Sunday, February 1, 2015
A SHORT PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
If you're like me, you read a lot, which means you know a lot of words - what they mean, how they're spelled - but don't necessarily know how to pronounce them all, which means that you're embarrassed to use them in conversation. Well, if you're one of those people, then I'm about to change your life as mine was just changed yesterday. Because yesterday, my friends, I stumbled across the most amazing website ever created. Are you ready? Then go to www.howjsay.com. Now type in a word... any word, as long as it's one that would be found in the dictionary. And lastly, feast your ears on the cultured, slightly British, disembodied voice pronouncing it for you!!! Is that the most awesome thing you've ever experienced? It certainly was for me. I started with cochineal, which is the subject of the book I'm reading and which led me to the site in the first place, but then I went on to immediately plow through nascent, reconnoiter, insouciant, and a host of others. Not that those words come up in every conversation, but you never known when the situation might arise, and isn't it always best to be prepared?
You're very, very welcome for this incredibly useful snippet. Let's all pronounce our words correctly from now on, shall we? Oh, and that reminds me of s a story.
It was 1998. My daughter was two years old, and my son was nine, and HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE had just been released by Scholastic in the United States. My son had read it and loved it, and somehow I learned that J.K. Rowling herself was going to be signing copies of the book at my local Borders bookstore. For some reason I can't now recall, my son couldn't go, and my husband couldn't go, and I could go to try to get the book signed for Nathan, but I had to bring the baby with me. Which was fine, really, because even though I knew there would be a tremendously long line outside the store, it was warm and sunny out, and I went equipped with all of my Mommy Stuff: crayons and drawing pads (yes, my daughter was a budding artist even then) and snacks and books and who knows what else. Well, the line was even longer than I had anticipated, and after waiting for two or three hours in the parking lot we were turned away before even getting close to the store itself. And all of that would have actually been okay, if it weren't for the man on line directly behind me.
Oh, he seemed nice enough, and he had brought his three school-aged children, and they all seemed to be having a great time together, and so on and so forth. But then. Then he took out his copy of the book we were all waiting to have signed, and he proceeded to read aloud from it to his kids. AND HE THOUGHT THAT "HERMIONE" WAS PRONOUNCED HER-ME-OWN.
I can listen to someone say HER-ME-OWN once, twice, perhaps ten times. But it was relentless. I tried to ignore it, but he was reading very loudly, as if pleased with his prowess. Thank God, my daughter was being extremely well-behaved, which helped, but not enough. My neighbor read on and on and on, and it began to feel to me as if every other word he read was Hermione's name, and no matter how I braced myself, each time it felt like fingernails scraping on a blackboard. HER-ME-OWN. HER-ME-OWN. I could think of no way to correct him without (1) embarrassing him in front of his children and (2) screaming like a lunatic, so I just stood there for several eternities, confining the screaming to my own head, until finally we all got sent home.
You see the lesson here? Don't be that guy on line saying HER-ME-OWN. Whenever you come across a word in a book that you don't know how to pronounce, what do you do? That's right. You go directly to www.howjsay.com and look it up. And someday, someone standing on a line behind you will thank you.