Lint-Trap 1/15/01: Consonants



Wonderful opera today, with good company. It was The Magic Flute, with David Hockney sets and yards of good music, followed by a dinner with six of us at Kuletos, whose highlights were great bread at the beginning and cinnamon gelato at the end. I would happily spend every day just like this--great music, good friends, good food. It was the last performance for the opera company until June, so they were cutting up on stage, and even managed to deliver the score of the Raider's game amidst the hijinks.

With Diana's birthday on Sat. of a three day weekend, we have managed to extend the birthday to two days, and will be trying for three tomorrow. She deserves it.

However, one thing has been peeving me a bit. I hesitate to mention it, since I fear I'm starting to sound like a querilous old person. But I see the pronounciation of English degrading rapidly, and it seems to be getting worse in the last few years.

It's bad enough dealing with the problems with L's and R', which have spread far beyond the Chinese community to seemingly most Californians. The traffic report refers to a 'backup at the tow plaza'. Or is it the 'toe' plaza?. And the local basketball team is universally called the 'Woy-ers', as if they were some kind of German peeping toms.

Some Californians just have consigned a few of the vowels to the recycle bin. 'an' is prounounced 'in' in many places and by many people. One man I knew used to say Grace by beginning 'Lord, we think you for this food...'

Recently, I have heard some words with syllables simply dropped. One ad running about ten times an hour on radio goes on and on about the 'Manufacture's RV Sale'. The extra 'er' is not even hinted at. I'm not sure that the person who wrote the ad even knows the difference between 'Manufacture' and 'Manufacturer'.

I like consonants. It took a while, but I have come to really enjoy chewing my consonants slowly and pleasurably when I speak. A couple of decades of choral singing really developed this:

Bee-hull-duh thuh lamm-muh uhv-vuh God-duh

or even more important:

thuh prinnn-cuh uhv-vuh Peee-suh

(one of the few times in all of choral singing when the conductor actively encourages the chorus to sing the final 'S'. Most other occasions resemble snake pits without the conductor's encouragement).

As I slowly get more hard of hearing, I bless those people who, like me, are consonant chewers. I can understand them when they have their backs to me or their faces in a book. Other people seem so loath to take a consonantal stand that even facing them and looking at their lips with my hearing aids in, I can't grok half of what they say.

Among my friends, I'm almost the only person I know, and certainly the only person within 15 years of my age, who doesn't wear glasses or contacts (I'm not counting those who took the laser cure). And I'm nearly the only one with a hearing loss. Funny that two afflictions that seem so analogous are treated so differently by society. Glasses are almost ignored--when I got my hearing aids, people who hardly knew me commented on them, often in a way that would have been rude had they been glasses. At times, like in restaurants, I'd like to have some analogue to the white cane of the vision impared. Maybe such a thing would encourage them not to seat me between the dishwasher and the deep freeze and next to the bridal shower party.

All in all, though, I feel like I'm aging pretty well. The hearing is really my only obvious change in my physiology that gives me daily difficulty--mostly the joints are OK, no glasses, no Viagra. Considering that my parents were both dead by my age, and had serious problems for 15 years before their deaths, I feel more blessed than cursed by my current place in life.

Actually, hearing loss does have its moments, since the things I mis-hear can be funny and revealing of my state. Sitting on a plane coming into Atlanta, the flight attendent with a nice Southern accent said sweetly "As we prepare for landing, the Captain has eliminated the seatbelt sign." That caused several vivid images to flash through my mind before I figured out what she must have meant.

Or a few years ago, when another Southerner urged me in sensual tones to get down to the dealer immediately and buy a Puke Wriggle. It took me about a half dozen hearings before I made out Buick Regal.

Just before New Years this year, I was brought up short by the excited voice of an announcer proclaiming that, for three days only, there would be a 'cheap rear end sale'. Again, vivid images raced through my mind as I struggled to decode 'Jeep Year End Sale'.

Positivity, that is the touchstone! It's not a hearing loss, it's the addition of an improv stand-up commedian into my hearing canal. Woo hoo!

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2001 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.