Cephalogenic

or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

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Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Either/Or

A friend of mine says "pacific" when she means to say "specific". (It's not just her, either; I knew someone else who did exactly the same thing.) She doesn't have a speech impediment or anything; she just appears to think that's how the word is pronounced.

What I can't for the life of me figure out is, how did she come to think this? She must have heard other people using the word "specific". Does she think they're all wrong? Does she think there are two ways to pronounce it? Or does she just not register that she's doing it?

If you need further proof that it's at least a relatively common error, you could look here, which is the "oh, and another thing" page for the exceedingly useful Common Errors in English site.

Howsomever.

I couldn't help but notice that one of the errors listed on the supplemental page is the use of "abolishment" where "abolition" is presumably meant. The problem is, "abolishment" is an entirely correct word, unimpeachably English; in fact, it's just about exactly as old as "abolition", as both date from the early 16th century. (The same is true of "admonition" and "admonishment"; both correct English, both very old, both about the same age--and even older than "abolishment", with "admonishment" dating from 1300.)

Saying something is wrong in English can be a judgement call. It's the opinion of the page's author that "howsomever" is flat-out wrong, though it's dialectical and well-established; he's welcome to his opinion, with which I disagree. But to say that "abolishment" is wrong is, well, wrong.

2 Comments:

Blogger Tony Pius said...

I am convinced that people leave off the "s" because they hear the word for the first time in the phrase "this specific." The elision makes them mentally assign the "s" to the first word instead of to both. (Or they hear "the specific" and misparse it as "this [s]pecific.")

As someone who has had the converse problem -- pronouncing words wrong because I'd read them but not heard them -- I have a little sympathy.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 2:58:00 PM  
Blogger pyramus said...

Me, too. For years and years I thought "mores", as in "manners and morals", was pronounced as one syllable, like "more" with an "-s" on the end. It's not a word that you hear every day, but if you read enough, you're going to run across it, and looking at it is no help.

I also thought "debris" was pronounced "DEB-riss". I'm fairly sure I never actually said either of these aloud before I discovered how they were properly pronounced. I hope.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 3:10:00 PM  

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