March 26 was Make Your Own Holiday Day. Really. Look it up. I've been searching for a catchier name than "Pronounce It Right Day." In the process, I checked out the difference, if any, between correct and right. Most sources say there is none. Others state that correct is more formal and remind us that correct means universally agreed upon, while right can have a moral implication: "Do the right thing."
So we can call March 26 "Pronounce It Correctly Day," if you prefer. A bit stuffy, I think.
I chose the subject because so many readers have written me about mispronunciations. I even have a reference book, "The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations" by Charles Harrington Elster. I blush to write that I randomly opened the book and found two words I routinely mispronounce. I'm afraid to turn more pages.
The words I've been mangling? The first is culinary. The u is long, sounding like the letter q. Many of us pronounce it with a short u, and some dictionaries now allow that as a second pronunciation. Be sure that you don't pronounce that first syllable "cool." That's not allowed by any dictionary.
On the same page is the second word I've been mispronouncing: cumin, the spice. And I use it often. It should be pronounced with a short u, rhyming with summon instead of human. When you head for the spice shelf, say "I'm comin' for the cumin."
A few pages earlier in the c's I found some words I do pronounce correctly, including coyote. That's because Elster says we can say either ky-YOH-tee or KY-oht. The first is now the recommended pronunciation, but the second is OK and is heard most often in the Western United States. So we're good both ways. Or simply say, "Go 'Yotes!" (Yes, I'm a College of Idaho graduate.)
On to readers' peeves: Mary Morris put at the top of her list the habit of pronouncing our fair city "Boy-zee" instead of "Boysee." She also wondered if the word yes had been banished, commenting that all she hears these days is yeah. Mary also commented on the abuse of the word "moot." Moot, rhymed with boot, has two distinct meanings: subject to debate or doubtful or arguable; and, in law, without legal significance through having been previously decided or settled. But it doesn't rhyme with cute.
Jo-Ann Kachigian alerted me to the frequent habit of news announcers calling their weather forecasters "meterologists," as if they read meters.
"Meteorologist" should be pronounced with all six syllables: MEE-tee-ur-AHL-uh-jist.
Peter Hirschburg offered the word coupon, which comes from the French and should be pronounced KOO-pahn, although it is often spoken as KYOO-pahn. Elster noted that no dictionary he found listed the "q" pronunciation first and stated that he could only find two orthoepists who sanctioned its use.
That of course led me to look up orthoepist (or-THO-uh-pist or OR-thoh-uh-pist) - an authority on proper pronunciation. Obviously I am not one.
I often give speeches about word use. I won't allow my random discovery of my errors to silence me, but I intend to be more forgiving of others when they make what I consider gross mispronunciations.
Now I'm mulling my choice of names for this holiday.
National Orthoepy Day? Maybe not.