Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I'm sorry...what did you just call me?

I have this remarkably boring data processing job in the multi family  housing industry (which is a lot of words to say apartment/rental homes). My company provides criminal and eviction and credit background checks to our clients (and a bunch of other things that are irrelevant to my job and this post). Pretty much I get to take the raw criminal and eviction data and put it nice and neat into a database for our customers to access (and at this point I think I am pushing the boundaries of what I am legally aloud to say about my job).

This post really has nothing to do with my job, well sort of, but not really.
One of the jurisdictions I am in charge of is Ohio. I process all the individual counties we have for them (155) which is super fun...or something. Anyways, all of the counties have names of course, and for years now I have been processing them and calling the counties by their names as I see fit, which turns out is not always right.
There is a county (actually several counties) in Ohio called Lima. I have been pronouncing it Lee-ma*, like the capital of Peru. It made sense in my head, and I don't live anywhere near Ohio so how would I know the difference.

Well I started watching Glee a few weeks ago, and after about four episodes I finally put together that they lived in Lima Ohio, as in the same place I have been processing at my job, and they pronounced it Lie-ma, like the bean. I felt a little foolish. Still in my head I keep calling it Lee-ma like Peru not Lie-ma like the bean.

That is when I realized I have a problem with things like this quite often. I pronounce things much differently than they are supposed to be pronounced. Thankfully it is only in my head mostly, so I avoid embarrassment.

In college there was a car dealer in Lufkin, Peltier Chevrolet. Their commercials were everywhere and they drove me crazy. In my mind Peltier is pronounced Pel-tee-ay (which is the 6 years of Ferench I took speaking) but they pronounced it Pel-chay. Now far be it from me to correct them on how to say their own name, but seriously? Pel-chay? How redneck can you  sound?

I of course was among the many who could not pronounce Hermione when Harry Potter came out. Up until she sounded it out for Victor I had no idea what her name should sound like. I can't even tell you how I pronounced it in my head because I am fairly sure I just sort of glossed over it, or made something else up to take its place.

Another glaring example of my mispronunciation is Justin Bieber. I do not follow music. My radio is tuned to stations that play things that have been out at least ten years most of the time. So I could probably not identify a Justin Bieber song if you threw his CD at my face. Also I am not a tween so I have no need to know of him. I thought his name was pronounced Buy-ber, because that is sort of how it is spelled phonetically.I started hearing people talking about Beiber-fever and pronouncing it Bee-ber (sort of like beaver) and I honestly thought they were mocking the kid and the tweens. I felt a little silly when I realized they weren't mocking anyone, but that was how his name was said. Oops.

But I am not the only one who suffers from this problem. Ohhh no no no. This is a common problem.
When I was in college, my American History teach Dr. Barringer (also one of my all time favorite teachers) walked in one day and on the chalk board wrote in large letters:

San Jacinto

and then:


Now if you are from Texas you know for certain of San Jacinto, and if you are from East Texas Mexia is almost certainly known (and we were in East Texas). He points to the first and asks the class "How do you say this?" And we all in unison say "San Ja-cento" and he nods and then points to the next and asks us the same question to which we say "Ma-hay-a".

At this point he nodded and set down his chalk and asked us why. Why are two very Spanish names pronounced so differently. Why not San Ha-cento and Mex-ia? Why doesn't San Jacinto get the Spanish pronunciation but Mexia does? I mean San Jacinto is a major point of Texas history (the final battle of the Texas Revolution), why does it lose its Spanish influence? We really had no answers for him, and I don't think he really expected or wanted one. Still it was a question.

I think though that just proves that it all depends on where you are from and how you were raised as to how things are said. When I was a senior in high school we took a theater trip to New York City. One day we were going down to Little Italy/Chinatown/Greenwich Village are, and we had this tour guide who was a feisty little old native New Yorker. As we were standing waiting to be released into the wilds she told us a little general history of the area and then warned us not to go north of "How-Ston" street. We all stopped and looked up at the sign she was pointing at. Houston St. Confused someone said "You mean Hue-ston Street.". She shook her head and insisted it was How-ston. Now we are all native Texans who have had years of Texas history where Sam Houston was shoved down our throats. Houston is one of the major cities in the state. Hell I was born in Houston. We all know with our every fiber of being it is pronounced Hue-ston. Then again she lived in New York her whole life and she knew that it was pronounced How-ston. We went round and round but in the end just had to agree to disagree.

So all in all I think this is a good example that you should not speak until you know what you are saying lest you look like an idiot in front of people.

* Once upon a long ago I had to learn IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) but I have since then pushed that information out to make room for SQL Queries, and formulaic bodice patterning, and the names of the cheftestants on Top Chef. So this is as close to phonetic spelling as I can get.

1 comment:

  1. At UNT most of the science department is housed in Marquis Hall - "Mar-kwiss" Hall. Still makes me twitch, just thinking about it.