Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Finding Your Own Mute Grammar Nitch

I know the phonetic faux-pas of substituting "nitch" for "niche" is a common occurrence, but the Grammar Nazi sometimes feels like this is an error committed with increased frequency where he lives. Especially by local newscasters, as witnessed here.

We get into trouble because we don't pronounce it correctly. And by "we," I mean Americans in general, not my fellow hobnobbers here. We get niche from the French, who prounounce the "I" as a slightly long "E." They get the word in turn from Latin nidus, meanng "nest." Here in America we give the "I" a short "I" sound. But herein lies the problem. Some of us add a "T" sound after the I, because it makes the word easier to pronounce. So we read niche, we say nitch. That's well and good until we go to spell it, then we screw it all up.

At least, however, this isn't as bad as a truly local linguistic anomaly, namely the insistence that the word "moot," as in "You make a moot point" is pronounced mute, as in, "Forgive me my son, I didn't realize you're a mute." This misconception -- and mispronunciation -- seems particularly heavy in the Rexburg/St. Anthony area of eastern Idaho, where I live. It drives me absolutely buggy.

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