Monday, September 26, 2011

Once a Rarity

 Something has happened to the English language.  Words that weren't up for debate over pronunciation are all of a sudden shifting all over.  The prime candidate is the word o-f-t-e-n.  The majority of American speaking people pronounced the word o-f-f-e-n.  The only people that pronounced the "t" were people from the Boston area and people that thought that they sounded more educated.  In fact, they sound less educated and "put on."  Even the British don't pronounce the "t." What was once a very rarely heard pronunciation is getting more airplay than Taylor Swift.  All over television newscasters, actors, interviewers, sportscasters, have decided to pronounce the "t."  

I find it totally jarring but no where more appalling than in a lyric to a song.  Twice in one week on two separate shows, the singers sang o-f-t-e-n.  Lyrics are poetry and there is a natural rhythm to it.  When you change the sound, the entire line changes and is disturbing to the ear. On Glee, a group of young people sang a mash up of Anything Goes/Anything you can Do I can Do Better.
The female singer sang the incomparable Cole Porter:

                                                                Times have changed,
                                  And we've often ( she prounounced the 'T") rewound the clock,
                                                       Since the Puritans got a shock,
                                                        they landed on Plymouth Rock.
                                                                   If today,
                                                     Any shock they should try to stem,
                                                     'Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
                                                      Plymouth Rock would land on them. 

It's Cole Porter. He didn't pronounce it that way. Ethel Merman didn't, Patti LuPone, Sutton Foster, Elaine Page or any other singer that ever performed the great songs of Cole Porter didn't.  Why now?  

I think that it shows the power of TV.  The more often you hear something, the more it becomes true/common/"real."  There are other words that are cropping up on TV shows.  Have you heard the gerund "conversating?"  No, really, as if it is too difficult to say conversing.  Also, the new word that I have heard at least 5 times by 5 different people on TV.  Are you ready?  I's, as in hers and I's.  Is there a problem with the word mine?  Clearly, the more people hear it, the more people will think it's right and say those words.

I will never forget when I was serving on jury duty and the A.D.A. said ax instead of ask.  It blew my mind.  She went to high school, college, passed the bar and got a job with the New York District Attorney and no one told her?  No one said that the correct pronunciation is ask?  Mind boggling.  

I am my mother's daughter. I am a stickler for English. I am a stickler for grammar, spelling, and pronunciation. I may not always get it correct but I certainly would want to be told.  I certainly wouldn't want to go around saying o-f-t-e-n when I was born and raised in Palo Alto, California and now in my 50's decide o-f-t-e-n with the "t" would be better.  It is people wanting to sound more educated when it is actually the reverse.  

What scares me is that English is always evolving, but there are things in English that I don't want changed.  I like the purity of the language not messed up by slang and bastardization.  That may make me unyielding, but the language of Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Hemingway and others needs to be treasured!

Two Side Notes:

Is it just that I watch Covert Affairs that I think that the freed Americans from Iran are spies?  Why would you be hiking through Iraq and step into Iran?  A dicey part of the world.  What happened to their Garmins?  Grateful that they are freed, no matter what.  Hope they live long and happy lives.

Dancing With the Stars is on again tonight. Don't forget to vote for Chaz Bono.  Let's keep him in for awhile. He actually was pretty good.


  1. Good rant Diana. They're either spies or idiots. My bet is on spies.

  2. love it! couldn't agree more with everything you say. that thing "Joe and I's" is ridiculous. Wow. Spies? I'm so naive it never even occurred to me. I just wondered how anyone could be so dumb. Come to think of it, even if they WERE spies, how could anyone be so dumb? I mean, really????

  3. HA HA HA. Good one. My daughter rolls her eyes at me because, like my mom did with me, I correct her all the time. EVERY time she says "Me and Lauren..." I say quietly "Lauren and I..."
    It's starting to sink in. She corrects herself now. Last week she said oFten and I was like OH NO YOU DI-INT!! =D