When Dale and I were kids we always called milk: muck luck or klim (milk spelled backwards). When Mom butchered a word though
, it was almost always due to regional influences. She grew up between Seattle, Washington and Ottumwa, Iowa so one of those places was responsible for her saying warsh instead of wash. I grew up saying warsh too but when I hit my sullen teenage years I decided that Mom was plebeian for mispronouncing the word. So I started saying wash and announcing with great authority her error when she said warsh. According to Dad, when Mom got really mad and stormed off she would say: “I’m going to go wrench the dishes”. I don’t blame her; it’s hard to keep our city appearances when we’re peeved.
One day when my best friend Val and I were talking about nothing in particular we started ruminating about why boot was pronounced with the long uu sound but look and soot were pronounced with a short oo. So I decided
, in the interest of consistency, to pronounce them all the same and of course chose the short oo for all of them. Soot, roof, boot. Toot, toot said the little engine. I enjoyed that game for a few months and then wandered off to do something else.
I’ve said Armadillo instead of Amarillo (Texas) for so long I stumble over the real name when in polite circles. And I call butterflies: flutterbys. Because they do. Flutter by I mean. The one that drove my Dad nuts was that I kept saying sufficant instead of surfactant. He was a chemical engineer and those things mattered I guess. One day I was discussing soap with Dale and said sufficant. “It’s surfactant” he said. “I know that”
, he went on to say, “because I mispronounced it once in front of Dad”.
Dad, on the other hand, mispronounced a word once. Once, in all the years I knew him. Not surprising given that he used to read the dictionary for fun when he was a wee lad. We were at a Channel 8 PBS fundraiser in Houston and he said beezel instead of bezel when discussing a bracelet. I was stunned. What? Dad? I was so shocked I couldn’t even think of anything snarky to say. It was glorious, truly glorious. So he was human after all. Then one of his friends pointed out the error and Dad said: “Really? I must remember that”. The moment was gone and he escaped without me rubbing his nose in it. But I had heard him. I knew.