A chasm in education

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It never ceases to amaze me how people can find new ways in which to mispronounce words.

I have just heard a writer (a writer, and so one would assume a person who is interested in words) on The Radio 4 programme Saturday Live, pronounce, in all seriousness, the word chasm with the same initial sound as in the word church. Yes, I have heard it said like this as a joke, poking fun at English spelling conventions, but never as what was clearly the speaker’s belief that it was the usual way to say the word.

It isn’t even such a rare word. He must have heard ‘kazzm’ many times in the course of his life. Has he never connected the two?

One Comment

  1. What are the reasons that lead to mispronunciations? I wonder about this because I occasionally mispronounce something and immediately realize it came out wrong. Sometimes my talking has gone on far enough ahead of my horrified brain that inserting a corrected pronunciation would be a greater distraction than just continuing. All of these occasions took place when I was not paying full attention to what I was saying, but partially distracted.

    Perhaps there is an analogy to playing the piano. I once read a book by a physician (a neurologist or neurosurgeon or someone who dealt with the brain) who was dissecting the brain’s relationship with his learning to play the piano as an adult. If I am recalling correctly, he said sometimes timing errors result from a change in the pathways — someone may be playing a piece purely by muscle memory when the player recalls a tricky measure is coming up, and the timing falters because now the player is looking at the music or thinking about it differently in the brain, and the messages to the hand muscles are coming from the brain, which is farther away.

    Occasionally I will envision a word as it is printed when I am saying it. I have pauses in my speech often enough that I do not know if I falter when visualizing a word as opposed to just letting muscle memory carry me through. Were there indications in the broadcast that the writer might have been sorting through words mentally, or did the mispronunciation come out smoothly while the talking proceeded?

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