He Got An-hillee-eight-ed

Unfogged makes fun of Matt Yglesias’ spelling.

I used to have the opposite problem as a teenager: I read constantly but I had no idea how most of the words I was reading were actually pronounced, since they weren’t often said around me. But I kept wanting to use the words to see whether I understood them. An-hillee-eight-ed, knave for “naive”, and so on. I still occasionally drop into an obsfuscating mumble if I’m using a word that I haven’t heard pronounced that often, or a name that I’m deeply concerned I don’t know how to say properly. Old habit.

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10 Responses to He Got An-hillee-eight-ed

  1. isorkin1 says:

    All of the impressive parts of my vocabulary are unusable because the impressiveness of knowing the word would be anhilated by the mangled pronounciation. I used to be a good speller, and then I started studying french, and now I have zero confidence in my spelling. Plus, studying french ruined my ability to “correctly” pronounce words in english that also appear in french: like, what’s the appropriate way to ask for a “filet mignon”? I know the correct french pronounciation, but I can never figure out the appropriate way of distorting it so as to arrive at the english pronounciation. The more I’ve learned the more confused I’ve become.

  2. eb says:

    This reminds me of when I unintentionally revealed just how infrequently I actually talk about literature by mispronouncing the name of Anthony Trollope.

  3. farrellh says:

    “epitome” and “Zeus” were my particular bugbears

  4. joe o says:

    Learning how to pronounce “chimera” was the only positive thing about “mission impossible II”

  5. bbenzon says:

    I think “anhilleeated” is a fine word. I just don’t know what it means, or, for that matter, just how one should spell it. “An-hillee-eight-ed” isn’t it because it’s got three “e’s” in a row and too many internal hyphens. But that spelling does make the pronounciation obvious.

    Yeah, I know the problem.

  6. ebehren1 says:

    It’s not just you, Tim, but thanks for the confessional. English is just a hassle. There just aren’t consistent rules for spelling or pronunciation. Although it it drove me crazy sometimes with its sixteen different variations on the word “the,” speaking/reading in German was always refreshing in its ability to connect pronunciation and spelling into consistent rules. (If you know how to say a word, you can spell it. If you read it, you can say it.)

  7. Paul says:

    Vinyl and Buchanan were the ones I caught the most grief for, but I still stumble across a new one occasionally.

  8. “I read constantly but I had no idea how most of the words I was reading were actually pronounced, since they weren’t often said around me.”

    My experience exactly, Tim. I once confessed on Crooked Timber my long and terribly embarassing use of “Ciao!” to say goodbye. I picked it up from Spider-Man comic books (Jean DeWolff and Mary Jane Watson were always saying it), and it sounded, to my youthful mind, wonderfully sexy and sophisticated and worldly. What all my fellow junior-high school students and teachers made of a 13-year-old wandering around shouting “Kai-oh!” I hope I’ll never know.

  9. sharon says:

    Isn’t this a universal experience amongst people who as kids read books more than they talked to people? But anyway, it’s so nice to know it isn’t just me…

  10. john theibault says:

    I’ve wondered if this problem can’t be addressed these days by online pronouncing dictionaries.

    It seemed to me a particularly acute problem when teaching world history, which is a common expectation no matter what one studied in grad school. Where did the accents fall in the name Rabindranath Tagore? A pronouncing dictionary of major world historical figures, institutions, and places would be very welcome.

    Do you know of anything like that?

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