Monday, April 13, 2009

The Word That Defeated Us All

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.

24 comments:

Frank Irwin said...

You left out kin-noah, which is how I would pronounce it, if needed. But I don't eat that stuff, so there.

My response to the "Oh, you mean ?" would be, "No, I meant ?" and continue to pronounce it as I did.

Renny said...

You also forgot kw-eye-noah.

Kate said...

This is precisely why stupid people like me stick with things like milk and apples, or the so-called "idiot foods."

Frank Irwin said...

Mmmmm. I like ap-plays!

Kate said...

Don't you mean "app-lee?"

Frank Irwin said...

If I meant ap-plee, I would have said ap-plee, now, wouldn't I? I meant ay-plah!

Cheasty said...

oh my god, frank and kate, you are KILLING me! that was hilarious.

and renny, i stand corrected. make it 7 pronunciations, and WQA, we need an 8th.

Frank Irwin said...

Thanks, Cheasty. We're here all week. Try the vee-uhl, and don't forget to tip the waitstaff.

Frank Irwin said...

Speaking of pronounciation, how does one correctly pronounce "Cheasty?"

Kate said...

Frank, you dummy, it's right there in the title---rhymes with tasty.

Kate said...

Apple has now exceeded the allowed number of pronunciations in my book. I guess I must switch my diet to meat.

Frank Irwin said...

Oops, so it is, Kate. My excuse is that I gave up reading sub-titles for Lent.

I would have guessed that it rhymes with "tasty." Actually, that's how I've been saying it in my dreams.

Cheasty said...

ummm... frank? meet kate. kate? meet frank. i always love it when people find their new BFF through my blog. :)

H-SPO said...

is quinoa tabouli?

or are they different things?

i don't know how to say it or what it is...

HA.

Lisa said...

Jicama. That one is my pet peeve.

I've argued with many grocery store employees over this one.

"I'm looking for hee-cama."

"You mean hick-uh-muh?"

"Nooooo.... Hee-cama."

If there were 6 or 7 ways to pronounce jicama, my head would explode.

Alison in CO said...

Is that "Cheasty" like "tasty" which rhymes with "nasty"? No attack on your character intended, Cheasty.

Frank and Kate and everyone else enjoying their great show: I once worked with a man who always said "uh-PUHLZ", rushing the 'uh' portion. I used to bring in oranges just so I wouldn't have to hear him say, "That uh-PUHL sure looks delicious."

Now, let's all go buy some kin-noah to go with our jik-uh-muh.

Jenna said...

Ha ha! I got just as many laughs reading the comments as the post! :) If you're ready for one more pronounciation, my dad and his wife pronounce it kee-no. Like the vegas game kino. And let's not even get started on how to pronounce all the Spanish street names in Austin. Is it Gwad-a-loop or Guadalupe? Man-chack or Manchaca?

Cheasty said...

HSPO - come visit. i will make you quinoa, though i probably won't say it out loud. it's different from tabouleh. tabouli. tabouleh. i?

Lisa - do you speak spanish? i guess that's te difference between the HEE-cama and HEH-cama groups, right?

alison in CO - nope, it's cheasty like tasty, hasty, pasty. long A sound, like when you sing your ABC's. and i can't believe you didn't punch the uh-PUHLZ guy.

Jenna - tell me about it. the comments are on a roll! thanks for giving me yet another pronunciation. i will now commit hari kari. :)

Kate said...

Living in Alabama I hear an unbelievable array of mispronunciations. One of the most irritating is the time I had a customer order fah-jie-tahs (jie rhymes with die but with the hard "j" sound like jack.) Oh he was such a redneck.

Lindsey said...

I only know how to pronounce that word because I watch so much Food Network. It pisses my dentist off when I ask her to set the ceiling TV for Food Network, because then I have a lot more saliva for her to have to suck down the sucky straw.

Also, I used to think there were "Kernels" in the Army, as well as "Colonels", pronounced phonetically. My 5th grade teacher corrected me on that one. Rather bitchily, as I recall.

Anonymous said...

You should wander down to Alabama where you would get this response:

"What language is that...are you a foreigner or sumthin" "This is a grocery store not a comedy club"

Can't get anything but a good ole GRIT

Cheasty said...

kate - I've totally heard the fajietas,too. even here in texas, where it mystifies me how anybody can not know how to properly pronouce the most common tex-mex food ever in the history of tex-mex food. wild.

lindsey - gasp! is your computer working?! hooray! i shall scurry over to to your blog to see what's cookin'. the kernels thing made me laugh out loud. also, totally jealous that you have TV in your dentist's office. i have to stare at a poster of a cat dangling from a tree. guess what the caption is. no, really. guess.

Frank Irwin said...

Jenna - It's man-SHACK. And Burnet is "Burnit. Learn it, durnit." In Massachusetts, Peabody is pronounced PEE-buddy. Worcester is "Woostah."

Cheasty - The caption to the cat poster is, "I may be hanging from this tree, but at least there's not smoke coming out of my teeth!"

I don't have anything to look at besides my dentist's nostrils.

Cheasty said...

Anon - hey, when did you meet my granddad?

Frank, you are so wrong. the caption says "hang in there!" get it? huh huh. it's just about the dumbest thing i've ever seen.