Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Whaddya/Wha’dya think?

I'm nervous about posting this and stirring up a hornet's nest.  Does anyone else out there understand where I'm coming from?  Perhaps you should have some honey before reading it (hornets like honey, right?)(if not, have some red meat instead)(I don't know anything about hornets, obviously).

There’s nothing like being misunderstood to get you all riled up.  I think I’m going to just write it out and see what happens. Not sure if I’m writing it out so you can be the judge, or to defend myself (why should I be on the defensive?), or . . . what.  The writer in me just wants to get the truth out there for the world.

Remember that.  I'm a writer.  I like grammar.  I like words.  Yeah.  All that.

Well, I suppose I have to keep going now that I started.

I was speaking to a solicitor on the phone, and getting a little frustrated because the solicitor would not take no for an answer. It was one of those sit’iations where the solicitation ploy is to get you to agree to a “free trial,” and the when the trial is over you have to call to cancel. The solicitor said that they were just asking us to try it.

I’ve fallen for that before, and wasn’t having any of it.

First I clarified with the solicitor that what I thought was going on was what was actually going on. I told the solicitor that we already knew we didn't want it, so we won’t want to have to cancel something later on. The solicitor, who happened to be a woman, assured me that there is no fee for our free trial, that someone would call me back in three days, and that the free trial lasted for two weeks, and if we don't want it then we can just cancel it at that time.  Nice, eh?  So I said, “I don’t think you’re listening to me. We don’t want to have to cancel anything.”  At last she got the message and we hung up.

I deal with this kind of thing
so although I get frustrated and annoyed, it doesn’t especially bother me. That is, until everyone else in the office—who can hear only my side of the conversation over the wall of my cubicle—decides to put in their two cents.

There was a lot of giggling, and a lot of celebrating my “I don’t think you’re listening” line, and that’s when I made my first mistake:

I repeated, including word pronunciation, the solicitor’s side of the conversation.

That didn’t at first seem like a mistake, as everyone laughed at my ridiculous attempt at mimicry. Mimicry is not my talent, although what I was trying to parrot was very apparent. What was funny was my botched job, not what I was actually saying.

Please note, at this point in the post I have not yet quoted the solicitor.

After my terrible job of quoting the solicitor, the writer in me had (what I thought was) a simple question. Here's the thought process:  I was thinking about my imitation, thinking about writing in a general sense, and thinking specifically about writing down some of my work stories up to and including the one that had just occurred. And my writer’s brain hit a snag and I blurted out my question:

“Would it be spelled axe or aks?”

Whereupon an entire debate arose involving philosophy, mispronunciations, something about race that was just a stupid stereotype so I'm not exactly sure what the point was, and the gals in my office wanting to find out the answer definitively by asking “them” (who?!). The conclusion of the debate was, “I think you should leave that one alone.”

How did this happen?! It took me by surprise because I really just wanted to know the correct spelling of a word. The more I tried to insist that it was a spelling question, the head-wagging "Oh no, you di'n't!" everyone else got. And so on. I just wanted to shout, “Back up the truck! Where is this coming from?”

Really, can this not just be about spelling accuracy?  Am I naïve? Stupid?

Apparently one or the other, because the philosophical part of the argument came next. It was also started by me, but I really didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late.  I unknowingly threw a log on the fire of the awful debate that I started.

(By the way, if we're still wondering if I'm naïve or stupid, then just so we're clear:  my money's on stupid).

Truthfully, and with all the innocence of my heart, I only posed this next question to help clarify what I was asking in the first place. I thought if anyone knew the answer to this next part, then it would answer the first (axe/aks) part. I didn’t appreciate being put on the defensive, and (stupidly/naïvely)(same thing) I thought bringing in more information to the axe/aks would help me out.

It didn’t. It backfired in a major way.

I asked if the mispronunciation of ask was a word-replacement problem or more dyslexia-based.

Oh my Lordy be! Everyone’s panties were in a wad about that.  I don’t know why.  Why did it have to be about race? I don't understand how it got to the point that it did.  Opinions were flying, necks were rolling so hard I thought their heads would fall off, and for some reason I was caught up in the middle of it all.  Trapped by my tongue.

And more than a little angry.  I have blogged about this concept before!

THE MOOT VS MUTE DEBATE IS THE SAME ARGUMENT, AND THE POST HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE!!! No one told me, “You better leave this one alone,” when I brought up misusing the word moot (by pronouncing it mute). So what’s the big deal? Why am I all of a sudden the bad guy because I have a simple spelling question?

Why do people use an entirely different word, mute, in place of moot?

No one would have thought twice about it if I’d asked how to spell ain’t. Or rather, if they did think twice, it would be a confused curiosity as to why I didn’t know in the first place. But there wouldn’t be any underlying currents of hostility, there wouldn’t be a “You better leave this one alone” comment. Had I simply said, “How do you spell whaddya” (as in what do you think?), no one would have cared at all.

How do you spell the slang version of what do you?

I still don’t know the answer to my original axe/aks question. I still don’t know how to spell it.

I looked online, but stopped after a very short search, completely disheartened. And just so ALL Y’ALL know, on this website:, on the A page, there is a listing for “aks” (example from the site: “It wasn't me, aks anyone!”) and a listing for “axe” (example from the site: “John wants to axe you a question”).

Put that in your butt and smoke it.

I guess at this point I don’t want to know the answer, because I’m sure it will be tied to an entire lecture about what a horrible person I am for inquiring about it in the first place.

1 comment:

Linda said...

Well, I'll jump on into your hot water with you! I think your coworkers are wrong and missing your point.

I believe it's more of a dyslexic type of error, that people misread it as aks. However when used in a novel as a dialect 'error' I've noticed it's usually spelled axe, probably to avoid the appearance of a typo?

And, I totally agree with you about moot, not only do a lot of people pronounce it incorrectly, they also use it to mean the direct opposite of the definition.

Now see what you've stirred up? LOL My pet peeve is the use of adverbs without their 'ly'. And I don't claim to speak perfectly- For quite some time, I thought misled was pronounced 'misseled'

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