21 June 2007

Divided by a Common Language Into the Wild

Usually I use the "Divided by a Common Language" heading to discuss difference between American and British English. But there are also language gaps within a nation, and one of those might become a challenge as young people discover Sarah Beth Durst's debut novel, Into the Wild, published today.

The premise of Into the Wild is that the force behind fairy tales has escaped from under the young heroine's bed (where else?) and taken over a swath of central Massachusetts. A recognizable swath, in fact. The fabled discount and salvage store Spag's (now under new management) is the lair of a pimply young wizard. The Higgins Armory Museum is an ogre's castle. Folks from the author's home town of Northboro’, Massachusetts, will no doubt recognize even more locales.

I live in the next county, but close enough to offer help with a difficult word at the beginning of Chapter 15:

On the Route 290 bridge over Lake Quinsigamond, the griffin sunned himself. He stretched, exposing his lion stomach, across three lanes. Shortly beyond him, the bridge ended in mid-air. Blueness stretched on and one into the horizon.

Julie tried to sound casual. "You know, Worcester used to be on the other side of this bridge." Even to her own ears, her voice sounded weak. "I also don't recall a griffin last time I was here."
One place name in that passage is hard for people from other places to pronounce correctly. No, not "Quinsigamond"; that sounds just like it looks, with the accent on the "sig."

The hard word is "Worcester." It looks like it should contain three syllables, two of them ending with R-sounds. Instead, there are two accepted pronunciations:
  • "Wood-stir" without the D-sound.
  • "Wiss-tah," favored by some locals--but don't let them think you're making fun of them by saying that!

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