Friday, August 15, 2008

Ee tee see

When I was a kid, I learned a lot of words and abbreviations entirely from reading, not from hearing the adults around me use them. (Or maybe they did, and I was just ignoring them.) So I understood what etc. meant from context, but I always pronounced it ee tee see. I didn't know about the phrase for which it's an abbreviation. Later, I studied Latin in school and felt rather silly about ee tee see. (But by that time I was around 12 or 13, so I could look back indulgently at my naive younger self.)

Two more were Yosemite and Thames. As a kid in South Africa, I was of course hooked on comics, but that meant English and American ones, so they were filled with place names I knew nothing about, so I pronounced them phonetically. I once referred to the river as the Thayms and was quickly and scornfully corrected by someone. I didn't have any occasion to mention the character Yosemite Sam, whose name I pronounced Yo-zmyte Sam. (I loved that character and still think he's kinda cool.) Some time after we moved to the U.S., someone mentioned Yosemite Park in my hearing, and a bright light dawned. "It's Yo-semmity Sam!" I said to myself. "That sounds so much niftier!" Or whatever word I used at that time.

There must be a lot of other examples that I've forgotten, and I bet such errors are common with children who learn a lot of their vocabulary from reading and not from hearing the words spoken by the adults around them. I wonder how often such mispronunciations persist into adulthood.


TGirsch said...

For a very long time, I pronounced "rhetoric" as re-TOR-ick. Which isn't that hard to understand, given that it IS pronounced that way when you stick an -al on the end of it. :)

I also used to talk a lot about resauraNteurs, and once I learned the correct way (no "n," boys and girls) it now annoys me when I hear anyone else repeat my mistake.

Of course, ee tee see, is silly. Every unix geek knows it's et-see.

David said...

Unix didn't exist at that time. I'm an old guy. Later, I would realize that it's the operating system of the gods.

I used to think the word was statellite. When I finally saw that it's satellite, I made up some distinction to save my pride. One kind was a satellite, and some other kind was a statellite. I can't remember what the two kinds were, though.

Chris said...

I've long suffered from this as well; I suspect the bookish always do. And for me, it's compounded by the fact that I'm now quite a fan of scotch, which means a whole new batch of confusing words and place names to mispronounce.

David said...

Holm is a Scottish name, isn't it? Is that the reason?

(I manfully refrained from joking that being a fan of scotch will lead to many mispronunciations.)

TGirsch said...

If unix didn't exist yet, you ARE an old guy. :)

I kid, of course, Unix wasn't invented until the 60's or something, right?

TGirsch said...

chris's comment reminded me how I've never been able to figure out why "Smithwick's" (a beer) is pronounced SMIT-ick.

David said...

The w seems to be omitted in a lot of those British place names that end in -wick. E.g., the classic sf novel is pronounced The Midich Cuckoos. I think.

Unix dates from right around 1970, I think. By that time, I was already working at NASA and wondering how to escape from the hellhole that is Houston. (I'll be 65 in October. Ooooold!)