• Monthly Archives: March 2022

The Aesthetics of Speech and Speaking

March 29, 2022

On speaking to a lady serving Y-H-B in a local grocery store this morning, I was struck by the beauty of her voice, which was deep without being mannish and well modulated. This contrasted with her appearance, which was not particularly pleasing aesthetically (without being ugly by any means). This reminded me that speaking involves––whatever  else it may be––the voice of the speaker, with varying features normally depending on sex, age, and physical size, including that of the larynx.

Speech is necessarily delivered in a normal speaking voice, which has characteristics of tone, quality, and loudness. The impression a speaker makes on a hearer is thus dependent to a certain degree on these characteristics. Not all speakers are equally aware of the impression their speaking voices make on interlocutors. In most situations this does not have a direct bearing on the content of what is being spoken, but there is no doubt that one’s overall evaluation by others of one’s character is qualitatively dependent in part on one’s speaking voice.


Ukraine Yet Again

March 6, 2022

Because Ukraine is back in the news yet again, one keeps hearing the dialectal pronunciation of the word, with stress on the initial vowel, rather than the standard pronunciation on the final. For instance, the current Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who has degrees from Harvard and Columbia, consistently mispronounces this word. In view of the word’s current prominence in the media, here is a slightly edited repetition of the post on September 29, 2019:

The word “Ukraine” has been uttered ad nauseam in all the media reports on the Russian invasion of that country. More often than not, the various reporters and hosts cannot seem to decide which vowel gets the stress in this word, to the point where both initial and final stress can occur in the same sentence. Little do the utterers of the word realize that the variant with initial stress is non-standard, even dialectal. It follows the pattern established by such items as guitar and insurance in Southern American English.

In this era of universal media saturation, one cannot but be gobsmacked by the fact that speakers of Standard American English falter when it comes to uttering Ukraine. What homunculus possesses them to mispronounce it thus [NOT “thusly”!]?