Word husbandry (HLD 417)

22 June 2021

My husband has a few little quirks. I still love him, but there’s a few things that set him apart from seemingly the rest of the human race.

He is a very intelligent man. He knows a lot, about a lot of stuff. He leaves me for dead when it comes to all things related to maths, finance and cars. And he’d leave most of us way behind in all things engineeringy.

He can’t pronounce some words to save his life, though.

Faced with an unfamiliar word, he will pick a couple of letters from it and make up his own pronunciation of it, freely eliminating other letters that exist in the word and confidently announcing this new word. It’s very obvious when he tells you someone’s name, on occasion, that he’s seen this name in print but not really paid too much attention to it, and decided that he knows what it is.

It requires a bit of detective work on occasion, trying to find out who or what he’s talking about. It is most problematic when travelling and he proudly (and loudly 🙈) announces place names that have no correlation to the actual place, other than two or three letters that are part of that name.

There are some more familiar words that he bungles all the time too. (Maybe it’s because he is so very intelligent and knows that certain words are being mispronounced by the rest of us. I’m sure that would be his theory).

He is, of course, sensitive to being corrected, as all really smart people seem to be. He doesn’t use the word ‘nonsensical’ much anymore. Not because it has slipped from the radar in words commonly used, just because he got corrected each time he pronounced it “nonsical”.

Another such word is meme. If you are unfamiliar with this word, I’m happy to help you out. Possibly you don’t own a computer, phone or device that shows you these things, and so to save you rushing to your local library to find a dictionary, I have googled it for you. It means “an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by internet users, often with slight variations”. These are the (usually) funny things that keep people like me amused on social media platforms.

The way I, and everyone else I’ve ever heard (apart from my husband) pronounce the word is ‘meem’. To us, it rhymes with theme, seem, team and supreme.

Not the genius. Every time he tells me he saw a funny thing in the internet, he tells me he saw a ‘memmy’, or a ‘me me’, or one other of his variations on how you could possibly pronounce this word.

To be fair to him, because otherwise I will get in trouble and be left to solve algebra on my own, it’s not a word he grew up with.

When he was in school, learning how to pronounce difficult words, this wasn’t a widely used word. I do have to add a caveat here, because my intense research lets me know of another meaning of the word, which possibly DID exist in the era when my husbands’ education was beginning. It also means “an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means” – which, let’s face it, is wordy enough that it should be something a smart person like him would know.

But…. There are a lot of other words that he wasn’t taught to pronounce when he started school. Micro-processor, selfies, android, microchip, television, video, wifi, google, cappuccino, Wikipedia, MP3, podcast, inbox, dishwasher (the machine version – the human version has existed for centuries), digital watch, viagra, internet, power steering, email, photobomb, blog, voicemail, emoji, and infomercial.

(And a little side note, just because I can. According to some sources I have read, the word selfie was supposedly first used by a drunk Australian man – yet another gift we have given to the world, along with Vegemite, the Barrier Reef, TimTams and underarm bowling).

I’d list more words we didn’t know about 40 years ago, but I have to go look at a nonsical memmy my husband is telling me about.

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