Things I Ain’t Got Time For: Correcting Your Pronunciation

Hi my name is Hannah, and while I may be the Grammar Police’s Commanding Officer, I am the latest member to enlist in the Anti-Pronunciation riot squad. When did my membership commence? Last week, when I was in a fine dining restaurant ordering my meal.

“What would you be having this evening, ma’am?” The eloquent waiter asked, notepad at the ready.
“For entre I’d like to order the scallops”.
“Excellent choice, the scah-lleps are very fresh”…. Oh no scallops like dollops, or scallops like gallops… have I been saying it incorrectly my entire life?

“For main I will order the basil crusted beef fillet with potato and shallot salad”
“One bay-zhil fih-lay with potato and shah-luht salad,” He repeated my words as he scribbled down my order…. Come on, ba-zhil, fih-lett and shuh-lot are perfectly acceptable too right?….

“And for my dessert, wow those macaroons sound amazing; what filling do you recommend”
“Yes the mack-arh-rons are very popular here, especially the white chocolate and almond flavour”

….I ain’t got time for this. Bring me my food.

A similar scenario occurred the other day at work, when our receptionist asked, “Hey Hannah, what do you think is more correct; Sked-ule or Shed-ule?”
….As long as you’re booking everyone in on time, does it even matter?
You see, in my opinion, the very reason we converse is to channel a message across to another individual. If you can comprehend what I am referring to, and extract some sort of meaning from my statement, well my friend, I consider that to be effective homo sapien communication. Whether I pe-Can or pe-CARN-T say something correctly, I ain’t got time for the inner conflict that erupts as I order my lunchtime quinoa salad…. Keh-noah, I mean Keen-wa, I mean…whatever, I’ll just point.

I ain’t got time to pick up on micro-nuances of articulation, and these often pass over my head mid-conversation… Either I’m too busy focusing on what a person is saying rather than how it has been said, or I’ve simply stopped noticing cases of mispronunciations altogether. Perhaps living in a Greek household has meant that I have grown up learning to understand broken-English and the consequent difficulty in enunciating correctly when restrained by an accent.

Indeed, my grandmother’s heavy Greek accent rarely inhibits us when we chat and I never correct her simply because I feel no need to; I understand her perfectly. I have learnt that if she asks if I’d like a ‘sammich’, she means that she wants to fill my belly with a ham cheese and tomato toastie. If Yiayia wants me to bring home ‘Hush Puppies’ after my shopping visit, she means that she’s keen for some Hash Browns from Maccas. I have never rectified her pronunciation of the word ‘beach’ (even though it sounds quite offensive!) and I know when she asks to turn on the ‘vasha-marsh-een’ I need to get the detergent ready for a load of washing. ‘Barng-book’ suggests she might spoil me if I fetch her bank book, and ‘tsew-en-garm’ means that there was far too much garlic in our Kebabs and she’s offering us some minty gum. Her accent and all the mispronunciation tied along with it is utterly endearing, and I absolutely adore it. It never frustrates me, and I’m sure it doesn’t aggravate her when I speak Greek with an Australian/English accent.

Either way, Australian’s are trained from birth to ignore all diction for the sake of ease. In fact, we can barely pronounce the name of our own nation. Australia? Nah, it’s Straya, mate. Ain’t nobody got time for using four syllables when we can get by with just two. We’d all be acting with a degree of hypocrisy if we started correcting our Greek Grandmothers, or our Irish drinking buddies… especially when their accent makes the term ‘slot machine’ sound like something obscene and illegal; plus think about all the free entertainment we’d be foregoing if we informed them!

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Aussie pronunciation: A brief guide

I will openly admit that I will not pay you too much attention if you believe you’re way of saying “Caribbean” is more culturally authentic, because I know that the probability of me actively remembering to alter my pronunciation mid-conversation is highly unlikely. I ain’t got time to argue about something as meaningless as the proper way of saying ‘oregano’, nor will I correct you if I think my way of saying  ‘vase’ is more accurate.

I can only think of one true instance when I would attentively readopt my diction once it’s been put right; and that would be in Professor Flitwick’s charm’s class, if I ever mispronounced ‘Wingardium Leviosa’.

When pronunciation really matters

But until that day, I ain’t got time to call attention mispronounced words, nor do I have time to waste a few extra minutes arguing over the correct way to pronounce ‘aluminium’ or ‘data’. Does it matter if paella is said pie-ay-ya not pay-yell-ahr? I ain’t got time for this; just top up my plate with more of that good stuff and let’s talk about something a little less mundane.

Different pronunciations? Why can’t we use both?

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