Monday, September 03, 2007

Miss Pronouncer (or it that Mispronouncer?) in the news

As always, Ben Zimmer has his nose to the grindstone — holiday or no — and he's looking out for the Verbs. He alerted me to an LA Times article (here) about Wisconsin's famous Miss Pronouncer website. (Ben also coined a new adjective, Misterverbian, but that's one for another day.) Now, even on Labor Day, Nancy Friedman too has emailed on the subject. It's great to know that folks have your back — are helping you cover your own turf.

For the record, I've been going to MissPronouncer.com for years and lots of other linguists do too. Really, we need a resource for pronouncing proper names in this Wisconsin … Chequamegon National Forest is a stunning place (see image), but I didn't connect the placename I saw on maps with the string of sounds I heard on Public Radio until I'd been here a while. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's name doesn't pose a problem if you have been around Polish (even Polish names) at all, but it's joked about and mangled so often that a quick, safe reference is welcome for many, I'm sure. So, this website provides much useful information.

But people can't just leave good enough alone? (Or is that well enough? Gotcha.) As Ben points out, Miss Pronouncer rails against the familiar Wes-consin pronunciation:
The website has the tagline "And by the way, please slap anyone who says WESconsin!" -- word rage at its finest.
Yup. Let's just overlook the significant legal problem of encouraging assault and battery. You're missing the fun and glory of Wisconsin and Wisconsin English if you rant about that ... getting so bent out of shape about something that feels so right to so many folks here is just, well, un-Wisconsin. Can you root for the Pack and complain about Wes-consin? Chomp down on a brat with kraut? Have another Leinie's while you're waiting for the bluegills to bite? I didn't think so. Even if they do it in [ɛ]llinois too (here).

4 comments:

Wishydig said...

It reminds me of the complaints I've heard from some residents of New Orleans that the 'Nawlens' pronunciation is odious.

Sometimes "that's not how we say it!" really means "that's not how I say it even tho I'm from here!"

Did you notice McKean's "pol[ɛ]s[ɪ]my" in the TED talk? Am I misguided in wondering if [ɪ] neutralization has led to hypercorrected [ɪ]>[ɛ] vowel change in some stressed syllables? I think I've heard this pattern a lot.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I have a friend who gets truly bent out of shape if anyone has a ... well, I was going to say "ethnic" but to be honest he only gets this way about Gaelic names whose owners don't pronounce them purely. Like Colin Powell, or just this morning he commented very snarkily on someone who said, in an email, "My name's Mairi (pronounced Mary)". Pronunciation, especially of proper names, is a touchy subject, isn't it?

I also knew a Teresa who got very angry about people who spelled it "Theresa" - even when they weren't misspelling her name, but properly spelling their own! Her tirades on "Britney" versus "Brittany" were awe-inspiring, if ultimately pointless.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
We saw your blog and thought you might like to know about the new Leinenkugel’s “What’s Your Mix?” website. I invite you to visit http://www.leinie.com and click on “What’s Your Mix?” to see how folks are mixing the Leinie’s family of beers. You can even show us your own mixing skills by submitting a mix. Apple Crisp … Honeybutt … we’ve gotten some great ones so far. As we say at the Lodge, to discover your mix, all it takes is a pint glass and a sense of adventure.
To Life and Leinie’s!

Diane Schindler
Leinie Lodge Fulfillment Supervisor

Anonymous said...

Hi,
We saw your blog and thought you might like to know about the new Leinenkugel’s “What’s Your Mix?” website. I invite you to visit http://www.leinie.com and click on “What’s Your Mix?” to see how folks are mixing the Leinie’s family of beers. You can even show us your own mixing skills by submitting a mix. Apple Crisp … Honeybutt … we’ve gotten some great ones so far. As we say at the Lodge, to discover your mix, all it takes is a pint glass and a sense of adventure.
To Life and Leinie’s!

Diane Schindler
Leinie Lodge Fulfillment Supervisor