Things We Are Losing

Today Diana graduates from 8th grade, something that part of me scoffs at, uncomfortable as I am with the whole prospect of ritual and pomp. The other part of me, of course, is having feelings. Lots and lots of feelings. And I am proud too—did I forget to say proud?

Truly, surviving middle school (why did we stop calling it junior high, does anyone know?) is something we should  have a parade for, if I'm being honest.

This is all connected, really, with what I meant to write about when I sat down today: awesome, readerly mispronunciations. All those readers who blithely believe there is such a name as Pen-uh-lope, or want to reach the eh-pi-tome. (Yikes, phonetics. I had no idea that this would be so hard to transcribe. Truly, it should be a pod-cast, audio-centric as it is.)

Diana's first humdinger of a confusing mispronunciation was, "But that was before the Kai-ville war." It took us an embarrassingly long time, along with a realization that she was reading Addie: An American Girl, before we realized that she meant Civil. Since then, they've gone on and on, as they do with all heavy readers. They're different (in my biased mind) from adorable baby-accent things like, "Spasgetti," because of the deep conviction that you're just saying something the way it sounds in your head. Certainly, I still cannot read Penelope without first mispronouncing it internally. Ditto epitome. And no doubt there are words I still blithely mispronounce because I have never heard them spoken. I have grave doubts about ebulliant.

But Diana has now scrubbed (with my input, it must be admitted): PRO-phesy, A-cid, Kai-ville. The list goes on and on, and it's only today, when I am weak with this mawkish wash of emotion that I want to say, "Wait! Maybe it should be PRO-phesy! Hold on!" But it's too late.

Congrats to all graduates out there, and weepy parents, and readers, one and all.

5 thoughts on “Things We Are Losing

  1. Congratulations to Diana (and to you!) on living through the middle school years. And, I think it is middle school when sixth grade is included, otherwise it is still junior high. I may be wrong.
    I totally mispronounced Hermione through all seven books, and when I read the first Harry Potter to my daughter, I had to stop reading for a beat in order to get it right. That same daughter did the Pen-uh-lope soon after, so I felt vindicated.

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  2. Congrats to your Diana — and to you, her mother! I love how you wove this post together. It made me smile and remember one of my own literary mispronunciations: Co-low-nel — I learned the correct pronunciation of “colonel,” I swear to God, in my early twenties after reading a Dostoevsky novel and saying it wrong in front of someone.

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  3. I am blessed with three heavy readers, who always keeping me smiling with mispronunciations. My 7yo was lately very betrayed by the word “Yacht”, of which he says “Why isn’t it just spelled Y-A-T??” Why indeed? I didn’t have a good answer for him.
    My 13yo still feels that archives and Archimedes should rhyme in some way. Since it’s Ar-kim-ee-dees, then it should be Ar-ki-vees. Or, since it’s Ar-kives, then it really should be Ar-ki-meeds. However her first pronunciation of them was Ar-chi-vees and Ar-chi-meeds and I think she secretly still believes it to be superior to the truth.
    ConGRADulations (oooo… isn’t that just a little bit like fingernails on a chalkboard?) to Diana! Best of luck in (gulp) high school.

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  4. I still remember being a first grader and, seeing my classmates’ names printed on the board, asked my teacher, “Who is Step-hen?”

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  5. I LOVE those literary mispronunciations!
    However, sometimes as an adult, I remain stymied. The word “quinoa,” for example. I brought a salad to a party and called it kwin OH ah, only to be giggled at and to learn it’s KEEN wah.
    So I guess my Bobbins come by it naturally…

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