That distance between reading and talking

On a reading group on Facebook someone shared this quote here:

Books - Copy

If you’re a reader you’ll know it – that feeling of rediscovering a word when you hear it spoken out loud.

The thing with reading is that it remains largely a solitary endeavour. There aren’t enough book clubs or reading societies where you get to speak out about your favourite books or characters. And so you read the words and pronounce them a certain way in your head. You do it over and over again till you use them with the familiarity of old friendship. And then one day you hear them spoken out in a whole different manner and it comes as a bit of a shock – like a new person stepping out of a friend’s body. Some are hiding way so innocuously you don’t even notice them till they slip out of your mouth one day.

Sometimes it comes from beginning to read early – when you’re not conscious of each word you read. I never could get words like ‘Mademoiselle’, the French teacher in Enid Blyton’s St Clares and lacrosse, the game the girls played, quite right.

And sometimes it is pure laziness. I look at a word and know what it is and that’s enough. I’m too intrigued by the story to really bother pronouncing it even in my head. I mean, it doesn’t really matter, does it? For instance in the Harry Potter series I never pronounced McGonagall till I watched the film. Oh and did you know that the ‘t’ in Voldemort is silent? Well Rowling said so herself .  Films on books are quite a blessing. They do help us get it right.

There are scores of other tricky words – words from other languages (chalet) or names of places (Brighton, Houston, Nice). And there are more – Colonel and Lieutenant, Corps, genre, epitome and chutzpah and of course marijuana and mojito. Lord don’t even get me started on the food names – Tortillas, Jalapeños … that whole bunch.

The thing is – it doesn’t really matter till you open your mouth. In any case I prefer a well-read person to a well-spoken one. A combination would of course be just perfect.

So which are the words you’ve picked up from books and pronounced all wrong?

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27 thoughts on “That distance between reading and talking

  1. Vinay Leo R.

    Hmm. Yes. I agree. Even now, I don’t know if the way I pronounce few words is the right way or not. Jalapeños was definitely one. I didn’t know the right way to pronounce it till I started watching Masterchef Australia. 🙂 of course, there are some who misprounce a word because of hearing it pronounced in a wrong way by others too. I wonder if it is okay to correct that. 😀

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      It depends on how well you know the person. I usually keep my mouth shut if I don’t know him/her too well. But if I wouldn’t want him to embarrass himself elsewhere I’ll step in and correct the person.

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  2. nabanita

    I always do this – just seeing the word and not bothering to pronounce it in my head…And at times I can pronounce a word perfectly in my head but when I have to actually pronounce it, it sounds so different…But as the quote in the picture you used for the post says, all it matters to me is that I read and know the meaning..sometimes I don’t even know the meaning and just guess it based on the premise or the scene and keep reading 😀

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Ah yes Naba – that’s another thing – attributing a meaning to a word simply by its usage – so you know how to use it but are stuck if someone asks for the exact meaning. The woes of readers!!

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  3. Lata Sunil

    I realised many places I was pronouncing incorrectly. Like – Edinburgh which is pronounced as Edinburrah and all the Burgh’s are really Burrahs. Leicester and Gloucester which are Lester and Glouster respectively.

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  4. Indywrites

    Pronunciation is a tough one, especially when I am teaching it to my kid. So many words to figure out. Chores is my favorite and schedule is another one! 🙂
    Never found 2 people agreeing on the right one.

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Yeah not only are they unpredictable – there is often more than one correct way of saying them. Enough to drive you mad.

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  5. Zephyr

    I am a great one for mispronouncing words. But when I am talking, I ask if that is how it is pronounced, if the other person is knowledgeable and correct myself. English by itself can be confounding without the addition of words from other languages, especially food words!

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Absolutely right Zephyr. But sometimes you’ve no clue you’re wrong. Like with epitome – I simply assumed there couldn’t be another pronunciation. The thing with English is – you can never be sure.

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  6. Sreesha Diva

    I’m surprised you mentioned McGonagall, cos when I started reading this post, all I could think about was that I didn’t know how to pronounced “Hermione” when I first started reading HP.
    Mindy Kaling mentions in her first book about how she once pronounced Jalapenos wrong and her brother and friends teased her about it.
    Sometimes, while reading a book, if the word is too long (this is especially true for names) I don’t think I even read them – it’s all jtfnbhwq in my head 😛

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      You’re so so right. I got Hermione all wrong of course but McGonagall was in the ‘jtfnbhwq’ category :-).

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  7. Shilpa Garg

    Oh, there are a lot of words that I have massacred. The international cuisine has been number one on my hit list. Thankfully, there are various articles and dictionaries which allow you to listen to the word. And yes, movies and television help a great deal too in getting the pronunciation right!

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      I remember your piece when you were in Kuwait and all that food. I had a great time twisting my tongue around those.

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  8. shanayatales

    I recently participated in a discussion on social media about this very thing. My vocabulary far exceeds my pronunciation skills. And yes, movies based on books are a blessing in this regard. For me the big one was Hermoine from Harry Potter – I pronounced it as Her-moin till I heard it in the movie as Her-moin-nee! :/

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Yes me too. Don’t know how I forgot to mention Hermione. I’d say Her-mi-on – just the way it was written. Sounds so weird now.

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  9. Su-sieee! Mac

    So many words I can’t start. I love your post. It’s so true with me. It doesn’t bother me at all when I’m corrected, but I don’t always agree with the correct pronunciation.

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Ah yes that’s another thing – there are often more than one way of pronouncing words. More complication!!

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  10. Vikram Karve

    I still mispronounce words – especially those words I read early in life and mispronounce. But then – thanks to friends and TV – do try and correct my pronunciation.

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