Lady Bracknell fulminates about errors in speech
Here is what the good gentleman has to say on the subject:
"One constantly hears little grammatical errors in speech, and mistakes in pronunciation. Here are a few of the words most commonly mispronounced:
- Don't say 'the fith of February' when you mean 'the fifth of February'.
- Perhaps should be pronounced per-haps, not p'raps.
- Mischievous should be pronounced mischevous, not mischeevious.
- Vase should be pronounce varz, not vawz."
This is a subject close to Lady Bracknell's heart. She accepts that local differences in accent do sometimes affect pronunciation. Where this is genuinely the case, persons who have not been brought up to use the rules of RP may risk sounding foolish should they deviate from their native speech patterns. Lady Bracknell is also aware that there are some unfortunate persons whose capacity to speak clearly is in some way impaired. These last are, of course, excused.
She would, however, urge those of her readers who fall into neither of the categories which she has outlined above to nurture an affection towards their mother tongue, and to show it the respect it deserves by devoting some care to reproducing it accurately in speech. To assist her readers in avoiding common pitfalls, Lady Bracknell has prepared an addendum to Mr Pocock's own list of mispronunciations:
- There is an 'x' in 'sixth', and it is not silent. Sixth should be pronounced 'sicksth', not 'sickth'.
- Likewise, the 'x' in 'expect' should not be replaced in pronunciation with an 's'. Thus, 'eckspect', not 'espect'.
- The first two letters in 'suppose' do not magically transpose themselves when spoken so as to be pronounced 'usppose'.
- There are four syllables in 'February', and they are all pronounced.
- The same is true of 'secretary', which should be pronounced 'seck-re-ta-ry', not 'seckertree'.
- The first 's' in 'anaesthetise' and 'anaesthetic' is not silent, regardless of how frequently it is ignored by actors in televisual medical dramas.
- Persons who cannot pronouce all the syllables in 'veterinarian' are advised to use the abbreviation, 'vet'.
- There are two syllables in 'police', both of which are pronounced.
(Lady Bracknell recalls with some trepidation an instance from her childhood when her own mother made this very clear to her. Mispronunciation was not tolerated in that household.)
In recent decades, the habit of taking holidays abroad has educated the British palate into a fondness for a wider variety of foodstuffs than was the case in Lady Bracknell's youth. As a result, purveyors of comestibles now stock a veritable cornucopia of exotic items. This can present problems of pronunciation to those who have no experience of foreign tongues. Here are some errors which Lady Bracknell has overheard whilst shopping for groceries on the maid's day off:
- Espresso is an Italian word which does not contain the letter 'x'. Please refrain from inserting one just because you are unused to words which begin 'es'.
- Ciabatta is also an Italian word, and should be prounced 'chabatta', not 'si-ya-batta'.
- Tortilla is a Spanish word, and should be pronounced 'tort-eey-a', not 'tort-ill-a'.
- Gruyere is a French word, and should be pronounced 'gree-yair', not 'groo-ee-yair'.
Those of her readers who share Lady Bracknell's intolerance for sloppy pronunciation are invited to supplement the list she has provided with their own personal examples via the "comments" facility.