Sunday, December 12, 2010

Go to The Source Whenever Possible

I am about half way through "Love in Condition Yellow" and I finally sent the author an email to verify a few pronunciations. I'm so glad I did because it was a good reminder that pronunciation is very idiomatic and it can be important to telling a story in an authentic way. The way we handle language conveys to our listeners whether or not we are qualified to tell the story; are we trustworthy?

I ended up having a short phone conversation with her because she said the pronunciation of her name was a little tricky. Interesting. I thought for sure I had it correct, and was just checking in order to be thorough. Turns out it was a little bit different than any of the possible pronunciations I had considered, AND it was important to the author that I get it right. Her name is Rayday, and I thought it would be RAY-day, with slightly more emphasis on the 1st syllable. Either that, or ruh-DAY with a shwa in 1st syllable and the emphasis on the 2nd. In fact it is something between rah-DAY and ruh-DAY, a distinction not easily conveyed in writing. Okay. Guess I'll have to go fix that!

She was quite appreciative of the opportunity to help me get it right. After all the story is her baby; it's  her blood, sweat, tears, and vulnerability all over the page. And then I come in, having the power to make a permanent recording of it with her name pronounced WRONG? That would be an injury that would be difficult to undo once it hit the market.

She told me that one of her essays had been read for a podcast and the reader clearly didn't know anything about guns or ammo and read the words "hollow point" (describing a type of bullet) with an odd emphasis which made it clear she was not familiar with the terminology. There's that trust thing. Credibility blown. I know I can't get everything perfect, but I would really like to avoid a mistake, an injustice really, like that.

How do you pronounce Iraq?? Now, I have heard eye-RACK and ih-RACK and ih-ROCK. Which is it? Well, that depends on who you're talking to. And I don't know about you, but to me it seems like there are some demographic lines drawn around these pronunciations. George Bush was fond of eye-RACK or even EYE-RACK if he was feeling particularly expressive. But then again, GB also said NOO-kyu-ler and I can't get anywhere close to that pronunciation out of the word nuclear. Supposedly it  made him seem more like a "common man." Really? I'm not sure I want a common man leading my country. Anyway, back to the Iraq question. Academic types tend toward ih-ROCK. But I hear lots of folks use ih-RACK. I chose the latter. It turns out the author says ih-ROCK, but she doesn't have any objection to my pronunciation. Good. This stuff is not as simple as it may at first seem. I have learned that I can NEVER take anything for granted. That doesn't mean I can check every word I say, but I do think it is good to keep humility in mind as we go forward in this life.