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Déjà vu––Not!

When it comes to mispronunciations of foreign phrases in American English, the French locution déjà vu takes the gâteau. This phrase’s popularity rose with the jocund twist it received in the winged variant, “It’s deja vu all over again,” excogitated by Yogi Berra, the erstwhile New York Yankee catcher with a penchant for malapropism.

Americans habitually garble the second word of this phrase, making it sound like the French word vous ‘you [pl.]’, despite the fact that a passable simulacrum of the French pronunciation is easily rendered by pronouncing it like English view (without the diphthongal offglide, of course).

One is yet again reminded here of the popular Japanese proverb, Ikken kyo ni hoete banken jitsu o tsutau (一犬嘘に吠えて万犬実お伝う), which loosely translated means ‘One dog barks out a lie and ten thousand dogs take it up as the truth’ and must surely figure as a principle of cultural change, including language.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

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