I’m commonly mistaken for a Grammar Nazi, but the opposite is true. While I am drawn to the poetic nature of language and I love learning all the parts of speech and the attempts at rules to govern them, I honestly love watching language develop. I’m not insecure about my mistakes, and I definitely make no attempt to speak like some sort of English purist (which is kind of an impossible thing to be). My favorite books tend to bend the rules. Intentional misspellings. Sentence fragments. Swear words. Prepositions at the ends of sentences. I mean, you don’t need rules if they can’t be broken. If what you say or write makes sense and conveys the message you wish to convey, then you’ve successfully communicated.
And while you can assume that I’m trying to silently tell you that I’m in danger/kidnapped/unable to talk if I send you a message with the improper use of “your,” I still don’t go around correcting people. Language evolves. What we call English today would shock and disgust many who spoke the language even just a century ago. Shit changes all the time, so you either ride the wave or get someone else’s surfboard lodged up your ass.
That being said, this wasn’t how I was raised.
My mother, God rest her soul, is still the only person I’ve ever heard of who received a Master’s Degree in Victorian Literature. And if that weren’t enough, she got the damned thing from Duke University. Our house was always filled with books, and she would keep shoving them in my hands to the point of me refusing to read any of them (a decision I now regret, but I’m working on making up for it). I always loved books, mind you, but I wasn’t allowed the same relationship with them as I had with music. In my house, music was to enjoy, books were to appreciate. And I get it now, especially since I have kids. Books need to be appreciated. But not forcibly so.
Don’t get me wrong. My mother was a loving woman with a carefully honed sharp sense of humor. She was an incredible person to talk to and know, and I’m lucky to have had such a mom.
But goddamn if I don’t think of her every time someone says “I’m going to go lay down.”
My mother’s voice slides up from the back of my brain and conducts my voice like a puppet master.
“What are you laying down?” My mother’s words slide from my lips.
I get a look of confusion as I sneak in the old beat-into-my-brain lesson. “Oh! You’re going to go lie down. Have a good rest.”
Middle fingers abound.
It’s shit like that that’s been beaten into my head. But language has undergone considerable changes since my mom died. I’m sure she rolled over in her grave when “irregardless” made it into the dictionary. But that’s how language do.
Another example is when someone says they’re nauseous. When this happens, my mom’s voice pops up in my head, begging me to ask that person to take a shower since their scent is making others nauseated. That’s right: when something is nauseous, they are *technically causing others nausea, most likely from a stench. To be nauseated means that you might just yarf at any moment. BUT! I looked this up in the great Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and it now also includes the newer second definition for nauseous: “affected with nausea or disgust.”
We should’ve buried mom at the top of a hill to help her with all the rolling she must be doing.
Now, what does this mean? What does this have to do with words I say dummer?
Well, in quick summary, I’m just a kid brow-beaten into speaking the King’s English by a woman with the above stated degree, so obviously my upbringing leaned toward the purist and/or British manner of pronunciation. However! I’m not trying to say that I am the definition of correct. I feel I’ve stated my case well enough to be considered understanding and lenient even with the most heinous of grammatical crimes, save for straight up murder of the language. I make mistakes all the damn time, so who am I to judge?
If only my wife’s side of the family felt the same way.
I have no idea which word fired the first shot, but the difference in pronunciation for some fairly frequently used words has caused a bit of a war between my wife’s family and, well, just me. It’s gotten to the point where every Christmas, for at least the past six Christmases, they have included a category in the annual Family Jeopardy! game called:
Words Mike Says Dummer
And everyone jumps all over it, out for my blood.
I’ll admit it, it’s a pretty fun game. What’s adorable and hilarious is that, inevitably, whenever a member of my wife’s family pronounces a word the way I do, they do so in a mocking British accent, not realizing that the polar opposite would be me pronouncing the same word the way they do with a jangly redneck accent. But what’s great is that they disagree. More often than they’d admit, many members of her family pronounce a word exactly as I do. Confusion and anger sweep across their faces as they realize they match up with this “language purist.” I say nothing much when this happens. They inevitably fight among themselves when someone sides with me. All I have to do is sit back, sip on my tea, take a bite out of my crumpet, and enjoy the action.
So here’s the challenge. I want you to take the same test. Look at the list of “Words Mike Says Dummer” below and decide how you say each and every one of them. You might not even realize you say some of these words differently than anyone else. It’s a fun game, and there are no wrong answers. Let me know in the comments whose side you are on when it comes to pronunciation.
How do you pronounce the following words?
Me: Two syllables: Or-anj
Margie: One syllable: ornj
Me: Two syllables: di-late
Margie: Three syllables: di-uh-late
Me: Two syllables: mir-ror
Margie: One syllable: mear
Me: Two syllables: may-or
Margie: One syllable: mare
Youngstown (This is where Margie’s accent is from)
Me: uh-DRESS (stress on second syllable)
Margie: AA-dress (stress on first syllable)
Me: whipped cream
Margie: whip cream
Me: jury rigged
Margie: Jerry rigged
Margie: porky pine
I’m sure there are plenty of others, but we will stop there for today. What do you all say? Do you have any other words you think I might say dummer?