Saturday, January 15, 2011

You say tomato and I say tomaito...

Thanks to Junior G for the inspiration and (again) my children for pointing this one out to me. This thought-provoking and satirical piece demonstrates how individual differences in pronouncing words can have some nasty consequences.

'Milk' or 'Mulk' by Julian Smith.

Here is another (somewhat less confronting) clip from Susanna which shows how pronunciation impacts on language:

And another from Julia about what happens when you get it wrong while trying to speak in another language - in this case, Mandarin.  This one comes from the popular television program, the Big Bang Theory,



Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Where are my bras? (or It's enough to give you pluralsy)

One size does not always fit all.
This question is surely a way to raise the ire of my 16-year-old grammarian daughter who says (after my habitual linguistic faux pas), 'mum, it's NOT bras, it's bra. It's SINGULAR. ONE BRA'. I then answer (rather smartly and smugly, even if it is a non-sequitur), 'well how come it's over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders, then, and not over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder?' (A quick search on Wikipedia has confirmed that the brassiere * is mostly referred to as 'bra', but I am not owning up to that one!)

My 13-year-old is similarly vexed when I ask, 'can I please borrow your hair straighteners'. She self-assuredly answers, 'mum, it's not hair straighters, it's hair straightener. It's SINGULAR. ONE HAIR STRAIGHTENER'. To which I answer, 'well how come it's curling tongs and not curling tong?!'

Don't you love it when your kids correct you?

I expect my long-standing pluralsy is generational and was conditioned into me at a very young age by my mother who always referred to her 'bras' and not to her 'bra'. Perhaps she was using an abbreviated version of brassiere* rather than meaning it to be plural? That's it. She was being sophisticated.

This little linguistic idiosyncrasy was part of a suite of quirks which included unusual pronunciations ('brocol-eye' instead of 'brocol-ee', for example) and culturally adapted words and phrases ('Dr Logan hung his entrails on a brass plaque outside his door').

We can go on and on through life using these family adaptations, not realising how daft we sound until a 16 or 13-year-old corrects us.

Just when we think we have mastered the art of self-correction, though, they can turn the tables once again:

'Mum - did you say straighten your hairs? Because if you did, you are technically correct as there is more than one hair on your head.'

Go figure.

Do share your own family foibles. I'm sure every one of our blogging community must have them. As long as they don't find their way into a public speech or university essay, then they're kind of cute.


* A quaint point I would like to share with you (and I am laughing as I write this) is that we have our own little cup of bra history in Adelaide. Yes, little old Adelaide "down under", in South Australia, at the bottom of the world (or top, whichever way you want to look at it) is home of the sports bra. This was invented by composer, pianist, Adelaidian AND New Yorker, Percy Grainger. Mr Grainger's life makes for very interesting reading.

Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882–1961) from Wikipedia

Post your curly question to the Owl and Possum Helpnest