Pronunciation maven Charles Harrington Elster is a longtime resident of Kensington and was my original co-host on KPBS’s “A Way With Words.” Charlie, the nation’s foremost expert on pronunciation, points out that there is no noun in pronunciation, no zoo in zoology, no point in poinsettia, no sick in psychiatrist, no spear in experiment, no wine in genuine or sanguine, no berry in library, no shoe in eschew, no art in arctic, no ant in defendant, no foe in forward and foreword, no pair in comparable, no day in deity, no sea in oceanic, no she or see in controversial, no punk in pumpkin, no eve in evolution, no pen in penalize, no pitch in picture, no pole in police, no pot in potpourri, no ex in espresso, no Arthur in arthritis, no Bert in sherbet, no sees in species, no deer in idea, no ram in ignoramus, no tang in orangutan, no mitten in badminton, no tie in tyrannical, no lock in lilac, no port in rapport, no beast in bestial, no doe in docile, no beau in boutique and no owner in onerous,
But wait! There’s more! There is no spite in respite, no oh in myopic, no brew in brooch, no over in hover, no reek in recluse, no sewer in connoisseur, no sees in processes, no nix in larynx, no home in homicide, no gal in gala, no mire in admirable, no chick in chic, no click in clique, no me or Lee in melee, no ray in lingerie, no dye in dais, no oral in pastoral, pectoral, electoral and mayoral, no air in err, no restaurant in restaurateur, no stray in illustrative and menstruation, no spar in disparate, no rounded in drowned, no vice in vice versa, no nominee in ignominy, no mash in machination, no spire in respiratory, no late in prelate, no pray in prelude, no mouse in mausoleum, no magnet in magnate, no dare in modernity, no juice in au jus, no eye in Iran and Iraq, no you in jaguar and February, no pew in Pulitzer, no clue in Ku Klux Klan, no Poe in impotent, no cane in Spokane, no cue in coupon and nuclear and no anus in Uranus.
Nobody gets fired anymore. These days, people get reclassified, outplaced, nonretained, deselected and nonpositively terminated. Recently, the internet giant Cisco has added to the lexicon of “How do I fire thee? Let me count the ways.” When the company whacked 3,000 jobs, it chirped that these people were part of the company’s “involuntary normal attrition.”
Other euphemisms for getting fired include decruited, deselected, destaffed, downsized, excessed, indefinite idling, negotiated departure, nonpositively terminated, nonretained, outplaced, premature retirement, reclassified, redundancy elimination, RIF (reduction in force), vocational relocation and workforce imbalance correction.
I powerfully doubt that such corporate doublespeak assuages the workers, who knew they are really being fired, axed, booted out, bounced, canned, eighty-sixed, given the pink slip, laid off, let go, sacked, shown the door and given the old heave-ho.
On this topic, here’s a pop quiz: Can you identify a man who appears in today’s Union-Tribune and fits the following description? His daughter was fired on national television by one of the major party candidates for president.
The answer is Richard Lederer. In 2009, his daughter, Annie Duke, was a finalist on “Celebrity Apprentice” and got fired by Donald Trump.
Honoring the centennial of our world-famous San Diego Zoo, I invite you to play a beastly game. Identify the mammals exhibited in each literary title below:
- Jean Auel, Clan of the Cave ____ 2. Pierre Boulle, Planet of the ____s 3. James Fenimore Cooper, The ____slayer 4. Agatha Christie, The ____ Trap 5. Arthur Conan Doyle, “The ____ of the Baskervilles”
- C.S. Lewis, The ____, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 7. Thomas Harris, Silence of the ____s 8. Dodie Smith, 101 ____s 9. John Steinbeck, Of ____ and Men 10 Tennessee Williams, ____ on a Hot Tin Roof
The next five titles are for the birds:
- Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged ____ Sings 12. Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese ____ 13. Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the ____’s Nest 14. John Grisham, The ____ Brief 15. Harper Lee, To Kill a ____
- Bear 2. Ape 3. Deer 4. Mouse 5. Hound 6. Lion 7. Lamb 8. Dalmatian 9. Mice 10. Cat 11. Bird 12. Falcon 13. Cuckoo 14. Pelican 15. Mockingbird