Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Poe-ta-toe? Poe-tah-toe? Toe-ma-toe? Toe-mah-toe?

On occasion, I think about those new folks in our country who have to negotiate the English language, and wonder if they experience the same confusion and bewilderment as I did in my early school years.   

I’m not referring to speaking the language; I’m referring to reading and writing it. I used phonetics in/inn the title to emphasize the point, as the two/to/too different pronunciations are actually spelled the same way/whey. Then there/their is the opposite of that—words that sound the same and are spelled differently: creek or creak, council or counsel, principle or principal, capitol or capital. These last three always trip me up. Thank God for proof readers. Spell Checker won’t help you/ewe here/hear.  

Ok, this is fun, but it’s making me a little crazy. What prompted me to ponder all this was a story I was working on. I never paid much attention to these variants until I began writing, and in doing so, realized what a quagmire the English language really is. Working on a short story the other day, I wrote the line:

“Cole nodded toward the large manila envelope laying on the table in front of her.”

Ooops! Is it “laying,” or “lying?”  You just can’t trust the grammar checker for these things. To be sure, you have to look it up, which is exactly what I did. I happened upon a Writer’s Digest article a while back that had several links to various interpretations of how words are misused. But in searching for them here, I found a site that has everything (or most everything) in one place. I like it better.

Enjoy your/yore self.

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