After another post, considering how words are used—and misused—my thoughts turned to how words are pronounced—and mispronounced.
I, for one, have a “flexible” pronunciation style. For any word possessing more than two syllables, I am seemingly able to enunciate it in at least two different ways—sometimes within the same sentence. Amazingly, I have not had to practice this skill; it just comes naturally. In fact, placing emphasis on the wrong syllable occurs so effortlessly that when I try to avoid alternate articulations, I often invent the third utterance.
In this regard, the letter “r” is of special interest to me. When I was a lad, I pronounced “wash” by inserting an “r” in the middle, as in “warsh.” Most of the time this wasn’t a big deal; I think there was a local predilection to “warsh” things.
However, at age 10, we moved a scant 15 miles west. There, nobody wanted to “warsh” anything; I faced all manner of ridicule and humiliation over my proclivity to “warsh.” Although it took a concerted effort, I was eventually able to lose the “r” and I began to “wash” like everyone else.
Other people habitually interject an “r” into idea, as in “idear.” This usage is as odd to me as my “warshing” was to my friends growing up.
Then there are those folks who have a penchant for dropping “r”s. For example “car” becomes “ca” and “bar” becomes “a.” For example, did you drive your “ca” to the “ba”? Personally, I admire the concise brevity of this approach, though I have yet to adapt that style.
It could be that the misplaced “r”s in the “cas” got used when they were “warshed.” There’s a certain symmetry here that I can appreciate.
Any “idear” where it’s extra “r” came from?
Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.