I misspelt ‘aggrandizement’ the other day. I realised when I read it in a book this morning. Words are like buses. Or busses.
It got me thinking, by association, about pronunciation. Growing up as an avid reader I had trouble with words that I’d read rather than heard. ‘Awry’ was one. I said it to rhyme with ‘story’. Another was ‘cotoneaster’, which I thought was ‘cotton easter’, not ‘c’tony-aster’.
The family often challenges my pronunciations, although I’m lucky that my inherited ones, albeit dated, are usually correct.
My mother talked about ‘gazey-boes’, where the rest of us say ‘gaz-ee-boes’. I always imagined that she must have read that before hearing it, but I’ve just looked it up in my 1932 Webster’s, and it’s an alternative pronunciation, so she was right all along - as she usually was, having never been to school. (It doesn’t appear at all in my older Webster’s, which is undated but in which the most modern thing illustrated under ‘aeronautics’ is Lana’s aeronautical machine - a sort of boat-shaped picnic basket with a mast and sail, suspended by four or five large copper party balloons.)
No one is sure of the etymology of ‘gazebo’. Wikipedia says “the origin of the word is unknown, and it has no cognates in other European languages”. Suggestions include the French ‘que c'est beau’, the Latin ‘gazebo’ (‘I shall gaze’ - although there was no such verb when I did Latin), and the Hispano-Arabic ‘qushaybah’ (allegedly a viewing platform, but the source seems to be a single poem and scholars of Arabic say it’s pronounced differently).
I’d like to put forward my own suggestion, which doesn’t appear in any source I have come across; ‘case beau’, from the French for ‘beautiful hut’. In which event my mother’s pronunciation would have been closer to the root.
In contrast, my mother-in-law occupies the linguistic no man’s land of Mrs Malaprop. Last week she remarked that her friend’s son was so clever that he’d been hedge-hunted.