Some Considerations of Pronunciation, Terminology and Usage

Poinsettia

Since we’ve been iced in this afternoon, I have had time to think about some frequently misused, mispronounced and otherwise sadly used and abused parts of our language.

For a seasonal touch, consider the pronunciation of the word, “poinsettia.” For most of my life I pronounced it as I had heard it all my life: “poin-sett-ah.” But check it out–the word admits of a different pronunciation, one I first noticed my sister-in-law using: “poin-sett-ee-ah.” Occasionally I hear this pronounced correctly in the media and in public, but for the most part it isn’t.

And there’s that long piece of lawn furniture most people call a “chaise long.” That’s a hybrid term, “chaise” meaning “chair” in French, and “long” meaning “long” in English. (Wanted to see if you were napping)! Actually, the correct term is “chaise longue.” You will recall from your high school French that “longue” means “long.” (Stay awake, now.) If you say this term correctly, you will be thought to be arty and pretentious, and that’s what we’re all striving for, n’est ce pas?

I’m exhausted from trying to save civilization as we know it one term at a time. I hope you’ll send me examples of language faux pas and even a few bons mots. Et toi! Laissez the bons temps roulez!

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