Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I really like words.

A lot. Maybe it was all the word games my mom would play with us, or reading with my dad, or helping my uncle Paul come up with mirror palindromes (a palindrome that only uses letters that are mirror images of themselves, so you can literally hold them up to a mirror and they still spell the same word. TOM, AM I MAMOT?). Regardless, if you're ever wondering what I'm thinking about, the answer is probably rhymes, or puns, or sentence rhythms, or ambigrams, or fonts.

Today I've been thinking about words that are spelled so differently from the way the sound that, for varying lengths of time, I've thought they were two different words for the same thing.

For instance, until a couple summers ago, when I worked in a jewelry store learning, among other things, to solder, I pronounced that word soul-dur. I knew it had something to do with binding metal to metal, maybe even synonymous with a word I would've spelled "sauter". The day I realized they were the same word was a singularity of embarrassment, a mental leap that seemed significant and silly at the same time.

The first words word I remember combining in this fashion were was genre (zhahn-ruh), which at the time I was pronouncing (jen-uh-ruh). I'd heard people say the word Zhahn Ra, but it seemed about as mystical and scholarly as the egyptian gods it alluded to (third grade, Mrs. Papadakis, all my friends had Mrs. John, learning ancient mythologies, masking tape over the nude picture of Aphrodite on the bookshelf, Mrs. John's class was decorated like a jungle but Mrs. Papadakis was from Crete and when she talked about Mt. Olympus she paused between thickly accented words for the deep exhales of homesickness). I remember coming home and frantically telling my mom how I'd figured it out, about genre. She smiled. I wasn't embarrassed then. I was a triumphant explorer of language.

I don't know if you've had this specific experience, but if you haven't, it's not that different from  thinking, for example, maybe until you were 14 or so, that the lyrics to this song were "If you'll be my buddy, God," making the "I can call you Betty" line more than a little sacrilegious, and getting laughed at, riotously, even. Maybe your family still brings it up from time to time, when they feel like making fun of you.

Damn it, Paul Simon, annunciate!