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Beware the Misles

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Beware the Misles

Postby narcoleptish » Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:19 pm

Someone sent me this article, no doubt due to a few instances I've had with this subject.

http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca ... he-misles/

My favorite being at a meeting 20+ years ago when friends and I were considering buying a bar. I asked about making changes to the "fay-kade" The bar owner looked at me, blinked twice, and said that changes to the (correctly pronounced) facade (pause) would need city approval.

A friend had a similarly cringe inducing moment with "pa-rah-dig-em" (paradigm) at a cocktail party discussion.
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Re: Beware the Misles

Postby depinmad » Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:23 pm

i had a friend who used to pronounce mediocre "media core"
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Re: Beware the Misles

Postby TheBookPolice » Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:42 pm

Is it just me, or does that story run its entire length without indicating how the reader should pronounce misles?

Rhymes with measles? Grizzles? Missiles? Ms. Lez?
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Re: Beware the Misles

Postby narcoleptish » Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:50 pm

Yeah, I read that paragraph twice and gave up on it. The list itself seemed to have a lot of weak examples.
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Re: Beware the Misles

Postby Detritus » Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:55 pm

TheBookPolice wrote:Is it just me, or does that story run its entire length without indicating how the reader should pronounce misles?

Rhymes with measles? Grizzles? Missiles? Ms. Lez?

Dr. Pullam sez, he sez:
rhyming perhaps with sizal or perhaps isle

And in case anyone is confused, "isle" is typically read as a homonym for "aisle." So the misels = "miles" and misled = "mild."
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Re: Beware the Misles

Postby fennel » Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:11 pm

Awry. (Rhymes with sorry.)
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Re: Beware the Misles

Postby Ned Flanders » Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:19 pm

I knew a guy who pronounced corpsman "corpse-man".
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Re: Beware the Misles

Postby TheBookPolice » Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:23 pm

Correct me if I'm wrong, Detritus, but I believe the good Doctor is telling us that's how it's not pronounced:

But the spelling misled tempts a reader to think it might be the preterite or past participle form of an imagined regular verb misle, rhyming perhaps with sizal or perhaps isle

Either way, this confusion exposes the weakness of that very teachy paragraph.
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Re: Beware the Misles

Postby Detritus » Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:34 pm

TheBookPolice wrote:Correct me if I'm wrong, Detritus, but I believe the good Doctor is telling us that's how it's not pronounced:

But the spelling misled tempts a reader to think it might be the preterite or past participle form of an imagined regular verb misle, rhyming perhaps with sizal or perhaps isle

Either way, this confusion exposes the weakness of that very teachy paragraph.

Ah, but you didn't ask about the pronunciation of "misled." You asked about "misles," and since that word doesn't exist (or didn't, until now), the incorrect pronunciation is the correct pronunciation.

He's a professor of linguistics--perhaps the most senior professor of linguistics these days, since Chomsky has moved on to sunnier climes--so expecting precision rather than clarity is probably safer than the other way around.
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Re: Beware the Misles

Postby TheBookPolice » Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:19 pm

So the word has two significantly different "correct" pronunciations? I hope the most senior professor of linguistics will allow me to reply that this answer appears neither clear nor precise.
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Re: Beware the Misles

Postby snoqueen » Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:56 pm

I have a better name for 'em: "words I don't pronounce in public."

Some of the blame falls on whoever made the word up. A good example is the word meme, which was made up in the 1970s by the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (I had to look that up). Look, Mr. Dawkins, if you want to dream up a word for people to actually use would you for crying out loud spell it so we can guess how it goes, especially we the vast majority of English-speakers who don't know ancient Greek?

And I went years not knowing if it was meemie or meem, and not caring enough (or often enough) to actually look it up. It's meem, I see. I can get along fine without discussing meems.

And some of the blame falls on pretentious words where nobody can decide whether to frenchify it or not. Is your front hall a foyer or a foyeh? I go with foyer, but only if the person I am talking to says it first. Otherwise it's the front hall. I won't say foyeh at all, it gives me the icks.

I think facade is sort of like this. I've heard people in all seriousness discuss fakades (that's facods like the fish, not fay-cades) at length. There's no good synonym that I can think of. Front doesn't quite get it.
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Re: Beware the Misles

Postby fennel » Mon Dec 05, 2011 5:06 pm

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Re: Beware the Misles

Postby green union terrace chair » Mon Dec 05, 2011 9:55 pm

snoqueen wrote:I have a better name for 'em: "words I don't pronounce in public."

Some of the blame falls on whoever made the word up. A good example is the word meme, which was made up in the 1970s by the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (I had to look that up). Look, Mr. Dawkins, if you want to dream up a word for people to actually use would you for crying out loud spell it so we can guess how it goes, especially we the vast majority of English-speakers who don't know ancient Greek?

And I went years not knowing if it was meemie or meem, and not caring enough (or often enough) to actually look it up. It's meem, I see. I can get along fine without discussing meems.

And some of the blame falls on pretentious words where nobody can decide whether to frenchify it or not. Is your front hall a foyer or a foyeh? I go with foyer, but only if the person I am talking to says it first. Otherwise it's the front hall. I won't say foyeh at all, it gives me the icks.

I think facade is sort of like this. I've heard people in all seriousness discuss fakades (that's facods like the fish, not fay-cades) at length. There's no good synonym that I can think of. Front doesn't quite get it.

One problem is when we borrow foreign words and then drop the accents used in the mother tongue. The french don't spell it "facade," they spell it "façade."

Kinda like resume vs. résumé vs. the compromising resumé (the last one is how I commonly hear it pronounced, with the 'e' in the first and syllable short and a long 'e' in the last.
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Re: Beware the Misles

Postby kurt_w » Tue Dec 06, 2011 8:20 am

fennel wrote:Awry. (Rhymes with sorry.)


Ha! I know someone who pronounced it that way. She's an exceptionally fluent and proficient speaker, too, so I thought it was cute.

My nemesis is "comparable". Is it com per eh ble? Or com pare eh ble? Ugh. Dictionary seems to say that either one is acceptable, at least in US English. So why do I shrink in fear every time I have to say it?
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Re: Beware the Misles

Postby Detritus » Tue Dec 06, 2011 11:55 am

kurt_w wrote:
fennel wrote:Awry. (Rhymes with sorry.)


Ha! I know someone who pronounced it that way. She's an exceptionally fluent and proficient speaker, too, so I thought it was cute.

My nemesis is "comparable". Is it com per eh ble? Or com pare eh ble? Ugh. Dictionary seems to say that either one is acceptable, at least in US English. So why do I shrink in fear every time I have to say it?

This is a basic problem with the notion of correctness in language--a general problem, but one that is particularly acute when it comes to pronunciation. Although there are pronunciations that are demonstrably wrong (eg. "comparable" cannot be pronounced "throat warbler mangrove" in anything other than a singular context), that does not mean that there is a single pronunciation that is demonstrably correct. Sometimes this comes about from borrowing, sometimes from misunderstanding the roots or etymology, sometimes it just reflect regional variation, sometimes it reflects the blurring of functional distinctions (i.e. verb versus noun). But as the example of comparable shows, in these situations its a question of preference, not correctness.
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