Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Words, words, words (continued) ...

Last week I wrote a bit about how I transformed to a word-nerd from a kid who was perfectly happy with a comic-book-level vocabulary--salted with enough profanities to have locker-room cred (not that cred was in the teen slang of my day). Knowing profanity, understanding dirty jokes--these were far more important to me than recognizing, oh, tacit on a page I was reading. My strategy as a young reader was this: If I encountered a new word and if I could not figure it out (quickly!) from context, I used the time-honored technique of ... skipping it. This served me well, clear through high school. Didn't work in college and beyond--though, by that time, I was morphing, as I said, into the word-nerd I remain.

Anyway, I began blogging on this subject because of a recent experience with the word patent--not the Patent Office thing but another meaning--patent meaning obvious. Or, as dictionary.com defines it (meaning #10: readily open to notice or observation; evident; obvious: a patent breach of good manners).

I've been aware of that definition for a long, long time. I learned it in the fall of 1961. I was a senior in high school and had auditioned for--and won--the role of the Judge in Hiram High School's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta Trial by Jury. I had a solo early in the show--"When I, Good Friends, Was Called to the Bar"--a song about how I became a judge in the first place. (Here's a YouTube link to a guy who does it incomparably better than I did.) Near the end of the song comes the word patent used in the way that was novel to me in 1961--and here's the line from the song:
JUDGE. It is patent to the mob,
That my being made a nob
Was effected by a job.
ALL. And a good job too!

The director of that Hiram High production--Mrs. Ruthana Dreisbach--had us listen to a recording of the show, and it was then that I learned that patent (in this definition) rhymes not with combatant but with latent.  Insight!

So ... ever since 1961 I've been pronouncing it so--rhyming it with latent when I mean obvious. Feeling superior.

Then, recently, I heard someone I respect pronounce it to rhyme with combatant. What?!

I checked. And found out that it's the Brits who use the latent pronunciation--and, of course, Gilbert and Sullivan were Brits. The dictionary says it's especially the Brits who do this, though we Yanks can do it, too. So I will continue to do so. After all, I am a Noble Lord, am I not?

PS--Mrs. Dreisbach, our director, left the Hiram Schools when they consolidated with Crestwood at the beginning of the 1964-65 school year. She joined the faculty in Aurora, Ohio, eleven miles west. In the fall of 1966 I joined that Aurora faculty, too, and I had the great honor of being her colleague and of speaking at her retirement some years later.
I'm the Judge ...
Trial by Jury, Hiram High School, Nov. 10-11, 1961
(PS--Nov. 11 is my birthday!)


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