Reading

Words I Can Spell but Mispronounce

A couple years ago I was enjoying a small family reunion with my two older brothers. We were playing a card game, and for some reason I used the word chimera in the conversation. Unfortunately, I failed to take into consideration three things:

  1. I had (to my recollection) never heard the word spoken but had only read it.
  2. My brothers are both smarter than me.
  3. My brothers would never hesitate to ridicule me (or, to be fair, each other).

I think I used the word correctly, but I pronounced it “shimmer-uh.” They leaped. They pounced. They swooped in for the kill.

“Is that how it’s pronounced?” asked one, suppressing a smile.

“I don’t think so,” said the other, strangely happy.

I blushed, I’m sure. A thoroughly and devastatingly abusive conversation between them followed. Since then, I don’t think I’ve used the word in speech, but I will probably never forget how to pronounce it: ki-MEER-uh (though I still occasionally put the emphasis on the first syllable).

I’ve heard (or read) that a person shouldn’t be embarrassed at mispronouncing a word known only from reading, as it’s an indication that you’re well read, not stupid. My brothers apparently never encountered that helpful bit of wisdom. 

Unfortunately for me, chimera isn’t the only word I mispronounce (or struggle to remember the correct pronunciation). Here are a few others:

  1. Risible

It looks like it should be pronounced “RYE-zi-buhl,” right? (See what I did there?) But pronouncing the word “RYE-zi-buhl,” it turns out, is “RIZZ-uh-buhl,” which means something ludicrous or laughter-inducing.  

  1. Hegemony

Hi-JEM-uh-nee? HEJ-uh-moh-nee? I can never remember, probably because either pronunciation is acceptable. But to my ears, neither sounds quite right, so I usually split the difference and end up in a verbal no-man’s-land.

  1. Pedagogy

See, I know that pedagogue is pronounced “PED-uh-gog.” Easy peasy. But that makes me want to say, “Ped-uh-GOG-ee,” which is wrong. I have to pause, do a little self-pedagoging (pronounce that any way you want), and remind myself that pedagogy is pronounced “PED-uh-goh-jee.” Golly gee.

  1. Idyll

This one trips me up because I watch a lot of British television. Over there it’s pronounced to rhyme with “biddle.” But I do most of my talking in American English, so I have to take a deep breath and make it rhyme with “idol.” But how in the world do Brits pronounce “idyllic?”

  1. Ignominy

Having survived the ignominy of my brothers’ ridicule, I’m slightly more aware of this word’s pronunciation: either IG-nuh-min-ee or ig-NOM-uh-nee, according to the dictionary. But that second choice just reminds me of The Muppets singing “Mahna Mahna,” so I’ll do my best to stick with IG-nuh-min-ee.

There’s my confession. I’m sure there are more, but these six (counting chimera, even though I doubt that I’ll ever mispronounce it again) are those I encounter most often.

What about you? Are there words you habitually mispronounce? Do tell.  

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Do Writers Read Differently?

Writers are readers. Right? Of course, right. In fact, I’d say that if you’re not a devoted, even voracious reader, you might not want to pursue writing for publication, as reading and writing tend to go hand-in-hand. But do writers read differently than other people? And if so, how? I …

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How Are You Reading?

by Steve Laube

I collect books. I graze through them like I’m at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I sample this tidbit and that. Eventually I get enough to eat or have found the right morsel to consume until it is finished.

It helps make me an eclectic sort. But there are days, even weeks, where I must discipline myself to become immersed in extraordinary writing. It is there where the soul can be fed and nourished.

I came across a quote from the great Charles Bridges, a well respected pastor in the Church of England whose Exposition of Psalm 119 (published 1827) is a masterpiece. A couple years later he wrote a book directed at those in the ministry. But I thought it applicable to everyone who reads. Especially in our modern era of content consumption without digestion.

Ardent minds wish, and seem almost to expect, to gain all at once. There is here, as in religion, “a zeal not according to knowledge.”— There is too great haste in decision, and too little time for weighing, for storing, or for wisely working out the treasure. Hence arises that most injurious habit of skimming over books, rather than perusing them. The mind has only hovered upon the surface, and gained but a confused remembrance of passing matter, and an acquaintance with first principles far too imperfect for practical utility. The ore of knowledge is purchased in the lump, but never separated, or applied to important objects.

Some again need discretion in the direction of their study. They study books more than themselves. They lose themselves in the multiplicity of books; and find to their cost, that in reading as well as “making books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Bishop Wilkins observes, “There is as much art and benefit in the right choice of such books, with which we should be most familiar, as there is in the election of other friends or acquaintances, with whom we may most profitably converse.” No man can read everything; nor would our real store be increased by the capacity to do so. The digestive powers would be overloaded for want of time to act, and uncontrolled confusion would reign within. It is far more easy to furnish our library than our understanding.

May you be inspired to think about what you are reading and why you are reading it.

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