Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cross your T's and X your C's.

I learned something today. (I'm sorry to anyone who has noticed I'm overusing that sentence; I imagine I'll grow tired of it soon.)

While whiling away the hours of my evening (I got an extra 4 and a half of them after our dean was kind enough to call for an early dismissal today—those words exactly—I love working for a school; it's almost like being in school!), I browsed over to one of my favorite time-waster sites, "Throw Grammar from the Train"—and what it says about me that reading an English usage blog is my preferred form of evening entertainment, I hate to guess—obviously it has done nothing to curb my affection for the long and winding run-on sentence—but digressions aside, that was where I learned the thing that I learned today: (No, no, wait, allow me to put this revelation in a new paragraph, so you can easily distinguish it from the dross above...)

The proper way to pronounce the word flaccid is FLAX-id!

No fooling? Many years ago, I read this word in a book and assumed, as any red-blooded English speaker would, that it was pronounced FLAX-id. And then I heard someone say it. A couple times. And no matter who was speaking, they always pronounced it FLAS-id. And I, never bothering to actually look it up, because more than 2 people can't be wrong, hung my head and resigned myself to an unintuitive pronunciation.

Except, apparently, I didn't have to. According to this blog post, I gather that FLAS-id is a secondary pronunciation that evolved from FLAX-id—and upon looking it up, I learned that FLAX-id is still an accepted pronunciation for this word.

It makes me sad when pronunciation deteriorates into something less logical than the original, but at least I can console myself with the knowledge that I was never really wrong.

Funny enough, in one of the comments on the post, a user asked, "I wonder if "coccyx" will ever be pronounced "cossicks". Apparently the commenter hasn't noticed that it already is! In conversations regarding the tailbone (which I get into a lot—don't we all), I have frequently wondered if I've got something wrong for thinking it should be pronounced COX-ix, when other partners in the conversation don't say it that way..

What about you? Have you ever heard "flaccid" pronounced with a K sound? What's your preferred way to say "coccyx?" Do you think, if we try hard enough, we can turn the tides of popular stupidity, and get words to stay pronounced the way they're spelled?


Anonymous said...

I think it's all about the sound of the word matching the meaning. Flaccid weak and floppy. Coccyx. Boney and strong. Until you fall on it. The one needs to imply toughness and the other, milquetoastiness. You may add that to your dictionary of Dads invented words.