Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Singing the Praises of Schwa

Sometimes, the things I see on the Web make me lose my moral. I have one – at least one I’ll admit to as the Grammar Nazi: Spell things correctly and use the right word.

In this case, the moral of the story is that a lot of people confuse moral with morale. Here’s the difference:

Moral – This word can be either an adjective or a noun. As an adjective, moral is defined as pertaining to the discernment of good and evil, or the judgment of goodness and badness of human action. As a noun, a moral is a concisely expressed precept, or the lesson or principle contained or taught by a story.

Morale – This is a noun defined as the state of the spirits of an individual or group.

Part of the confusion comes, I think, in remembering how these words are pronounced. Moral has the long O sound as in more, boat, and rose. Morale has the schwa sound (say that five times fast, it’s fun: schwa schwa schwa schwa schwa) of the U in cut, and both the first O and only A sound in photography. IF we remember to pronounce the word as we decide which one to use, I think that'll help us avoid confusing the two.

The schwa, by the way, is the most common sound in American English, according to the experts at americanaccent.com, a fascinating site for those learning the language and those who grew up mangling, I mean speaking it.

So please, folks. Keep my morale high by using moral/morale in the correct way. In return, I won’t even bring up the word morel, which would not only cloud the issue but make me hungry. Thank you.

And now, my mantra: gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge.

And, in case I'm out of practice:

antenna antenna antenna antenna antenna antenna.

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