My reputation as an English fanatic has been permanently damaged as a result of the word colonel. It was a Tuesday afternoon and I had just finished making a presentation about the symbolism in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. With the satisfied glow of success, I marched out of my English classroom without a care in the world until one particular comment from a friend of mine stopped me in my tracks:
“You were saying colonel wrong, you know.”
My inner critic, still high off the delight of my presentation, laughed at the ill-informed comment. Foolish human companion. How dare you question the sanctity of my speech? In my generosity, I decided to forgive my friend for her minor error and offer her a chance for redemption with a follow-up comment:
“No I didn’t. It’s spelled C-O-L-O-N-E-L. Call-O-Nell. That’s how I said it.”
Clearly, she has been misinformed. Colonel was not a difficult word. It was not French, German, or Icelandic so it did not have any hidden tricks. I was absolutely, positively, 100% sure of it. I was as sure as Tom was that he wanted to catch Jerry, as sure as Tony the Tiger was about how great Frosted Flakes are, as sure as those women in the shampoo commercials are about the quality of those hair products. If you couldn’t tell, that’s a lot of sure, which is why I was utterly shocked when this comment came out of her mouth:
“Colonel is pronounced like Kernel. Kerr-Nell. Like popcorn.”
Besides the undeniable humiliation that followed (I had, in fact, said Call-O-Nell about 20 times during the presentation which quickly popped my inflated ego), an overwhelming sense of confusion washed over me leaving me bumbling like a complete idiot.
And then came the indignation. Colonel had no R. In fact, colonel had not one letter resembling an R or any combination of letters that would produce the sound of an R. Colonel was a blend of Ls and Os that was stupid and ugly and made absolutely no sense. In my anger, I began to think about all the other words that have ever caused anyone trouble (kind of like how when you have a bad day, you start the sadness domino effect and suddenly remember all the bad things that have ever happened to you in your entire life…I was really upset, okay?) and I came up with the following list:
Last year during a club meeting, one of my teachers mentioned how she had once made a presentation in college in which she constantly mispronounced segue as See-g rather than Seg-way and unknowingly embarrassed herself in front of the entire class (I could relate). Rather than join in on her embarrassment, I remained quietly at my seat wondering who on Earth had come up with that spelling and why it had taken me so long to realize that segue was not spelled segway.
G, what have I ever done to you? Why did you have to go and make a perfectly disgusting word even worse? I thought we were friends but apparently not seeing as you are pronounced Flem and not Fleg-Em. Not cool, silent G. Not cool.
Bs are the worst. They represent everything in life that I hate (bees, bumblebees, bee-stings). Sandwiching them between “su” and “tle” and completely screwing up what would’ve been an easy pronunciation only makes them twice as annoying. Bs are for submarines and sub shops, not words pronounced like SUTT-EL. Bs belong with Gs in the reject corner for making me look stupid in public.
Wednesday, everybody’s favorite hump day and least favorite spelling bee word. Wednesday is February’s lovechild and is of the utmost annoyance. To this day, I cannot spell this word without silently saying Wed-Nes-Day. Don’t lie, I know you do it too.
I’ve deemed this one to be my personal favorite. Okay, ready? Say waistcoat. Good. Now, here’s what you should’ve said: Wes-Kit. Yes, you read that right. Waistcoat, a British term, sounds more like “basket” than it does “waist-coat.” So, for some reason, if you happen to be researching the history of British fashion, you now know how to properly pronounce waistcoast so you don’t bring embarrassment upon yourself. Brits, I love your accents and your faces but when it comes to making words, please, for the sake of my sanity, make them close to how they sound.
In the end, with my head hung low, I accepted the fact that colonel and other English language defects will forever haunt my already awkward speaking abilities. What other defective words have you encountered? Feel free to share. I’d be glad to know what else I’ve been screwing up all these years.
Image via ShutterStock