I’m going to acknowledge something here; I can be fairly sensitive at times. I get that way whenever certain speech patterns of mine, based on my background, come up for discussion. I will also admit that sometimes I should just shut my mouth and move on, but we all know that doesn’t always happen.

An interesting example is a couple of days ago when someone on Twitter wrote a statement to the effect that the letter “W” is the only letter in the alphabet with 3 syllables. I had to think about it because based on the way I learned how to say it, there’s only 2 syllables: dub-ya. That looks and sounds strange to a lot of people but I was born in Texas, my mother was from Louisiana, and I picked up a lot of speech patterns from her. As I can’t think of a single word where you’d pronounce all 3 syllables if it begins with a “W”, I can honestly say that I’ve never really thought that much about it.

I find that there are a number of words that I pronounce differently than people who are from New York, on northern states in general, even though I’ve lived here more than 35 years. I pronounce “police” as “po-lice”. I pronounce “umbrella” as “ummmm-brella”. I pronounce “gorilla” as “go-rilla”. There’s this thing about giving the first syllable more feeling than it probably should get.

I also learned as a child that there were words spelled differently that you pronounce the same way, but in New York they pronounce them differently. Words like “coupon” and “pen” vs “pin” are good examples.

And there are phrases that I sometimes have to take some time in figuring out in “proper” conversation as opposed to most of the time when I’m just talking to someone. A good example of that is “used to could” instead of “used to be able to” or some veneration of that. Someone on Twitter earlier today picked on a professional basketball player because he said “it can’t get no worse”, which may be bad grammar yet sounds perfectly good to my ears.

It’s probably a good thing I write much different than I speak. When I write, the proper words come to me, something I had to prove back in 10th grade when teachers listened to how I spoke and thought I had to be cheating on papers until one finally saw an example of my writing style during a live class where I couldn’t have cheated.

It might beg the question as to how one can write differently than they speak. I honestly have no idea. I do know that I speak differently in person based on who I’m talking to, or the circumstance of my conversation, and thus I might have to take some time in coming up with the proper language, especially in business situations.

I write this post because there are so many people who listen to the way I speak, or others speak, and decide that they must not be all that intelligent. Whereas the phrase “these ones” drives me nuts, which many New Yorkers use, I have never thought any of those people weren’t intelligent based on the phrase. Some of the smartest people in the world have the worst grammar; some of them write atrociously.

Don’t ever mistake intellect with ignorance. If a person speaks a certain way and it’s not proper, it might be because they never had the opportunity to learn another way of speaking. That’s ignorance; people can be taught. If you assume that ignorance means a person isn’t smart, you’re waiting to get burned in some fashion. Never underestimate anyone based on speech.
 

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