Ironic Quote from Class Yesterday

“Are there normalforms for the pronounciation [sic] of words?”

Then I said under my breath, but loud enough for the person sitting in front of me, “Like the word pronounciation?”

Then the person in front of me turned her head and whispered, “That word is so ironic.”

When I was in third grade, my young brain was just starting to make associations between words. I knew the word pronounce, and I figured its noun derivative describing the act of pronouncing would be pronounciation. When I heard my third grade teacher, Mrs. Hamlin, say – or, pronounce – it,  I thought she said it incorrectly. You see, Mrs. Hamlin got me into watching Jeopardy!, which came on right after Wheel of Fortune. This was especially fun, because it lengthened the TV lineup on Tuesdays, which included Who’s the Boss? (with Growing Pains and Perfect Strangers the next year) and on Fridays, which aired Webster and Mr. Belvedere.

Anyway, I couldn’t imagine my teacher being wrong, because Jeopardy! is awesome with all their smart people, so I made a mental note that it was pronounced “pronunciation.” Just like how it’s spelled. No O for a blended vowel sound. My tender, eight-year-old brain absorbed that.  My classmate was right to imply how people mispronounce a word describing how words are uttered. And it seems that the person who posed the question holds to what I consider my third-grade association. And when I look up the pronunciations of the word in a current dictionary, two are correct, one of them being the wrong one.

And that’s because everyone else got stuck in the third-grade place in their brains, and somebody got tired of correcting everyone else, so some grand arbiter of the dictionary allowed the faulty pronunciation. I can make some concessions in the evolution of our language, but man, I feel so sorry for English.

So, yes, classmate. My normalform for the pronunciation of pronunciation also happens to be the only true pronunciation in my mind. All others are corrupt and incorrect. Which is what normalform means.

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