Sat 11 Jan, 2003 12:52 pm
I'm surprised that this hasn't been introduced here yet.
A lot has been posted on the matter, including that dictionaries are beginning to publish Bush's pronounciation as acceptable. So rather than begin the debate there, I'd thought I'd share this column from noted entymologist Frank Abate (link at bottom), an excerpt of which follows:
The president has been much castigated for his pronunciation of the word nuclear as ''NOO-kyuh-luhr.'' Dictionaries prefer a pronunciation in line with the spelling, either as ''NOO-klee-uhr'' or ''NYOO-klee-uhr.'' As Jesse Sheidlower of the Oxford English Dictionary noted in a recent article in The New York Times (''Confronting 'NOO-kyuh-luhr' Proliferation''), past presidents, including Eisenhower and Ford, also said nuclear the way George W. Bush does. Jimmy Carter had a different though still ''nonstandard'' way of saying nuclear (sounding something like ''NYOO-kee-uhr''), and he did graduate work in nuclear physics.
The trouble with nuclear, according to Enid Pearsons, pronunciation editor emeritus for Random House dictionaries, is that the word has a very unusual sound pattern for an English word -- three syllables, with stress on the first syllable, and -cle-ar as the final two syllables. Amazingly, no other common English word has exactly this pattern; cochlear is very close, but not nearly as frequent. ''NOO-kyuh-luhr''-sayers, who number in the many millions, in fact, move the l in nuclear to the final syllable and thus avoid the unusual pattern. (Linguists refer to this sound-switching process as metathesis.) Thus nuclear takes on a more familiar sound pattern, similar to everyday English words like circular and muscular.
So, in his pronunciation of nuclear, Bush is in line with a national trend as well as bipartisan presidential tradition. Indeed, from the founding of the country, American presidents have had their way with English, for good or ill. I scoured the Oxford English Dictionary, now out as version 3.0 on CD-ROM, and was struck by the many words for which U.S. presidents provide the earliest-known dated evidence.
This was the exact subject of a thread previously posted on Abuzz.
Bush does not know how to pronouce "nuclear". Incidentally, that's not the only word. But this might be the way words are pronounced in Texas.
Bostonians don't exactly use the King's English, either. The letter R isn't pronouced. Likewise, the word "path" is pronounced as "pot".
Nuclear non-proliferation treatise:
I wish that misspronouncing words were the only thing Bush does that is annoying!
My suggestion is that everyone who insists on saying "nooquler" be sent off immediately to the "artic", as punishment!
To be fair, that's how language grows and changs. "To grow the economy" was not phraase in use a while back either, but now we're making verbs, adjectives and nouns into different things.
However, it is entirely possible that Bush's misuse of language is due to other causes - like uncaring ignorance.
Homer Simpson used nuk-you-lar before Bush so I'd not ascribe it to him. There are many Americans who use shoddy pronunciation.
(You ever notice how you never see President Bush and Homer Simpson at the same time...)
Seal - "You ever notice how you never see President Bush and Homer Simpson at the same time"
If you were in Bush's TV room, with him running tapes of his favourite shows, you probably would see both at the same time!
[But I like your implication!]
Bush received an MBA from Harvard Business school. Hard to believe he learned his English at Harvard!
Did he? A while back I think someone tried to search in Harvard to see if he actually got a degree, but could find no info. And, of course, the fact that anyone who attends school is going to walk away educated is hopeful.
Of course, there are those who think his mangling and misuse of language is cut - but he is approaching 60 and is president - so cute should not be an aspiration.
I don't really care how he pronounces it, as long as he doesn't actually get it into his head to use his weapons of mess distraction.
Andrew, you are so right!
However, this pronounciation thing sometimes makes things difficult for non-native speakers. We do want to understand the president of the US!
I do not think that President's English makes problems to the non-native speakers. I am the one, and I find President's pronunciation very clear and very easy to be understood; on the contrary, sometimes I find it difficult to understand Mr. Blair and other British citizens when their interviews are being broadcasted on CNN or Fox.
I have never felt Bush's speech should be a big issue. No matter how ill used is his brain, Bush somehow manages to get his way; and his 'way' is what frightens me.
True, Edgar, that is what frightens me also.
Steissd, I have the same problem with British speaking people... To me it is usually much easier to understand Americans. Well, except for some special slang maybe. My sister-in-law is from Athens, Georgia, so I'm also used to some Southernese.