The Nucular Option

By John Conway | October 4, 2008 6:05 pm

Every time I hear it, it’s like fingernails on a blackboard: “nucular” instead of “nuclear”. It’s baffling where that locution comes from. I am afraid it really does bring the speaker down a notch in my estimation, on the intelligence scale, though I am usually able to get past it. Even in my field, where we use the word a lot, you hear the occasional “nucular”.

Recently it’s been in the news, with Sarah Palin being a nucular type. But she also likes “heckuva”, “doggone”, and “you betcha” and many more, despite their clear tendency to turn off her audience. Anyway, Palin’s problems go a lot deeper than that – I think Steven Pinker got it right in the New York Times op-ed section today.

There are, if you start to think about it, a ton of words that many people mispronounce, and it doesn’t cause one to necessarily cringe. Though, I have to say, some of the following ones do make me cringe now that I sensitized myself to it:

  • “realtor” Somehow, a lot of people pronounce this as “ree-la-tor”. Perhaps it’s because a realtor handles real estate?
  • “jewelry” This one comes out of some people’s mouths as “joo-ler-ee”.
  • “February” Why do we need that first “r” anyway?
  • “Wednesday” Okay, I have to admit no one at all bothers with the “d”…should they?

There are so many more…asterisk, espresso, et cetera. (Yes, people mispronounce that last one.)

Well, you get the idea. Language is ever-evolving, and, alas, common usage wins out in the end.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Miscellany, News, Words

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

See More

Collapse bottom bar