Bloody Well Write

October 19, 2009

How to pronounce “patronize” or The childlike belief of willing something with all of one’s might until it becomes truth

Filed under: pronunciation,Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 3:22 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Here’s an ideal example of the way I thought as a young girl growing up.

I thought, for sure, that if I believed in something “hard enough” — as in almost bugging my eyes out while holding my breath or just willing something to happen with my awesome, mind-bending power — I could make something become true. Granted, the thing I was usually willing with all my might was usually something that had been sitting on the proverbial fence, like would the folks let me have some saltwater taffy at the next rest stop? Or would my parents not care that much that my peas were hidden in the tiny mound of mashed potatoes still left on my plate? (I liked the potatoes, otherwise it would’ve been a massive mound of mashed potatoes hiding the rogue peas.) I thought that I could will my body into producing boys when the time came for children. I believed that I could will myself out of paralysis if the situation were to come up. Very Bionic Woman of me, I’d say.

Whoever did this doesn't know how to hide the peas very well (photo:

Whoever did this doesn't know how to hide the peas very well (photo:

I’m getting to the point, believe it or not, so stick with me for just a little while longer.

Up until very recently, I thought that patronize was spelled two ways because it had two meanings. It made perfect sense to me. It should be pronounced PAY-tron-ize if it’s supposed to mean that you are frequenting someone’s shop or buying a company’s stuff on a regular basis. Why? Because you are a patron (PAY-tron), so you are PAY-tron-iz-ing the shop.

It should be pronounced PAH-tron-ize (as in “pat”) if it’s supposed to mean that you are being condescending or are being treated in a condescending manner. Again, it made perfect sense to me. It’s condescending, as if someone were patting you on the head, saying, “Now, now, little Nellie, you just run along and play and the big girls will take care of everything. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.” Patronizing should totally sound like getting patted on the head or, perhaps worse, doing the patting on someone else’s head. That’s linear logic.

But there’s this pesky little thing called research.

I checked into the pronunciation issue on the word. And you know what? I couldn’t will the two pronunciations to mean what I wanted them to mean. Even with all my logic and self-admittedly rock-star Internet research capabilities, I couldn’t come up with facts to back up my beliefs. So disconcerting.

But I’ve decided to bend my mind around the facts at hand. Here’s the real deal on the pronunciation of patronize:

PAY-tron-ize = American English pronunciation
PAH-tron-ize = British English pronunciation

That’s it. Just the bloody American vs. English thing again. Doesn’t matter which meaning you’re trying to convey — just which side of the pond you’re on. If you’re in the United States, use the PAY-tron-ize pronunciation; if your primary audience is Britain-bound, use PAH-tron-ize.

Maddening as all get-out. You say “to-MAY-to,” I say “to-MAH-to.” Thank goodness that life goes on.

By the way, I have two lovely, amazing girly-girls. No boys. Go figure.

Happy trails!



February 10, 2009

Confounding homophones

Filed under: grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 4:56 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Ah, homophones: They are the average speller’s Achilles’ heel. A homophone is a word that is pronounced like one or more other words but has a different meaning, derivation or spelling. A most frequent example: To, too and two all sound alike, but they have different meanings. Here is a short list of frequently misused homophones, with simplified definitions that are — most obviously — in my vernacular (and yes, this is a short list, believe it or not):

Stationery = something you write obligatory notes on
Stationary = when something doesn’t move

Complementary = when something makes something else look good
Complimentary = when something is included, free of charge, or when someone offers a compliment (How you doin’?)

Hay = stuff that is supposed to be fun to jump in but scratches like the dickens
Hey = a casual greeting that I use way too much

Prays = what John Q. Public does when he’s choosing lotto numbers
Preys = something that a hungry tiger does on the antelope trail
Praise = what B.F. Skinner called positive reinforcement

Sleigh = Santa’s version of an SUV
Slay = the act of killing something or someone, with lethal weapon or with wit

Patients = those folks in hospitals and doctor’s offices
Patience = what Axel Rose needed back in the day

Maid = someone who makes your bed, disinfects your toilet and dusts your stuff — but doesn’t do windows
Made = something you created or put together

Aid = helping someone or something
Aide = the fantastic person helping you

Wade = trying to walk through something that hinders movement, such as a pool of water or tub of pudding
Weighed = what you did this morning — buck-naked, butt-naked or just plain naked, after emptying your bladder and exhaling but before drinking a cup o’ joe

Brake = the thing on your car that lets you stop (more than one if you’re lucky)
Break = gimme a ________, or when you drop a plate of your mom’s good china

Stake = the thing in the ground if you’re lucky, in your heart if you’re not
Steak = something vegetarians gladly do without

Vein = the bluish lines in your forearm
Vain = Carly Simon sang about it, famously, though it wasn’t about you
Vane = a thing that helps show direction

Bass = a low, low singing voice, or an instrument that gives your fingers serious calluses
Base = the bottom or first part of something, or placement on the baseball field, or which one you’re on depends how lucky you are

Naval = something to do with the sea
Navel = something to do with your tummy, or a kind of orange

Wave = in an ocean or a pool, or hi-ya, or shoo-fly
Waive = when you give up your rights

Hair = on your head and/or your legs
Hare = rabbit

Peak = the tippy-top of something, such as Pike’s Peak in Colorado
Peek = a quick or sheltered look at something you probably shouldn’t be looking at anyway
Pique = irritating someone else, or getting someone’s attention, sometimes annoyingly

Piece = a part of something, or a weapon
Peace = not a weapon

Here = not there
Hear = what?

Flier = an aviator, or something that gets slipped under your windshield wiper when you run into the store for 15 seconds
Flyer = the official name of some transportation and sports teams, as well as a maker of little red wagons

Cord = a long, ropelike item, or a bunch of wood, or an emotional tug
Chord = the usually lovely sound of several notes being played on an instrument at the same time

Your = not mine
You’re = contraction of you + are
Yore = long, long ago

There = not here
Their = not mine or ours
They’re = contraction of they + are

Its = not mine or yours, but ____
It’s = contraction of it + is

Palette = the classic image: what the painter holds as he/she is painting a masterpiece
Pallet = a small, hard bed, or something of that size that you stack a bunch of stuff on

Cannon = goes BOOM
Canon = church dogma, or a group of related works, or a particular type of musical composition

Capitol = a particular federal or state building (uppercase when referring to a specific building, such as the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.)
Capital = the city where a seat of government is located, or money, stuff and/or property used in a business

Mat = a flat piece of carpet-like fabric that you wipe your feet on
Matte = a sheen that’s not shiny in the least

Council = a group of folks sitting around, drinking coffee, making decisions
Counsel = giving advice, usually asked for

Retch = ooh, not feeling so good
Wretch = a sorry sucker, down on his/her luck

Desert = can be hot, dry, barren
Dessert = can be cold, wet, loaded with goodies

Accept = to take something as your own, whether it’s a lost puppy or an idea
Except = to exclude, whether it’s a lost puppy or an idea

Chile = a country, or something originating from that country
Chili = a type of pepper, great in guacamole, or a steaming bowl of seasoned beans and/or ground beef
Chilly = boo-coldies

Gorilla = big, hairy ape (not your boyfriend)
Guerrilla = warriors who don’t play nice

Immanent = something inherent (beauty is immanent, so they say)
Imminent = something at the ready (old age is imminent, so they say)

Principal = the boss at school, or the most important thing
Principle = a fundamental idea, or the origin of something

Discrete = the distinctness of a thing
Discreet = showing great judgment in the face of adversity, or modesty, or unobtrusive behavior

Bazaar = a groovy place to shop
Bizarre = weird, wild stuff

Altar = a raised structure on which some people offer sacrifice, literally or figuratively
Alter = to change something, such as a hemline or an attitude

Phew — and that’s the short list!

Happy trails!


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