"NUCULAR"

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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby Shapley » Tue Mar 21, 2006 8:59 am

Webster's standard response to readers inquiring about "nucular":

We do not list the pronunciation of "nuclear" as \'nü-ky&-l&r\ as an "acceptable" alternative. We merely list it as an alternative. It is clearly preceded by the obelus mark \÷\. This mark indicates "a pronunciation variant that occurs in educated speech but that is considered by some to be questionable or unacceptable." A full description of this can be found in the Guide to Pronunciation on our website at http://www.m-w.com/pronguid.htm. We are definitely not advocating that anyone should use the pronunciation \'nü-ky&-l&r\ or that they should abandon the pronunciation \'nü-klE-&r\.

To say "the word is spelled (x), and therefore should be pronounced (y)" doesn't make any sense. Spelling is not a legitimate basis for determining pronunciation, for the following reasons:

1) English spelling is highly irregular. For example, "move", "dove", and "cove" are spelled similarly but pronounced differently. Likewise, "to", "too", and "two" are spelled differently and pronounced the same.

2) English spelling is frequently based on factors besides pronunciation. For example, the "c" represents three different sounds in "electrical", "electricity" and "electrician", but is spelled the same in all to show that the words are related.

3) Most importantly, spoken language is primary, not written language. Speaking is not the act of translating letters into speech. Rather, the opposite is true. Writing is a collection of symbols meant to represent spoken language. It is not language in and of itself. Many written languages (Spanish, Dutch, etc.), will regularly undergo orthographic reforms to reflect changes in the spoken language. This has never been done for English (the spelling of which has never been regularized in the first place), so what we use for written language is actually largely based on the spoken language of several centuries ago.

All of the entries in our dictionary (pronunciation, meanings, etc.) are based on usage. We have an extensive collection of files which date back to the 19th century. Language is changing all of the time in all respects, and any dictionary which purports to be an accurate description of the language in question must be constantly updated to reflect these changes. All words were pronounced differently at some time in the past. There is simply no scholarly basis for preferring one pronunciation over another. To not list all pronunciation variants would be irresponsible and a failure of our mission to provide a serious, scholarly, record of the current American English language.


Which reminded me of this:

ENGLISH IS TOUGH STUFF

======================

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough --
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

-- Author Unknown --

V/R
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby piqaboo » Tue Mar 21, 2006 12:04 pm

<eep! duplicate post. :o >

<small>[ 03-21-2006, 12:51 PM: Message edited by: piqaboo ]</small>
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby piqaboo » Tue Mar 21, 2006 12:07 pm

A new one for me!
I knew about victuals / vittles
but didnt know groats / grits

hmmmmm


Not accordign to my Websters 7th new collegiate.
groats rhymes with goats.
Altoid - curiously strong.
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby BigJon@Work » Tue Mar 21, 2006 12:21 pm

So where is the spelling error in Shap's posted poem?

<small>[ 03-21-2006, 12:23 PM: Message edited by: BigJon@Work ]</small>
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby Selma in Sandy Eggo » Tue Mar 21, 2006 12:25 pm

groats / grits quibble

related but not quite interchangable, especially in the South. Groats are any hulled, crushed grain. Grits are a coarsly ground grain, usually corn, most often hominy. Groats may be oats, buckweat (aka kasha), wheat, spelt, corn, etc.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore

I had a truck once that I named Terpsichore. That wretched thing danced all over the road.
>^..^<
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby OperaTenor » Tue Mar 21, 2006 12:44 pm

Originally posted by BigJon@Work:
Sorry 'tis so. Now you seem to be combining hubris with prejudice.
Prove:

1) How "'tis so."
2) The hubris and prejudice.

There is no region of the U.S. where "nucular" is the common, accepted part of the vernacular.
"To help mend the world is true religion."
- William Penn

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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby piqaboo » Tue Mar 21, 2006 12:53 pm

Not a spelling error in the poem, just a phrase that caught my eye. I like the poem, and Im glad Shapley shared it.

"Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?"
Altoid - curiously strong.
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby Shapley » Tue Mar 21, 2006 12:55 pm

Groats/Grits

I've always seen the breakfast food spelled grits. However, while in the south I recall at least once seeing them on the menu spelled groats. I believe they were spelled that way on the menu in the restaurant we had breakfast at while on Cape Cod, as well.

V/R
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby Shapley » Tue Mar 21, 2006 1:01 pm

Re: nucular

This is an opinion piece, but I'll post it anyway, since it seems to be a recurring reference when researching the term:

http://www-csli.stanford.edu/~nunberg/nucular.html

I find it interesting that he points out that many people refer to 'nucular' weapons but 'nuclear' families.

V/R
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby Selma in Sandy Eggo » Tue Mar 21, 2006 1:01 pm

And then there's the difference between cornmeal mush and polenta. I believe it's up to about $6.95 a serving. ;)
>^..^<
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby Shapley » Tue Mar 21, 2006 1:47 pm

Is this one of those logic questions:

If all Grits are Groats, are all groats necessarily grits? :)
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby DavidS » Tue Mar 21, 2006 3:55 pm

Selma - I think the UK rendering of "kasha" is gruel.
Shap - the poem you quoted (and thank you very much, it's beautiful!) illustrates what experts have been claiming for years: The format of written English is becoming more and more similar to that of written Chinese or Ancient Egyptian, in the sense that individual characters do not correspond uniquely to phonemes, but the basic writing unit is the whole word, sort of like the Chinese or hieroglyphic ideogram.
Tel grain, tel pain.
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby Shapley » Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:12 pm

David,

Bernard Moitessier, the patron saint of long distance sailors, notes that the uniqueness of the Chinese language is that the characters represent ideas rather than words or sounds.

It is a great accomplishment to be able to write the word 'house' in a manner that another person who sees it knows that you have written the word 'house', but it is of little use if the person reading it calls his domicile a 'casa'. The Chinese character represents a house, casa, domicile, or whatever, and is independent of how the word is pronounced. Moitessier claims that he recognized just how brilliant this was when he saw a Tonkin man conversing with a Japanese soldier by means of the ideograms, even though neither spoke the others language. This is important to the Chinese, whose language has several hundred different dialects.

The French, during their occupation of Indochina, devised a written language for the indigenous peoples, based on the sounds they make. As Moitessier notes, in a language where "Po po po po po po." is a complete sentence based on how you pronounce the 'p' and the 'o'. Each use of letter combination can be a different word. Under the French system, a series of characters placed before or after the letter directed the pronunciation, so that the Indochinese who spoke the same language could communicate with one another. Vietnamese could not, however, converse with Khmers or Tonkins, since their spoken languages were different.

It is an interesting observation.

I would say that such English words that apparently represent neither sounds nor ideas, would be a sort of idiotgram. :D

V/R
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<small>[ 03-21-2006, 04:15 PM: Message edited by: Shapley ]</small>
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby shostakovich » Tue Mar 21, 2006 5:38 pm

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Originally posted by shostakovich:
There is no part of this country where "nucular" is proper pronunciation for "nuclear".
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Just 'cause you say it ain't so, it ain't so? Sorry 'tis so. Now you seem to be combining hubris with prejudice.

-----------------------------------------------------
I guess I was just spending my hubris capital. Please tell me where "nucular" is proper and what makes it proper. I still believe W's use of the word is not proper. He represents not a region, but an entire country.

Now note that I'm NOT cursing out Bush for saying "nucular". I hardly need anything so trifling to curse him out for. My point is that his entire being is flawed by stubbornly sticking to a mistake once he makes it. Harriet Meiers? That may be when people started noticing big time. "Nuclular" is just a teeny weeny SYMPTOM of this major flaw (IMO).

And, if you, Bigjon, feel insulted by my hubris, I apologize. I consider you, and essentially every contributor to the BBB, more intelligent than W. He should have insults heaped on him by the bushel for all the damage he's done, excluding mangling the language. I truly wish the media and the Congress would stop being civil to the president. He doesn't deserve such consideration.
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby Shapley » Tue Mar 21, 2006 6:10 pm

Shos,

I think we've pointed out that at least three previous President's pronounced the word 'nucular'. Does this indicate that they, also, were flawed, since they continued to use the term throughout their presidencies, with the exception of Clinton, who reportedly used it about half the time.

V/R
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby BigJon@Work » Wed Mar 22, 2006 11:02 am

Originally posted by shostakovich:
And, if you, Bigjon, feel insulted by my hubris, I apologize. I consider you, and essentially every contributor to the BBB, more intelligent than W.
Thanks, I think. :)
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby DavidS » Wed Mar 22, 2006 12:00 pm

Originally posted by Shapley:
David,

Bernard Moitessier, the patron saint of long distance sailors, notes that the uniqueness of the Chinese language is that the characters represent ideas rather than words or sounds.

It is a great accomplishment to be able to write the word 'house' in a manner that another person who sees it knows that you have written the word 'house', but it is of little use if the person reading it calls his domicile a 'casa'. The Chinese character represents a house, casa, domicile, or whatever, and is independent of how the word is pronounced. Moitessier claims that he recognized just how brilliant this was when he saw a Tonkin man conversing with a Japanese soldier by means of the ideograms, even though neither spoke the others language. This is important to the Chinese, whose language has several hundred different dialects.
Shapley
Yes, some dialects of spoken Chinese are mutually incomprehensible, although written identically.
And English seems to be going the same way - cf the UK vs USA pronunciation of eg "route".
Tel grain, tel pain.
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby Shapley » Wed Mar 22, 2006 12:41 pm

David,

True enough, sometimes it enough to drive you to commit sioux-aye-sighed. :D

V/R
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby DavidS » Wed Mar 22, 2006 1:15 pm

Hey, don't worry about it. We still have things like "La Nozze de Figaro" (now on Israel Radio "Voice of Music") going for us...
THAT'S what I call a common language.
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Re: "NUCULAR"

Postby barfle » Thu Mar 23, 2006 10:52 am

I think Bush's misunderpronuncificationizing of nucular renders it unclear.

It's irritating, but not a mortal sin.
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