Thursday, February 26, 2009

pretentious or polite?

Here's something I've been struggling about for a few months now. Last year I went to the Opera House and cacked myself stupid at David Sedaris. Except once. See, he had this piece that, sadly, I didn't agree with. His premise was that any foreigner (anglo-born I take it) should not use local pronunciation as it sounds pretentious. 

He spoke of a friend who came to stay with in their home in France, utilising correct French pronunciation as if it were a vice, not a virtue. See, I can't abide how we tend to not only mispronounce words and the names of cities - we'll even give them new names because we think they're easier to enunciate than the local terms {is that why? I haven't googled it, but I still don't understand it}. When I was younger I always wondered as to why people referred to Gay Paree when speaking of Paris, and now I realise that it's the way that Parisians pronounce their home town {although they tend to leave off the gay part, unless they're referring to The Marais}.

I'm a ridiculously polite person and will go to any extreme not to offend, so why should I tell a local that I positively adore Venice, when to them it's Venizia? If somebody came up to me and told me what lovely beaches MerryWay has, when I know for damned sure that I live in Merewether I'd be puzzled, and then annoyed. But, the thing is, other countries don't tend to do that {except for some Americans who call us Oss-ies... but I think they've got it now}. 

I don't care if it sounds pretentious, if I'm serving Coq au Vin, or Lamb Navarin I'll pronounce it correctly {or, at least I'll try}.  


  1. I don't think it's pretentious, per sae, but I imagine it's all in the TONE behind what is being said. My favorite thing is when someone is being pretentious and using "proper pronunciation" or terminology and they've got it wrong. I don't usually correct them though. Let them eat cake as Marie would say!

  2. But if it's someone who genuinely wants to learn and be polite I would speak up. I try my hardest but there's a line too. See, living here in the Midwest of the U.S. there's a lot of local slang and language that I don't get into because . . . well, to be frank it sounds uneducated. I also try not to give in to the "South Dakota/Minnesota Norwegian" accent because it's grating, gets annoying to understand anywhere else. I've been told I have an accent, but seeing as I've lived a lot of different places and did a lot of theatre/speech/singing, I doubt it's an accent but more proper pronunciation. You'd be surprised- around here grunts count as actual language.


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