To Speak Out or Not To Speak Out

Have you ever been part of a conversation where someone mispronounces a word and doesn’t realize it? Example: someone I barely knew recently held forth about the health benefits of eating whole grains, such as quinoa. Only he pronounced it “qwin-NO-ah.” I cringed inside, and so wanted to save him further embarrassment by telling him politely (and one-on-one) that it was in fact pronounced “KEEN-wah.”

But before I could even think of doing that, some loudmouth trumpeted in front of the whole group, “It’s pronounced ‘KEEN-wah,’ not ‘qwin-NO-ah!'” And of course the whole crowd laughed. The poor guy. What’s up with that? Why would you purposely want to embarrass someone like that?

I speak from experience, as I used to be that loudmouth. Now I wish I could go back and apologize to every person–how rude and how unnecessary. Like all bad behavior, this speaks volumes about the loudmouth and not about the person who mispronounced a word. This was my former need to be right at all costs, no matter whose feelings I trampled on. Thank Heaven those days are over, and I got a little smarter and a lot more humble.

So, when this happens now, I try hard to gauge if I should:

A) Take the person aside and ask if he wants to know how to *pronounce the word correctly.

B) Bother to tell him at all.

C) Just smile and nod and walk away. After all, who made me the Goddess of Pronunciation?

I really do not want to be that person who goes out of their way to belittle someone or beat them to death with the Baseball Bat of Correctness. I spent years doing just that, and all it got me was a second or two of feeling superior. It’s not worth it, and these days the last thing I want to do is to hurt someone.

These are the types of things that my wise and wonderful Mom says ‘make you go red in the night (from embarrassment!).’

So, a word to the wise (and quite frankly, I don’t care HOW you pronounce it!), resist the temptation to lord it over others when it comes to correctly spoken verbiage. I’ve been that route and it doesn’t buy you anything but eventual remorse at being such a huge horse’s hind end…unless of course you enjoy being one. 😉

*That is, as long as I’m pretty dang sure that *I* am pronouncing it correctly!

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