Photo credit: @julesdwit.
A not-for-profit media organization supported by people like you.
To Carol from Brooklyn: Can I join your crusade against improperly placed apostrophes? Plenty of stores in downtown Manhattan need your red felt pen...LOL
And to Leonard: thanks for the on-air insult. I'm not rejecting affected pronunciations that are correct. It's when they are NOT correct in the U.S. that I question their use.
For instance, Harper's Dictionary of Contemporary Usage says that in an American speaker, saying VAHZ for vase "is a mark of affectation."
Meme may have become a hot word in the IT lexicon through Richard Dawkins, but it is shortened from the Greek "mimema" meaning "that which is imitated," and it has been use by the social sciences and in literary criticism at least since at least the 70s.
DAY-tuh in America.DA-tuh in Britain.
PLEH-thora is preferred.
To: r from NYC re: contraction in "O'Conner". In both the Irish and the Scottish, "O'" denotes "grandson of" and "Mc'" denotes son "of."
My son and I have an ongoing disagreement on the pronunciation of the word "steriod". I pronounce it with a stronger "e" sound and he insists it's a short "e". My dictionary indicates both are correct. Can you help us reconcile this question?
In regard to a comment on the name of a town of a caller, while the town Milltown NJ may have originated as an actual "mill town", the tranquilizer Miltown (with one L) was developed in, and named after, Milltown NJ.
@The Truth- I think "Happy New Year's" stems from "New Year's Eve".
One great example of the employment of incorrect usage in order to avoid sounding pretentious is Apple's famous slogan "think different."
I think the best instance of change in the accent on a syllable is suspect. Suspect the noun and suspect the verb have a very different sress and have very different meanings. By the way the singular of twitter is to "tweet".
i've just heard you say that in German, the verb comes at the end. It does in Latin, too.
"Fixin to" why???? That is probably used most here in the South, which is why I have sooo many entries!!
When I hear the arguement of "a-PLIC-a-bl" or "A-plic-a-bl" I recall the explanation given in my childhood of Daffy Duck's "des-PIK-a-bl" over "DES-pic-a-bl": Daffy single-handedly (or "single-webfootedly") changed our English-speaking society's standard for proper accent placement on four-syllable words, such as the aforementioned.
"Film" (as in photographic film):
I have heard people from The Islands (Jamaica, for instance) pronounce "Film" as "Flim" or "Flims". These appear to be the accepted pronunciations.
@martina from Brooklyn:
Dramatic Hamster is not a meme
Stop forcing it!
I hear everywhere-
"He ran slower than his friend."
instead of, "He ran more slowly than his friend"
which we all learned is correct.
I've heard this from very educated people, young and old and it is prevalent in the media.
The race horse "Harass" was always pronounced HAR-iss. They were probably thinking about what would need to be said if the horse scratched.
I think the confusion over infamous/famous is related to the confusion over inflammable/flammable.
Also, re: fewer vs. less--on NYS Math tests, they only use fewer and we actually have to teach the word "fewer" to the kids since they have never heard of it and they end up losing points since teachers tend to say "less" as they teach.
When I say I am from Venezuela people ask me back so you are from Minnesota? How is this possible?
Ms. O'Conner: Please look in the book and let the people know the difference between, Converse and Conversate...hint, one of them is NOT a word!
Re: infamous. do you notice a tendency toward "word inflation?" More and more I see people (incorrectly) using a more complex word where a perfectly good simple alternative exists. The one that particularly bothers me is epicenter for center. Almost univerally in the press you hear or read epicenter when center would do perfectly well.
If Pat's thesis is that historical usage renders current like-usage acceptable, she ought not refer to it as "correct."
Oy vay, the Times, it is a-changin'.
"Infamous" probably came to be used as "celebrated" because people were originally using it to be sarcastic and people hearing it misunderstood.
I have 2 favorites. "Aunt" which I pronounce as "ant" (I'm from Chicago) but my teenage daughter, who grew up here, pronounces as "ahnt." "Detritus," which I pronounce as deTRItus, but many people favor DEtritus. I believe I'm correct on that one.
Love this segment!
Like caribbean, what is correct for Himalaya/Himalayan?
My favorite moment on today's show:
"So many people get 'it's' wrong."
That's for damn sure!
especially is endlessly pronounced eckspecially... correct?
The Carnegie family says Car-NAY-gee. I learned this on A&E "Biography". The hall announces Ca-NUH-gee on their recorded telephone system. Also learned on A&E that Pulitzer is PUL-itzer, not PEW-litzer.
Apropos of the lack of recognition of the word apostrophe, a professor in Lansing, Michigan recently told me that in his local high school they do not teach grammar anymore. When he asked why not, he was told, "We have too much to teach. We do not have time for grammar."
awry..... they are saying allright. maybe
Always a pleasure to listen to Ms O'Conner on your show. I laughed when she told of the problem she has when spelling her name and the apostrophe problem.
A WARNING TO RESTAURANTS ON SEVENTH AVENUE IN PARK SLOPE:
I have a red felt pen and I correct signs that contain improperly place apostrophes. This could be YOUR sign. (Seen yesterday: "clam's and mussel's soup", but I didn't have my pen with me, drat!)
Did she just say I think so? and is she actually consulting a book?
Is it data or data?
what is the contraction in Irish last names such as O'Connor?
Re: Preferred pronunciation AND Milltown
I am sure that the "preferred pronunciation" for any particular word is subject to regional, cultural, and other "forces" (for temporary lack of a better word).
The tranquilizer is named after Milltown NJ, simply for the location of the plant that made it (and I'm sure it sounded great as a tranquilizer name to those who er.. named it).
in re the film, "Synecdoche, NY"
Thanks!George Robinson NYC
Almost everywhere -- even among those I would think would know better -- I hear people using a subject (I) as an object (as in BETWEEN HE AND I). Pet Peeve!!!
It is also Happy New YEAR! One year not Happy New YEARS!! When people said this to me this year I was so ticked I did NOT respond.
PlethORa or plethERa?
By the way, I like to spell judgement with an e after the g, but am always corrected by those dropping that e. Why would it be spelled withpout the E?
I am so happy that I am not the only person who spends sleepless nights contemplating inconsistancies in foreign name places. I have yet get my lips to sound Beijing - the Paree of the orient.
Right now, on the NYTimes website, in the frontpage story on Madoff's accountant, appears the following sentence:
"But someone who identified themselves as Mr. Horowitz’ son, Irwin, posted a poem about his father on the day of his death on a Web site called Newwest.com."
Shouldn't "themselves" be "himself", or, too properly, "him or herself"? I would settle for "himself", but never "themselves."
Am I wrong?
Obviously "meme" is borrowed from the French where the same word means "same."
How are plural possessives pronounced? I've always said boys' as "boyses" but I've heard people say it should just be "boys."
and for the love of peter! When you think "gonna" say "going to"!!!
OOPS. the computer promter that drops its "G" is on United (phone) not .com.
I constantly hear everyone saying "Different than", when it should be Different to or Different from. This is because different is not a comparative, like bigger. It would however be correct to say "these two items are more different than these two" (or perhaps "these two differ more.."), as this is a comparative. Am I correct?
Used to be spelled "Pyramus" (sorta like "pyjamas" - I think pajamas is still spelled that way in the UK).
What would be the appropriate pronounciation for "enhance"? There's been a running debate in the family on that word and I'd like to put it to rest. Thanks!
When you think "got" say "have"!!!
ability...... is it better To Sarter or Sartra if you are not foreign enough to get gluttural RRRRRRR?
Isn't it odd that we use umbrellas when it rains?
I MUST KNOW:
British people pronounce 'aluminum' as if it had a phantom "i", i.e. "alumINIUM". Anyone have insights--are there other words in British pronunciation which exemplify this?
TIMBRE IN SPANISH MEANS RING OR TONE, SO MAYBE.
What is the proper way to refer to people from Connecticut?
Deja Vuis always mispronounced as DEEEJA VOOSbut isnt it
When did language start to implicate people in their own mishap? Now we talk about So-And-So going missing as if So-And-So was the doer of his or her own demise.
Miss O'Connor should not say "both are correct". Every word has a "preferred" pronounication, which means the second choice should be avoided by educated people.
In recent years, it seems that people are using the word 'well' in strange new ways, rather than using the ol' stand-by 'good'. Is Patricia aware of this. Maybe she can clear this up. Thanks.
First of all, I refuse to give up on the word "fewer," even though it seems to be dying out in favor of "less." Yes, I'm a dinosaur...
But two more pet peeves:
1) Americans who pronounce "vase" as "vahze", as if this were Britain, and
2) "Harassment" pronounced with the accent on the first syllable. Again, it just seems affected. Can you enlighten us on the correct usage?
Ask Axe Ask Axe Ask Axe Ask Axe Ask Axe Ask Axe. When in blazes will people start to be told Axe is not acceptable !!!!!!! Here in New york the two are interchanged all the time, it makes me nutty !! Or it could be a few other things that contribute to that problem
What about Italian foods:
I've heard it pronounced by native Italians with the final vowel pronounced but Italian-Americans seem to leave it off.
Is always pronounced as DESJA VOOS by americans.
but isnt it vu?
It drives me nuts.
Muenchen = Myewn-chhen. Not that hard, Leonard.
How do you pronounce the word "length"?
Is it correct to pronounce mischievous as Mis -chee -vee -ous? I don't think so but I hear many do so and to me it sounds terrible. Shouldn't it be mis-chi-vous?
"TOWN HALL MEETING" drives me crazy.A group of citizens gathered to discuss important community affairs is a TOWN MEETING.
If it is held in a local town hall, then it is indeed a town hall meeting. But is it held in a school auditorium, for example, it is simply a town meeting. The host on Channel 13's News Hour is the only publicly speaking person that uses the expression correctly.
I hear 'normality' so often these days I'm wondering if it has become or is on its way to becoming correct. Whatever happened to 'normalcy'?
you hear it used (mostly on the lopate show) and outside of an art & music reference, it just comes across like "yada, yada, yada"
O.T. Shouldn't podium usually be pronounced lectern?
(couldn't help it!
i'm a little dismayed at the tween-speak these days. i was at a party recent where everyone was younger in their early 20s. one of the girls kept saying "omg", "totes" (which stands for totally), and "def."
are we really becoming this lazy and dizzy?
Question: Is the h pronounced in vehicle?I hear people say vee-hickle with increasing popularity. I was taught this was incorrect and provincial.
The worst one is applicable.
is it a-PLICK-able or APP-lick-able?
Maybe I missed this and you've already addressed it-In highschool my principle would always pronounce Harass as 'hare-es'?
I wish Ms. O'Connor would explain the origin of the American dialect. Did it come from Irish english?
A tad off topic: Earlier in this segment, Leonard said "look with askance" at someone. Leonard doesn't err often, so my money is on him, but is it "look with askance" or "look askance?"
I've been seeing "meme" on Facebook to refer to various notes/postings that are passed from friend to friend to friend. For example, the "25 Random Things about Me" note was a meme that was written about in the NYT.
Meme: Invented by Richard Dawkins in his book "The Selfish Gene" as a unit of cultural information that is mutatable and transmissable in a way similar to genes in natural populations. Memes with the innate ability to stick to our consciousness and move from one person to another spread throughout the world, not unlike a successful gene. The first notes of Beethoven's 5th symphony is the classic example of a successful meme.
On Ms. O'Conner's last visit (or possibly the time before) a gentleman called in to note a language oriented 'pet peeve' that had to do with polite-ness. I am sorry that I can't recall it exactly right now.
But I thought your response was quite dismissive, bordering on rude.
I thought he had a very good point and it brought to mind that my daughter has reminded me to say, "May I please have a . . . " rather than "I'll take a . . . " when ordering fast food.
This gentleman's observation was in this line of thought and he noted that a date's use of this type of phrasing was a 'deal breaker'.
I have always immensely enjoyed Ms. O'Connor's visits and love to hear my fellow listeners' observations and pet peeves. Please allow us to count on you for an unbiased response, regardless of your personal response. After all, who is allowed to draw the line as 'too fussy' regarding usage?
Personally, I thought he had an excellent point, though, again, I admit to not remembering it exactly at this moment.
Isn't the adjective "awry" meant to be pronounced oh-ree and not ah-rye? Have only ever heard British or Indians pronounce it this way.
re: oftenI understand from speech class that there is General American English and Standard American English. One has the "stopped T" and the other has the "voiced T". So, it would depend on what kind of character one is playing.
Lately I've heard finance and financial as FY-nance and FY-nan-shul in commercials and news stories. When did fih-NANE and fih-NAN-shul go by the wayside?
obama's use of ta instead of to
that sounds to me like a kind of contraction -- i do it to occasionally put someone at ease:
hey, nice't meetcha
Just to clarify. MEME is supposed to resemble GENE. It comes from Ricahrd Dawkins (although it may have another original source). The idea is that a cultural concept acts much like a gene and can evolve, be selected for, and can spread.
How about "ca-RIB-ee-an" vs. "cair-ah-BEE-an"?
There are an embarrassingly large number of words that I pronounced phonetically in my mind when I read them even though I knew how they were pronounced, I just didn't know they were the same word! "EPI-tome" vs. "eh-PIT-oh-mee", for example.
haha. I think what the caller was asking re: meme in the context of twitter:
A "meme" is like an idea gene on the internet: it needs to reproduce itself...
(young nerds everywhere would be familiar with this idea)
The term Internet meme (pronounced /miːm/) is a phrase used to describe a catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Internet, much like an inside joke.
Meme is a concept developed by Richard Dawkins, best known as an atheist but professionally an evolutionary biologist. Meme refers to a transmittable unit of culture, as opposed to a genetically transmittable unit of biological information.
"... I was raised to believe this was a marker of poor education and lower social class. "
Does remind me of how often manners are used by the Upper Encrusted to defend their privileges.
Can you clarify the pronunciation of 'lived' when used in the context of 'that show was short lived'. I've always pronounced it with a long i, but don't hear others doing the same.
Are you sure you're not thinking of 'phoneme,' when you call it a unit of a word?
I think when people refer to memes on twitter, they refer to cultural ideas or usually trends. For example, the "25 random things" on facebook has been called a meme.
HELP - the automatic computer prompter for United.com DROPS HIS G'S - as in go'in. I can't believe it. it drives me crazy.
What does it mean when some people trill the 'r' in words like "three?"
a "meme" is a slang word for an internet phenomenon, such as "The Dramatic Hamster" or other funny vidoes/sound clips/photos/links that people pass along.
Hemingway wrote "A Moveable Feast" but that spelling looks strange.
Today, Is the preferred spelling "Movable," which would be parallel with "provable"?
What about PATINA? Pat-tin-nuh? Pat-tee-na?
Question: How do you pronounce Carnegie Hall correctly?
Answer: Practice! Practice! Practice!
(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)
It's pronounced MEEM, as in semiotics.
I find it amusing that I have been thought some variant of British, i.e., Australian, for being often (terribly?) precise in my pronunciations, as I have a tendency to say "Et-cet-era." But then I use "espresso" and not the always popular "expresso".
I can't believe how many people I have met pronounce Ralph Lauren, as Ralph Lore-ren. What was worse, when I corrected them, (because I used to work there) people continued to mispronounce it.
Based on the way we pronounce "quiche," "nouveau riche," and "microfiche," I disagree with the way Ms. O'Connor pronounces "niche."
Birfday or Birthday? Samon or Salmon?
During the Obama/Clinton primary election, there was the word "devisIve," (with a long I sound), thrown around. Then it was pronounced devisive (with a short i sound).
Is one way correct? Why do things change?
I am irritated whenever I hear people pronounce the "T" in 'often'. I was raised to believe this was a marker of poor education and lower social class.
One thing that has been driving me berserk is the tendency for newscasters (NPR, are you listening?) to stress the second syllable of a word, whether or not that is the correct way to pronounce it. It seems to come from a desire to keep to a certain type of newscasting rhythm.
What is the proper pronunciation of (musical) timbre?
How do you pronounce 'dour'? I was taught it rhymes with 'sewer' but I most often hear it said as rhyming with 'sour'.
I love it when I hear a relatively complex word mispronounced, as it indicates the speaker reads outside of his or her social group.
I find that admirable and charming.
Sometime in the last year, I asked someone, "Is it really pronounced --- ?" and they said, "Gee, I don't know." So there were the two of us speaking outside our social group!
how about Leonard's pronunciation of broad-WAY rather than BROAD-way?
I cringe when people say "ex-et-ra" for Et cetera (e.t.c.)
I don't think you can "silently pronounce," since pronounce means to speak aloud.
umble for HUMBLE...ughhh shall I Go on??
How about the way Anil Kapoor pronounced "millionaire" in Slumdog Millionaire?Each time he said millionaire I cringed.
That goes for Pacific/Specific, Supposed/Supposably also!
If I hear one more person mispronounce NUCLEAR I think I shall scream!!
US vs Brit pronunciation of princess is interesting.USers say PRINcess (and PRINcesses)
Brits say prinCESS (and prinCESSes)
Hoping this falls under the topic of pronunciation: along with many people I know, I was taught as a child to spell the word dilemma with a silent N: "dilemna".
After spending much of my life being one of the proud few who knew the "correct" spelling, I've had my comeuppance, and finally accepted that it's dilemma.
Apparently the Greek origin of the word is "di" and "lemma" (two horns, according to a co-worker), so the origin of the N spelling is mysterious.
For years I've silently pronounced the word "dilem-Na" to remember the spelling, which it turns out is totally wrong.
Rene, infra- is a prefix meaning "beneath" or "below"; it's from latin, not ebonics. Infrared is another example. Intra- means within.
WHERE DID "INFRA" COME FROM?. I ALWAYS THOUGHT IT WAS INTRASTRUCTURE, EVER SINCE I WAS LITTLE, I NEVER HEARD THIS TAUGHT IN SCHOOL OR IS THIS EBONICS.
Email addresses are required but never displayed.
Leonard Lopate hosts the conversation New Yorkers turn to each afternoon for insight into contemporary art, theater, and literature, plus expert tips about the ever-important lunchtime topic: food.
WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820 are New York's flagship public radio
stations, broadcasting the finest programs from NPR, PRI and American Public Media, as well as a wide range of award-winning local
programming. WNYC is a division of
New York Public Radio.