Friday, June 22, 2012

Dear English Speakers

Dear English Speakers,

Hi!  I hope that everything's going well in your lives.  Some of you may be busy, so I'll cut to the chase.

Language evolves over time.  Some parts of it evolve quickly while some parts evolve more slowly.  What's interesting is not only how language evolves but why.

For instance, the way you pronounce "Uranus."

Typically, in my own experience, people consider the correct pronunciation to be akin to "your anus."  Which sounds like a reference to a private body part.  Which is something most people don't discuss in general audiences.

Some people are so uncomfortable with saying "your anus" that they come up with other pronunciations.  YOUR-in-us, for example.

You know what's even sillier than snickering over "your anus?"  Being so uncomfortable with a homophone that you change a word's pronunciation.

Similarly, the word "pianist" used to be pronounced "PEE-an-ist."  Said quickly, it could be mistaken for "penis."  Uncomfortable with that, some people now say "pee-ANN-ist."

It reminds me of Victorians being so uncomfortable with limbs that they put skirts on pianos to cover the legs.  To be honest, I don't know if that's something which actually happened or not.  Regardless, it sounds silly, doesn't it?  How foolish, to be so worried about any possible sexual association that you'd ward it off so diligently.

Pronounce it "your anus."  Pronounce it "PEE-an-ist."  Giggle over it if it strikes you as silly.  You'll be fine.

With love,
Frank Lee

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