Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I've been listening to presentations a lot of late. I have an accent (don't we all?), so maybe what I'm hearing is mostly an accent difference (people here know I'm not from here, but can't necessarily tell where I am from). But it feels more than that.

For example, several of my students have talked about the baccalaureate degree, except they pronounce it the "bachelorette" degree. It's like I'm watching the old Dating Game show, and we've got bachelorette number one, two, and three all behind the curtain. Yes, you too can get a bachelorette degree and a date all with just four years of moderately hard work! (I'm getting creepy Jim Lange flashbacks!)

By one of those linguistic connections where people extend a rule to other uses, my students have mentioned that for some careers, you need a doctorette degree.

I think what makes my ears perk up is the feminization of the terms, though students aren't acting like they're aware of that. I think they just don't have much experience hearing the words.


  1. And don't know what the words mean. You'd be surprised (no, maybe you wouldn't) what students don't know.

  2. oh, that's too funny! when i [a californian] lived in the deep south, some of my clients thought i had a speech impediment because i sounded so strange. my professional colleagues pronounced some terms differently as a matter of local practice. [i know at least 3 pronunciations of voir dire now.] i had to humbly concede local pronunciations of local streets and places -- some were based on french, but had no relation to french pronunciation at all.

    for your students, maybe it is a lack of exposure to hearing the words. i still embarass myself that way -- as a reader, i know more words than i've heard out loud, and sometimes the way i say them in my head is flat wrong.

  3. Malapropisms and distortions, I'd guess. Funny, in my experience, accent does have an influence on orthography and what people think the words are.

    Here in the South, I've seen students write "fill" for "feel," "pin" for "pen," and many others. Speaking of the accent in your neck of the woods, I once saw a car on the highway with white soapy-style lettering on the rear windshield: "Just meried." I said to myself, "just merried???? (pronouncing it like "merry men"). Then I saw the license tag from Illinois. Re-pronounced in Midwestern, it came out "just meeeer-eed," which suddenly made lots more sense.

    I'd say just enjoy it....

  4. I teach an awful lot of English history and that trips them up as well. They can't pronounce Norwich or Worcester or parishioner.

    They're also often clueless as to what's the difference between a HS and university professor, let alone what the B.A. in the degree they're seeking stands for. That ignorance only irks me when it's wilful, continuing past the point of correction and instruction. Otherwise it's just another sign of how hard these students have had to work to make it even this far!

  5. Let's get real here; if they think it's "once in the while" and "all of the sudden" and "all in a sudden" and one's "next store neighbor" and that the ball goes "out of bounce," can we really expect them to wrangle *obsolete* verbiage?!

  6. "Doctorette degree." Ha ha ha! I love that. Is it a variation on the "Mrs. Degree" -- only she had to go to grad school to land a husband? Or, maybe it refers to feminist scholarship -- "I only write on women and women's issues, because I have a doctorette"?

  7. mrs. c, your comment reminds me of mondegreens, misheard phrases. some of the funniest ones are song lyrics.

  8. "doctorette" is just killin' me. i keep thinking of a line of professors in robes, doing the can-can with limbs flying every which-way, and singing something bawdy but literary. your average lazy student would pay good money and stand in line for that.

  9. Yeah; those butchered song lyrics can be a hoot ("HEY! You've got your hinney in the way...")--especially when the one is called out by the many who remain in the know. Unfortunately the examples I've cited have become ubiquitous; they are now in the parlance in my area, and I am the one being called out by the group when I attempt a correction.

    "Next DOOR neighbor?! Well, that don't make no since, Mrs. C!"