Sunday, June 29, 2014

7 Sins of -ail, -ill,and -ell

My linguistics professor might argue that common mispronunciations of -ell, -ill, and -ail has more to do with geographical accent than lack of knowing how to actually pronounce the word correctly.  That might be true in some cases.  However, in most other cases, it seems that we {Americans} have simply become sloppy in our diction. (Ever listen to how Americans used to speak in an old black & white show? )  I argue that the issue isn't completely a regional accent issue because I listen to these kids' parents speak and they do NOT speak like this.

This appears to be true especially over the past 2 or 3 generations.  Could it be all of that "fo' shizzle my nizzle" jargon in the early 2000s? Was it perhaps because cell phone providers used to restrict the character space of texts which resulted not only in abbreviated words, such as "SRSLY", but in slurred and murmured speech as well?  Srsly, dats mssd up.

I know I've touched on many issues in the past, in my {{grammar police report}} post. This time, I'd like to approach the pronunciation issue and proper use of words ending in -ill, -ell, -ail/-ale, and even the occasional -eal.  I don't know what it is about the letter L appearing at the end of these words that makes these words so difficult, but it seems to be the common thread.

1 - "I bought this on sell."   No.  You bought it on SALE.  It's like saying the word "Say" with an "L" on the end.  SAY+L = SALE.   Sale is the noun, sell is the verb.  They are going to sell books at the sale.

2 - "He has an awesome sell boat."  No, not a SELL boat.  A SAIL boat.  ~Sigh~ Refer back to #1.  Different word, different meaning, different spelling, but same pronunciation.  SAY+L = SAIL.

3 - "He was arrested and went to gel."  I had a coworker who would always read the county bookings on her break.  Nearly every day, there was an audible gasp followed by, "Guess who just went to gel?"  It was all I could do not to ask, "Gel? Is that the name of some new hair salon?"  This is because, of course, gel is a HAIR PRODUCT.  If you are referring to the little 8x8 room with iron bars holding someone in lock-down, the word you are looking for is JAIL.  Say the name JAY and then, add the L. JAY + L.

4 - "He wanted me to bell him out."  Unless "belling" someone out means to beat them to a bloody pulp with an iron bell, the word you want is BAIL.  BELL = cast metal object used for ringing, to gain someone's attention.  BAIL = property/money given as security for someone's reappearance to the courts.   Like before, say BAY and then add the "L".   BAY + L.

5 - "It will be a year untell I get to see him again."  This word simply does NOT exist, because it would infer that you are intending to un-tell a story or un-tell a lie, or un-tell anything which has already been told.  That's just not possible.  The word is UNTIL.  And while we are on the subject, unless you are tilling a garden, till and until actually mean the same thing.  Many think that till is a shortened version of the word until.  However, till came first and then unto it came until. (See what I did there?)  In old English (after the birth of until), many wrote till as 'til.  However, that is completely unnecessary, unless you're a poet, and is additionally considered incorrect. Pronounce the 'i' in till/until like the 'i' in tip, as in "to tip the waitress."  Simply change out the 'p' with an 'l' and you've got it. TI + LL.

6 - "That dog is wagging his tell."  Okay, I suppose if the dog is playing poker and if his tail were indeed his "tell" (an unconscious action used to betray or deceive), then that would work.  But what are the chances of a poker playing dog? TAIL.  Like TAY + L. The same is true for telling a TALE.  TAY + L = TALE.

7. - "They have great dills." True story here.  I was fairly new to Utah and had only been in my new job for about a year.  Someone offered to make a sandwich run.  I asked about the deli because I hadn't heard of it before.  One of the persuading arguments was a fellow coworker's claim.  She told me, "Oh, they have great dills!"  I asked her if the dills came with every order.  (If you know me well, you know I love a great dill pickle.)  She looked at me a little strange, shook her head and said, "Yes."  When my sandwich arrived, I asked about the missing pickle.  She then said, "Oh, you didn't ask for one."  I replied, "I thought you said they came with every sandwich."  It took a minute before they all realized I thought she was saying "Dill" as in pickle.  They roared and explained she meant DEAL.  I asked, "Well, then why didn't she say DEAL?  It sounds like DILL."  They informed me lots of Utahns speak like that now, especially the younger generations. ~sigh~   DEAL = DEE + L.

I know there are many other words which people, depending on age and location, pronounce differently.  Some say PILL+OW (pillow) while others say they have a soft PELL-OW.  Some people drink MELK, while the rest of us drink MIL+K/MILK (except me, I actually can't stand the white stuff.  Phooey!)  But, I suppose those don't bother me as much because I at least know what they mean, and those pronunciations have existed much longer, so perhaps I've grown a little more tolerance.

There you have it.  Now, with all this talk of pickles, I'm off to find a great DILL!..........


Ruthykins said...

I used a pin to write you a note and I put it in the baig. I hope nothink is wrong with that.

Koreen said...

This is also one of my pet peeves. In fact, my kids call me the "Grammar Nazi" because I tend to ask them to repeat what they just said and to pronounce it properly this time! : )