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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

File Under: Duh

Today, like the day I discovered the difference between loath and loathe, I felt stupid. Today I discovered the difference between discreet and discrete. How do I keep stumbling upon these things so late in life? Do other people find themselves distinguishing basic homophones well into their 30's?

I think it might relate to learning English conversationally rather than through books. As I grew up I was amazed to hear booksmart people mispronounce ennui, while they were amazed to see me spelling it onwee. I guess I grew up assuming that discrete and discreet, as well as loathe and loath, were varying usages of the same word. After all, their meanings are somewhat related.



At 5/15/2007 04:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kind of like that time about two months ago when I learned that "john" could mean something other than "toilet." I felt so stupid. And so disappointed.


At 5/15/2007 11:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For years during my 20’s my constant companion was an 8”x7” spiral composition notebook in which I recorded unknown words encountered during the day, then would look up in the dictionary (meaning and pronunciation) that evening. I still have that notebook, along with the 5”x8” pad that followed it, and the numerous strips of paper and 3x5 cards added since. I still write words on my bookmarks and in the margins of newspapers for look-up.

I learned words primarily through reading, so it was important to me to make out the pronunciation, although how many people actually use “ennui” in conversation? Despite all that John, I was in my 30’s before I realized that “albeit” should be pronounced awl-bee-it. I had been saying awl-bite (probably a throwback to 3 years of High School German).

Don’t feel stupid, just feel educated. The learning never stops.


At 5/16/2007 07:55:00 AM, Blogger Jon said...

I once embarrassed myself in a room full of erudite academics by proudly proclaiming I had read this German guy, Go-eth.

And don't get me started on all the American English I have mangled since I came to live here.

PS If girls have cooties as my sons tell me, why can't it be pronounced like 'cuties'?

At 5/16/2007 09:03:00 AM, Blogger molly said...

Moving to Europe only taught me how out of touch I am with the subtlties of the English language. I've learned a hell of a lot since I moved here, and I'm still learning. It would be folly to think that we would have learned everything we needed to know at NK... and folly to think they'd covered everything...

I hope it never stops!

At 5/16/2007 01:43:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

Man, you got nothing to be worried about...you're operating in a world where folks get "to," "two," and "too" confused!

When I was a kid, I pronounced "determined" "debtor-mind."

I was working at KUOW doing a newscast and pronounced "boatswain"
BOAT-SWAIN (naturally, enough) and the calls came in pouring in from ex-"bosuns."

But, then I was working at a station in Longview, Washington (in the shadow of a nucular plant) and had to read an ad for "Henri's Restaurant"--I made a joke of it, doing eet wiz a Fronch ac-CENT. But I learned later that Longviewians pronounced it "HEN-RY's," so you can't win.

You can only learn.

The verification word is "fuaqmv"
Boy, howdy!

At 5/17/2007 12:49:00 PM, Blogger Walaka said...

John, don't feel stupid about your vocabulary. I am sure you have plenty of other, more deserving, things to feel stupid about.


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