The continuation of Skiing Uphill and Boregasm, Zug is 'the little blog that could.'

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Name: Ed Waldo
Location: of The West,

I am a fictional construct originally conceived as a pen name for articles in the Los Angeles FREE PRESS at the 2000 Democratic Convention. The plume relating to the nom in question rests in the left hand of Hart Williams, about whom, the less said, the better. Officially "SMEARED" by the Howie Rich Gang . GIT'CHER ZUG SWAG HERE!

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Cruelest Month

I've always been this way, I have to admit it. I used to correct my little brother's weird pronunciation of common words -- the longest-lived being "closent" for "closet" but there were others and they were legion.

I remember waking up to my GE clock radio (purchased on sale at Gibson's Discount on St. Michael's Drive with my supermarket paycheck) endless mornings in Santa Fe my senior year in high school, listening to Don McLean butcher the line "But FEB-YOOO-ARY made me shiver/with every paper I'd deliver."

And, even before coming fully conscious -- even before padding into the bathroom to extract one round, red Ritalin pill, toss into the toilet bowl and ritually piss on it (my mother was a pill-counter, and after a few months of my morning ritual, I was deemed "much better" and removed from the medication, the only known instance of reverse placebo effect I'm aware of). Even before that, I'd growl, "Feb BRU ary, you idjit!"

So, t'aint no literary affectation that I am in misery every February, as the mispronounced month is, mercifully, the shortest month. I involuntarily correct and remonstrate all month, and am invariably seen as a meddler, or, worse, one a' them egg-heads. I understand.

Obviously the reflexive correcting isn't working. But I told you the Ritalin story for a reason, which is mainly to suggest that I have been known to be extremely devious, and successfully so. A subtext and minor counterpoint is also to imply that I may well be bat-shit crazy, and so you need to pay heed, lest you awaken some morning to a prize racing bat's head in your bedclothes.


February comes to us from the Roman calendar, and the name derives from, according to Wikipedia:

February was named after the Latin term februum, which means purification, via the purification ritual Februa held on February 15 in the old Roman calendar.

[from: A Guide for Practitioners of the Religio Romana

Similar to the mola salsa was the februa or pium far made for the purification rituals of the house and curiae that took place in February. This too was made of spelt roasted in an antique fashion, but salt is not mentioned in its preparation. The spelt was then pounded into rude cakes and offered to Juno on crude tables (mensae). Roman lictores carried februa for use in purifying houses, believed to have been used by strewing it on a doorsill of a house where someone had died and also as incense (Ovid Fasti 2.24-5). There was also the salsamina "made by mixing four kinds of fruit" (Arnobius Adversus Gentes 7.24), i.e. four kinds of grains.]
See? If it were "FebYOOary" then the name would derive from "feebus" or some other root for "feeble-minded."

So: the cleansing of February would indicate the attempts to correct the mispronunciation of the month itself, while the mispronunciation would indicate feeble-mindedness. This creates a neat rhetorical litmus test. You will note, in the media (which consists mostly of professional readers!) how the feeble-minded predominate.

Here is the sentence that no broadcaster in America can pronounce correctly (The Hart Williams Challenge™):

Athletes pay close attention to February's nuclear espresso temperature statistics.

Normally, it is pronounced "ATH-uh-leets pay close attention to FebYOOary's nook-yew-lar EX-presso TEMP_uh-chure SAT-istics"


Jesus H. Christ on a goshdarned hand-truck with a pile of shovels, what the heck is going on?

How did we get to be PROUD of being dumbasses? And how did we elevate that dumbass class into the "role model" arena? I realize that there's always been a battle going on between the intellectuals and the masses. But I promise you, that high school pre-Ritalin-pisser weren't no intellectual when he corrected "American Pie's" dumbass enunciation of February.

No. It's because many of these words are difficult to pronounce. The Wikipedia article cited earlier even offers up a phony intellectual rationalization as to why you dumbasses can't pronounce 'February.'

Many people pronounce "February" with a round 'u' instead of an open 'u' vowel, which forces the first 'r' to be eclipsed, viz. 'FEB-yoo-air-ee' instead of 'FEB-roo-air-ee.' That is, it elides into first half of the trailing diphthong. Otherwise, the flanking mid vowel ('e') and back vowel ('u'), combined with the final -ry syllable (front vowel 'ee') make the 'br' difficult for Anglophones to pronounce in the first place. The problem does not usually arise for Scotiaphones, however. The Scottish names for the month are "Feberwary" and "Februar," the latter usually pronounced with a long "ay" vowel in the first syllable.

Paradigmic analogy with January, which can only be pronounced with a round 'u' vowel, is another likely source for the employment of a round 'u' in February.
There you go.

In other words, English speakers who don't have Scotiaphones (which I take to be some kind of speaker system for Scottish hikers and bicyclists) just find pronouncing February too difficult.

OK. I'm down with 'dat, homes. Even though the standard by which social hierarchy has been adjudged for endless ages is one's ability to use language (see Shaw's "Pygmalion," or, for you dumbasses, "My Fair Lady," which has pretty songs to keep the ideas from hurting your brain). And, even though mail-order types have made livings for years by selling you "increase your vocabulary" gimmicks, and READERS DIGEST notes "It pays to improve your vocabulary," you're proud of being bested by a word that you've used all your life, are using right now, and will CONTINUE to use for as far as you want to peer into the future -- a word that's just too fucking HARD for you to pronounce.

OK. If you're an amateur, I can understand. You've got important things to do. If you want to continue pronouncing "February" like a dumbass, that's certainly your prerogative.

But don't look at ME like I got a problem if I mutter "FEBROOary" under my breath, after you mispronounce that word that's "too hard" for you. (I made a resolution on New Year's to try and get along with dumbasses this year. And, just this ONCE, I hope to make it to the end of February.)

After all, we can all understand how difficult the mere act of speaking is for you, and the terrible weight of moving your tongue around is almost more than humans can or should be forced to endure. I get that.

But it's the PROFESSIONALS not being capable of pronouncing the name of 1/12th of the entire year, and spending the entire cleansing month burnishing their dumbass credentials to a high sheen -- that's what's unforgivable here.

I mean, all that a lot of media folks do is help select (at best) the words that they read and then READ them. The fact that they can't pronounce February ought to be a cause for national ridicule. But no:

I live in a country in which a significant number of dumbasses believe that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs. Who believe that the planet is 6000 years old. Who are convinced that not every word that comes out of Condoleeza Rice's mouth is a lie. There are a tremendous number of dumbasses, given.

And I can understand the commercial wisdom of appealing to the dumbass demographic by putting talking heads on every screen repeating endlessly:

"Feb yoo ary, temp a chure, Feb yoo ary, temp a chure, Feb yoo ary, temp a chure, Feb yoo ary, temp a chure ..."

But, really, if your tongue is too stiff and ill-behaved to form itself around 'February' or any of those other words, get yourself one of those Stephen Hawking voice-synthesizer things, which pronounce 'February' correctly every time.

Who knows? If we make any progress on this pronunciation situation, we can press bravely forward and try to get dumbasses to figure out how to spell it.

They shouldn't be any harder to trick than my mother.



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