Friday, October 21, 2011

Do Americans Pronounce is Oss-Hole?

I had been placed in a group made up of the worst kind of group members: five passive, noncommittal types. I was the sixth.

You see, I don't like telling people what to do. I don't enjoy offering guidance in any form. It makes me uncomfortable. For example:
  • If you are doing something wrong, I will surreptitiously go behind your back and fix it.
  • For the most part, I don't like to overly influence others with my opinions. 
    • My best male friend once asked me to take him shopping and I refused because I didn't feel it was right for me to sway him in such a manner—I didn't want to be responsible for helping mold his identity.
  • I prefer to discretely or secretly relish the fact that I am right and you are wrong—I find this much more delicious than rubbing it in your dumb, wrong face.
  • I just had a panic attack imagining myself shaping a child's worldview.
So imagine my discomfort when I realized that this proposal was never going to get written if I didn't start telling people what to do.

Narcissistically Subconsciously feeling myself the subject of my professor's eavesdropping as I assigned this segment to this person and told that person to rewrite this portion like this, I grew increasingly uncomfortable in my role of self-appointed group leader. I got a stomach ache as I imagined my actions being misinterpreted as the actions of one with a feeling of superiority over the others—all at least eight years my senior. But what choice did I have? No one else was taking the lead!

The professor approached our group—the sole group in the classroom at this point. I wiped my sweaty palms on my lap and tried to disguise my lack of confidence and quiet my rapid breathing as I asked a few clarifying questions. Then I decided to get her opinion on our font choices.

"Is it best if we use a sans-serif for the charts and tables?"

Except I didn't say "sans-serif." I said, "sans-serif." As in the french pronunciation.

The thing is I had just a few months earlier realized that "serif" designates the type of font that has the little tale—the one you're reading right now. And "sans-serif" which literally means "without serif" is the type with no little tail, like Arial, see. 

I realized right away that I had ridiculously and grandiloquently pronounced a word that has been adopted into the English language since the 13th century and has since its inception into American English been pronounced as it is spelled—to rhyme with "vans"—so in the same breath, I said, "I'm sorry; do Americans pronounce it SANS serif?"

WHAT I MEANT TO SAY WAS, "Ha, I'm sorry I just mispronounced that word! I'm a total nerd." But no, WHAT I SAID was, "In case you didn't already get the impression that I find myself far superior to this entire class of Blue-collar working-class Americans I can hardly condescend myself to boss around, I also speak French."

image from

But it was too late; "Do Americans pronounce it SANS serif?" was already out of my mouth.

"I'm. So. Sorry I just asked such a ridiculous, pretentious question," I begged my professor's forgiveness.

"Thank you for... acknowledging that," was all she said.


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