A couple days ago, I was talking about formal language. No, not written language. The spoken variety. The kind where there’s a correct and an incorrect pronunciation for everything, and mostly… you have to learn it in a butt-in-chair, take notes while the blow-hard speaks kind of way. Not the reading after a long day at work way. There’s a street not far from here, with one of those thoroughly anglicized names that a 19th century planner picked because it fits his system.
And wouldn’t you know… a friend of mine dared to pronounce it the way it’s been pronounced ever since the railroad scratched a line on the map–the way 100 out of 100 dentists in my neck of the woods would pronounce it–and some pretentious ex-local chose to correct her. It’s saw-teee-o, dah-ling.
Now, I happen to know the ex-local in question pretty well. And her Spanish sucks. Like in the sense of mine is abysmal (never took a class in my life), and I’m still horrified by hers.
It’s saw-teee-o, dah-ling.
Oh, yes, you know I’m thinking about voice, now. I’m pretty sure every writer I know is hung up on voice. Maybe every person I know, although a lot of them wouldn’t phrase it that way. Do I sound too… (what? everybody has one. You know. rural. urban. ethnic. bland.) Do I sound smart enough? Educated enough? Pretty enough? Do I sound like a human being, or like an aging recording of a dusty academic?
Should I go back to day one and re-learn the pronunciation of every word I’ve ever read, but not heard?
There’s a lot of philosophy in language. A lot of philosophy in voice.
Do you translate the dirty parts with glee? Or do you assume the people who are smart enough to understand already know? Do you feel the need to protect the common man from the gutter-world of “sucked off?”
And once you know your own world view–mine happens to be that “smart” is for everybody, regardless of whether they happened to be born in Cambridge and educated at great expense–how do you express that in your writing?
August 2 Question: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?
The pronoun I’m a big stickler for is “who.” Not who vs. whom. I’m pretty much good with whom being archaic, but the thing where people use “that” instead of “who” to refer to human beings, animals, and sentient garden rakes? The (living, thinking character) that whatever…. Ugh. I mean, the accusative case is tricky (Okay, yeah. I’m just saying that to annoy the Latinists among us.) but just about anyone should be able to tell whether they’re talking about a human being or a cinder block.