Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The long “I”

I don’t care if you say “creek” with a long e, or if you prefer to say it as Shakespeare did, “crick.” Likewise, “either” can be with a long e or a long i. Either way is fine. Tomato with a long a is how I like it, but the other way is OK too.

But if you say NevAHda or OregAHn or ALLta, I’ll think you’re a stuffy easterner who has never been to any of those places for more than five days but likes to talk about them because for some reason you think having been west of the I-95 corridor is cool.

Nevertheless, the mispronunciation of Western US place names is not the subject of today’s rant. Today I am focusing specifically on the misuse of the long I in two words, one of which is rarely used at all and almost never outside of mormon churches.

Let’s start with Ītalian. I know Rocky was introduced as the “Ītalian Stallion,” but that was a reflection of the lack of education in working-class Philadelphia from which he and his boxing cohorts came. That doesn’t make it correct.

Do you go on a vacation to Ītaly? No. You go to Italy, where the first syllable, for English speakers at least, is pronounced like the word “it.” If you’re an Italian (or Spanish or French) speaker, you’d say it more like “eat.” But it’s never “ite.”

So why would you claim to put Ītalian dressing on your salad? Or eat at an Ītalian restaurant? You wouldn’t. Because there’s no such place as Ītaly. See, wasn’t that easy? Good. Now teach your tongue to do it.

Next let’s move on to the word “paradisiacal.” This is a word that every mormon who’s gone to church consistently for at least a year has heard. And 99% of them have heard it incorrectly. In fact, our very first Sunday in our present ward, the bishop used this word and pronounced it correctly. I knew I would like him at that point, and even if he had a host of other shortcomings, I could overlook them because he was setting the right example with his pronunciation of this one, not-so-simple word.

Most people mispronounce the word by saying the fourth and fifth syllables as a single syllable, a long i. But astute readers will observe that it’s not just an “i,” but “ia.” And “a” makes a sound too. Sure there are silent a’s in the English language, but this is not one of them.

So instead of saying paradicicle, with the last part sounding like icicle or bicycle, let’s not forget that lowly “a” and make the appropriate schwa sound after the long “i.” Pear ih dih SIGH uh cull. Next time you’re reciting the tenth article of faith, remember that.

And to the little boy in my daughter’s primary class who wasn’t there when my wife coached them on how to say that word and who said “paradicicle” so loud that you couldn’t hear the other kids say pear ih dih SIGH uh cull during the primary program on Sunday: I’m disgusted with you. You ruined the whole thing.


  1. This reminds me of U-bonics. From X96. "Worsh" makes me want to commit violent acts. I nearly threw a full can of diet coke at someone that said "I need to worsh my plate". The I-talian thing drives me crazy too. I used to drive an Alfa Romeo and my father in law used to always ask if my I-talian car had broken down yet.

  2. I may have mentioned this before.

    my Parents live in Versailles, Kentucky, which I pronounce Ver-Sales, people are always correcting me with Ver - sigh. I then ask them do they say Pare - Iss or Pare - EEEE. And then I smack them.

  3. It's pronounced "It-lee", silly. Not "It-uh-lee".

    Love the rants!

  4. Nice one. Neither my wife nor I ever heard EYE-talian till we moved to UT. Being both of Italian descent, we were both amused and horrified.

    As for the other word... uh, I actually didn't know that was a word until just now. I guess they didn't use it during my only (so far) visit to a ward.

  5. Personally, I find "Worsh-ing-ton" to be particularly irritating.

    In my case, my father in law's brother in law was who introduced us to Alfas. He pronounced the word as "bear." As in "those Alfas are good bears."

    I don't know what all this Italy stuff is. It's just a town over in Ellis County.

  6. stinking kids always ruining things with their mispronunciations of six-syllable words