Gingham syndrome: More TV is the cure

Via Flickr user rebecca anne

A gingham dress. Via Flickr user rebecca anne.

I would like to make a confession: I have gingham syndrome.

I know I’m not the only one afflicted with it, though I’ve never seen numbers anywhere.

In case you don’t know, gingham syndrome (aptly named by my dad) is when someone doesn’t know how to pronounce certain words because that person primarily writes and reads.

Take me. I’m a writer. I read all the time. But I don’t really watch TV, so I miss out on that verbal communication. That leads me to mispronouncing words such as gimgham (or in my case, “jin-jam”) or gala (“gah-lah”). When I’m reading, that’s just how I say it in my head.

My spelling is fine; it’s just my pronunciation that needs work.

There’s no cure for gingham syndrome other than watching more TV, which would cause problems of its own (time management concerns, for instance). I’m moving into my apartment in fewer than two weeks, and I don’t own or plan on buying a TV. So I remain the way I am, letting my reading cause conversation faux pas.

This may create problems besides not knowing how to pronounce vocabulary. I know what’s going on in the news and can discuss literature to some extent, but it doesn’t sound that way when I mispronounce “gala.” For better or worse, the other people in the conversation probably think I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I could blame the random rules of English pronunciation, but I won’t. I don’t want to criticize my consistency-challenged friend by asking why it can’t be more like Spanish.

It’s not you, English. It’s me.

The next time I trip over an easy word, I’ll remind myself: If only I would watch more TV, I could become well-spoken.

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8 comments
  1. kvrag said:

    “Awry” was one that I learned the hard way. Aww-ree, anyone?

  2. RJones said:

    Audiobooks or radio could also fill the gap. And this is a TV person talking.

    • I thought about radio too. I don’t listen to audiobooks, and usually when I’m in the car, I just listen to music on the radio. Recently, I’ve begun listening to news sometimes, so maybe that will alleviate the symptoms of gingham syndrome.

  3. kategladstone said:

    Re:
    “There’s no cure for gingham syndrome other than watching more TV” —
    A more reliable cure involves recognizing that there are how-to-pronounce-guides everywhere in dictionaries, encyclopedias, and Wikipedia: literally every time a word is defined in a good dictionary/encyclopedia/wiki.

    Yes, THAT’s what those funny-looking bunches of symbols are! (The ones that appear after the word being defined, but before the actual definition/word-organ/etc.

    NOTE that these different sources unfortunately use different systems (different sets of crew for indicating sounds) , with the most internationally common system being the one used by Wikipedia (and called the “International Phonetic Alphabet” or “IPA”) which s also used by almost all of the dictionaries printed anywhere BUT North America. So: learn the IPA (there are zillions of Internet pages with free games/charts/etc. to teach you how: search for stuff like “game or webapp for learning the IPA” — then look up, on Wikipedia, “gingham” or anything else whose pronunciation you need.

    • I have learned IPA, but you can’t look up how to pronounce a word when you’re in the middle of a conversation, and that’s the moment you realize you don’t know how to pronounce a word.

      • kategladstone said:

        Then that’s the moment you need to ask. It’s unfortunate, but I am not the one who decided that the majority of native speakers of English would like to spell the language unreliably.

    • The trouble is when you don’t realize you pronounced the word wrong until someone says something.

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