Friday, October 3, 2008

Vocabulary 102

In an earlier posting, I talked about my respect for language and my inferior feelings about the depth of my vocabulary. That dealt primarily with knowing – or not knowing -- the definition of words. There also exists in my world the fear of mispronunciation.

There are a few words that I read rather frequently but do not use in conversation. They are not necessarily intricate, highly convoluted words but rather ones with the potential to be pronounced in different ways. Heaven forbid I should be the cretin who says them incorrectly.

The first two in this series are: banal and ribald.

In researching the correct pronunciation, I made the most interesting discovery. On the Merriam-Webster dictionary Web site, there is a function that allows you to actually hear the words. Type in the word of choice, the definition pops up, but also next to the phonetics is a little icon resembling a speaker. Click on that and a nice man or woman speaks the correct pronunciation for you.

Here’s what Mr/Ms Merriam-Webster says:

Banal – (beh-‘nal, beh-‘nahl, bay-‘nal): lacking originality, trite.

Yes, unfortunately banal has three choices for pronunciation, still leaving me vulnerable to picking the most uncommon usage.

Ribald – (‘reh-buld): bawdy, crude, offensive

And ribald is not pronounced how I’ve been hearing it in my head for years (‘rye-bald), so my comfort level using it remains low.

But at least I can have fun using them in a written sentence: The governess pulled together her ripped garments and rebuffed the Manor Lord’s crude advances thinking him ribald, then quickly retreated to the west tower and the banal existence she had come to accept as her destiny.

Next up: largesse

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