Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Word

1 : loose material (as rock fragments or organic particles) that results directly from disintegration
2 a : a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away : debris b : miscellaneous remnants : odds and ends
I have a kind of funny story to add with regard to this word.

My son Jeremy has always been a fairly advanced reader. When he was quite young, he was able to read and understand contextually words with which he had no auditory experience. This led to many, many amusing pronunciations. Now, really, this is nothing new with kids learning to read, nor is it exclusive to my dear son. However, it has led to a tradition of making pronunciation jokes at poor Jeremy's expense. The two we've gotten the most miles out of, is that in our family, we all have nassle passages and sinooses. (nassle: a as in cat; sinooses: oo as in moose, and the second syllable has the emphasis.)

My husband, Joe, was very similar as a younger reader. When we met in our early twenties, I was often laughing at him. It just cracked me up. Here he was, this guy who already at that age was widely respected for his knowledge and scholarly abilities. And yet he carried with him all these funny pronunciations.

For years now, I've periodically used a word I'll here call detrius, to refer to the various flotsam of any given situation. This is a word I remember learning from my husband. There came a point a year or more ago, at which I wanted to use this word for a blog entry. Spellcheck wouldn't let me use it. There wasn't really another word suggestion, if I remember right. I searched just about every on-line dictionary, and still no success. I tried multiple spellings. Nothing. Finally, somewhere during this process, some dictionary offered "Did you mean detritus?" Well, I looked it up and sure enough, that is the meaning I was seeking. I couln't believe it. I'd been saying it wrong all these years!

So once again, Papa Joe, had a pronunciation error. But this time he drew me into it, too. How embarrassing!

I wonder, is it more worthy of embarrassment to chronically mispronounce a certain word or to never use new words for fear of getting it wrong?

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