Jewish World Review Sept. 5, 2003 / 8 Elul, 5763

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

Canda-ditzy | News Bulletin: Attention everyone! It is now official — the word pronounced "can-di-date" is gone, disappeared, vanished off the face of earth and no longer a part of spoken media. There is no such word anymore. If you doubt me, all you need to do is turn on your television, or radio, or talk to anyone under the age of thirty-five. The replacement word is "can-a-dit." As in: "there are many can-a-ditz running for public office this year ..." Or as in: "Howard Dean has officially announced his canda-ditzy." Now, I admit there are many people who run for public office these days who absolutely deserve to be classified as "can-a-ditz," still the enunciation grates on my nerves.

To be perfectly fair, I checked with three different dictionaries. In all three, both pronunciations are listed — the traditional "kan di date" pronunciation was listed first, "kan di dit" second in every entry. I do believe that means that "kan di date" is the preferred pronunciation. So there. Once again, I'm right and the rest of the stupid world is dead wrong.

Every time I hear the word pronounced the other way I cringe. No I don't — I wince. Well, sometimes I cringe and other times I wince, but it always drives me nuts. I don't know if I'll be able to stand it all the way through this latest election cycle. And by the way, I am completely nonpartisan in this regard — it doesn't matter to me whether a Democrat or Republican or independent (or whatever else you got) uses the second pronunciation — they all sound jerky saying it that way.

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Cana-dit is almost as annoying as "harris." You know what harris means, don't you? That's harris as in "stop HARRISing me" and sexual HARRIS-ment. Those readers who are over the age of twenty-five might remember when "harris" used to be pronounced, "her-ASS" (no jokes please). "HerASSment" sounds better to my over twenty-five year old ears, but let's go back to the dictionaries for the preferred pronunciation of the word spelled harass.

All three dictionaries list both pronunciations, but they differ in which is preferred. The stupid, moronic Random House Dictionary puts the "HARRIS" pronunciation first. The highly respected, far superior Webster's Dictionary, however, lists "herASS" first. A draw. Now let's go to The American Heritage Dictionary for the tiebreaker.

The big, ugly, dumb, stupid-headed American Heritage Dictionary lists "HARRIS" first — BUT, they have a qualifier — in a usage note they say, "Educated usage appears to be evenly divided on the pronunciation of harass. In a recent survey 50 percent of the Usage Panel preferred a pronunciation with stress on the first syllable, while 50 percent preferred stress on the second syllable. Curiously, the Panelists' comments appear to indicate that each side regards itself as an embattled minority." So it remains a tie. Once again I'm right, but in this case, only HALF of the stupid world is dead wrong.

While some words such as candidate and harass arguably posses secondary pronunciations, there are words which have suddenly taken on new pronunciations with many people which are just plain wrong. The word "picture" is a case in point. When picture is pronounced as "pitcher" it is always wrong, no matter how many ignorant announcers, news broadcasters and other well-paid people who read on television, mispronounce it. The same is true for recognize, which more and more is being pronounced "wreck-a-nize." There are lots more. I'm sure you can come up with a few of your own.

Linguistic experts say spoken language is a living, breathing thing — constantly changing, evolving with each new generation. If enough people begin talking a certain way, they say, then that way automatically becomes the new accepted standard. Well, I say enough is enough. I don't want to hear the English language "evolve" any further than it already has. Actually evolve is not the proper word — dissolve is more like it. But I'm in the minority on this issue, I know. I wreck-a-nize that I'm not seeing the big pitcher of this thing. Well, that's okay too.

As far as I'm concerned, I'm still right and the rest of the stupid world is dead wrong....again!

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2001 Greg Crosby