Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The new Imperial pronunciation

We liked William Grimes when he was the food critic for the New York Times, and especially when he was keeping a laying hen in his urban back yard. But now he's a book reviewer. And while today's review of "The Stories of English" by David Crystal is innocuous enough, we wonder why he felt the need for this pleasing nod to English, Dubya style:

Those of us who tut-tut when "nuclear" comes out "nucular" need to be reminded that polite Victorians pronounced balcony with the stress on the second syllable, like baloney.

Isn't it obvious what the difference is here? The bal-CONY utterance is merely a stress on a different syllable. But Dubya's version of nuclear adds syllables that appear nowhere in the actual word. And then of course there's the matter that when you're trying to sound all stern and resolute and presidential and un-French about nuclear weapon threats, it probably helps your credibility if you're pronouncing the word properly.

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