Friday, February 28, 2014

Oscar-Nominated Film Director Alexander Payne’s Incorrect Use/ Mispronunciation of Highfalutin Words makes him look Bookish and Insular

First, my customary declaration for posts of this kind: The objective is NOT to denigrate or ridicule someone. Instead, I feature such posts in the belief that if a highly educated person is mispronouncing or misusing a particular word, there is a high probability that at least a few of my blog readers are making the same error. In other words, these posts are meant to serve as “pronunciation/ usage alerts!” And the reason why I name the radio or TV program and identify the speaker is solely to make this feature credible.

Did you watch the “Charlie Rose” interview last week (February 20, to be precise) with famous movie director Alexander Payne? [As you may know, his latest film, “Nebraska,” has been nominated for the best picture Oscar. I’ve watched all nine movies nominated for that award and, in my opinion, “Nebraska” is the best.] Well, during the approximately 16-minute interview, Payne threw out a number of high-caliber words, including oneiric, verisimilitude, and foment. The trouble is that some of those words were mispronounced or misused!

Take a look at the first of the two video clips below. You hear Payne pronounce oneiric as [oh-near-ik] when the only acceptable pronunciation for the word is [oh-ny-rik].  In the second video clip, you hear him say "...I feel like I am directing the creativity of others--fomenting and conducting their creativity..." I hope one of my blog readers has a direct line to Payne and can convey to him the following: the meaning of foment is to incite, instigate, or stir up something (such as trouble, violence, rebellion…). It is never used in the sense Payne had in mind.

It would be worth your while to revisit the concluding paragraph (the one titled A reminder why correct pronunciation matters”) in my blog post of last year triggered by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's pronunciation of chasm as [chaz-um] instead of [kaz-um]. As I said then, please do not ever use a high-caliber word unless you are absolutely sure about its pronunciation and usage. Otherwise, you’ll come across as being bookish and insular. And some in your audience might even think that you learned about those highfalutin terms while preparing for the interview or presentation. 
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