So this is the problem with being a big reader. I spend a lot of time with my nose buried in a book, and the thing about books is that they use a lot of words that we, as human beings, almost never use in actual language. Also, the books don't tell you how to pronounce these words, a problem that is especially acute with young children who are precocious readers (ahem!). For the longest time, I thought there were two different words, e-pi-to-mee and epi-tome, that meant the same thing. My good friend Octavia, also a precocious reader, once embarrassed herself while reading aloud in class, "It was a terrible catastroff." Who knew it was epitomeeee and catastropheeeee? Oh, the humiliations!
Nowadays I'm a little more circumspect. For example, I would never use the word circumspect in conversation, because I know perfectly well that circumspect is a book word. Also, I'm not entirely sure I could pronounce it correctly without stumbling over the conglomerated consonants that seem perfectly placed to trip me up. For some reason it always comes out of my mouth "circ-sum-spect," though I can't figure out why. But at the end of the day, I guess I just don't get as embarrassed as I used to when I didn't know how to pronounce a word. Maybe I've heard too many people order an "expresso" to feel like going "nucular" on my own ass when I stumble over words like "epistemological" or "ontology" in a seminar full of people smarter than I am. I've given up getting annoyed when people "conversate" instead of "converse," or "orientate" themselves, instead of orienting themselves. Frankly, language is an ever-growing thing, and who am I to stand in the way?
But there is an exception to this new laissez-faire approach toward language I've adopted. Blog, be my witness. Today I declare war on the word "quinoa." Qui⋅noa: [keen-wah, kee-noh-uh] Noun: a tall crop plant, Chenopodium quinoa, of the goosefoot family, cultivated in Peru and Chile for its small, ivory-colored seed, which is used as a food staple. It is indeed a lovely grain, but oh, how I hate that word. I hate it not because I don't know how to pronounce it, but because NOBODY knows how to pronounce it. But does that stop anybody from CORRECTING me when I say it incorrectly? No it does not. Because EVERYBODY is convinced that only he or she truly know how to say quinoa correctly, and everybody else is wrong. Just dead wrong. Here's an example. Me, at the grocery store: "Excuse me, miss, do you know where I can find the [keen-o-wah]?" Miss at the grocery store, in pretentious tones: "Oh, you mean the [keen-wah]? Yes, this way." OH MY EVER-LOVING GOD.
I have counted no less than six ways to pronounce this word. Keen-o-wah. Keen-wah. Kee-noah. Kwine-noah. Kin-wah. Kwin-noah. Am I leaving any out? Probably.
I have gleaned this information not through google, not through an informal survey, not by searching a dictionary. Each of these obnoxious pronunciations represents one of the ways some complete and total stranger has corrected my pronunciation in a grocery store or at a dinner party. As a result, I renounce them all, ALL, I SAY and call upon the World Quinoa Association, if such an association there be, to a) choose a seventh pronunciation, and b) declare that pronunciation the officially correct pronunciation so that we may have done with this nonsense. Because if one more shaggy-headed hippie or j-crewed yuppie foodie corrects me ever again, there will be blood.