Saturday, April 12, 2008

I see knees

Archeology is an interesting, but ultimately pointless, profession. Grubbing around in the muck and forming hefty theories based on a single pre-Roman bottle cap that should never have been found in a particular part of Suffolk. The very thought of it.

Well, there are academic salaries at stake so its important to keep your profile up. Hence a few years ago, in an ill advised attempt to bully the public into seeing the indispensability of the field they tried to change the way we pronounce Boadicea - she who led the most successful rebellion against the Roman occupation of, what was to become, England.

No more were we to say BOW-DA-SEE-A but rather we were to intone the harsher, more perfunctory, BOO-DICK-A. Sadly they did have some influence among those who are easily swayed by men holding clipboards and you'll now be able to find both pronunciations in common usage. Less forgivably if you use the former there'll always be some insufferable goon on hand to "correct" you.

"No, no, it's pronounced BOO-DICK-A"

Now, in and off itself correcting someone's grammar or pronuncation is an elitist impertinence - the only acceptable instances I can think of for correcting the way some speaks are;

i) if they are learning English and are grateful for the assistance.
ii) when someone asks for advise
iii) where the meaning of what they said is genuinely unclear.
iv) when the person is about to make a public appearance and will look foolish if they say Basra in the odd, personalised fashion they have devised for their own personal use.

But more than simple rudeness it is simply wrong to say the "real" pronunciation is BOO-DICK-A, unless you've taken to addressing your friends and family in a hitherto dead dialect of the ancient Britons. In which case my blessings upon you and my sympathy for your loved ones.

Let me point out that no one with any sense, when addressed in English, would say that the capital of France is PA-REE or that of Russia MOCK-BAR. Where do the Spanish come from? The answer is not EspaƱa, but Spain. Any attempt to purge Paris, Moscow or Spain from the English language would be met with blank stares and straight jackets. This kind of linguistic idiocy would be given the very shortest of shrifts.

Likewise the accepted way that the warrior queen's name has been pronounced in England is BOW-DA-SEE-A, and we enjoyed it that way. It has a flavoursome lilt to it. This attempt to delve into dead languages to impose their linguistic conventions upon the living is at best misplaced pedantry and at worst a toffy nosed attempt to put those who speak words with the juice still flowing firmly in their place.

Put your text books down. Your rules and authority are unwanted. Get out of it!

For myself I'll be enjoying English as it comes, observing those conventions that smooth the paths to understanding and, discarding those that smack of a rule mongering gaol.


weggis said...

I am minded of the Monty Python sketch about dead languages and what the Romans really sounded like.

But this is not really Archeaology. Two men in a ditch quote "If humans weren't so messy there would be no archaeology"

i just wonder what will be made of our landfills if there is anyone left to dig them up.

Pedant said...

You shouldn't say "Mockba", but "Moskva", c being s and b being v in the cyrillic alphabet

Jim Jay said...

Hehe - thanks pedant.

I'm just going by the prounciation of a Russian friend, but perhaps he has an unusual accent or something...

ps I believe this bit of pedantry would fall under my (i) above and was more than happily recieved

Natalie Bennett said...

At the British Museum when I'm volunteer guiding I say "Bood-ic-ca, Bo-da-se-a", one after the other with imaginery brackets - which seems to achieve maximum comprehension - Japanese, Koreans, Americans etc having been more likely to be taught the later, but some visitors up with things will correct you if you only say that.

It does complicate life!

Jim Jay said...

You volunteer guide at the British museum? Natalie - you just get better and better the longer I know you.