Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lest I Should Become Too Arrogant

There's really little chance of that happening! I have a firm enough grip on reality--and enough of a sense of humor--to realize how weak I am in terms of self-discipline and how ridiculous I can be sometimes! However, just in case I should veer too far in the direction of self-promotion, I like to share stories celebrating my latest foibles.

Enough of an introduction: here's the story. I like to use a wide vocabulary, although I like to flatter myself that it isn't because of any pretension on my part but rather due to a taste for precision in language. So yesterday I had a verbal mishap (which actually isn't all that rare on my part, like the time I mixed "somnolent" and "soporific" to coin the new term "somnorific").

It's not really even a rare word, but I was using "incongruous" to describe something to friends the other day in the car. I pronounced it with the heaviest accent on the "u" (penultimate) syllable. My friend Jessi immediately answered, "I thought it was inCONgruous."

"Really?" I said neutrally. "I thought it was "incongrUous, but I could be wrong." The whole time, I felt pretty smug, certain that I was actually right, but taking the moral high ground and deciding not to insist on my correctness. "I'd love to look it up," I added, thinking, "so I could prove how right I really am."

"Well, Paul [her fiance in the front seat] has an iPhone. He can check."

He did, and passed the phone back to me. The first source listed "inCONGruous." I checked another one. "inCONgruous." A third source: "inCONgruous."

"Well, it looks like you're right," I said, grateful I had been so "gracious" in declining to insist on the way I thought it was pronounced.

Later that day I saw another friend, and asked, "How do you pronounce the word spelled 'I-N-C-O-N-G-R-U-O-U-S?"

"In CONgruous," she answered, without skipping a beat.

So that's what you get for relishing Bush-isms, Palin-isms, and any other malapropisms: an unwelcome reminder that, if you had the fame and the camera time, you could easily coin some "isms" of your own.

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