Those of you who may have read my profile will remember that I said that my children are going to love reading if it’s the last thing I do.
That’s because I believe that when you read fairly widely and follow it up with listening to items (news and otherwise) from various sources, it helps you to not only speak well, but to pronounce words correctly.
It’s been a few years now, but I remember hearing a local newscaster declare that a government delegation was going to a place called “Burns Airs”, and I wondered where in the world that was until I realized that the group was travelling to Buenos Aires in Argentina.
I don’t think that the announcer realizes that she hasn’t ever lived that one down, because whenever my sister and I see her, her actual name isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
Even though names can be easily mispronounced these days what with all the exotic spellings and punctuation contained in modern-day monikers, people still answer to old fashioned ones like Penelope. But it’s important to know where the accent falls, so that even though the spelling is close to antelope, it isn’t pronounced like it.
But even if you don’t want to be a radio announcer, a teacher or a public speaker, the fact that you may have some challenges when it comes to pronunciation may eventually catch up with you.
A University of Indiana student was a contestant on a recent episode of Wheel of Fortune. With a million dollars and a trip on the line, he solved most of the puzzle by himself with the words, “Mythological Hero Achilles”. When it was time to read the actual words to get his prizes, he mispronounces the last word. You could hear a pin drop after the applause faded away – because everybody else heard the error.
You could feel his embarrassment, not to mention the pain he must have been experiencing from kicking himself, when the buzzer sounded signaling a wrong answer. The player to his left walked away with the win when she “solved” the puzzle simply by pronouncing the word correctly.
I felt really bad for him, because I’m pretty sure that he’s seen the word before – but I think I know what happened.
Sometimes when I’m reading I may come across a word that I don’t know, but I don’t immediately consult the dictionary for its meaning. And sometimes, after I’ve read a few more pages I may forget about it entirely and never go back to check out what it means, never mind how I’m supposed to say it.
So I was willing to give him a pass.
After his first gaffe however, this guy had several strokes of luck. He was successful in one round and then gave away the rest. Getting the chance to solve most of another puzzle, the providential one to his left, again swans in when he ignores an important clue which he would have seen if he had taken the time to read it.
The final straw for me came when he made a poor choice of words and decided to spin the dice instead of rolling it.
But I think he’ll learn the difference because that’s what he’ll have to do with all the punches he’s likely to get since he’s going to be the butt of quite a few jokes for a while.
So I’ll keep encouraging my children to read not only because it’s fundamental, but because mispronounced words can cost you – big time.