Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Okay, so we can't get her on the pronunciation, still...

Evidently, noo-kyu-lar, as a pronunciation of the word "nuclear," is a form of something called "metathesis." Not a form of ignorance. Damn.

My gold medal winning Ikea shopper (she's quite handy) sent along the following from Slate, Wiki, and this article in The New York Times (I have to mention that The New York Times article misquoted Merriam-Webster's form letter on October 13th , corrected itself on October 20th, making another error, which it then corrected on October 27th. That's both thorough and... not.)

Okay, back to metathesis—the transposing of two sounds. The examples given include "iron," which we all seem happy to pronounce "eye-ern" as opposed to "eye-ron," and "comfortable," which we hear just as often pronounced "cumf-ter-bul," as we do "cum-for-tuh-bul," without wincing.

There appears to be both a definition of metathesis (on Wiki, it is considered a speech error consisting of swapping phonemes) and a sort of an explanation—that is to say, some words get distorted because certain sounds occur more frequently than others. In the instance of our good friend "nuclear," the argument is that the "u-lar" word ending is much more prevalent than the "lee-ar" word ending.

I might argue that this particular corruption of enunciation is merely a spectacular example of a candidate hopefully playing to the lowest common denominator in an attempt to distinguish herself as the most unique. But that's just me.

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