Mispronunciations

OK, I know that the English language is complex. Spelling doesn’t always correspond with pronunciation, and vice versa. But one should expect TV and radio journalists, and especially experts in various fields, to pronounce the terms relevant to their topics correctly.

In California and much of the great West, we are experiencing a terrible drought. Perhaps it is in part a function of geologic climate cycles, but it is certainly exacerbated by human related activity. Spewed exhaust from vehicles, major industrial factory and power plant emissions, as well as less evident sources of global climate change with overall planetary warming all undeniably contribute to the degradation of our environment, including the Western drought. So what does this have to do with pronunciation?

Some experts (and others) are recommending desalination on a large scale: taking water from the ocean, removing the salt (and other impurities), to generate potable water. I repeat that the process is called desalination. It is not “desalinization”. Every time I hear someone talk about “desalinization” I grind my teeth.

Other mispronunciations also drive me nuts. How many times have you heard people say “deteriate” when they mean deteriorate? I’ve heard TV news people mispronounce the names of local cities. The city of Tujunga is pronounced “tuh-hunga”, not as it’s spelled. The city of Alhambra is not pronounced “Alhombra”. And Cahuenga (a street in Los Angeles), is pronounced “Cah-wenga”, not “Ca-hunga”, In each of these cases, I’ve heard locals mispronounce the names.

Then there are the colloquial mispronunciations. In Los Angeles County, the city of San Pedro is pronounced “San Pee-dro”, not “San Pay-dro”. When anyone uses the latter pronunciation, you know immediately that ”they’re not from around here”.

As a physician, I’m used to hearing frequent mispronunciations on medical television programs. “Dilatation” instead of “dilation” is an error made not only on television but also by medical personnel. (Pupils and the uterine cervix don’t “dilatate”. They dilate.) Sometimes medical mispronunciations can be hilarious. I’ve heard all of the following: “Smilin’ mighty Jesus” for spinal meningitis. “Fireballs of the Eucharist” for fibroids of the uterus. “Cedars-Cyanide Hospital” for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

There doesn’t seem to be much we can do about all this – it’s been going on as far back as anyone can remember and will probably go on forever. But, hey, do yourself a favor and check out the pronunciation of terms that are new to you. If nothing else, it’ll save you from appearing ignorant to those more knowledgeable within earshot.

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