Thursday, July 09, 2009

Where did that "x" come from?

For the past few months, I've been sitting in front of a television while working on the laptop computer (the virtues of trading my mother her position at the desktop, so she can use my scanner to back up all the old family photos on disk). My preferred channels have been news and really old movies (Gad! how I love "Philadelphia Story" and "Shane"!). Unfortunately, I've noticed a common problem among many of those pretty people at FOX News... Nobody has ever stumbled over a copy of the old NBC pronunciation guide and studied it.

For example, when using the word "contract", they haven't bothered to ascertain whether the application is as a noun or a verb. They simply give the first syllable the emphasis, regardless of its application. And the problem doesn't lie only with the FOX foxes... I've heard it at the other networks and they, too, mention "CON-tracting the influenza virus." Really? I ask aloud. How did the virus sign said agreement? Or was it strictly a verbal contract? Folks, the verb has the emphasis on the "tract" part.

But more irksome to me is the now commonplace -- and supremely pre-adolescent -- mispronunciation of the lovely Latin term for "and so on." People, people, there is no "x" in et cetera! You may be accustomed to slurring out excetrah, but that's neither correct pronunciation nor even a word at all. It's two words, the first being "et", just like what you done did at dinner last Sundy arternoon, at the Fourth of JU-Lie. Afore the fireworks, you et an' et an' et and then, to watch the festivities, you cetera while in the lounge chair. Try it now: ET. CETERA.

It's really very simple.

If, even now, after viewing this page, it is a puzzlement, go buy a copy of "The King and I" starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, listen to the king, and repeat after him until you get it right. I promise you, aside from hearing and seeing the exquisite Mr. Brynner saying the phrase, you'll get a big kick out of the show, and you might even learn a few fun tunes, a few swell stories...

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

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