Archive for March 5th, 2021

Spelling Optional

Have schools just completely given up teaching kids to spell?  Because it seems that nowadays, people coining neologisms just spell them any way they feel like without any regard for pronounciation whatsoever.  It might make sense (it’d still be wrong, but at least understandable) if these dolts only interacted with each other via text and never, ever pronounced any of these words out loud, but that isn’t the case; if anything, many of them prefer to watch videos rather than learn via the written word.  Intentional misspellings have long been common in branding, but at least the brand spelling could usually still be pronounced correctly; “Kool-Aid” is pronounced the same as “Cool-ade” would be.  But one of the brands of cannabis edibles I often find in our house is called “Flav”, apparently prounced “Flave”; there was a ’90s rapper whose stage name contained the same linguistic abortion.

Silent E is not an optional rule, as Tom Lehrer reminds us; he even warns against adding an “x”, advice apparently unfamiliar to the halfwits who coined the wokism “Latinx”, a construction which manages to be an offense to two languages.  This may come as a shock to those who believe the name “Xavier” is pronounced “ecks-ayvier”, but the letter “x” is only pronounced “ecks” if set apart by a space or hyphen, as in “x-ray” or “X factor”.  “Xylophone” is not pronounced “ecks-why-low-fone”, and “box” doesn’t rhyme with “Bowflex”; why then do the rather dim imagine “Latinx” should be pronounced any way but “laa-tinks”?  And how the devil do its adherents imagine “womxn” should be pronounced?  I can’t even think of a wrong way to vocalize that.  But the idea that adjacent letters can be prounounced as though there were some kind of punctuation between them isn’t limited to “x”, oh no;  I regularly see people pronouncing the neologism “cishet” (a contraction for “cisgender heterosexual”) as “siss het”, which it cannot be because “sh” is a digraph, a pairing of two letters that make one sound.  “Washing” is not pronounced “waass hing”, and if you want the coinage to be pronounced the way it commonly is, it should be spelled “cis-het” at the very least.  Suffering Sappho, people, I have no aversion to neologisms; I use plenty of them myself.  But doesn’t English have enough exceptions to rules of spelling and pronounciation already without y’all adding new ones totally unmoored from either tradition or logic?  Words mean things, and so do spellings.

POSTSCRIPT:  A reader has pointed out that “mishap” is pronounced in the same way as “cishet”, so it’s an unusual but not-unheard-of pronounciation of that combo.  I therefore rescind my criticism of that one, though I personally still think it sounds awkward.

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