to a career in the communications industry.2 This book argues for good English writing and speech. Most people planning to take to the public platform or hoping to connect with a wider public try to polish their speaking skills. But standards in the broadcast media have slipped. The CBC appears to have lowered the bar and no longer sets the standard for the industry. Fewer of its radio voices read intelligently. Listeners hear errors like post-HYOO-mus for posthumous. Professional pride and attention to the craft don’t seem to motivate as many people as was once the case, neither at the Crown corporation nor at the private TV networks. And colleges and universities training today’s broadcast journalists put less emphasis on presentation.3 It’s one thing to use a narrow vocabulary in everyday chat, but quite another if those several hundred words are really a measure of your literacy. A career in communications requires a much broader vocabulary. It isn’t enough to know how to sit on the tail of your jacket to keep its collar and shoulders from rolling up. It isn’t enough to know that Preparation H might reduce baggy pouches under your eyes (not recommended!). Building vocabulary is easy. Learning correct pronunciation is simple, too. It takes care and curiosity. The first step is syllabification. Determining which syllable gets the emphasis is the next. And then there are the sound values given to letters and combinations of letters, not just in English, but in other languages as well. See the phonetic guides in Appendix B. Central to this book is the list of commonly mispronounced or misused words (in Chapter 5). It’s a list the alert reader will build on. New words hit our ears every day. We just have to be curious enough to use a dictionary. This book’s list of place and proper names is a short one — as such lists go — but it’s a quick and easy guide to some oft-encountered and frequently mispronounced names. This is just a start. It’s assumed the reader will use reference guides whenever in doubt. For grammar, style, and the value of clarity and brevity, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White should be on the shelf with the dictionaries. It should be consulted often.


You Can Say That Again! Here Endeth the Lesson Language may be humanity’s greatest achievement. Marshall McLuhan said, “We will never experience an intellectual achievement more astounding than our acquisition, as infants, of language.” It is difficult to know whether language is healthy or deteriorating. It may even be improving. Our living language is amazingly resilient. And a good thing too! We debase the coin each time we say “It’s a miracle” when it isn’t even “truly amazing” or even “awesome!” Similarly, we impoverish the language when we so abuse the word “tragic” that it loses its value in appropriate context. We are all guilty of such minor abuses, but the wordsmiths of advertising and political public relations lead the way. They are good at what they do. They talk about “our value systems” and “family values” when they mean we look for bargains when we shop. They don’t mind the distortions. The distortions work. The wordsmiths change Unemployment Insurance to Employment Insurance and feel no shame. But, when we use discounted concepts, we lose precision when we talk to one another about things that really matter. Our vocabulary is being subverted, distorted, and devalued. On the other hand, slang and adaptation keep the language alive and well. Language only stays relevant if it is open to change. Some influences are subtle and sneak up on us. Others are imposed as when politicians play fast and loose with meaning and cheapen the currency of our vocabulary. The creation of verbs from nouns and the use of gerunds — that is, verbs turned into nouns — cause some purists to grind their teeth. But, “Smoking is bad for you,” is an accepted form. Sportswriters say athletes have “inked” contracts. We can object in some instances but we can’t make laws about it. Often correct usage is just a matter of paying attention. For instance, we would be unlikely to make the common error “There’s no surprises” (rather than “There are no surprises”) if we simply checked that verb and predicate agreed with one another. Winston Churchill was once criticized for ending a sentence with a preposition. He retorted: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.” Another bone of contention is the split infinitive. Purists argue against it. But it’s been useful to authors and speakers for a long time. The New Oxford English Dictionary reminds us of Captain Kirk of “Star Trek” who said, dramatically, that the Enterprise was prepared “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Even the French, with an academy devoted to the preservation and purity of their language, find they can’t keep out le weekend or le hotdog.


Conclusion And, while we can correctly call them crescent rolls, most people still order croissants. So, a parting thought — don’t take it all too seriously. And remember not to be too stuffy or formal. Seeking elegance could be a trap. Beau Brummel (George Bryan), the Regency society figure and fashion plate, once responded to a compliment on his appearance at Ascot, “I cannot be elegant, since you have noticed me.” Draw attention to the content of your utterances if you like but not to your manner of expression. Finally ... The jig is up. — Fred Astaire There aren’t many amusing tombstones, but when the end is nigh some people get really clever about their epitaphs. Dorothy Parker chose: “Excuse my dust.” Others enjoy attributing appropriate if apocryphal final remarks to the famous and the infamous exiting this mortal coil: Marshall McLuhan: “From now on, the medium will be my message.” W.C. Fields: “I would like another bier.” And finally, the seer Nostradamus: “Well, this comes as no surprise!” - 30 Notes 1) When Captain Cook arrived in Australia, the aboriginal population spoke five hundred languages. Languages develop. Languages disappear. Languages absorb others. Languages evolve. Anthropologist Gordon Childe pointed out the tendency of language conventions to diverge, obvious even where English is standardized by widespread printed literature. See Bibliography: Childe, Gordon. 2) Today’s journalist needs more knowledge of history and political science than prescribed for undergraduates in the colleges and universities. Geography seems generally to be neglected. The understanding of political institutions seems shallow. There appears to be only a thin veneer of the foundation knowledge


You Can Say That Again! necessary for making editorial judgements about what really matters in the world. We have a problem when a young reporter thinks jet is a synonym for aircraft of any type! If pop culture is all we really need to know for a career in the media, perhaps the neglect is acceptable. But the media are more than disc jockeys, sitcoms, infomercials and entertainment tabloids. News and current affairs still matter and they are a part of a cultural continuum. It helps to know something of our political and economic past. It helps to be aware of the value systems that contend in our social disputes. 3) Apparently aspirants are part of the problem. In the 1980s and 1990s, scores on I.Q. tests measuring abstract reasoning rose dramatically. But in the same period studies show a decline in verbal and writing skills along with a growing lack of general knowledge. University entrants have been less able to comprehend articles and books once regarded as standard works, less able to listen attentively, less able to write a paper or understand principles of science or mathematics. They don’t know how to write a coherent, grammatical sentence. Their vocal expression is limited. The phenomenon of higher I.Q. but less and less knowledge is called The Flynn Effect after James R. Flynn, an American political scientist working in New Zealand. See “Big Brain Paradox,” by Lynda Hurst in the Toronto Star of October 5, 1998. Whatever the explanation, there’s little doubt there has been a general decline in the writing and speaking ability in those entering institutions of higher learning. There are lots of talented exceptions of course.

Quiz 12 Overview ? 1) A picture may be hung, but in some jurisdictions a murderer is 2) What’s the difference between faites and fête? Write out the pronunciation for each word phonetically. 3) Government is often pronounced GUV-urn-mn’t. But in another correct pronunciation, something goes missing. What? 4) Write ecstatic phonetically. 5) What is an oenologist? Write the word phonetically. 6) Define hegemony and write it phonetically.


Conclusion 7) What is a misogynist? Write the word phonetically. 8) A numismatist collects what? Write the word phonetically. 9) A philatelist collects what? Write the word phonetically. 10) Philology is the science of

Where does the accent fall?

For answers, see Appendix A.


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Appendix A Answers to Quiz Questions Quiz 1 1) 2) 3) 4) 5)

ugly old woman DEK-ruh-tiv JEN-o-ah Flanders SIZ-um PAR-is LIS-nur UR to rhyme with fur duh-TUR

Quiz 2 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7)

GRAW-tun kun-ET-ih-kut PIK-to (as in toe) sint-JAWNZ nyoo-fund-LAND TAYR-a-HOAT (as in float) NIP-is-ing SHWA; Schwa suk-SINKT

Quiz 3 1) An isolate is a single sound or syllable. A set is words or combinations of sounds (morphemes). 2) Yo-he-ho: rhythmic grunts becoming work chants. 3) It meant “plow-like.” The second syllable (boo-STRAWF-i-dawn).

You Can Say That Again! 4) ekwo; pisk. 5) (land) between two rivers. Quiz 4 1) testicles; ko-HO-nayz 2) transposition of first letter or sounds from one word to another; “the breast in bed” 3) Arabic 4) Byblos 5) fanaticus, from fanum (temple) 6) cardigan, wellington, martinet 7) thrithing (third part) 8) shadow (Latin) 9) death 10) fog, verbosity; FOP Index: Fog Or Pomposity Index 11) goodnight, so long, that’s all 12) Hindi 13) Dutch 14) flatulence Quiz 5 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9)

hound Afrikaans (which developed from Dutch) Spanish Tagalog gin a language eggs cheque Welsh

Quiz 6 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9)

ak-SEED by-LING-wal KAWK-siks eh-PIS-traw-fee FLAK-sid HAW-mij IN-ta-gral la-SIV-ee-us MIS-cha-vus 306

Appendix A 10) 11) 12) 13) 14) 15) 16) 17) 18) 19) 20) 21) 22)

OR-jee pas-a-KAL-yuh PLETH-or-a KEE-side REP-yoo-ta-bul RIB-uld sub-JOO-dis-ee TUP-ens YOO-kas-ee VIS-id zo-AWL-uh-jee (zo as in toe) Liberals pink (or red) Tory

Quiz 7 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10) 11) 12) 13) 14) 15) 16) 17 18) 19) 20) 21) 22)

CHUM-lee ly-SIS-tra-ta al-BAYN-eez (eeth) bok-ur-EEN-ee ker-yoo-BEEN-ee day-FAH-ya JEEL-yee VAWG-nur ar-KANZ-as krayg-al-AK-ee duh-MOYN FEE-na FOYL BRIN-dee-see GLAWS-tir HEK-ut la-HOY-a MAWD-lin NAN-dee wu-HAWK-uh SKAJ-it Brazil a) BAW HAW b) DEL-ee c) san HWAWN POR-to REEK-o d) (puh)-NAWM PEN e) NEES f) KOAP-en-HAY-gen g) PANG-o PANG-o 307

You Can Say That Again! Quiz 8 1) 2) 3) 4)

SNAFU — situation normal: all fouled (?) up marriage ultrasonic inter-

Quiz 9 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10)

a pry-OR-eye sub JOO-dis-ee ah GOASH PRY-ma FAY-sha sy-ne-DY-ee ul-tra-VEER-ayz VEE-va VO-chay AY-o IP-so AW-nee SWAW kee MAL ee PAWNS TAWN PEE

Quiz 10 1) salutation, thesis (main point), benefit, credentials, thanks 2) tell them what you will tell them; tell them; tell them what you have told them (“Three Tells”) 3) nose, throat, mouth, sinuses 4) FLAK-sid (flabby) 5) suk-SINKT (brief, terse). Quiz 11 1) 2) 3) 4) 5)

Acta Diurna day (jour) who, what, when, where, why, and how a set of dots indicating an omission ( ... ) three-second

Quiz 12 1) hanged 2) faites — second person plural of the French verb faire (to do, make); fête — a party, celebration (both pronounced FET) 3) r 4) ek-STAT-ik 308

Appendix A 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10)

a wine expert (ee-NAWL-oj-ist) control (heh-JEM-o-nee) someone who hates women (mis-AWJ-in-ist) coins or medals (nyoo-MIS-ma-tist) stamps (fil-AT-al-ist) language (fil-AWL-o-jee)


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Appendix B Lands and Languages

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Appendix B Lands and Languages Phonetic Guides. Tips on Pronunciation for Major World Languages Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. — Rudyard Kipling Where would you Basque in the sun? Can you name two countries where Urdu is spoken? How do you say Copenhagen when you’re addressing an Englishspeaking audience? Or Paris? Or Kenya? Or Trois-Rivières? Or Marseilles? Or Kyoto, Szechuan, Phnom Penh, São Paulo, Cadiz, Genoa, or Terre Haute?1 These place names are examples of a common pronunciation problem when they pop up in conversation or when we speak to a group from the platform. Newscasters run into the problem daily. Are you sure you know how to pronounce the name of the port town in American Samoa called Pago Pago? While we try to avoid error, sometimes we make erroneous assumptions about the rules of pronunciation in languages foreign to us. Words from various world languages appear often, as do place names and the names of personalities. Occasionally common mispronunciations trip us up. It’s a good idea to check, even if we’re pretty sure we know how to say a word or name. This appendix offers a few basic rules governing the phonetic values of some of the world’s major languages. You won’t become fluent as a result of reading this section, not even if you memorize it. And, while it will be helpful for the pronunciation of French and Italian words and names, it won’t be nearly as useful for non-European tongues like Japanese, Chinese, or Arabic. There is a detailed section on Chinese, but intonation and pitch are so important that learning the phonic rules is only a small part of the battle. You will be able to look up sounds and manage an approximation. Japanese is a similar case. Both languages are known to Westerners mainly through transliterations using English values, but the checkered history of the Western spelling of Beijing shows that Westerners haven’t been consistent nor have they always accurately represented the sounds of native speakers — not in China, not in Japan. If you hope to find some help in these pages on how to pronounce a

You Can Say That Again! word or name from the Xhosa (HO-sa) language of southern Africa, you will be disappointed. Sorry. And little effort is made here to deal with native North American tongues because they are quite numerous and there are regional variants. The languages of the Pacific present a similar problem, so they get little attention here. Bantu, a major African language, is not on the list. In fact, quite a few important languages are neglected here. Some are “major” languages simply because they are used over vast territories or form the foundation of a large group of tongues, as in the case of the Algonkian languages of North American native peoples. Others may be used by many millions of human beings (Bantu). But this guide, with apologies to the many millions who speak Hindi or Mandarin, offers a Western perspective with the emphasis primarily on European languages. Even here distinct tongues are neglected (for instance Basque and Andalusian, both spoken in Spain). In these pages you will find rules and examples for French, German, Italian, Portuguese, the Scandinavian and Slavic languages, and for Spanish. To figure out how to pronounce a foreign word or name, first find out what language it comes from. For instance, a name from Colombia or Bolivia is probably Spanish. It could be Indian in origin, but the spelling is probably an attempt to approximate the sound of the native word in Spanish spelling. So, if you know where the word or name comes from, you can probably find some help with its pronunciation. How to Figure It Out If you know the system of transliteration used, you have taken the first step. When dealing with the English transliteration of a Japanese word, we apply English sound values. If the word comes from a part of the world where French influence has been great, chances are the spelling tries to approximate Vietnamese or Hutu using French phonetic values. Look up the rules for the major languages and try to come close to the sounds. Check out the consonant and vowel values. Check on where the emphasis usually falls. Divide the word into syllables. Write them out phonetically, using the system in this book, the International Phonetic Alphabet, the system of the Webster New Collegiate Dictionary, or a system of your own creation. Just as long as it’s consistent you can’t go wrong. If you are using it to help someone else, you’ll need to agree on which system applies. In radio and television newsrooms a wire-service system is used or a system of the newsroom’s own devising so one person can read another’s phonetic guides. When in doubt about how to say a word or name, break it into syllables. Mark the emphasis so the accent falls on the right syllable. In this book the syllable in UPPER CASE is the one with the emphasis. Other systems mark the accent with ‘ either before or after the syllable.


Appendix B Say the word or name out loud until you can confidently voice the correct sound values, the accent, and the rhythm. But, as in the pronunciation of English words and names, don’t be pedantic. Don’t say Paris the way Parisians do. The same applies to Montreal. Or São Paulo or Buenos Aires or Copenhagen. For an English speaker, unless addressing someone who is French, Portuguese, or Spanish, there’s no need to sound precisely like a native as long as one comes close enough to be easily understood. Copenhagen is KOAP-enHAY-gen. The Geographical Names section of the Webster New Collegiate Dictionary is a great help when it comes to place names. For Canadian place names check also the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Lands and Languages Some countries have more than one language. Canada has English, French, and various Aboriginal language groups as well as major pockets of Chinese and other Asian languages. China has Mandarin, Cantonese, and other languages. As in India, English is sometimes used to cross linguistic gulfs in China. Egypt has Arabic, English, and so forth. Croatia has Croat, Serb, and Bosnian. Haiti has French. Nicaragua has Spanish. Ethiopia has Arabic, Italian, English, and so on. In the United States one finds many names of Aboriginal, French, or Spanish origin, but local pronunciations are often distortions of the original. For instance, Laramie (LAR-am-ee), Wyoming, was named after Jacques La Ramée (LA ram-AY), probably a Canadian. In Canada, Portage Avenue in Winnipeg is pronounced POR-tij. In both the United States and Canada, West Coast names of Native, Spanish, Russian, French, or even English origin, can have unpredictable pronunciations. Don’t assume anything. The same warning applies to place names in Atlantic Canada, especially Newfoundland, where names of French and English origin sometimes have peculiar local pronunciations. In South America, with the notable exception of Brazil, the dominant language is Spanish. In Brazil it is Portuguese. French and Dutch are spoken in the Caribbean, along with Spanish and English. In the Middle East, Arabic is the most common language. But in Israel you can hear many languages, including Yiddish, Hebrew, Arabic, and English. Kurdish is a major language in Iraq and Turkey. In Africa, Bantu is a major language with a number of variants. Among the languages heard in South Africa are Xhosa, Zulu, English, and Afrikaans. In Rwanda, Tutsi and Hutu are major tongues. One legacy of the former colonial powers in Africa is a range of European tongues from English and French to Dutch and Portuguese. Arabic dominates in North Africa. In Indochina there is a range of languages from Thai to Vietnamese to Cambodian. And there is an overlay of Chinese, French, and English.


You Can Say That Again! Dutch is still heard in Indonesia. In Malaysia the languages are Malay, Tamil, English, and Cantonese. In the Philippines, Tagalog is the main native tongue but English and some Spanish are also heard. India is a special case. Hindi is common along with English, but there are many languages in the subcontinent. Sri Lanka and Pakistan each have linguistic variety. The languages of the Pacific region present a problem. There are many of them, including Hawaiian, Tongan, Maori, Fijian, and Tahitian, to name a few. English and French are widely spoken throughout the archipelago. As can readily be seen from this short survey, finding the correct pronunciation for a foreign place name can be difficult. Some detective work is required to discover which language is spoken in the place in question. That’s partly a matter of geography, partly a matter of history. One must determine if the name has a historic origin suggesting a different language from the one now dominant in the area. Fortunately there are many sources of information in addition to the dictionaries mentioned above. Experts at local universities, colleges, and high schools usually welcome inquiries. Embassies and consulates can often help. The guides which follow will help with many of the unfamiliar names occurring in the news. Arabic In the so-called dark ages, the light was kept burning in the lands converted by the prophet Mohammed. In the Muslim-Arab world, translation of ancient Greek works and revival of Greek pursuits meant attention to Euclid and Ptolemy. It meant a focus on optics, mathematics, and a broad range of philosophic and scientific inquiry. The Arab hegemony, which lasted for about five centuries, enabled Arab mathematicians to teach the rest of the world the concepts of zero and the decimal system. The Hindu world came up initially with the concept of zero. Our word algebra comes from the Arab word al-djabr. Chemistry comes from khemia, an old word for “Egypt” (and also Late Greek for the “art of transmuting metals”). Ammonia, borax, nitric acid, and sulphuric acid are some of the chemical discoveries of Muslim scientists. And the word lens actually comes from lentil, the small bean which is shaped like the eye’s lens. Abracadabra and assassin are two more words from the Arab sphere. See Word Origins (Chapter 3) for more. The Arab world extends across much of Africa, through the Middle East and into Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Muslim (and thus Arabic) influence reaches to the Philippines and Indonesia. Across Africa, Arab


Appendix B traders and Islam influenced many cultures. The Arab-Islam influence persists in eastern Europe and of course in Spain. It has had an influence on the Romance languages and on English, especially through the spread of vocabulary dealing with medicine, astronomy, and other sciences. Basque The unfamiliar grammar and pronunciation of Basque make it a very difficult language to learn for speakers of other European tongues. There are recurring z and ts sounds. But children still learn Basque at their mothers’ knee. The Basques call their language Euskara: “clear speaking.” No convincing link has been found between Basque and any other language. It is used today in an area of about 10,000 square kilometres in a region of the western Pyrenees. Now, there are about 600,000 Basque speakers in Spain and about another 100,000 in France. The language hasn’t changed much since the tenth century. There is a Basque separatist movement, and the cruel and violent terrorist arm called ETA has given Spanish authorities a lot of trouble with political assassinations and deadly bombings. Burmese — See Myanmar Ceylon (Sri Lanka) — Sinhalese (see India) Chinese The language of China is based on the speech of Beijing (Mandarin). It is one of a group of languages in the Sino-Tibetan family. It is a logographic but partly phonetic script with thousands of brush-stroke characters written in vertical columns, from right to left. Use English phonetic pronunciations where possible, because they are often accepted in China even when not very accurate if compared to the original Chinese sound. Syllables must be pronounced with level stress. Each Chinese character represents only one sound and there are countless homonyms (words with similar sounds but different meanings). Chinese is monosyllabic, but combinations of characters in the spoken language may form a single idea. In this sense the spoken language is polysyllabic. Vowels: a ao e

a as in father ou as in out e as in let


You Can Say That Again! eh ho, ko or he, ke i ih o ou u

e as in let, or u as in cut in some syllables hu, ku (vowel as in cut) ee as in machine u as in urn o as in more (but see ho and ko) ow as in go oo as in mood, or as in German u or French ou

Aspirated consonants: ch’ k’ p’ t’ ts’, tz’ ch k p t ts, tz j hs sh

ch as in chin k as in cocoa p as in pay t as in too ts as in rats j as in jingle g as in go b as in bay d as in do dz as in adze is a uvular sound like the Spanish j or Parisian r. hsh, or (for ease) sh as in shut as in English

Names: Chinese surnames come first. Mao is the acceptable short form (second reference) for Mao Tse Tung (mow-say-dung). International usage for common Chinese place names has been influenced by the pronunciations of the former colonial powers. Chi (as in Chi Chao-t’ing) sounds like JEE but Ch’i (Lis Shao Ch’i) sounds like CHEE. Ch’in sounds like the English word chin. Chu is roughly JOO. ch’u tsung tai t’ai pai kung k’ung j

as chew dzung die tie buy gung king (our k sound) like r but slurred as in rrrun


Appendix B h

is like an aspirate before an s, as in hsi, but is often dropped, as in Sian for Hsian

Chinese words are always pronounced as monosyllables with Mao sounding something like mow. Chou en Lai is jo-un-lie; his wife’s name, Ying Ch’ao, sounds like ying chow. Vowels are usually short: Tang t’ang

sounds like dong sounds like tong

These speech values are features of Peking (Bay-zhing, meaning “northern capital”) Mandarin speech, which has been taught as the national language since 1948. There are many variations, with more than a billion souls in China and a huge and influential diaspora. Using the guide, try the following words: sheng — province hsien — county hsiang — township ching — capital ch’eng — city ts’un — village chiang — great river ho — river hu — lake k’ou — mouth pei — north nau — south tung — east hsi — west chung — central shan — mountain feng shui (fung soy) — wind and water, environment Another, slightly different, guide to the pronunciation of Chinese is found in Teach Yourself Chinese by H. R. Williamson (1960). The national language, kuo yü, is based on the Romanization system of Sir Thomas Wade. In this guide to pronunciation no attempt is made to deal with the various intonations or inflections which often determine meaning in Chinese. In any case, the intonations and inflections vary from region to region in China. There are 409 different sounds in kuo yü, built up from sixty-two basic syllables. ch ch’ h hs j k k’

j as in jeep ch as in church h as in hand sh r as in run g (hard), as in gun k like the c in can


You Can Say That Again! l m n p p’ s sh ss t t’ ts ts’ tz tz’ w y a ai an ang ao e ei en eng i ia iai iang ieh ien ih in ing io iu iung o ou

l as in lane m as in man n as in nap b as in bow p as in pin s as in sand sh as in shun an elongated hiss sound as in snake d as in done t as in time dz, as the terminal sound in pods (dz) ts, as the terminal sound in pots (ts) dz, as the terminal sound in goods (dz) ts as the terminal sound in blitz (ts) w as in wand y as in you ah as in father y as in by an as in man ahng as in father plus ng ow as in owl er like ea in earn or learn ay as in pay un as in junk ung as in lung ee as in peep ya as in yam yai as in bin followed by long i as in high yang yeh like ien in experience irr as in giraffe in as in bin as in telling yo like the io sound in prodigious yu as in view, or the initial sound in union yung o as in oar oe as in toe


Appendix B u ua uai uan uang ui un ung uo ü uan un erh

oo as in choose wa like the ua in suave wi as in wine wan wang like the French oui un as in hungry ung as in hungry wo as in woman u as in French as above, plus an as in man as above, followed by in with very short i as in earnest

Finals Used Independently: a or nga ai or ngai an or ngan ang or ngang ao or ngao e or nge en or ngen i o or ngo or wo ou or ngou erb

as in father as in wine as in tan ahng as in owl er like ea in learn un as in junk like the ee of jeep oa as in oar or soar oe as in toe, foe er as in earnest. The r has a burr and is thus distinguished from e which is er as in learn, earn

Croat — See Slavic Czech (and Slovak) — See also Slavic Stress in Czech and Slovak falls on the first syllable. The accent symbols are lost in English. c e r r

ch yeh when a vowel, it sounds like English err. When a consonant, it is rolled like a Scottish rrr. rzh


You Can Say That Again! s z

sh zh

An accent which looks like the French acute symbol ( ´ ) prolongs a vowel sound, but don’t look for such guides in most transliterations. Jiri Hajek Cestmir cisar Ludvik Svoboda Oldrizh Cernik Dubcek

YEER-zhee HAAH-yek CHESHT-meer TSEES-arzh SVO-bo-dah OLD-rzhikh CHERN-yeek DOOB-chek

Check the notes on Slavic languages for further guidance. Danish — See Scandinavian Dutch and Flemish The accent is usually on the first syllable. When common nouns serve as names of places or persons, the accent is often moved to the last syllable as in Breda : bray-DA. As suffixes, the elements -dam, -deel, -dijk, -hoek, -zijl, and -meer are usually accented. aa au and ou ch d ee and stressed e stressed e unstressed e eeuw or euw eeuw or euw ei and ij eu g ie ieuw ieuw ij (or y) j

a as in father ou of house as in Scottish loch pronounced as t when final a (ay) as in the English word made when not followed by a consonant in the same syllable e as in bet when followed by a consonant in the same syllable uh ay + oo when final ay + u when followed by a vowel somewhat like i as in English wine u as in urn (transcribed k) as in loch ee as in English beet ee + oo when final ee + w when followed by a vowel common variant of ei y as in yes


Appendix B n oe oo ou and au sch uu and stressed u u ui w

often lost when final oo as in boom (without stress: often oo as in book) o as in English go ou of house and out somewhat like sk(h): Schelde = SK(H)EL-duh; or s (when final) between the u of turn and the u of but, when not followed by a consonant in the same syllable uh in unstressed and final syllables diphthong as in Dutch word huis sounding somewhat like the oi in the English word oil a labial continuant like the English w or v

Estonian Estonian is the language of the people living in Estonia and Livonia. It is a Uralic language related to Finnish and Hungarian. In Estonian the stress is always on the first syllable. Vowel and consonant quantity is important. A long vowel is indicated by a doubling of the symbol as in aa or ii, etc. õ ä

much like u in English urn a as in English hat

Fijian — See Pacific Languages Finnish Finnish is a Finno-Ugric or Uralic language along with Estonian, Lappish, and Hungarian. Swedish influence is strong in Finland. There are many people of Finnish ancestry in Canada. Thunder Bay, Ontario, has the largest urban Finnish population outside of Finland. In Finnish the accent falls on the first syllable. Compound words also have secondary accents. Vowel and consonant quantity is important (the double symbol). And Finnish has many diphthongs with no English equivalents or parallels, uo and ie, for example. In these diphthongs the two vowels have approximately the same importance, and it seems better to transcribe them when stressed as oo’-o (uo) and e-e (ie) rather than simply as wo’ and ye’.


You Can Say That Again! ä or aea j

as in English hat the value of y as in yet

French (See Also French Protectionism and Quebec — la langue québécoise) How do you say drugstore in French? Le drugstore or ...? French is a Romance language spoken in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada (especially in Quebec, which has special language laws), the West Indies, Oceania, Indochina, and Africa (areas colonized by France and Belgium after 1500: Gabon, Congo, Tunisia, Algeria, and so on). The standards of the language are defined and defended by L’Académie française, a committee of forty scholars established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu. The Office de la langue française guards the language in Quebec. French was once the lingua franca, the language of diplomacy, but it has been displaced by English. The Francophonie, the French equivalent of the Commonwealth, is fighting a rearguard action to preserve the place of French in the world. The Franks were a West Germanic people who conquered Gaul in about A.D. 500. French is an Indo-European language that developed out of the Vulgar Latin of Transalpine Gaul while undergoing Celtic and Germanic influences. Its spelling is phonetic. Learn the sounds of the alphabet and you can figure out how to pronounce anything in French. Even vowel combinations are easily said if the basic vowel values are used and combined. For instance, the sound eu is just the combination of e as in met and u as in moo. The letter i is said as in wit, o as in so, a as in mat. C is said as the last sound in Quebec (k) when followed by a, o, or u, except when there is a cedilla ( , ) beneath the letter and also if followed by e or i, when it is sounded s. R is rolled, but not at the front of the mouth as in Scottish. The French r gets its characteristic sound when one holds the tip of the tongue against the back of the lower incisors while the breath comes around the sides and over an arched tongue. It isn’t necessary to produce this sound in French words in an English context and it is usually considered an affectation, unless in a totally French context. The cedilla isn’t the only aid to pronunciation that turns up in French. The grave accent ( ` ) indicates that an e, as in the second syllable of élève, is said as in the English word met. The first e of élève is said as the vowel sound in the English word fate because of the accute accent ( ´ ). In addition there’s the circumflex ( ^ ) and, occasionally, a diaeresis or umlaut ( .. ) over a letter to show a vowel is sounded separately.


Appendix B Syllabification Usually, a syllable begins with a consonant. The addition of e creates another syllable as in petit, petite (puh-TEE, puh-TEET). Learn the value of the letters in the French alphabet and you will have conquered most of the pronunciation problems that so often worry those whose mother tongue is English. There are vowel combinations that represent single vowel sounds: ai, aou, au, eau, ei, eu, oeu, ou. You can come very close to the correct sound value by giving each vowel in turn its correct value and then combining them in order. Even when there are combinations of vowels for a single sound, the language is basically phonetic. Where there are exceptions to the single sound for multiple vowels, they are marked by a diaeresis: haïr = ha-IR Citroën = si-tro-EN Other vowels occurring together are treated as separate syllables. Mute e added to a vowel to form a feminine is not pronounced except in verse or in song. Stress is fairly even in French and not as strong as in English. Stress is usually on the last sounded syllable. au or eau é è ê ei eu y oeu oi ou u b c ç c c c

o as in note ay as in may: église = ay-GLEEZ e as in where: crème = KREM e as in bed: bête = BET like e in crème or in English leisure as in fur (without the r) as in English feet see eu above pronounce as “wah” as in English boot like above but shorter as in English; rarely ends a word, but is usually silent when it does pronounced k before a, o, u s before e, i, or y is s, as in ce, ces, cité usually pronounced when final; the sound is k, as in cognac, le lac, le bec silent in taba(c) and estoma(c); also silent after a nasal vowel


You Can Say That Again! ch

d f

g g g

gn h j k l

l ll

m n p q (qu) r

sounds like English sh as in shall (Chartres); pronounced k in some words of Greek origin: le choeur, bacchanale, eucharistie, chrétien, choral, archange, and Macchabée as in English, except silent when final as in English; a final f is nearly always pronounced, but la clef (key) is an exception pronounced KLAY final g is silent before a, o, and u, g has the palatal sound as in gate: le gant, la figure before e or i has the sound represented by the “zh” sound in the English leisure or pleasure: gentil = zhawn-TEE like n in Spanish mañana silent zh as in English pleasure k, but rare in French the final l is pronounced in al, el, ol (appel), but a final l is often not pronounced (gentil = zhawn-TEE); fils (son) rhymes with geese l is pronounced in il, mil, fil, civil, subtil usually like y in the English word yonder. Exceptions: pronounce l in these words: ville, village, million, tranquille, Lille, Seville, millier, mille, illustration as in English except when nasal as in English except when nasal as in English; not pronounced in Jean Baptiste, sept, compter, but pronounced in Septembre k with two exceptions: requiem = rek-we-EM, quintette=kwin-TET uvular, guttural roll which is usually ignored in English context and considered an affectation when used by English speakers saying


Appendix B s s


ent th ti v w x y z

French words or names as in English when initial sounds like English z when between vowels: mauvaise = mo-VEZ; usually silent when final, with the following important exceptions: Daphnis (s, never z), Sémiramis, Le Roi D’Ys, Adonis, Porthos, Athos, Vénus, Pelléas Saint-Saëns, Calvados, Lens, Ruy Blas, mars, ours (bear), fils, tous (when a pronoun) as in English; usually silent when final but pronounced in mat, sept (no p), huit (if the next word starts with a vowel) as a verb ending is altogether silent: ils aiment = eelz EM like t: théâtre = tay-ATR si in -tion, as in: nation =na-SYAW, condition = kon-di-SYAWN as in English rare; pronounce as v silent when final, ks or gz when between two vowels not used as a consonant as in English, but silent when final except in gaz and Berlioz

French Protectionism The struggle to protect and control language never ends. The French have always tried to keep their language “pure” by banning anglicisms. La Manche, the Channel, hasn’t been much help. As the English found out in 1066 and many times since, you can’t keep a good language down. In fact, the English language would be much poorer without the infusions of Romance language vocabulary as early as in Roman times (Latin) and as recently as the latest commercial connections with France, Spain, and Italy. As Napoleon put it, “The general who will not leave his fortifications is already defeated.” That advice has been largely ignored in France and Quebec. The Quebec government language police are asked by separatist governments to create a kind of linguistic Maginot line. In World War II German panzer divisions simply bypassed the heavy fortification to enter France.


You Can Say That Again! As mentioned before, Cardinal Richelieu created the Académie francaise in 1635. In recent years the French government has told its civil servants not to use terms like le sandwich and le cheeseburger. On the other side of the Channel, the English use lots of French words (as do anglophone Canadians and Americans): bulletin, coupon, entrepreneur, debris, chic, cliché, cul-de-sac, rendezvous, restaurant, and countless others. In Quebec the Commission de protection de la langue française was scrapped under the Liberal government of Premier Robert Bourassa which discovered that thirty bureaucrats were dealing with complaints coming from just ten people — very expensive on a wordby-word basis. It must be said, though, that there are English speakers who are just as determined to guard what they think of as the purity of the English tongue. If they had their way, they might try to expel from our vocabulary words like bungalow, verandah, ketchup, and tea. Or even words like shampoo, cushy, and chit. Would these purists permit old words of Greek origin like gymnasium, stadium, and marathon? How about that fine Viking word berserk?! When Queen Elizabeth I reigned, only six million people spoke English. Now more than a billion people speak the language. Its flexibility has helped make it a universal language. And all those variations on the English theme have greatly enriched it. It isn’t just a matter of words but a matter of accent and grammar too. Unless the pace of change increases greatly, we will always have a chance to accustom ourselves to the new sounds we hear in a wired world, the global village. And when infusions do not serve us well, or when we find effective communication faltering, we’ll always return to the basics in order to understand one another. Many Jamaicans, for instance, speak two kinds of English: one with other Jamaicans, and another for wider understanding. One argument has it that standard English, as in “John is late,” is just another dialect and is no better than the English of the Islands as in “John be late.” Professor R. A. Harris of Waterloo University argues that the New York Times and the Globe and Mail prefer one over the other for reasons of economic clout and social prestige. If that view is correct, some of our determined efforts to preserve the language in amber may be motivated by a desire to preserve distinctions of class and economic power. And that harks back to the language distinctions that divided Normans from Anglo-Saxons and Celts in England, doesn’t it? Accent still matters in some quarters. In North America regional accents appear to be on the decline. In any case, while we must defend our language (French or English), any attempt to build an impervious wall around it is destined to fail.


Appendix B Québec — la langue québécoise Eighty-three percent of the Quebec population speaks French and as many as 95 percent can at least express themselves en français. Some Parisians may sneer at Quebec French but it can be considered a pure form of the language, tracing its roots back to the speech of King François I in the sixteenth century, Louis XIV, Molière, and the nobility of the court at Versailles in the seventeenth century. In France they say “le parking,” and “le weekend,” while Quebecers are less likely to speak “franglais.” In Quebec it’s “barrer sa porte,” but in Paris it’s “verrouiller.” In France when it rains “il pleut,” but in Quebec “il mouille.” The accent heard in Quebec originated in Normandy and Anjou whence came so many of the ancestors of today’s pure laine (pure wool), or old-stock, Quebecers. In Quebec speech there are also regional and class differences. In the French spoken in New Brunswick and Ontario, regional variations are found as well. Quebec broadcasters speak what they call an international French while many of the entertainment shows on Quebec television offer joual, a popular dialect also heard in some songs and on the stage. Joual is a distortion of the word cheval (horse). To me, the term ensuite (next, in addition, what else?) sounded a lot like “in a sweat” when put to me as a question by a woman at a food counter. My ear wasn’t accustomed to the joual-like pronunciation. A standard French-English dictionary or a French dictionary might not help with the accepted pronunciation used by many educated Quebecers. And meanings can differ too. A helpful source is the Dictionnaire de la langue québécoise, put together by Léandre Bergeron in paperback in 1980 and published by Bergeron and VLB Éditeur of Montreal. Under c in the dictionnaire one finds “crackers” pronounced craqueurse (KRAK-urz) and defined as “biscuits secs et salés qu’on ajoute souvent à une soupe.” “Crankshaft” is also in the dictionary and pronounced KRONK-shaf. You’ll also find the word “crash” meaning a violent accident and the word “curve” pronounced KOOV to mean courbe or virage. And “cute” is another entry pronounced KE-oot and defined as mignon ou gentil. Some of the pronunciation distinctions between this dictionary and one offering Parisian usage are subtle, others are very great. Once again, when confronted with an unfamiliar word or name, it pays to check an appropriate source. Gaelic — Celtic Languages (Irish, Welsh, Scots, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, and Breton) Gaelic is the name given to the language of Scotland in particular. It is the language of the Celts or Gaels, the Goidelic speech of Ireland, the Isle of


You Can Say That Again! Man (Manx), and the Scottish Highlands. Cornish, formerly spoken in Cornwall, and Breton, which is still alive in Brittany, are also Celtic languages. They form, along with Welsh, the Brythonic group. Gaelic has greatly influenced English. Many Scottish words and forms of words persist in English. The Scots accent in English is regarded as especially credible and is highly prized by advertisers. It is considered sophisticated and approachable according to Allen Adamson of Young and Rubicam who writes in the Scottish Banner in February 1999, “A Scottish voice is considered trustworthy. British voices generally are considered more educated than American.” No doubt Sean Connery as James Bond (007) had a popular impact. It is unlikely that the Glaswegian accent of the Gorbals has made a similar impression on the world. Irish or Erse is the Gaelic of Ireland: Fine Gael (FEE-nuh GAYL) — political party Fianna Fáil (FEE-nuh FOIL) — political party Sinn Fein (SHIN FAYN) — the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, the underground, terrorist group dedicated to unification of the North (Ulster) and the South (the Republic of Eire) Taoiseach (TEE-shuk) — prime minister Dáil (DOY-il) — lower house of parliament in the Republic of Ireland uisce beatha (ISH-kee BA-ha) — whiskey Irish confetti — a rock, brick, or fragment used as a missile Welsh Welsh is the Celtic language of the people of Wales. The name comes from the Old English Wealh meaning “Celt” or “foreigner.” It in turn may have come from Latin Volcae. About 20 percent of the three million people in Wales speak Welsh. In Gwynedd and Dyfed counties as many as three out of four people speak it. The number is growing because of special magazines and TV. It is taught in the schools. An eisteddfod (EYEsted-fawd) is a music festival or competition. Llandudnow and Llandwrog are two typical Welsh place names. There are many Celtic words preserved in British place names and in other parts of the world, such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. The following words are found as parts of place names: dunfort or dunboy — a yellow (dun) fort clon, cluain — a meadow; clonmel means “meadow of honey” kil or cill — church; kildare means “church in an oak grove” rath — a Neolithic ring fort bally — town bal — hill


Appendix B German German belongs to the West Germanic group of the Indo-European language family, along with English, Dutch, Flemish, Frisian, and Yiddish. It is an official language in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Its origins can be traced to the speech of the Teutons, a northern European people who were also, along with other Germanic populations, the ancestors of the Dutch, Scandinavian and British peoples. They may originally have come from Jutland. Remember the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons? Jutland, Anglia, and Saxony? The German language is predictable. E before i in an ei combination, such as drei, is pronounced “y”as in the English word fry. When it is i before e, the second letter again dictates the vowel sound, so it is said “ee” as in the English word meet. A v is sounded like an f while a w is said like a v. Volkswagen gives us FOAKS-vaw-gen. Ch gets a guttural k-sound as in Scottish or as in the name of the great composer Bach, with the k-sound made in the throat rather than in the mouth. Stress is usually on the first syllable but there are exceptions. a, aa ä (ae) ai au äu e stressed e unstressed ei eu i i (short) ie ö (oe) o (short) o (long) u (long) u (short) ü c ch dt g

ah as in father e as in bed: Mädchen = MED-shen y as in English my ou as in English out oi as in English oil a as in fate schwa or sometimes unstressed y as in my oy as in boy ee as in beet as in bit ee as in beet u as in urn as in not as in no as in moon as in good like French o ts before e and i usually as in Scottish loch, but the diminutive suffix -chen is pronounced -shen t: Stadt = shtaht always as in gate, never as in gem (jem)


You Can Say That Again! h j ng qu s sp, st sch th v w y z

as in English, but silent between two vowels y as in English word yes: Ja = yah, Jesu = ya-zoo always as in singer, never as in finger ku (rare) initially or before a vowel it is pronounced z; elsewhere it is ss as in English miss sh sh (never sk) t f v like i (above) ts: Zeitung = TSY-toon, Herz = herts, Mozart = MO’T-sart

Greek Greek (from Graikoi via Latin Graecus) is the Indo-European language of the people of Greece, the Hellenes. The language has changed since classical times. There is no simple rule for the accenting of Greek names. While it is possible to offer sound values in terms of the English alphabet and the Romance languages, it is difficult to offer a dependable guide that would cover the pronunciation of all Greek names. Greek is a part of our language because of modern and classic influences. It is apparent in the arts and in psychology, in medicine, and in other branches of science. The trouble is, as with Latin, certain pronunciations come to be favoured in certain fields (medicine, pharmacy), while the rules might suggest different pronunciations. That said, here is a guide to Greek (romanized) with an explanation using common English words and sounds: Vowels: a ai e (epsilon) e (eta), i, y o (omicron) o (omega)

as in father e as in bet e as in bet as in beet o as in one o as in glow


Appendix B ou i (iota) ei, oi, ui av (au), ev (eu) av (au), ev (eu) u (upsilon)

oo as in boot ee as in tree i as in tin (before b, g, d, z, l, m, n, r) ar, er as in every (before th, k, x, p, s, t, f, h [kh], ps) af, ef (f as in off) ee as in green.

Consonants: b (v) kh (ch) d g (gh) gi (ghi) gg (ng), gk (nk) gch h m (mu) mb, mp n (nu) nd, nt ph ps r (rho) s (before b, d, g, m, n, v) otherwise th (theta) t (tau) x z (zeta)

v as in very h as in he (before vowels) th as in then but anglicized as d y as in yes when before e, a, o, oo and all consonants y as in yes before vowels ngg as in stronger ngh as in linger sometimes silent when it is the first letter m as in mama mb or b n as in net nd or d; final n after o and final on after a vowel are often not pronounced f as in ferry ps as in leaps rr, trilled with tip of tongue like z as in maze, s as in so or yes ; in the names of islands of the Aegean the final s is frequently not pronounced th as in this t as in tent h as in horse (x is usually transcribed in English as ch) z as in zoo

Hungarian This is an ancient European language said to share its roots with Finnish (q.v.).


You Can Say That Again! The accent in Hungarian normally falls on the first syllable. In compound words the first syllable of each component after the first gets secondary stress. a á o, oz gy

h j ö, o˝ s sz y


o as in odd a as in father ts as in rats d(y), or by assimilation to the following voiceless consonants t(y). Compare duty and tune: DYOO-tee, TYOON as in hat, but silent after g and t y as in yes. Sometimes this sound comes after a vowel and sounds like the i in it u as in urn, ö being short, o˝ being long sh as in shall s as in set “liquefies” a preceding g, l, n, or t. Compare the ny of canyon with the n of can, and the second l of million with the second l of mill. See gy above. Otherwise y = i or e zh, the medial consonant of leisure

Voiceless consonants (p, t, k, s, f, etc.) will cause a preceding voiced consonant (b, d, g, z, v, etc.) to become voiceless. Likewise, a voiced consonant gives voice to a preceding voiceless consonant. Imre Nagy = im-re nazh. Nagy means great or large in place names. India Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) share many cultural characteristics with India. Place names in the great subcontinent and the phonetic values are widely known because of India’s place in the world as one of the largest and most populous nations and because of its trade and its religious and cultural influence. There is a widespread diaspora with substantial populations and Indian-language media in major centres such as London, New York, Toronto, and across Asia and the islands of the Pacific Ocean. The British Raj also played a role as the English language adopted many words of Hindi origin. The transliteration has used


Appendix B common English values. Syllabic emphasis has sometimes been a problem, but in a great many Indian names the syllables are accented almost equally. Most names have been more or less anglicized. The two prime influences are Hindi and English. Other major languages (among the fourteen official ones) are Bengali, Gujarati (also spoken in Fiji), Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Nepali, Punjabi, and Urdu. Arabic is also an important tongue, and there are many local languages and dialects. English has become the lingua franca of the subcontinent, with newspapers and some broadcasting in that language. th

In India, th is an aspirated t. It is not the th as in thin or this.

Adyar Club Agra Ashoke Hotel Baluchistan Benares Chaklala Chehel Sotun Delhi

A-adi-aar A-agra A-SHO-k ba-lootch-is-TA-an be-NA-ar-iz chuck-LA-al-a chay-hel so-toon DEL-ee (In Ontario, it’s DELHIGH) drig (as in big) DOOR-ga-poor fut-e-SA-ag-a IN-der-ah jum-ROO-d jy-POOR me-WAAR ja-WAA-har-LAAL pesh-O-wer pra-SHAAD

Drigh Durgapur Fatehsaga Indira (Ghandi) Jamrud Jaipur Mewar Jawaharlal Peshawar Prasad

Indian languages: Native (Aboriginal) North American Languages (See Also Inuit) These languages may have crossed the land bridge over the Bering Sea between what is now eastern Russia and Alaska. Language similarities support the theory, which suggests several such migrations took place. Merritt Ruhlen of Stanford University writes in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that there are similarities between Ket, a language spoken by just five hundred people in remote Siberia, and Na-


You Can Say That Again! Dene (DEN-ay), which is a family of North American languages that includes Cree. Ruhlen offers as an example thirty-six words that are quite similar in both languages. On the list are the words for birchbark, children, and rabbit. Birchbark is ch’ee in Ket and sounds much the same in some Na-Dene tongues. Breast is said tuhguh in Ket and t’uga in the Na-Dene tongue Koyukon. There are four branches of Na-Dene, including Tlingit and Eyak spoken in western Canada and in Alaska, as well as Navajo (NAV-a-ho) and Apache (a-PACH-ee) in the American Southwest. The Athapaskan group includes Tahitan spoken by the people living near the Stikine River in British Columbia. Across much of the West and in northern Ontario, Cree is widely spoken along with Ojibwa and Ojicree. While Algonkian languages have predominated in North America, there are other basic language groups as well. There are lots of local or regional variants and spellings. Pronunciations differ widely depending on the original transliteration, whether English, French, or Spanish. Even with a European transliteration model there are inconsistencies, and different Aboriginal pronunciations are reflected. Ojibwa is sometimes said o-JIB-wa and sometimes O-JIB-way and sometimes Chippewa. Odawa is also Ottawa and Outaouais. The languages of the Pacific Northwest (Tlingit, Bella Coola, Haida, Kwakuitl, and others) form yet another large and varied group. The Iroquoian (Six Nations) group of the Lower Great Lakes area includes Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, Cayuga, Onandaga, and Tuscarora. The Hurons, originally from the area between Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe and now living largely at Loretteville near Quebec City, are also Iroquoian. In eastern Canada there are many Aboriginal place names. Pictou (PIK-toe), Nova Scotia, is a Micmac name (piktook) meaning “explosion of gas.” Don’t take anything for granted with place names in the Atlantic provinces of Canada. English, French, or Micmac, there’s a good chance the spelling will mislead you. Ask or look them up. Micmac (or Mik’maq), by the way, is sometimes pronounced MIK-mak, sometimes MIG-maw. A current place name of Native origin may be pronounced in a local Native manner, in a corruption of its original sound, or as pronounced by the first Spanish, French, or English traders or trappers to arrive in the area. Later arrivals have often changed names given by those early European visitors, so they are difficult to recognize. As mentioned before, Laramie (LAR-am-ee), Wyoming, is probably named after a French Canadian trader-trapper named Jacques Laramée (la-ra-MAY). The Grand Teton Mountains were named by coureurs de bois who thought they looked like large breasts (GRAWN tet-AWN). The debate about what Native people actually said and how it sounded still goes on for place names like Toronto (Mississauga for “meeting place”?) and Canada


Appendix B (Iroquoian for “village”?). Minnesota is less of a problem. Minne (mihnee) means “water.” The following list of Indian words which turn up from time to time may be useful. For others, it is helpful to keep in mind that they have been converted into English, French, or Spanish equivalents. Kewadin

Oshawanung Wabunung Kabeunung Pebon Segwun Nebin Tagwagi Niagara, Onigara Ontario Nokomis Gitchi Manito Gitchi gumi Anishinabe


(ke-WAY-din) means “north” and is also used as an equivalent for La Vieille, “the old woman” or “northwest wind” (kewa = to return, and nodim = the wind). (o-sha-WAN-ung) means both “root” and “yellow,” as well as “south.” (wab-un-ung) means “east,” wab meaning “light” and ung “direction “or “place.” (KA-be-un-ung) means “west” and also “father of the winds.” (pe-bon) — snow, winter. (seg-wun) — spring, running water. (neb-in) — summer, leaf. (ta-GWA-gi) — autumn. (on-aw-gar-a) — neck. large, beautiful vista of water. (na-KOM-is) — the moon. (gi-chee MAN-i-to) — great spirit. (gi-chee goom-ee) — great lake (Lake Superior). (a-NISH-nob-ee) — the people (Ojibwa).Ojibwa is also the name of the particular kind of moccasin made and worn by the Ojibwa. Most Native North American names for their nations mean simply “the people.” (me-DAY-wi-WIN) — magic, teaching, or revelation.

Indonesia The languages of the Malay Archipelago include Malay, Balinese, Chinese, Javanese, and others. The majority of Indonesia’s population is Javanese.


You Can Say That Again! Dutch West Timor was absorbed into Indonesia in 1950. Portuguese East Timor declared independence in 1975, but it was invaded and occupied by Indonesia a year later. Inuit It is impossible to provide an infallible guide to pronunciation of Inuktitut (Eskimo or Inuit) names, but a short list may help to understand how most words and names have been transliterated and how the emphasis is usually distributed. Attempts to place an accent tend to overstate the case. Emphasis is almost equal. For more guidance on Inuit, consult The Eskimo, by the late Byng Whitteker, CBC Publications, Toronto, 1967. The name Eskimo is derived from an Algonkian word meaning “eaters of raw flesh,” which was translated first into French, then into Danish, and was later adopted by English. Inuit means “the people.” The Inuit showed their contempt for the Algonkians by calling them Adlit meaning “louse eggs.” a aa i ii u uu au ai a, i, and u sg gg j jj rj k kk l ll rl

as in pat as in retard as in kit as in tea as in voodoo as in who as in how as in hike often indistinguishable when followed by q, r, and rng in a final syllable as in cigar — this is a fricative, not a stop as in big guy — also a fricative, not a stop y as in you as in big joke as in bark juice as in kick as in book keeper as in elusive as in igloo as in the Inuit word irlu (bowel), which sounds like urk loo in English


Appendix B m mm rm n rn ng nng p rp q rq r s ss rs t v

as in mat as in ham market as in irk me as in panic as in dark night as in clang about twice as long a ng as in pat as in dark pit as in dark as in dark cool as in pro as in suit as in exit as in dark sack as in tin as in Inuvik (in-OO-vik)

Arviat Deline Inuvialuit Iqaluit

AR-vee-at (formerly Eskimo Point) de-LINE (formerly Fort Franklin) in-OO-vee-AL-oo-it (Inuit) i-KAL-oo-it (formerly Frobisher Bay) KIM-ir-oot (formerly Lake Harbour) kug-LUK-took (formerly Coppermine) loot-SELKS (formerly Snowdrift) tuh-LO-yo-AK (formerly Spence Bay) SEE-get-chik (formerly Arctic Red River) tuh-LEE-ta (formerly Fort Norman) WA-TEE (formerly Lac La Martre)

Kimmirut Kugluktuk Lutselk’s Taloyoak Tsilgehtchic Tulita What Ti Italian

Italian is a Romance language descended from Latin, the Latinian language spoken by the Romans.2 It is the dominant Indo-European language of Italy, but it is also spoken in Switzerland and in a wide diaspora, especially in the Americas and in cities like Toronto and New York. The vowels are given the common European values: a as in hat, e as in


You Can Say That Again! met, i as in mit, o as in vote, u as in boot. Sometimes vowels don’t get full and separate value. For instance, Giovanni is said jyo-VAWN-ee. Combinations involving the letter c present an interesting challenge for those trying to pronounce Italian names. This section offers the necessary rules regarding c, ch, cc, and so on. Once you understand the sound values of the alphabet, you will discover that Italian is consistently phonetic. Vowels: a e er i o u

a (ah) as in English father e as in bend air as in fair ee as in feed o as in either foam or fog oo as in food

There are no diphthongs. The vowels i and u before another vowel are usually so short as to amount to an English y or w respectively. Giuseppi = jyoo-SEP-ee. Consonants have values as in English, except for the following: c, cc c, cc ch g g gh gli gn h qu sch sci zz

k before a, o, u ch as in church before e or i. La ci darem = lah-chee-dar-em (see sch) k always; Chianti = KYAHN-tee Voi che sapete = vo-e kay sa-PAY-te Schicchi = SKEE-kee g as in gate before a, o, or u j as in judge before e or i: Gianni = JYAHN-nee g as in gate Ghetto = GET-to Respighi = re-SPEE-gee li as in English million (when in the middle of a word) ni as in English onion always silent kw: quello = KWEL-lo sk: scherzo = SKERT-so, maschero = MAHS-kayr-o shy (y as in yes): Sciolto = SHYOL-TOE ts (sometimes dz)


Appendix B The Three-Bears Italian Pronunciation Guide While this Italian-accented version of the children’s story at first appears to be a simple exploitation of the accent attributed to Italian immigrants by low-brow comics, it actually employs the phonetic values of the Italian language transferred to English. So it is a way to practice pronunciation of Italian while having some fun with “Goldilocchese (GOLD-i-lok-AY-see) en di tri berres.” “Uans appona taim was tri berres: mama berre, papa berre, bebi berre. Live inne contri nire foresta. Naise aus. No mugheggia. “Uanno dei, papa, mama e beibe go tooda bice (beech-eh), onie, forghette loccha doore. Bai enne bai commese Goldilocchese. Sci garra nattinghe tudu batto maiche troble. Sci pushie oile fudda daon di maute, no live somme. Dan sci gos appesterrese enne slipse in oile beddse. “Bai enne bai commese omme di tri berres. Wara dei goine due to Goldilocchese? Colle puliddemenne? Fette cienze! “Goldilocchese, sci derre tree dase; ittem auto ausenomme and giusta bichose dei asche erro to meiche di beddse, sci runne omme criane to erre mama. Uatsiuse! Uara iu goine due; go compliene sittiolle?!” Japanese Japanese doesn’t use variations of emphasis as English does. For our purposes it is best to think of even stress. Vowels are usually short. When a long vowel is indicated, it is very important (o, u). When the vowel length is altered, the meaning of a word can change. For instance, “little bridge” can become “big bridge” simply through the lengthening of a vowel sound. When long vowels are indicated (oo o o), a rise in pitch should be used. a i u e o

a as in Jehova ee as in duty oo as in roulette ay as in chaotic o as in obey

Vowels often become voiceless when final (like a short u), especially when the preceding consonant is s or k. Sukuyaki = ske-yak-ee. ae, ai, oi, ui are not true diphthongs but two separate vowels. j g ch

j as in jam g as in go ch as in cheap


You Can Say That Again! Korean Names should be pronounced with level stress, with each receiving its full share of force and time. Korean has been transliterated primarily into English sound values, but other attempts have been made to approximate the pronunciation of Korean place names. During the war in the 1950s between the communist North and the forces allied under the United Nations flag, place names in Korea were in the news daily. Seoul and Panmunjom were as common in the papers as the thirty-eighth parallel, the line which became the divide between North and South. Korea has been strongly influenced by China and Japan over the centuries. It was invaded by Japan during World War II. Laotian Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma (Myanmar), Malaya, and Thailand are collectively called Indochina. Laotian (Lao) is closely related to Thai. Vietnamese and Khmer (Cambodian) belong to another language group. European colonial powers (Dutch, English, and French) determined the transliterations in use. Chinese influence has been great. The area was under Japanese control in World War II. See also Thai. Some Laotian examples: Laos Boun Oum Xieng Khouang Luang Prabang Vientiane Phong Saly Plaine des Jarres Eieng Khouang

lah-ohs or lowz boom oom syeng kwahng loo-ahng prah-bohng vee-ent-yahn pawng sah-lee plen day zhahr (French) eye-ehng koo-ahng

Latvian Lettish or Latvian is always stressed on the first syllable. Long vowels are indicated by the macron, the horizontal line placed above a vowel to show it is long: a, e, i, etc. Diphthongs should be treated as in Finnish. Consonants: c (before e, i)

ts as in rats


Appendix B c (otherwise) j n v (final) v (otherwise) z

k as in cocoa (KO-ko) y as in yet ny as in Spanish cañón (KANYON) f as in off v as in very zh, the medial consonant in pleasure

Lithuanian Lithuanian has both stress and pitch accents, which cannot be reduced to English rules. e e˙ j s z y

indicates open vowel e or a, while indicates a closed vowel like the first part of English a (ay) y as in yet sh as in shall zh as in the medial consonant in leisure ee (a vowel) as in beet

Malayan Indonesian or Malayan languages are spoken in Madagascar, the Malay Peninsula, in the East Indies, on Formosa, and in the Philippines. Names are usually pronounced as in the languages of the European people who dominated the territories in colonial times. See Indonesia. Myanmar (Burmese) In Burmese, stress is often on the last syllable. a

th gy ky

As in other Eastern languages, the short-a sound lies between schwa (the indistinct unstressed vowel sound as in “a moment ago”) and the sound of a as in father and the a of rat. as in English thin or this (unlike the Indian sound). much like the j-sound in Jill. ch as in chili.


You Can Say That Again! Nigerian English is the official language of Nigeria, but Hausa, Ibo, and Yoruba are among the languages of the more than one hundred million people who inhabit this huge West African nation. Norwegian — See Scandinavian Languages Pacific Languages In the Pacific region, Polynesian as well as Melanesian languages are spoken. The Polynesian group includes Maori, Samoan, Tahitian, Hawaiian, Tongan, and others. Fijian is a Melanesian language. French influence is strong in Tahiti, of course. English is the dominant language in Fiji (with a bit of an Australian accent) while Gujarati is also spoken (see India). Maori is the aboriginal language of New Zealand. Transliterations use European phonetic values. The accent (heaviest emphasis) is usually on the second-to-last syllable in names in the East Indies and the many islands of Oceania. Vowels have the “continental” values of Spanish and Italian. Consonants are as in English: g ng

as in get as in singer

In Fijian, c is a d or th sound, while a is a French-like, somewhat nasal, am or an sound when it precedes a consonant such as t or d. For instance, the name of the city of Nadi sounds like NAN-dee. Some Fijian vocabulary: Good morning Hello Goodbye please yes no eat lady one two three Thank you very much

ni sa yadra (nee sa yan-dra). Ni sa bula (nee sam boo-la). sa moce (sar mo-thay). yalo vinaka (yar-lo vin-a-kuh). lo (ee-o). sega (seh-ng-ah). kana (kar-na). varama (va-ra-ma). dua (doo-a). rua (roo-a). tolu (tow-loo). vinaka vaka. As in kana (eat), there is an r sound after the a and ahead of the consonant. It does


Appendix B not get full value. It is like a Boston r as in warm or worn. Pakistan The official language is Urdu but other tongues, such as Punjabi and Pashto, are spoken as well. See India. Philippines Tagalog is the dominant native language but Spanish, English (American), and Chinese influences are widespread. a c d z

in an unaccented syllable tends to sound like the a of about or sofa before e and i is pronounced s rather than the th as in thin has a tendency to become th as in Spain tends to be s, not th

Polish — See Slavic Languages Portuguese (Portugal and Brazil) Portuguese shares its Latin roots with Spanish, but it is a distinct Romance language, and the assumption that pronunciations will be like those of Spanish can lead the reader astray. S and z have different values in Portugal and Brazil. Words ending in vowels, except a, or words ending in m or s, are accented on the next-to-last syllable. Words ending in consonants — except m or s— or in a, are accented on the last syllable. Words not conforming to these rules have the accent indicated. Vowels: ã (stressed) a (unstressed) e (stressed) e (unstressed)

a (ah) as in father; before l becomes o as in all tends to be uh (schwa[b]) e as in edify uh as in Portugal, but ih in the islands and in Brazil, and almost silent when initial in words like espirito ([i]spee-ree-toe)


You Can Say That Again! ei o (stressed) o (unstressed) oi

ay as in aid o as in more oo as in pull oi as in oil (sometimes wee), Coimbra = KWEM-bruh o as in go

ou Nasalized Vowels and Diphthongs:

Vowels marked with a tilde ( ~ ) or vowels before m or n plus a consonant or final m are strongly nasalized. ã ãe, ãi ão -em (final) oe

unlike the long a in Brazil, almost as in a nasal rendering of men a as above; sounds as in English aim a as above plus u a as above plus i oi nasal, as in poem

Consonants: c (before e and i) (otherwise) ch d g (before e, i) (otherwise) gu (before e, i) (before a) h j (only before a, o, u) ih m nh qu (before i) (otherwise) s (initial, or after a consonant or when doubled [ss]) s (between vowels) s (before c, f, p, q, t, and when final) s (before b, d, g, or a voiced consonant)

s as in so; k as in cocoa sh as in shall d initially, otherwise th as in gather zh as in pleasure g as in go g as in get (u silent) voiced aspirant (g + w) silent zh as in pleasure ly as in million em (nasalized vowel) ny as in English canyon k, the u is silent kw s as in so z as in zebra sh as in shall zh as in leisure


Appendix B Pronunciation of a final s or z will be affected by the initial sound of the next word in the phrase. x

sh or s or ks — there is no dependable rule z as in zebra when initial or between vowels; sh as in shall (except in Brazil where it is pronounced s) before c, f, p, q, t, s; zh as in pleasure (except in Brazil where it sounds like z) before b, d, g.


Portuguese orthography uses accents to indicate closed or open vowels. For instance, a circumflex ( ^ ) indicates a stressed closed vowel. An acute accent ( ´ ) indicates a stressed open vowel. A grave accent ( ` ) is sometimes placed on an unaccented vowel indicating that it gets special attention. In most situations in an English context it isn’t necessary to worry about such fine-tuning. Romany Romany is the Indic language of the Gypsies. It belongs to the IndoEuropean language family and is related to Hindi. Rumanian (Romanian) This is a Romance language. There is no simple rule for accent or syllabic emphasis in Rumanian. With some exceptions, spelling has the usual English values. aˇ (stressed) a (unstressed) â c (before e, i) (otherwise) ch e (sometimes, as when initial) e (unstressed and before a vowel) e (after c and g) g (before e, i) (otherwise) gh h (before vowels)

u as in urn uh as in about u as in urn ch as in church k as in kit k as in kit ye as in yes y as in you almost silent j as in judge g as in go g as in go h


You Can Say That Again! (otherwise) i (unstressed and before a vowel) i (after c and g) i (when final) i (variant of a) j o (unstressed, before a) ou s¸ t¸ u (unstressed, before a vowel) u (when final)

k(h) as in German ach y as in yes almost silent i or y, so silent it almost disappears Ploesti = plo-YESHT as in urn zh as in pleasure w as in wash o as in both sh as in shall ts as in rats w as in wash oo (very short)

In Rumanian the definite article is a suffix -l, -ul, -le (masculine), and -a (feminine). It may or may not be used in the names of rivers and mountains when these are mentioned in the news. Russian — See Slavic Languages Scandinavian Languages In the Scandinavian languages the accent is usually on the final syllable. NORWEGIAN SWEDISH Vowels: a long a ä or o a short a or uˇ a or u aa, å ô o ae, ä e or a e or a Sometimes e is written for æ. e long a or i a or i e short e (or a) e e unstressed e (or a) e o long o or oo oo o short o or oo oo Sometimes o is pronounced as if it were aa, a. o, ø, oe (long and short) u u u long oo or ü ü u short oo or u o˘o or u y ü ü


DANISH ä ä or uˇ o e or a a or i e or i e or i o o u oo oo ü

Appendix B Consonants: b c (before e, i, y, ae, a) (otherwise) d

f g

g (before n) g h y k r rs s sj skj v w x z

as in English

as in English

b or p

s s k k silent after l and n as in English and often when final in a word or syllable

s k d or t after vowels, otherwise th or silent as in English in all three languages except silent in the Danish word af. as in go as in go may sound (before a, o, e, (before a, o, u, like k in kite and consonants) and consonants) before all vowels and consonants pronounced ng in all three, but sometimes i in Danish and Norwegian. y as in yet silent before j, v silent before j silent before j, v y as in yet in all three languages k as in cocoa (KO-ko) before a, e, o, u, but ky, ch, or h before i, y, j trilled trilled uvular sh sh unvoiced, uvular r + s s as in so in all three languages, except in rs and sj. Never pronounced z. sh sh sh sh sh sk(y) sometimes silent as in English sometimes final silent when final v in all three languages ks in all three languages s as in so in all three languages.

In Swedish and Norwegian all doubled consonants are pronounced long. About ei, ej, au, and av: The diphthongs ei and ej are transcribed as a (as in the English word may) although the actual sound can vary in dialects from a long i sound to a long a. The diphthong au, av is pronounced au or av. The nearest English sound is the ou of house. While this three-language guide is complicated, it is still far from


You Can Say That Again! complete. The hope is it will help the reader to approximate the correct pronunciation of Scandinavian place names. Serbian — See Slavic Slavic Slavic languages form a branch of the Indo-European language family. This branch includes Russian, Ukrainian, and Belorussian (East Slavic group), as well as Polish, Czech, and Slovak (West Slavic Group). Slovene, Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, and the medieval Old Church Slavonic are part of the South Slavic group. See the separate entry for Czech. Russian is the principal language of Russia. It is written in Cyrillic script. Russe or Rus means “red” and comes from the Viking traders who brought honey and furs into the region of the Dnieper River and the Black Sea area in exchange for the silks and spices of the East. The redbearded Vikings organized the region. The name Ukraine referred to the southern, coastal, or border part of the territory. Use of the western European alphabet has led to some problems when Slavic languages have been transliterated from the Cyrillic. But a is usually pronounced as in hat, e as in met, u as in boot, i as in mit, and o as in vote. There is no simple rule for accent or syllabic stress. a c c cˇ, cz ch, h dz dzˇ d’, dz, d, dj, gj e e¸ eˇ h j j l nˇ, n´, nj

a as in hat, except in Polish, where it is like on as in French bon ts as in rats ch as in cheese (or tsy) ch as in choke k(h) usually as in loch, but usually k in Russian ds as in buds (or ts) j as in judge j (or dy) sometimes yo in Russian en as in French fin e as in yet see ch y (consonant) as in yes after a vowel and followed by a consonant, or when final, forms a diphthong: ej = AY as in English ny as in English canyon


Appendix B ou o r (when a vowel) (when a consonant) rz s t’ u w y z z (when final)

o as in to oo as in pull or as in food ur as in English err trilled (rrr) zh as in leisure, but sh when final sh as in show ch as in chill oo as in food v as in very but w in Russian and f as in off when final i as in it or e as in we z as in zebra after r may become sh as in shall.

Voiced consonants (b, d, dz, g, v, w, z) tend to turn into the corresponding voiceless consonants (p, t, c, k, f, s) if followed by a voiceless consonant or if final. A few words about Russian: Because the gender of words is understood but not expressed, the names of small villages may end in a (or aya) and the names of large villages in o, while the names of cities may lack a suffix. As a community grows, it might pass through all three stages: Gavrilova — Gavrilovo — Gavrilov. The sound of a Russian a approaches that of the u in but. Most unstressed vowels in rapid Russian speech will sound to a foreign ear like schwa [ ]. The k is usually silent in Russian. The Russian e is often pronounced as yeh, especially when final: Voskresenskoe = vos-kreh-SEN-sko-YEH. Spanish Spanish is another Romance (Latin roots) language belonging to the Indo-European linguistic family. It is the dominant language of Spain, where Catalan, Andalusian, and Basque are also spoken widely. Spanish is the principal language of Latin America, with the exception of Brazil, where Portuguese is spoken. Spanish is the main language of Mexico, where there are many native languages and dialects as well. It is the principal language of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Spanish is a useful second language in much of the world. Lots of North Americans take winter holidays in Mexico, Cuba, or other Spanishspeaking countries. The British holiday in Majorca (ma-YOR-ka). Popular and classical music bring Spanish into our daily life, so it is useful


You Can Say That Again! to be able to deal with names and terms as they arise. Fortunately, Spanish is beautifully phonetic. There are some basics to learn, such as the j sounded like an h and the helpful appearance of the ~ . And double l, as in mantilla, gets an ee-ya sound. Some Spanish words have become common in English and some of these are thoroughly anglicized, like junta (HOON-ta in Spanish but JUN-ta in English). Accent and usage differ from place to place even in Spain. Words ending in a consonant, except n or s, carry stress on the last syllable. Words ending in a vowel, or in n or s, stress the second-last syllable. Words not following these rules usually have an accent mark. b (and v)

c (before e, i) c (otherwise) d (initial) d (medial) d (final and in ado) g (before e, i) g (otherwise) gu (before e, i) gu (before a, o) h j ll

ñ qu (before e, i) s v x (between vowels) x (before consonants) y (consonant)

v, usually an aspirant as in English but made with both lips instead of the lower lip. Like b (bb) in river if pronounced “ribber.” s as in so or th as in thin (Castilian). k as in cocoa: accion = ak-SYON. The k sound before e and i is written as qu. d as in English. th as in gather. Dedo = DE-THO. th as in gather, or it may disappear. h as in heat (or a voiceless uvular sound like a Parisian r). g as in go. Gato grande = GA-toe GRAN-day. g as in go. Guerra = GE-ra. voiced as an aspirant g + w. Guadalajara = (g)WA-da-la-HA-ra. silent. h as in hot. Jorge = HOR-he. y as in yet or ly as in million (Castilian). Often j as in just in Argentina and Uruguay, or like the zh in leisure. ny as in English canyon. k as in kit. Que = ke. s as in so. see b. ks. Exito = ek-se-to. Or h. Mexico = ME-he-ko, Oaxaca = wa-HA-ka. s. Extranjer = es-tran-her. y as in yes in Argentina. In Uruguay it is often j, pronounced zh.


Appendix B z

s but th in Spain.

Vowels and diphthongs: Weak vowels like i (y) and u combine with strong vowels a, e, o and with one another to form diphthongs, while strong vowels remain distinct from one another: creer = cre-ER. Thai (also called Siamese) Like Chinese, Thai is a tonal language with at least five, and in some dialects seven, tones. As the tone changes, the meaning of a syllable changes. There is no accent in the English sense, but often the high-pitched tone may give the impression of an accent. Thai is like English in that it shares the characteristic of having some useless letters in its spelling. The alphabet is an adaptation of the Cambodian script existing in the middle of the thirteenth century. It has some forty-four consonants and just as many vowel sounds. But there are only twenty-one consonant sounds, so that in many cases one sound may be represented by several letters. l, r, y ch, chj, d, dt, s, st b, bp ph th

n when final in a syllable t when final in a syllable p when final in a syllable p t

See also Laotian. Turkish There is no accent in the English sense. Use a level emphasis as much as possible in an English context. A slight emphasis on final syllables might help to avoid obscuring the vowels. The circumflex ( ^ ) is a sign of length and, in the case of a, it may indicate the sound yah. c ç g gˇ (after a, i, o, u [hard vowels]) gˇ (after e, i, o, u [soft vowels])

j as in just ch as in church g as in go silent, or a voiced sound like the ch in Scots loch forms a diphthong: eg = a (ay); og= ui; ug = ui, and ig = almost e


You Can Say That Again! i (with dot) ı (without dot) j

ee as in beet or the i in sit i as in bit (guttural) zh the medial consonant in English leisure sh as in shall y introducing a diphthong (as in you), and y or l completing a diphthong (as in joy, oil, day, or aid)

s¸ y

Ukrainian — see Slavic Languages Welsh — see Gaelic West Indies The main languages of the West Indies are English, French, Spanish, and Dutch. This chain of islands lying between the Caribbean (KAR-ih-BEEan preferred over kar-IB-ee-an) and the Atlantic includes: Anguilla Antigua Barbados Bequia Caroni Chaguaramas Curacao Dominica Grenada Martinique Montserrat Nevis St. Croix St. Kitts St. Lucia St. Martin Sint Maarten Trinidad Tobago

an-GWIL-a an-TEE-ga bar-BAY-dos BEK-way KA-ro-nee shag-er-AM-us KOOR-rah-so dom-in-EE-ka gren-AY-da mar-tin-EEK mon-sir-RAT NEE-vis kroy kits LOO-sha san mar-TAN (French) sint MAR-tin (Dutch) TRIN-i-dad tuh-BAY-go

Yiddish Yiddish was originally a German dialect. Therefore, the pronunciation of German offers the most useful guide for its sounds. But Slavic, Arabic,


Appendix B Hebrew, and English influences have been strong. The language developed over a millennium. It was the vernacular of European Jewry. Yiddish is an eclectic language at the heart of a rich folk culture. Sholem Aleichem (SHOW-lem ah-LAY-kum) was the most famous Yiddish writer. It is a nom de plume of course. Fiddler On the Roof was based on some of his stories. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Yiddish enjoyed a huge popularity, especially in New York. At that time there were five competing Yiddish daily newspapers in that city. Yiddish was the dominant language of religious Jews and Jewish intellectuals. To some extent Yiddish journals can blame their own success for their decline, because they helped immigrants to establish themselves in North America and in an Englishspeaking milieu. Secular Jews claim yidishe verter (Yiddish words) and yidishe verin (Jewish values). But in Israel Hebrew is the national language and Yiddish is marginal. Yiddish still flourishes as the spoken language of the so-called ultra-orthodox Jews who live apart from the secular majority. They speak Yiddish as the expression of their religious society. Hasidic communities with dynamic rabbinic leaders don’t care much about the preservation of Yiddish, but they are devoted to Jewish law and tradition. They pray and study in Hebrew, speak English to connect with gentiles, and use Yiddish for group cohesion and separation from the world. Hebrew (Greek Hebraios) is the language of the Semitic people once centred in Palestine. A modern form of the language is used in Israel. Aramaic, another branch of the Semitic family, was based in ancient Syria and is thought to have been the principal language of Jesus. Yiddish: ch

k or hch, but guttural as in Scottish loch: chala (egg bread) = HCHAW-la, cheder = CHAD-er, chad gadyo = HCHAD DAD-yo, Chanukah = HCHUNi-kah, chutzpa = HCHUTZ-pah

A little Yiddish vocabulary with pronunciations: baba bobbes chutzpah dybbuk eirev

BA-BA (grandmother) BA-baz (grandmothers) HOOTS-pah (nerve, courage) DI-book (a sort of lost soul) ay-rub (law limiting activity on the Sabbath)


You Can Say That Again! Gamorah Hagadah Kabala Pesach Reb Rosh Hashanah seder Torah tukus yenta Yom Kippur zaftig zeydes

ga-MOR-uh (Aramaic for Talmud) HA-guh-DAH (book of Passover service) ka-BAL-a (Jewish mystical tradition) pes-ahk (Passover) REB or REV (Rabbi) ROSH-ha-SHAN-ah (Jewish New Year) say-DUR (ritual service and dinner for start of Passover) tor-uh (the five books of Moses) TOO-kus (posterior, derrière, bum) YEN-ta (matchmaker) yom-KIP-ur (Day of Atonement) ZAWF-tig (voluptuous) ZAY-dez (grandfathers) The Night before Chanukah

‘Twas the night before Chanukah boichicks and maidels, Not a sound could be heard, not even the dreidels, The menorah was set by the chimney alight, In the kitchen the Bubbie was hopping a bite: Salami, pastrami, a glaisele tay And zoyere pickels mit bagels - Oi vay! Gezint and geschmock the kinderlach felt While dreaming of taiglach and Chanukah gelt. The alarm clock was sitting, a cloppin’ and tickin’ And Bubbie was carving a shtickele chicken, A tummel arose, like the wildest k’duchas; Santa had fallen right on his tuchas! I put on my slippers - ains, tzvay, drei While bubbie was eating herring on rye. I grabbed for my bathrobe and buttoned my gottkes, And Bubbie was just devouring the latkes. To the window I ran and to my surprise A little red yarmulka greeted my eyes. When he got to the door and saw the menorah “Yiddishe kinder,” he cried, “Kenahorah!” “I thought I was in a Goyishe hoise! As long as I’m here, I’ll leave a few toys!”


Appendix B “Come into the kitchen, I’ll get you a dish Mit a gupel, a leffel and a schtickele fish!” With smacks of delight he started his fressen chopped liver, knaidlach and kreplach gegessen. Along with his meal he had a few schnapps. When it came to eating, this boy was sure tops! He asked for some knishes with pepper and salt But they were so hot he yelled out, “Gevalt!” He loosened his hoysen and ran from the tish, “Your koshereh meals are simply delish!” As he went through the door he said, “See y’all later. So, hutzmir and zeitmir and Bleibtz mir gezint!” He called out cheerily into the wind. More rapid than eagles, his prancers they came As he whistled and shouted and called them by name: “Come Izzie, now Moishe, now Yossel and Sammy! On Oyving and Maxie and Hymie and Manny!” He gave a geshrai, as he drove out of sight, “A gut yontiff to all, and to all a good night!” — Sender Goldberg


Notes 1) Paris is PAR-is. Say KEN-ya (not KEEN-ya), TRWAW riv-YAIR, marSAY, KYO-TOE, SECH-WAWN, (puh-)-NAWM-PEN, SA-o PAWL-o, ka-DIZ, JEN-o-a (not jen-OH-a) and tay-ruh HOAT. And, in Samoa, it’s PAN-go PAN-go. 2) A Latin riddle: Quodnam verbum re vere brevius fieri potest si duas litteras ei addes? Answer: Breve. Translation: “What word actually becomes shorter if you add two letters to it?” Answer: “Short.”


Dictionaries: Bergeron, Léandre. Dictionnaire de la langue québécoise. Montréal: VLB Éditeur, 1980. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Edited by Katherine Barber. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998. Canadian English as distinct from American or British. Lists distinctly Canadian words. Provides Canadian pronunciations. Cassell’s Concise French-English, English-French Dictionary. London: Cassell; New York: Macmillan, [1977]. Collins Gem Canadian English Dictionary. London: Collins, 1987. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English. 9th ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995. Dictionary of Euphemisms and Other Doubletalk. New York: Crown, 1993. Fowler, H. W. A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957. Larousse Gastronomique (English-language edition). Edited by Jenifer Harvey Lang. New York: Crown, 1988. The New Roget’s Thesaurus of the English Language in Dictionary Form. Rev. New York: Putnam, 1978. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language. 2d ed., unabridged. New York: Random House, 1987. Shipley, Joseph T. Dictionary of Word Origins. New York: Greenwood Press, [1945]. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Markham, Ont.: Thomas Allen & Sons, 1991. Especially for biographical and geographical names. When there is a pronunciation conflict, this dictionary is a useful guide to the most

You Can Say That Again! common North American pronunciation and acceptable alternatives. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary is also helpful in this regard. Other Sources: Abelson, Herbert I. Persuasion: How Opinions and Attitudes Are Changed. New York: Springer, 1959. Bird, Roger. The End of News. Toronto: Irwin Publishing, 1997. Brown, Charles H. Informing the People. New York: Holt Rinehart Winston, 1961. News writing, reporting, editing. Brown, Ivor John Carnegie. I Give You My Word and Say the Word. New York: Dutton, 1964. Reprint. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1977. Origins and meanings. Canada. Department of Indian Affairs. Linguistic and Cultural Affiliations of Canadian Indian Bands. Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1967. ——. Public Works and Government Services Canada. The Canadian Style. Rev. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1997. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. CBC News Style Book. Toronto: CBC Publications, 1971. ——. A Guide to the Pronunciation of Canadian Place Names. Toronto: CBC Publications, 1959. ——. Handbook for Announcers. Toronto: CBC Publications, 1946. C.F.R.B. (Radio Station) Toronto, Ont. Tenth Anniversary Year Book. Toronto: CFRB, 1937. Childe, V. Gordon. What Happened in History. London: Max Parrish, 1960. Language as a tool, as social continuity, etc. Cowan, Bert. A Second Look. Ottawa: CBC Publications, 1968. On news writing, common pitfalls in usage, syntax. CP Stylebook: a Guide for Writers and Editors. Edited by Peter Buckley. Toronto: Canadian Press, 1993. Crosbie, John S. The World’s Worst Puns. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1982. Crystal, David. English As a Global Language. Cambridge (England); New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. On history and evolution, world English, etymology, grammar, syntax, sounds, writing, spelling, etc. Deer, I. & H. Languages of the Mass Media. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1965. De Fleur, Melvin L. Theories of Mass Communication. 3d ed. New York: D. McKay Co., 1975. Drainie, Bronwyn. Living the Part. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1988.


Bibliography Eisner, Michael. “A Little Restraint, Please, the First Amendment Doesn’t Mean ‘Anything Goes.’” Wall Street Journal CI, no. 80 (24 April 1998). Espy, Willard R. Have a Word on Me. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981. On word origins. Fee, Margery, and Janice McAlpine. Guide to Canadian English Usage. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1997. Flexner, Stuart Berg, and Anne H. Soukhanov. Speaking Freely. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. On American English. Gelb, I. J. A Study of Writing. Phoenix Books. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963. Evolution of writing from pictograph to symbol to phonetic to syllabic. Greet, William Cabell. World Words, Recommended Pronunciations. New York: Columbia Broadcasting System; Columbia University Press, 1944. Hall, Edward T. The Silent Language. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1973. Cultural and semantic differences and pitfalls. Hallywell’s Filmgoer’s Companion. 9th ed. New York: Scribner’s, 1988. Hamill, Pete. News Is a Verb: Journalism at the End of the Twentieth Century. 1st ed. New York: Ballantine Pub. Group, 1998. Havelock, Eric A. Preface to Plato. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, 1963. Hayakawa, S. I., ed. The Use and Misuse of Language. Series: Premier. Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publications, [1964]. Hayakawa, S. I., and Ian R. Hayakawa. Language in Thought and Action. San Diego, Calif.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990. Juscyk, Peter. “Children Learning Language.” Paper, Johns Hopkins University, 1992. Kates/Keitz, Jonathan, ed. Dhe Times uv Toronto [sic] and Dhe Kanadan Nuzletter [sic]. Published by Dhe Internasional Union for Kanadan [sic] (Toronto), 1987–. Khul, Patricia. “Study of Baby Talk.” Paper, University of Washington, 1992. Larsen, T., and F. C. Walker. Pronunciation: A Practical Guide to Spoken English in Canada and the United States. London, Toronto, New York: Oxford University Press, 1930. Lederer, Richard. The Miracle of Language. New York: Pockets Books, 1991. ——— . More Anguished English. New York: Delacorte Press, 1993. MacInnis, Lyman. A Handbook of Business Terminology. Don Mills, Ont.: General Publ. Co., 1978.


You Can Say That Again! Business terms and a good list of Latin terms in general use. McCallion, Michael. The Voice Book: for Everyone Who Wants to Make the Most of Their Voice. Rev. ed. NewYork: Theatre Arts Books/Routledge, [1999]. Exercises, the vocal anatomy, precision in consonant and vowel production, elocution, stage fright, etc. McCrum, Robert, Robert MacNeil, and William Cran. The Story of English. London: Faber and Faber; BBC Books, 1987. Miller, Mark Crispin. Boxed In: The Culture of TV. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1988. The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Abridged ed. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Peters, James. Pronunciation Workbook in Modern Languages. Toronto: Ryerson Polytechnic University (then Ryerson Insitute of Technology), 1964. Plutarch. The Rise and Fall of Athens: Nine Greek Lives. Translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert. Harmondsworth, Engl.; Baltimore: Penguin Books, c1960, 1975 printing. Postman, Neil, and Steve Powers. How to Watch TV News. New York: Penguin Books, 1992. Rayburn, Alan. Naming Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994. Savage-Rumbaugh, E. Sue, Stuart G. Shanker, and Talbot J. Taylor. Apes, Language, and the Human Mind. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Sherk, William. 500 Years of Words. Toronto; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1983. Stabler, C. Norman. How to Read the Financial News. 10th ed. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1972. Strunk, W. Jr., and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. 3d ed. New York: Macmillan, 1979. About syntax, brevity, economy, and clarity. Trinité, Dr. Nolst. “Dearest Creature in Creation.” De Nederlandse Post (Downsview, Ont.), January 1969. Williamson, H. R. Teach Yourself Chinese. London: English Universities Press, 1960. Winter, James. Democracy’s Oxygen: How Corporations Control the News. Montreal: Black Rose Books, c1997.



Alphabetical lists (of words, expressions, names) that occur in the text have not been reproduced in the index, except for some salient examples from each list. The reader can refer to the Table of Contents, which specifies in what chapters these lists can be found. For example: An alphabetical list of words and their origins is given in Chapter 3; political terms, phrases from the world of sports, and troublesome words are listed in Chapter 5, geographical names in Chapter 6, and so on. aardvark, 113, 127, 306 Académie française, 71, 324, 328 accede, 20, 132, 169, 306 accent. See emphasis Accra, 178 acronym, 194, 199, 308 acrostic, 194 Acta Diurna, 252, 308 acute accent, 53, 80 adagio, 175 Aden, 179 ad infinitum, 205 adjective/adverb distinction, 19, 132–33 ad majorem Dei gloriam, 205 ad nauseam, 205 Africa, languages of, 324 See also Bantu African English. See Ebonics agnolotti, 210

Aix-la-Chapelle, 179 à la carte, 211 Albanian, 66 Albéniz, 175, 188, 307 alderman, 80, 154 algebra, 80, 106, 306 Algeciras, 179 Algonkian languages, 314, 336 All the President’s Men, 270 alphabet, the history of our, 52, 61, 66–67, 69–70 American pronunciation vs. Canadian, 21–22, 39–40, 255, 290–91 anchor, 253, 268 Andalusian, 29, 314, 351 anecdote vs. antidote, 133 Anglo-Saxon (invasions, language), 64–65, 94–95, 110–11, 115, 125 anno Domini, 205 annuity, 263

You Can Say That Again! Antietam, 179 Antigone, 174 Antigua, 179 antonym, 194 Aphrodite, 174 applicable, 133 Appomattox, 179 Arabic, 313, 315, 316–17, 335 Aramaic, 64, 72, 355 Argentina, 351 Arkansas, 32, 179, 188, 307 asphalt, 22, 134 athlete, 134 aubergine, 211 au jus, 211 Australia, 26, 301 baba, 355 Babel, Tower of, 67, 70–71 baby talk, 60–61, 71–72 Babylon, 70–71, 72 Bach, 175 bacterium, bacteria, 134, 199 bafflegab, 81 Balliol, 13, 32 Bangladesh, 334 Bantu, 114, 314, 315 Barlow, Maude, 270 Basque, 114, 314, 317, 351 bastard canoe, 134 BBC, 52, 168 Béarnaise sauce, 211 Beau Brummel, 301 Bedfordshire, 81 been, 40, 134 Beethoven, 176 Beijing, 313, 317–21 belittle, 26 Bengali, 335 Bergeron, Léandre, 329 Berlioz, 176 Berra, Yogi, 163 Bible, 81, 106, 306 bilingual, 134, 169, 306

bisque, 211 Black English. See Ebonics Bloc Québécois, 154 boatswain, 134 Boddington, Morris, 250 Bolivia, 314, 351 bonobo apes and language, 63 boondocks, 114, 127, 154, 306 boondoggle, 82 bordelaise, 27, 211 boss, 114 bouillabaisse, 211 bourgeois, 82 boustrophedon, 66, 73, 305 bowdlerize, 82, 91–92 boycott, 194–95 Brazil, 345–47 Breadalbane, 32 breath control, 236, 237. See also breathing breathing; breath groups, 51, 54, 236, 237 Breton. See Gaelic brewis, 211 Brisbane, 41 Bucephalus, 174 Bulgarian, 65, 350–51 bungalow, 114 buoy, 134 Burmese. See Myanmar Burns, George, 225 Bushnell, “Ernie,” 250 business and the media, 258–62, 286, 288–89. See also radio and TV business terms, 262–66 Caesar, Julius, 252 calabrese, 212 Cambodian (Khmer), 315, 342, 353 Canada, languages of, 315 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), 52, 249, 250, 251, 253–55, 290, 291, 299. See also radio and TV


Index Canadian Oxford Dictionary, The, 40, 123, 149, 168, 174, 204, 315 Canadian usage, 39–40, 123, 125–26. See also American pronunciation vs. Canadian, and North American vs. British usage Canberra, 180 canoe, 114 Cantonese, 315 capriccio, 176 Captain Cook, 310 cardigan, 194 Carson, Rachel, 270 causa sine qua non, 206 Caxton, 59, 109, 111, 112, 125 cedilla, 53 Celtic; Celts, 110, 111, 180 Celtic languages, 64, 66, 329–30 Ceylon, 317 CFRB, 250, 290 Chanukah, 20, 136 “The Night before Chanukah,” 356. See also Yiddish Chartreuse, 212 Chaucer, 109, 111, 125 chauvinist, 154, 195 Cherry, Don, 163 Chéticamp, 180 Childe, Gordon, 301 Chile, 351 Chillicothe, 180 chimera, 136 china plate, 15, 122 China, 313, 315 Chinese, 313, 315, 317–21 Chirac, Jacques, 180 Chisholm, 180 Cholmondley, Lord, 173, 187, 307 Chomsky, Noam, 239, 296 Chopin, 176 chops, 29 church, 82 Churchill, Sir Winston, 29, 69, 95, 154, 159, 226, 272, 273, 300

circumflex accent, 53, 80 Clayoquot, 181 clichés, 277–80 Clinton, Bill, 80, 101, 198, 269, 289, 292 closing (of a speech), 228 coccyx, 136, 169, 306 Cockney, 26, 121–22 cogito, ergo sum, 206 cognoscente, 136, 278 cohort, 17, 136 Coimbra, 346 Cointreau, 212 cojones, 77, 106, 306 collective nouns, 193 Colombia, 314, 351 comparable, 136 concerto, 176 Connecticut, 40, 55, 305 contractions, 46, 251–52 contretemps, 31 Coolidge, Calvin, 226, 244 Copenhagen, 178, 181, 189, 307 copy, preparation of, 48–51, 271–83 See also script, preparation of See also radio and TV Coquitlam, 181 Cornish. See Gaelic corp., 30, 137, 141 Coventry, 83 Cowichan, 181 Craigellachie, 181, 188, 307 Crapper, Sir Thomas, 78–79 Cree, 336 Cressida, 174 criterion, criteria, 137, 199 Croat. See Slavic languages Croatia, languages of, 315 Cronkite, Walter, 253, 256 Cuba, 351 culinary terms. See gustatory terms “cultivated formal” speech, 22 cultivated vs. folk speech, 39 cursive writing, 296


You Can Say That Again! Czech, 65, 321–22, 350–51 Czerny, 176 Dáil, 155, 330 Dalhousie, 32, 181 Danish, 66, 348–50 data, 199 date, 83 debunk, 83 decorative, 25, 33, 305 decorous, 137 De Falla, 176, 188, 307 Delhi, 181, 189, 307 Demosthenes, 227 dentals, 62–63 Depoe, Norman, 253 Derby, 181 desultory, 137 detritus, 137 Devoir, Le, 289 dialect, 38 diaphragm, 235, 236, 238, 239, 243 dieresis (diaeresis), 53 diet, 155 diphthong, 54, 137 dirigible, 137 disinterested, 138 divisive, 138 DNA, 138 DNA and language, 296 dog, 110, 127, 306 Dow-Jones Average, 264 Drainie, John, 51, 54 Dun, John, 195 Dutch, 66, 322–23 Ebonics, 19, 119–21 echinacea, 138 Ecuador, 351 Ecum Secum, 181 editing, 273–83. See also copy, preparation of. See also script, preparation of egg, 109, 127, 306

Egypt, 315 Eisner, Michael, 286 Elements of Style, The. See Strunk and White elision, 46, 54, 251 ellipsis, 281, 293, 308 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 59, 60 empanada, 213 emphasis (stress), 38, 41, 47, 49, 50, 54 engine, 17 English, the history of, 26, 63–67, 94–95,109–27 entrée, 217 entrepreneur, 138 epigram, 194 epistrophe, 138, 169, 306 eponym, 88, 106, 194, 306 err, to, 32, 33, 138, 305 esoteric, 138 Esperanto, 60, 67 Espy, Willard, 91 Esquimalt, 181 Estonian, 323 etc., 139 Ethiopia, 315 Etobicoke, 41 etymology, 77, 80–91, 139 euphemisms, 78–79, 99–102 eureka, 83 ex cathedra, 206 execrable, 139 exigency, 139 ex officio, 206 expertise, 32, 139 Fabian, 155 fait accompli, 31, 41, 54, 204, 302, 308 Family Compact, 155 fan, 84, 106, 306 Fenian, 155 Fianna Fáil, 155, 188, 330, 307 Fields, W.C., 301 Fiera, 23, 33, 305 Fijian, 316, 344–45


Index filibuster, 155 financial journalism, 261–62, 292 Financial Times, The, 258, 264 Fine Gael, 155, 330 Finnish, 323–24 fish, 65, 73, 298, 306 flaccid, 20, 139, 169, 245, 306, 308 flamenco, 29, 33, 305 Flemish, 322–23 Flesch Test, The, 99 fleur-de-lys, 139 Flynn Effect, The, 302 focaccia, 213 FOP Index, 99, 106, 306 formidable, 139 forsooth, 27 fortuitous, 139 foyer, 32 fractured English, 124–25 French expressions, 209–10 French, 65, 71, 113, 115, 125, 177, 300–1, 324–29 French Protectionism, 327–28 Québec — la langue québécoise, 329 fricatives, 42, 139 fuddle duddle, 156 futz, to, 139 F-word, the, 78 Gaelic, 66, 329–30 gametophobia, 196, 199, 308 Gananoque, 182 Ganges, 182 garage, 140 Genoa, 27, 33, 182, 305 genome, 140 geographical names, 177–187 German, 66, 331–32 Germanic languages, 64, 66 Germanic tribes, 110, 111 gerrymander, 156 gerund, 300 Gibran, Khalil, 182

Gilbert, Marc, 284 Globe and Mail, The, 289 Gloucester, 182, 188, 307 Goldberg, Sender, 357 Goldilocks (Italian accent and spelling), 341 grassroots, 278 grave accent, 53, 80 Greek, 64, 65, 66–67, 110, 111, 115, 332–333 Greely, Horace, 255 Greenwich, 182 Gregory Peck, 122, 127, 306 Grimm’s Law, 62 Grit, 156, 170, 307 grog, 214 Grosvenor, 182 Groton, 40, 55, 305 Guardian, The, 289 guillotine, 195 Gujarati, 65, 335 gustatory terms, 210–17 Gutenberg, 252 gutturals, 62 Haiti, 315 Halley’s comet, 175 Halloween, 84 Hamill, Pete, 289 harass, 32, 140 Harris, Benjamin, 252 haute cuisine, 140 Havelock, Eric, 290 Hawaiian, 316, 344 Hayakawa, S. I., 68, 93 Hays Office, The, 105, 219, 221 headlines and leads, 271–72, 274–77 hearth, 25 Hebrew, 355 hegemony, 140, 302, 308 heinous, 140 Herodotus, 60, 70 Hindi, 65, 314, 334–35 Hobson’s choice, 84


You Can Say That Again! hockey, 47, 98, 155, 162, 163, 166 Holland. See Dutch homage, 31, 85, 170, 306 homonym, 195 Honduras, 351 Honi soit qui mal y pense, 209, 222, 308 hopefully, 141 horse, 65, 73, 306 expressions related to horses, 102–3 Hungarian, 333–34 Hurst, Lynda, 302 Hussein, Saddam, 72 hyperbole, 141, 195 Icelandic, 126, 127 IHS, 209 imply, to, vs. to infer, 141 impotent, 141 Inc., 30, 141 inchoate, 141 indeterminate vowel. See schwa India, languages of, 316, 334–35 Indian languages. See Native (Aboriginal) North American languages Indochina, languages of, 315, 324, 342 Indo-European language family: table of, 65–66 history of, 64–66 Indonesia, languages of, 316, 337–38, 343 infomercials, 253, 261, 302 informal speech, 38 interest, interesting, 141 in terms of, 278 International Phonetic Alphabet, 40, 43–45, 52 international phonetic system, standard, 52–53 Internet, the, 287–88, 292 interviews, 232–33, 261, 272–73, 283–84 in the limelight, 278

Inuit, 338–39 investigative journalism. See muckraking Irish Gaelic. See Gaelic irregardless, 14, 31, 141 isolate, 61, 73, 305 Israel, languages of, 315 Italian, 65, 339–41 Jack Frost, 278 Jaipur, 182 Jamaican English, 122 Japanese, 47, 113, 313, 341 “Japanglish,” 26 jargon, 85, 97–100 jazz, 29, 77, 85, 93, 121 Jennings, Peter, 253 jeopardy, 85 jewel, jewellery, 142 Johnson, Lyndon Baines, 92 Jones, Sir William, 64 joual, 39, 54, 329 journalism, 252–54, 261–62, 266–67, 269–90, 292, 293, 299, 301–2, 308 See also news. See also radio and TV journalism, tabloid, 267, 269, 285–86 Jungle, The, 270 junta, 142, 352 Kaltenborn, H. V., 52 Kapuskasing, 182 KDKA, 52 Keewatin, 183 Kennedy, John F., 272 Kent, Peter, 13 ketchup, 86 Kewadin, 337 Khmer (Cambodian), 315, 342, 353 kilometre, 20, 142, 144 Kipling, Rudyard, 256, 293, 308 Knesset, 156 Kootenay, 183


Index Korean, 342 Korzybski, Alfred, 68 Kurdish, 315

Longueil, 183 love, the language of, 218–20 Luddite, 265

labials, 42, 62–63 Lachance, Douglas, 253 laconic, 86 lady, 90 La Jolla, 183, 188, 307 Laotian, 342 Lappish, 323 Larousse Gastronomique, 210 larynx, 23, 33, 142, 243 Las Cruces, 183 Latin, 64, 65, 111, 112, 115, 125, 203–8, 298 Latin expressions, 205–8 Latin America, 351 Latvian, 65, 342–43 lay, to, vs. to lie, 142, 143 Le Bourget, 183 leads. See headlines and leads leeward, 142 legume, 143 Leicester, 183 Lemieux, Mario, 47 lèse-majesté, 31 leverage, 265 leviathan, 143 Lévis, 183 lexicon, 196 liaison, 54 lieutenant, 86 limericks, 80, 103 Linear A, 66 Linear B, 65, 66, 298 Linggwistik Reformation, 67–68 lingua franca, 143 Lippmann, Walter, 291 listener, 31, 33, 305 Lithuanian, 343 Locke, John, 258 London, the English of, 110, 112, 237 longitude, 143

Macedonian, 65, 350–51 Mackenzie, William Lyon, 156 McLuhan, Marshall, 54, 203, 253, 287, 300, 301 MacNeil, Robert, 59 Macon, 183 McQuaig, Linda, 270 Magdalen College, 183, 188, 307 Magog, 183 Majorca, 351 Malayan, 343 Malaysia, languages of, 316 Mandarin, 314, 317–21 Maori, 183, 316, 344 Marylebone, 183 media, medium, 144, 198–99, 203 See also radio and TV. See also business and the media Melba toast, 86 me, myself, and I, 144 Mencken, H. L., 109, 218 menu, 210, 217 Mercutio, 175 Mesopotamia, 65, 70, 72, 73, 306 metaphor, 196 metathesis. See spoonerisms metonym, 196 metric system, 144–45 Mexico, 351 “mid-Atlantic” speech, 22, 237 Middleberg/Ross study, 292 Miller, Mark Crispin, 284 Milosevic, Slobodan, 184 Milton, 87, 111, 249, 252 Mindinao, 184 minutia, 145 mischievous, 145, 170, 255, 306 miso, 214 missile, 145 Molson muscle, 214


You Can Say That Again! Monaco, 184 Montreal, 31 moose, 113 morpheme, 41–42 Movietone News, 53, 290 Mubarak, Hosni, 184 muckraking, 269–71 Murrow, Edward R., 291 music (names and terms), 175–77 Musquodoboit, 184 Myanmar, 342, 343 Mycenaean, 65, 67, 174 mythology (names), 174–75 Na-Dene, 335–36 Nader, Ralph, 270 Nadi, 184, 188, 307 NASDAQ, 265 Native (Aboriginal) North American languages, 314, 335–37 Nazi, 157 neolithic age, 110, 125 ne plus ultra, 207 nepotism, 157 Netherlands, The. See Dutch New Democrats, 157 New Orleans, 184 New York Times, The, 289 Newfoundland, 41, 55, 184, 305 news: Acta Diurna, 252, 308 anchor, 253, 268 business and the media, 258–62, 286, 288–89 definition of, 255–56 financial journalism, 261–62, 292 function of, 297 history of, 252, 253 how to say ~ , 146 Internet, the, 287–88, 292 journalism, 252–54, 261–62, 266–67, 269–90, 292, 293, 299, 301–2, 308 tabloid journalism, 267, 269,

285–86 talk radio, news vs., 267–68 trivialization of, 249, 256–57, 288–89 Nicaragua, 315 Nice, 184, 189, 307 nicotine, 87 Nigeria, 344 Nipissing, Lake, 41, 55, 184, 305 Nixon, Richard, M., 270, 272 noblesse oblige, 31 nolo contendere, 207 none, 146 Norman Conquest, the, 94–95, 110, 111, 125 North American vs. British usage, 123, 125–26. See also Canadian usage Norwegian, 66, 348–50 Norwich, 184 Nostradamus, 301 nuclear, 146 numbers in copy, 280–81 Observer, The, 289 odyssey, 87 Oedipus, 175 Office de la langue française, 324 often, 32, 255 Ojibwa, 336 omnipotent, 146 on the drawing board, 279 on the pig’s back, 157 op. cit., 146 op-ed, 146 orgy, 146, 170, 307 origins of speech, 60–61, 296–97 Orwell, George, 234, 273 Pacific, languages of the, 314, 316, 344–45 Pakistan, 334, 345 palindrome, 196 Pall Mall, 185 Panama, 351


Index pandemonium, 87 paradox, 196 Paraguay, 351 Paris, 31, 33, 305 Parker, Dorothy, 97, 301 pattern, 61 pax vobiscum, 207 penchant, 31, 147 Pepys, Samuel, 185 Pernod, 215 peroration. See closing (of a speech) perpetrate vs. perpetuate, 147 Persians, the, 60, 63, 64, 65, 70–71, 72, 114 Peru, 351 petard, 92, 106, 306 Pew Research Centre, the, 268, 292 -phile, 147, 196 Philippics, the, 87, 227 Philippines, languages of the, 316, 345 Phnom Penh, 185, 189, 307 -phobe, 147, 196 Phoenicians, the, 52, 61, 66, 81, 104 phoneme, 41 phonetics, 37, 40–48, 118–19 this book’s simple system of, 45–46 phrasing, 48–51 phyllo, 215 Pictou County, 41, 55, 305 plagiarism, 87 plethora, 147, 170, 307 plosives, 42 plural, singular or, 198–99 Polish, 65, 350–51 politically correct, 69, 71, 93, 147 poppycock, 92 pornography, 87 Portage, 185 Portage and Main, 31, 185 Portuguese, 65, 345–47 posh, 194 posthumous(ly), 25, 147, 299 pot pourri, 147

potage, 217 Potomac, 185 poutine, 215 preferable, 147 prefixes, 197, 199, 308 presage, 147 Presse, La, 289 prima facie, 208, 221, 308 private broadcasting, 132, 249, 254, 255, 299 prix fixe, 148 pro rata, 208 proem, 227–28, 245, 308 Progressive Conservatives, 158 projecting, 237 protectionism, language, 327-28 Provençal, 65, 220 provost, 148 Ptolemy, 185 public speaking. See speech, a Puccini, Giacomo, 177 punctuation, 281 Punjabi (Panjabi), 65, 335, 345 puns, 79–80, 95–97, 196 q.v. (quod vide), 148, 208 quay, quayside, 148, 170, 307 Quebec, 148 Québec — la langue québécoise, 329 Queen’s Quay, 185 Quesnel, 185 quisling, 87–88 Quixote, Don, 88, 148 quixotic, 88, 148 radicchio, 215 radio and TV, 249–92 back timing, 282–83 broadcast journalism. See journalism. See also news business and the media, 258–62, 286, 288–89 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), 52, 249, 250,


You Can Say That Again! 251, 253–55, 290, 291, 299 clichés, 277–80 “dumbing-down,” 249, 254, 286, 289 editing, 273–283 lead, the, 271–72, 274–77 natural enunciation, 252 numbers in copy, 280–81 radio announcing in the 1930s and 1940s, 250–51 reporting: writing the story, 271–83 sound bite (or clip), 283 streeters, 283–84 See also news. See also copy, preparation of. See also script, preparation of raffish, 148 raison d’être, 148 reactionary nostalgia, 21 recondite, 148 Reform Party, 158 repeat, 21, 149, 255 reportage, 149 reporting: writing the story, 271–83 See also radio and TV See also news reputable, 149, 170, 307 resonance, 237, 238, 245, 308 resource, 149 respite, 149 rhetoric, 227, 244 rhyming slang. See Cockney ribald, 149, 170, 307 riding, 88, 106, 298, 306 Rivière-du-Loup, 185 Robertson, Lloyd, 13, 15, 253 rodeo, 114, 127, 306 Rogers, E. S., 290 Romans, 110, 111 Romany, 65, 347–48 Roncesvalles, 185 rotten borough, 158 rout vs. route, 149

Roy, Patrick, 47 RRIF, 266 RRSP, 266 Rumanian (Romanian), 65, 347–48 Russian, 65, 113, 350–51 Rwanda, languages of, 315 sabotage, 265 Saint Saëns, 177 sandwich, 88, 194 Sanskrit, 64, 65, 72, 86–87, 90, 110, 111, 114, 125, 143 Saskatchewan, 149 Sault Ste. Marie, 31 Scandinavian languages, 348–50 scatological. See swearing schedule, 88, 113, 149 Schicchi, Gianni (Puccini), 176 schism, 20, 33, 92, 149, 305 schmaltz, 215 schwa, 42–43, 49, 55, 305, 351 Scottish Gaelic. See Gaelic script, preparation of, 229–34, 271–83 See also copy, preparation of segue, 149 semantics, 68–69 sensationalism. See journalism, tabloid Seoul, 186 Serbo-Croatian, 65, 350–51 set, 61, 73, 305 Shakespeare, 112, 113 Shaw, Bernard, (CNN), 285 Shaw, George Bernard, 67, 122 she vs. her, 149 Siamese. See Thai silhouette, 195 simile, 196 simulacrum, 149 Sinclair, Upton, 270 sine die, 150, 208, 221, 308 sine qua non, 208 Sinn Fein, 20, 158, 330 slang, 89, 93–94, 300 Slavic languages, 65, 350–51


Index Slovak, 321–22, 350–51 snafu, 59, 194, 308 Social Credit, 159 sommelier, 215 sophomoric vs. soporific, 150 sorbet, 217 Sotheby, 186 sound bite or clip, 283 Souris, 186 South Africa, languages of, 315 South America, languages of, 315 Spadina, 32 Spanish, 65, 314, 351–53 speaking in public. See speech, a speech, a, 225–42, 244 acquiring the skills to give, 226–27 checking venue for, 232 components of, 227–29, 244 emotive argument in, 228 handling questions from reporters after, 232–33 KISS formula for, 234 lenghth of, 226, 230 preparation of, 227–35 Rule of Three in storytelling in, 235 script, preparation for, 229–34, 271–83. See also copy, preparation of. See also radio and TV stress (nervousness), how to reduce before, 240–41 structure of (“Three Tells”), 229, 244 spin doctors, 225, 257 split infinitive, the, 17, 93, 290, 300 spoonerisms, 79, 89, 106, 306 sports (names and terms), 162–68 sports writers and broadcasters, 162–68 Sri Lanka. See Ceylon St. John, 186 standard English, 237, 328

standard vs. non-standard speech, 39, 328 standards of speech, importance of, 18–20 “Star Trek,” 300 Stern, Howard, 253 Stewart, Walter, 270 Strachan, 186 streeters, 283–84 stress (nervousness). See speech, a stress. See emphasis strife, 122 Strine, 26 Strunk and White, 29, 100, 273, 299 sub judice, 150, 170, 208, 221, 307, 308 succinct, 47, 55, 245, 305, 308 suffixes, 197–98 susceptible to/of, 150 swearing, 26–27, 94–95, 105 Swedish, 66, 348–50 Sweet, Henry, 52 Swift, Jonathan, 97 synonym, 196 syntax, 61 Tagalog, 345 Tagwagi, 337 Tahitian, 316, 344 tail lights, 81 talk radio, 267–68 Taoiseach, 159, 330 Tarbell, Ida, 269, 270 tautology, 274 Tchaikovsky, 177 television. See radio and TV Terpsichore, 150 Terre Haute, 41, 55, 305 Teutonic, 64 Thai (Siamese), 315, 342, 353 that vs. which, 150–51 The Pas, 31 theatre, 151 – 30 – (thirty), 104–5, 106, 306 three, 63, 64, 298


You Can Say That Again! thug, 89, 106, 306 Tigris, 187 timing copy, 281–83, 292 toad in a hole, 216 Tongan, 316, 344 tongue twisters, 241–42 tongue, 89 Toronto, 27, 187, 336 Toronto Star, The, 289 tortuous vs. torturous, 151 Tory, 159, 170, 307 tourniquet, 151 Trinité, Dr. Nolst, 115 triskaidekaphobia, 151 Trois-Rivières, 31 troubadours, 219–20 Trudeau, Pierre E., 78, 272, 156 Turkish, 353–54 tuxedo, 89 Twain, Mark, 32, 94, 242 twopence, 151, 170, 307

inflection, 238 intonation, 238 lingual dexterity, 239–42 modulation, 238 nasality, 236, 239 posture, importance of, 237–38 projecting, 237 resonance, 237, 238, 245, 308 timbre, 236, 237, 238 tongue twisters, 241–42 volume control, 237 voice-over narration, 233–34 vowels, words without, 104 vulgar language, 21, 78 See also swearing

Ukrainian, 350–51 umbrage, 89–90 umlaut. See dieresis Urdu, 65, 335, 345 Uruguay, 351 vegetable, 31 venal vs. venial, 90, 151 Venezuela, 351 venture a suggestion, to, 279 Vera Lynn, 122, 127, 306 veracious vs. voracious, 151, 152 Verdi, Giuseppe, 177 via, 151 Vietnamese, 315, 342 Vikings, the, 26, 110, 111, 126, 127, 298, 328, 350 voice production, 233–244 artificial pitch, undesirable, 238 bad habits, 236–39 breath control, 236, 237. See also breathing

Wall Street Journal, The, 258, 286 ward, 90 Washington Post, The, 101, 284, 289 Watergate, 270 Webster, Noah, 126, 131, 169 Webster dictionaries, 27, 40, 72, 126, 153, 168, 169, 174, 204, 210, 314, 315 Welsh, 266, 329–30 West Indies, 324, 354 Whig, 159, 170, 307 whip, 159 who/whom, 17, 152–53 Wilkes Barre, 153, 187 William the Conqueror. See Norman Conquest, the Wimbledon, 153 Worcester, 32 wort, 90 writing, the history of. See alphabet, the history of our Xavier, 153 xenophobe, 153 Xhosa, 61 Xmas, 90 Yankee, 91, 106, 306


Index Yeats, 187 yenta, 356 Yiddish, 66, 354–357 Yiddish vocabulary, 355–56 yield, 266 You win some, you lose some, 279 you/youse, 24, 33, 115, 153 Ypres, 187 Zamenof, 67 zed, 125–26, 127 zeydes, 356 Zionist, Zionism, 91, 160 zoology, 153, 170, 307 zounds, 27, 91