Hyperventilation, hypersensitivity, hyperactivity, hypertension…everybody’s hyper these days. But there’s one “hyper” that is particularly dangerous in Finkville.
Today’s hyper: hypercorrection. It happens when a person, in an effort to say something correctly, overcompensates and ends up adding more to the word or phrase than what should be there.
While there are several ways to linguistically hypercorrect, today we shall focus on Americans using non-English words. Ready?
- It’s smor-gas-bord. Smor. Kind of like the graham cracker and marshmallow and Hershey bar thing you used to make over the camp fire. Smor – gas – bord. Not shmorgasbord. Comes from the Swedish smörgås (sandwich) and bord (table). [In Swedish, it is the combination rs that is pronounced ‘sh.’]
- Taj Mahal. How did you just say it in your mind as you read it? Probably the way 99.9% of all Americans pronounce it: like the name Zsa Zsa Gabor. (Remember her, fellow Old Ones?) Actually, native Hindi speakers (so I was told by one — a college student back in the early 80s) say it like so: Tahdj. Rhymes with Dodge.
- Same deal with the Chinese city of Beijing. In Mandarin, it’s pronounced Bay-Jing, as in “Jingle.” Here is the audio proof. And while we’re on the subject…
- Parmesan. Ok, this one’s tricky. “Parmesan” (pronounced just like it’s written — sounds like Amazon) is an Americanized version of the original name for an Italian cheese, made in the Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantua provinces, called Parmigiano. Now don’t go Frenchifyin’ it — it’s pronounced par-mi-JAH-no. Choose one or the other, but please don’t zhu-zhu them together and say, with a French flair, parmezhan. I keel you.
- How about Xavier? There’s a university in Ohio by that name, so I hear it a lot. (Uh, notice “a lot” is TWO words…) It’s pronounced Zay-vier. Like xylophone and Xerox. Or you could say eks-ylophone and Eks-erox, if you wanted to. But then I would hit you.
But seriously, folks. I really do share the Schmenglish posts to remind my own bad self to be careful as much as anyone else. Heck, I struggle with a word or two, now and then. My worst (and repeated) offense: imaginative. It’s never looked right to me. I have been caught out by the spell checker several times after writing a paper in which I absentmindedly used imaginitive. It’s a dumb error, too. Just think “imagination” and change the last 2 letters. But noooOoO. So, see? I am not a perfect “everyday” speller. Almost…but not.
I just believe that how we write and speak as a nation says a whole lot about how we think and what we hold dear. A country’s language is a huge part of its legacy; ya just don’t mess with that.
Fink out (of words for today)