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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Lowest Common Denominator

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I know it seems nutty but I am pretty peeved with the dictionary.  (I do know that it's not entirely the dictionary's fault but you gotta blame someone)  I looked up preventative (with that extra TA in there) in order to prove that this pronunciation was wrong.  I was shocked to discover this (mis)pronunciation right in there with all the real words.  True, the definition does say "see preventive" but it is given full actual word status just by listing it there in the first place. 
Frequently new words get into the dictionary because they become so commonly used in our language that we have to acknowledge them.  This is generally nic-names for things, slang, vernacular.  (see: QWERTY)  I don't mind this really.  It is making up whole new words and there is some utility to that I guess.  But I want to clearly distinguish that from lending legitimacy to a mispronunciation.  Preventative does not have any new meaning, it just has a new syllable.  I contend that the original word, the correct word, was up to the task of communicating the concept of preventive.  It was not defective or even too tough to say.  So why are we giving any legitimacy to it's ill formed clone?
To my mind, everything appears to be devolving.  Every where you look there are examples of catering to the lowest common denominator.  If the dictionary is not going to hold the line at actual words, then what will?  The preventative entry seems to say "Well, you all insist on saying it this way so who are we to correct you?"  Um... You're the damn dictionary.  Get it straight please, so I can go back to being superior Ms. Language Girl.  This does not bode well for scrabble, now does it?
I'll tell you what I foresee with a great sense of foreboding in the forefuture.  (I know forefuture is not a word BUT it was a fun alliteration and everyone else is doing it so why can't I?)  I am really worried about nuculer war.  I'm not too sure if it's the same as nuclear war but it sounds sort of scary to me. 
Give me a minute here to go paint my windows black, cover everything in duct tape and put on my protective clothing.
These counter measures are not to protect myself from nuculer war, but from the caustic fall out coming my way after I say this~  Why is it that the leader of the free world can not take a moment and learn to properly pronounce nuclear?  It's right there in the arrangement of the letters.  (The arrangement of the letters is the secret key)
Ok.  I have to admit that I have no personal knowledge of the presidents IQ.  Further, I have no "source" for this information that I can trust to adequately brief me on the presidents IQ.  All I have to go on is what I hear and see on TV.  I don't know the guy (Smart money says neither do you)  but every time he opens his mouth and says nuculer I have to stifle a giggle.  Come on!  He sounds dumb as a stone.
As for me, I will continue to be mortified every time I mispronounce a word and there is a lot of that in my future since I'm learning a whole new language; LawLatin.  (take a crack at certiorari and then you'll know why most of us just say cert)  This may be my social undoing as well.  Nobody likes an uptight language nazi.  On the other hand, after this post, I'll have to contend with an upset spell checker as well.  It doesn't understand nuculer either.


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