Letters to the Editor

Letters: Say it ain't so

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Regarding Bryan Garner’s “Is That How You Say It?” November4: That ol’ boy ain’t from around here! I might use some of those pronunciations in front of a handful of our more erudite jurists, but if I did so to a local jury I’d be dismissed as some highfalutin big-city lawyer. Frankly, that would be a disservice to my client. Interesting how being right is wrong.

Daniel G. Christian
Hickory, North Carolina

I don’t believe I will ever hear anyone boast about their uh-KYOO-muhn with the English language, unless they are a prickly little grammar maven who heard an old professor say it that way when they were in school.

Dictionary.com pronounces it both ways and the OED pronounces it both ways, so maybe it is pronounced, like so many words, differently in different dialects or regional accents.

Some words are unpronounceable in legal company, which is why everyone says cert, instead of sir-shee-r-air-eye, which I have only heard as sir-shee-r-ee, which drops an entire syllable from the word (linguists refer to this as syncope [sinka-pee, or maybe SIGN-COPE in this test]).

As long as you are com-fort-a-bull with your pronunciations, you are fine.

K. David Crockett
Aliso Viejo, California

Flaccid: I have never heard anyone who was literate pronounce this “flaksid.”

Err: air vs. uhr; as a longtime clergy-spouse, I have yet to hear a clergyman say: “They have uhred and strayed like lost sheep.” And as a longtime choir member, I can’t recall ever singing it that way either in the “Messiah.” Our choirmaster would have beaten us!

Of course, these days, one hears a lot of variant pronunciations—even on the radio and telly. The worst issue seems to be which “syLLAble” to accentuate.

Susie Kent
North Stonington, Connecticut

One mistake in this column that I’m personally aware of is that DAW-buhrt/ is correct—not /doh-BAIR/. Some of the Daubert family have worked in my firm for years and I had mistakenly pronounced their name. It was embarrassing to be corrected by the Dauberts themselves.

Jenna Page


Regarding “Damaging Speech,” November: I am disturbed by the size of the criminal restitution ($39,000) imposed on two students for simply chaining themselves to a truck for 90 minutes.

Civil disobedience is necessary at times. Not everyone who engages in civil disobedience is a crackpot. The civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam come to mind. Criminal restitution has a chilling effect—unlike even prison. One can get out of prison. And one can have one’s record expunged. But one cannot free oneself even by bankruptcy (at least in Michigan) from criminal restitution. And the amounts imposed are staggering, seemingly disproportionate to the offense.

The purpose of criminal restitution is to help the victim recover from a crime. A worthy goal. But $39,000 in criminal restitution here is not needed for the victim to recover from a 90-minute road blockage. Here, criminal restitution is being used as a tool by a large and powerful corporation to intimidate and silence the opposition. Was the law on criminal restitution passed to be another tool for the powerful or was it passed to protect the unfortunate?

A short work stoppage is an inconvenience, not a tragedy.

David Anderson
Albany, New York

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