...that which we call a Rose by any other name will smell as sweet- Juliet in ROMEO AND JULIET, William Shakespeare
Since the Western world determines most of the things in the civilized world as we know it, allow me to lay the blame for my present confusion at their doorsteps. It started by them either being confused themselves, or deliberately trying to be mischievous by getting the rest of us confused. You probably are wondering by now what I’m going on about.
Well, it’s not just one thing, it’s a whole lot of things; from the disparity in the spellings of certain words and the way they are pronounced, to the differences in the pronunciation of certain similarly spelled words, from the way certain words appear on paper, chalk boards, computer, name it, and the way the words are rolled on the tongue, to the name given to certain animals, plants etc.
Let me start with two words that have already appeared in this piece, pronounce and pronunciation. You will think that since the word pronunciation is a derivative of the word pronounce, it will be spelled pronounciation. But oh no, the English people in their wisdom decided that the spelling must be pronunciation though every other word related to the word pronounce is similarly spelled. For instance, pronounceable, pronouncedly, pronounced, pronouncing, pronouncer, pronouncement. So, why on earth is pronunciation different from the rest? Why the sacrifice of the letter “u”?
Other sources of confusion are the words know, knowledge, psychology, pseudonym, writ, write, wrung, wry, the list goes on. And you of course guessed right! In none of these words are the first letters pronounced! So, again, I wonder, of what use are these first letters if we are supposed to ignore them in their pronunciations? Would the meaning of psychology have changed if it had been spelled as sychology from the beginning? Of course the same question applies to every other word on the list.
Still on spellings and pronunciations, you would think since the words choose, chance, choice, charade, chain, chaff, chair, chalk etc are all pronounced as if you are pronouncing words beginning with the letters sh, or ch in other words you pronounce the word chandelier as if it is spelled shandelier, charade as sharaid, you will of course naturally think words like chameleon, chamelot, chaos, character, chiropractor, all also commencing with the letters ch as the earlier-listed words will also be pronounced with ch or sh but oh no! These words are pronounced with the letter k! This is why the word character is pronounced karaktar, chamelot as kamelot, chaos as kaos and chirocpractor as kairoprakto! As a junior secondary school student 1, I made this very innocent but I dare say, understandable mistake in pronouncing chaos not with the letter k but with the letters ch! It was quite an embarrassing episode as I had made the mistake while reading a passage from one of the recommended texts out in front of the whole class! And talking of class, if it is going to be pronounced klass, why deprive K its rightful place? Why let C take the glory while K does all the work? What criteria were used in the decision of how a particular word was going to be spelled? And how many people actually know that the word choir is supposed to be pronounced with an invisible w as in kwir? Or that the word which is actually supposed to be pronounced with an invisible k commencing it? If you didn’t know, all I will say is, it serves them right that you decided to pronounce these words as spelled!
Did you know that the colour pink used to be called white? You didn’t? Well, that makes the two of us because neither did I! More to the point, I still do not know that it was ever called any other name different from Pink. But I am guessing it makes sense that it must have once upon a time been called white if the English people refer to their skin colour as white when we all can see it is actually pink. Of course, there is also confusion in the label they gave to the other different human race that populate the universe. While they refer to their own skin colour as white(?!), they call the Asians yellow and the dark-hued Africans black! Before I start on this, I have to confess that I can be quite dumb when it comes to telling colours. But even as dumb as I can be, I have managed over the years to be able to tell the most popular of the colours apart. Having been able to do this, I find it confusing, if not downright dishonest that Caucasians refer to themselves as the white race and thus the colour of their skin as white. I know the colour white, it is one of the perhaps not so many colours that I can tell in my sleep and even while unconscious. I have also seen these people and while I may not be so great with colours, I do know that the closest colour to that of the skin of the Caucasian is pink. Why then have these people chosen to call the colour of their skin white? Was pink once called white and they somehow neglected to effect the necessary correction when it was swapped with white or did they choose white because of all the positive attributes associated with that colour?
They call my skin and those of other dark-skinned Africans black. Well, I am a very dark skinned person. But as dark as I am, the most accurate colour that describes my skin is a chocolate that has a very generous portion of cocoa. And I know unless my skin is mixed with other colours, no matter how dark it gets, it will never turn black. So, if the colour of the skin of people like me is brown, why did they decide we should be called blacks? Again, could it somehow be because being dark skinned, they feel our skin (and perhaps behavior) will be closer to black and its not-so-positive attributes?
The Asians are called yellow. The only thing I’ll say is that anyone who has ever seen an Asian will know that the colour of their skin is certainly not yellow, not at least if we are going by the shade of the colour we were brought up to call yellow.
When I was in my first year at the junior Secondary School level, I read a book titled THE MADNESS OF DIDI in which the Author whose name I do not recall, argued through the novel’s protagonist that if Caucasians knowing their skin colour is pink and not white insist on calling it white, then he was also at liberty to call his own skin colour green and not the black they chose to label it. The poor man was sent to the psychiatric ward on the ground that he must be off his senses to call his skin colour green!
Again, not done with either they themselves being confused or trying to confuse the rest of us, they decided to name a species of dolphin Killer Whale! If the mammal is a dolphin, why name it Killer Whale? Talk about giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it! And, talking of which, has anybody seen a hung dog? I don’t know how that phrase came about, but I hardly think anyone who decides to kill a dog will adopt hanging as the method of choice. What happened to just shooting the dog or poisoning it?
The above by no means represent all the ways the people in the Western world have either exhibited their own confusions or deliberately attempted to confuse the rest of us. Either way, I am convinced that I am not the only one confused!
Hey, did I remember to thank you for suffering my ramblings till the very end? Thank you!