Friday, November 2, 2007

You guessed it: Did-dint, could-dint, and so on and so forth

Have you heard announcers and hosts and others on radio and television say what distinctly sounds like this: “We did-dint know the answer,” or “He could-dint stop it”? It’s sweeping the nation, it’s like a wildfire and it’s driving me crazy.

Let’s assume that throwing the extra “d” sound into “didn’t” and “couldn’t” is done for a noble reason. Let’s assume the speakers are merely trying to enunciate as clearly as possible. Chances are, that’s exactly what they’re trying to do — speak clearly and distinctly. Unfortunately, it lets us hear clearly and distinctly how wrong they sound.

Do this: Say “did.” Say it aloud, please. How many “d” sounds do you pronounce in that word? Try it again — “did.” Two, right? That is also how many there should be in “didn’t.”

There should be only one “d” sound in “couldn’t,” in “wouldn’t” and even in “shouldn’t” — one each. No extras, as in did-dint, could-dint, would-dint, should-dint. Holy consonants, Batman, we need to get busy. We’ve blinked in the past, and the language has suffered. Let’s put the pride back in did-n’t.

Speaking of speaking, there’s a phrase that, you guessed it, drives me bananas. It’s “even as we speak.” It wouldn’t (not would-dint) bother me if the people who say it were truly engaged in a two-way conversation when they say it. Trouble is, it’s usually tossed in when only one person is speaking. In those cases, it’s both inaccurate and off-putting. The person really means that the thing is happening “as I speak,” but it would be much better merely to say that it’s happening “now.”

Another irritating phrase is “you guessed it.” I used it in the preceding paragraph as an example. Look back and try to remember if you really did guess that I was going to say that the thing drives me bananas. I doubt that you guessed it. The phrase is used widely in newspapers and in broadcast, and almost every time I encounter it I shout: “NO. I DID NOT GUESS IT.” It makes me feel better, but so far it hasn’t changed anything else.

While I’m on a semi-rant about speech matters, let’s look at “et cetera.” In the first place, it’s to be pronounced et cetera, not ex cetera. Second, its abbreviation is etc., not ect. Third, because it means “and the other things” or “and the rest,” it is redundant to write or say “and et cetera,” because you are in effect saying “and and the rest.” Finally, one et cetera covers ALL the rest of the things you’re discussing, so you do not have to say “et cetera et cetera.”

While we’re in this category, is it absolutely necessary to say “and so on and so forth”? Don’t you think “and so on” covers it? When is enough enough? Same thing goes for “in any way, shape or form.” Really now. “In any way” covers the gamut. You can stop there.

I have a preacher friend who says, “… in any way, shape, form or fashion.” Oh, all right, I can happily announce that he used to say that. I think he’s gone to the more economical “in any way” these days, but I can’t shake the feeling that on occasion the rhythm of the long version might seduce him.

Rhythm probably does not explain why some people repeat the “or not” in a “whether or not” sentence. I always cringe when I hear “whether or not,” waiting for the repetition. “Whether or not he resigns or not” was on the radio this morning. Blech. My preacher could say “whether or not he resigns or not or not or not.” You could almost dance to it.

Some final pronunciation thoughts — My personal preference is to pronounce the “g” in “recognize.” Many people do not, and in some places it’s listed as optional, but I think it belongs. It gives the word so much more presence, no? It’s already there, go ahead and give it a good hard hit. And for heaven’s sake, the word is pronounced “supposedly,” not “supposebly.”

Where do people come up with this stuff? “She was here before, supposebly, but I did-dint recuhnize her.”

Whether or not you want more or not, my time is, you guessed it, up.


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