02 October 2012

Hyperbole and Oxymoron

This is highly symbolic (sim-BOL-lick).
My son brought home a poetry exercise, and he had to give an example of hyperbole. Now, I know what hyperbole is, pretty much - but what I don't know is how to pronounce it. Is it HIGH-per-bowl, or high-PURR-bolly?

Well, thank goodness for Google; it has the power to prevent the unspeakable embarrassment of mispronounced literary terminology. And that, just now, was hyperbole, the "unspeakable embarrassment" part. High-PURR-bolly, as it turns out - go figure.

You really need a pronunciation guide for those things; there's no way you can guess whether the individual terms are pronounced the way you think, or put the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABle. I was doing the fancy pronunciation on "oxymoron" - called it ox-IMMER-on; it sounded so much more literary that way - until someone looked at me funny for it and said "Is that how you pronounce that?" Seeing as she was an English BA who had actually gone to a brick-and-mortar university for her degree, unlike me who got hers from a distance ed school and learned all these words from books instead of live people, I thought she might have a point, so I looked it up. And to my great chagrin is turns out to be an OXy-MOR-on - you know, as in "bovine draft animal of low intelligence". It's from the Greek words for  "sharp" and "dull", so an oxymoron is a sharpdull - a contradiction in terms. And a moron, it appears, is a dullard, i.e. not the sharpest knife in the drawer (and that, in turn, is a metaphor. MET-a-for, not met-TAF-er. Sigh.).

English is not the easiest language to learn to speak by reading it. I got laughed at once, when I hadn't been in Canada all that long, for calling an executive (ex-ECK-you-tiff) an exe-CUE-tiff. Well, excuse me, they execute power, don't they? They don't ex-ECK-ute it, they exe-CUTE it. Cute, I know. I was making the mistake of applying logic to the English language. Hah. Silly me.

Life, the YOU-ni-vurs, high-PURR-bollies and OXy-MOR-ons. When in doubt, look it up.

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