When I complimented my daughter by telling her that her hair looked like tousled waves, she was confused. Then she realized why and told me I was pronouncing tousled wrong: “It’s “tussled,” she said. I insisted the first part was said like “tows,” as in, rhymes with cows. We deferred to my husband, who said she was right.
Welcome to my world.
Because I’m deaf, I don’t pick up on the pronunciation of many words. This means inevitably botching it, which is a little bit easier when done among family.
I still remember one time when my folks were visiting me in college. My sister was talking about a play she had to read for high school English: “Antee-gone.” It took us a while to realize she meant “AnTIGinee,” or “Antigone.” She was embarrassed, but we told her better it happened with us than in class.
I emailed a couple of my deaf friends to ask them how they would pronounce “tousled.” It made me feel better when they said they’d use the same mispronunciation. I mean, really, we say “mouse,” and “house,” so why does it not translate for this word?
I thought “pom-eh-gran-at-ee” was how to say pomegranate. Doesn’t it look like it should be pronounced that way? I still have trouble remembering, especially since I like my version better.
Yet I know how to correctly say hyperbole. Perhaps I have my degree in English literature to thank for that.
When I discover that a word I’ve been saying — either in my head and/or out loud — for years is wrong, it never fails to blow my mind. It’s like the whole world has to be recalibrated.
There’s no pattern to my word crimes, though maybe they occur with words that aren’t said out loud as often. One constant is that sometimes the English language makes no fucking sense.