Friday, August 1, 2008

rant (but not rage)

I have no idea what dredged this subject from the murk of my subconscious. It's several months past the part of the year when my rage burns, and six months past when it burns hottest. And it burns hot indeed. But I needed a topic, and pointing out the flaws of others is never out of season! So tell me this, society en masse: why can't you learn to pronounce the second month of the year correctly? For the love of lovable entities, WHY? Here are some definitions:

February: the second month of the calendar year. A lovely time when Spring is in full season and the flowers are in full bloom. Birds sing and emotions surge; valentines are exchanged, Charlie Brown is summarily neglected yet again, and all hearts are full of love except for that of one anti-anti-semantic pundit who's too busy with his righteous fury.

Febuary: no thing. A absence of existence so complete that what does exist is sucked into the vacuum, never to escape. Slowly, ever so gradually, the anti-reality spreads, consuming all that is good, as well as all that is evil and all that is beyond good and evil and everything else just for good measure. The universe is doomed.

More seriously: I admit I get frustrated when people don't intuit things that to me are a snap. I could write much more on subjects like this, with questionable justice. After all, it's not fair to get angry at people for things they can't, or perhaps shouldn't have to, help. I know I can be criticized in no small variety of areas. So most of the time I do my best to be tolerant. But what offends me here has nothing to do with complex mathematical processes, or the workings of physics, or even the linguistics that are my preferred roaming grounds. Asking people to pronounce this simple word correctly is not asking a lot. It's not even as if there's anything naturally deceptive about the spelling of February. There are two r's in the word! What exactly do people think happens to the r after the b? It's as though there was some mass decision to pronounce February with a French accent, and then the first now-gutteral r refused to stop at the back of the throat and just kept sliding on down. Now it's a resident of the sewage system and no one wants to dig around in that mess to get it back. Well, put some gloves on and get a backbone! Strap-on, if necessary!

Anyway that's a misleading analogy because it isn't hard to put the r back in. There really is not such a difference in ease of pronuncation between "broo" and "byoo" to justify blatantly ignoring the rules of language. If people have trouble remembering when to use "whom" instead of "who" (if they even use it at all), or say "me" when it should be "I," that's fine. Can't fight every battle. But mispronouncing February is unacceptable ignorance, and if it's not ignorance then it's laziness, which is worse. And its permeation through society is shocking - I hear "Fe-BYOO-ary" on NPR, and not infrequently either. NPR! That's supposed to be a higher standard of excellence. There's just no excuse. And to people who argue that it's not that important, I have this to ask of them: not how important? Not important enough to get angry about? If no one ever gets upset, at least enough to comment, how do mistakes get fixed? Not important enough to make the required effort to fix it? But the effort is pathetically, laughably minor. So what's the argument? That upholding the most basic, downright foundational rules of our own language is so unimportant that we can't even be bothered to swat a linguistic fly? I can't accept that, can't believe that anyone who has any respect at all for English would accept that, and I'm pretty sure people who actually argue otherwise simply prove my point, that they're just outrageously lazy. The great American tradition? I don't think so.

But hey, if I can't beat this trend, why not embrace it? In this spirit of blind acceptance I propose new versions of other months. Check out the hotness of:

Januay (Jan-way) - hey, a whole syllable dropped out! Much easier to pronounce, plus it sounds kinda Spanish.

Mach (Mah-ch) - doesn't work quite as well because Boston already says it this way. Hey, why not jump the train off the tracks and just make it "Mach," pronounced like the measurement of speed. That's much cooler than any sissy walking-themed name.

Apil - we're a culture heavily-dependent on medication, so this seems entirely appropriate. Do I sense a four-week advertising promotion? I do.

May - er, May. That'll do, monthy. That'll do.

June...ah, forget it. Jump to...

Septembe (Septemb-uh) - see the March note above. Hmm. How about...Septembawesome! Actually that's much better. Small children will be much more excited for the new school year if it starts around Septembawesome! If that's too long we could try Septawesome as an acceptable substitute. Can I win a Nobel Prize for this?

Octobot - an obvious choice. This way you've got Transformers and Mega Man and the whole sci-fi-crossed-with-marine-life world all contained in one glorious bundle. Naturally all science conventions and the latest A.I. development announcements would occur during these four weeks. Paranoia concerning a robot takeover is way up.

Novemburden - let's face it: the oncoming of the winter is a trying time. Kids may dig it but we wiser grown-ups know the bleakness, cold and darkness that impends. Of course, that stuff's not actually here yet, which is why at Thanksgiving you can temporarily lay down your Novemburden.

Decembring-on-the-goodies - on second thought, maybe this should have been the burden month. Christmas shopping is no light duty, nor is preparing the glorious feast on Christmas Day (as always, thanks, Mom). Still, gifts are neat, and so are vacation and family time.

Today my recommendation is that you pronounce February correctly. If you already do this, I'd take off my hat to you if I were wearing one, and I thank you, knowing full well you don't do this for my thanks. Regardless, thank you all who help preserve our beautiful, bizarre language. I was going to write about Dinosaur Comics but I got so caught up in my sarcasm-that-became-enthusiasm-for-tangential-jokes that I think I'd better stop. I'll do DC next post.

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