In late October, 2006, Sen. John Kerry put himself in hot water with a joke that implied U.S. troops were, shall we say, less than "A" students. Republicans convulsed in an uproar, claiming that the troops are not only smart enough to win the war in Iraq, but their Commander In Chief is also so smart that someday he hopes to learn how to pronounce the word, "Nuclear."
For the less gifted among us, please note that the word "Nuclear" is not pronounced "New-Cue-Ler." If you didn't know that, then you definitely qualify as an idiot and may want to consider running for public office.
As a public service to all the geniuses among us who have not yet figured out how to pronounce common English words, I offer this simple pronunciation guide at no extra charge. We'll start with "nuclear."
Special note: This article is offered as an entertaining, whimsical look at human linguistics that makes fun of us all (myself included). The satirical tone is entirely fictional and is not meant to actually offend anyone, unless of course you really are an idiot.
Nuclear. Note that there is no "U" between the "C" and the "L." That's an interesting clue to the correct pronunciation, and the more witty among us have figured out that it means the "C" and "L" should be pronounced together, as in the word, "CLEAR." Of course, if you're an idiot, you might pronounce "CLEAR" as "Cue-Ler" in which case your mental capacity is so seriously limited that you only qualify as a registered voter.
Cavalry. Continuing with our series of tricky military words devised by cunning linguists, there's the word "Cavalry." This one really stumps a whole lot of people who, under the influence of some demonic possession, look at the word and gleefully say, "CALVARY!" That is, they move the "L" to the front of the word with absolutely no regard to the location in which it actually appears.
They don't do it with other words, though. "CAMELS" doesn't become "CALMES." And "SCALPEL" doesn't become "SCLAPEL." But for some reason, "CAVALRY" is so frequently transformed into "CALVARY" -- even by people who are not, technically, idiots -- that no one even chuckles upon hearing it anymore.
By the way, for the record, "Cavalry" means military units who are mounted on horseback, and "Calvary" is the name of the hill upon which Jesus Christ was crucified. So if you scream, "Go Calvary!" then you are, in effect, acting as the pep squad for the people who killed Christ.
Frustrate. Note that this word has two "R" letters: one after the "F" and another after the "T." The letters are there to indicate that you should pronounce them. So I don't want to hear "Fustrate" any more (without the "R"). The word is "Frustrate" with a very obvious "Fru..." at the beginning.
It's really not that difficult to pronounce. If you can say, "Fridge" or "Freezer" or "Fries" then you can say "Frustrate." But for some reason, some people can't, which is very fustrating for everybody else. Consider this: Dropping the "R" from "frustrate" makes you sound about as smart as someone who says, "LIBARY" instead of, "LIBRARY." And if you don't believe me, you can look it up at the libary yourself.
Realtor. I'm gonna get hate mail for this one, I can already tell. The word, "Realtor" has but TWO syllables. Count 'em: REAL - TOR. All idiots please take note: there is no "I" in realtor. It isn't spelled "REALITOR" and pronounced with three syllables. If you, like many idiots, add an extra vowel to this word, you are really saying, "Re-Litter" which is the opposite of recycling and is bad for the environment.
Aluminum. This is a special lesson for the Brits. Count with me as we traverse the syllables in this word. 1..2..3..4. Yes, that's four syllables. A - lu - mi - num. Four. Now, just because you live in a miserable climate in the North Atlantic doesn't give you the right to spontaneously add random syllables to English words. Somehow, you manage to turn this four syllable word into FIVE syllables: Al - u - mi - ni - um. It's the kind of pronunciation that makes a Yank stop and shudder while we check our red, white and blue checkered underwear. So Brits, for the sake of all the Yanks listening, please limit your pronunciation of "aluminum" to four syllables. Same rule applies to "jewelry," which only has three syllables, not four.
Of course, here in the states, we have the opposite problem. We take syllables out of words for no reason. "Mayonnaise" becomes "Mannaise" for no apparent reason. We also struggle with the word, "mischievous," to which we attach an extra syllable, incorrectly turning it into, "mis-chee-vee-us." Tricky, eh? We learned that from you guys.
Especially. One way to really stand out in a crowd and announce that you're an idiot is to add an "X" to the front of this word. If you say, "EXspecially," then you may want to be aware that any such utterance automatically subtracts 50 points from your I.Q. Drop the "X" and just say the letters that are really there.
February. I know, I know. This is one that we all get wrong, myself included. The first "R" is, technically, supposed to be pronounced. But have you ever actually heard anyone say, "Fe-BREW-airy?" It sounds like they're suffering from some sort of exotic tongue disorder. This is one word that I simply refuse to pronounce according to the book. That might, of course, make me an idiot, too. But I'd rather be called an idiot than caught on tape saying "Fe-BREW-airy."
Some phrases, too, need to be clarified for the idiots among us. There is no such thing as a "Heineken Remover," okay? It's called the "Heimlich maneuver," and it's named after a guy named, well, Heimlich.
There's is no such thing as, "carpool tunnel syndrome." It's called, "Carpal Tunnel Syndrome" and has nothing to do with commuting.
"Alzheimer's disease" is not "Old-Timer's disease" unless, of course, you are suffering from it yourself, in which case the confusion is generally tolerated.
Remember, words are only useful when we all agree to use the SAME words to impart meaning. If you want to invent your own private language using made-up words, syllables and phrases, go right ahead. Just don't expect to communicate with anyone else. (And if you are one of those rare geeks who actually speaks Klingon, please schedule a lobotomy to remove the linguistic processing section of your frontal lobe so that you can coexist with normal human society.)
The way you speak words is a fairly accurate indicator of the way you use them in your own head. And if you're butchering the English language in your own head with words like "New-Cue-Ler" and "Cal-va-ry" then chances are the lights are pretty dim in there.
And while you may not be able to upgrade your actual I.Q., you can at least create the illusion of intelligence by practicing the correct pronunciation of these common words and phrases. Fool your friends! Impress your family! Master your native tongue!
Or, at the very least, avoiding speaking like a fool.