I’ve been thinking about Calliope Syndrome.
Some people call it ‘readers vocabulary’ and I’ve also seen it described as ‘speaking booklish’.
Whatever you call it – it refers to pronouncing something incorrectly because you’ve only ever seen it written down.
If you’d never heard Calliope said out loud, how would you know it was “cal-aye-o-pee” and not “calli-oap” or something else?!
It’s definitely something I’ve embarrassed myself with over the years; probably because I’ve had my nose in a book since I was able.
I thought ‘segue’ was “seeg” and ‘gauge’ was “goje” and don’t even talk to me about ‘banal’!
The pronunciation of ‘colonel’ and ‘hyperbole’ is surely designed to trip us up.
I’d heard them and read them, but somehow still assumed they were entirely different words.
I know I’m not alone: J K Rowling had to include a full conversation in the ‘Goblet of Fire’ where the character of Hermione explains phonetically how to pronounce her name.
(And a whole generation of readers collectively went ‘Ohhhh’).
The thing is, as a copywriter I’ve always been quite good at finding the perfect word when I’m writing something down.
(Handy in this job!)
Quite often I’ll just guess at a word that sounds vaguely familiar and then look it up to find that it was the perfect fit.
It’s a skill I’m pretty proud of, but one that I lack the confidence to risk in conversation.
You can’t go back and edit something you’ve said out loud!
And when I’m writing it down, nobody knows how I’m pronouncing ‘epitome’ in my head.
A while ago though, I came across a quote that said something along the lines of:
Never make fun of someone if they mispronounce a word – it means they learned it from reading.”
And isn’t that something to be celebrated?
*That’s definitely not how you pronounce minutiae.
…I don’t think.
Luckily – you don’t need me to read your text aloud. But if you’d like some help writing it, feel free to get in touch.