Monday, February 14, 2011

Save the Words!

My perky friend wrinkled her nose in disgust as she stood haughtily in her bell bottoms and Dr. Scholls sandals. “That’s ignert,” she scoffed, flipping her hair as she turned away from the nerdy kid who had offended her.

The insult caused me to ask my Mom that night, “What does ignert mean?” It sounded familiar but I couldn’t figure out what my friend had meant.

“She means 'ignorant.'” Mom rolled her eyes. “She’s just saying the word with an accent.”

My young mind didn’t understand why someone would so drastically mispronounce a word, but after that, I chose to say it, too. I mean, the one time I did say the word correctly they looked at me like I was from another planet. Or at least another state.

There are so many words that are mispronounced where I grew up in southern Indiana. Yes, I had an accent back then like everyone else, which was painfully pointed out to me when I visited my cousins in the northern part of the state. But as I grew aware of that accent and the differences between the pronunciations and spellings of the words around me, I slowly pulled myself out of the accent. At least mostly.

Some of my family members say “kittle” instead of “kettle,” and “Huh-why-yuh” for “Hawaii.” I’ve heard many people around there pronounce those words that way. And when I think about it, it is an easier way to speak. You don’t have to open your mouth up as much to say the words that way. For a long line of hard workers and people who woke before dawn for chores, it makes sense that they would save their energy for the more important tasks.

There’s a town in southern Indiana that I always heard of, called “Sigh-ree.” One day when I saw it on a sign, imagine my surprise to see it was actually “Syria.” And Versailles, in northern Indiana, is pronounced just as it’s written: “Ver-sailes,” instead of the French pronunciation.

Language has always fascinated me. I love the differences for words across the country, like using “gum band” instead of rubber band, lightening bug vs. firefly, or couch vs. sofa (or “davenport” as my Grandpa used to call it). The History of the English Language class I took in college was an eye-opener.

It’s interesting how words come to be, how they’re used in popular, everyday speech, then fall out of use and become extinct. The website is dedicated to preventing the loss of words that are about to be removed forever from the Oxford English Dictionary. The site is fun to browse through, and then you can do your part to save an endangered word by “adopting” one and promising to start using it in your everyday speech.

For today, I adopted the word “jobler.” It’s one that could be used quite a bit in today’s economy. It refers to a person who does many small jobs. I hope I keep my job and don’t become a jobler! This weekend my husband and I are going to be joblers in our own house. There – I did my part by using the word twice. Save the words!

1 comment:

  1. Alyx, right?! She used to drive me crazy with "That's ignert!" I feel exactly the same way about words and am just as fascinated! It's nice to have a kindred spirit in that area. Thanks for sharing!