Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

humor

 

DEAR RICHARD LEDERER: I read your announcement about your forthcoming visit to our local library here in La Mesa. You refer to “the La Mesa” library. Is that correct since La is the Spanish definite feminine article for the? –Nora Curran, La Mesa

A thousand thanks, Nora, for your cogent question, an indication that you are an authentic linguist. “The La Mesa Library” does indeed literally mean “the the La Mesa Library” — so does my bilingual repetition make me a member of the Department of Redundancy Department?

The consensus of opinion is that many redundancies spring from the inadvertent repetition of two words rooted in different languages. Derived from the Latin sensus, meaning “opinion,” and con-, “a collection,” a consensus of opinion is “a collection of opinion of opinion.” A battalion of translingual redundancies show up on our menus — pizza pie (“pie pie”), shrimp scampi (“shrimp shrimp”), “soup du jour of the day” (“soup of the day of the day”), Chai tea (“tea tea”), Naan bread (“bread bread”) and a bunch of grapes (“a bunch of a bunch of grapes”).

Other bilingual compounds include Sharia law (“Law law”), an epileptic seizure (“a seizure seizure”), the hoi polloi (“the the people”), beautiful calligraphy (“beautiful beautiful writing”), correct orthography (“correct correct writing”), a handwritten manuscript (“handwritten handwriting”), very true (“truly true”), lukewarm (“warm warm”), a head honcho (“head head”) and a rice paddy (“rice rice”).

On the internet the form “the La Mesa Library” shows up at least half the time. That’s because the meaning of the foreign element, La in this case, usually gets absorbed into our language, as in Vista View (“View View”).

I used to live right next door to Vermont. The citizens of that verdant patch of New England merrily drive around sporting license plates boasting, “Vermont: Green Mountain State,” which translates to “Green Mountain: Green Mountain State.” Believe it or not, The La Brea Tar Pits are actually “The The Tar Pits Tar Pits”! Add to these place names Greenwich Village (“Greenvillage Village”), Lake Tahoe (“Lake Lake”), the Gobi or Sahara Desert (“the Desert Desert”), the Mississippi River (“River River”) and the Soviet Union (“Union Union”).

DEAR RICHARD LEDERER: I read your column about people failing to pronounce r’s. I often hear New Yorkers where I live now in Florida not sounding their r‘s, such as in exercise being said exacize. It really irks me, and I also notice that the British do it. They will say haah instead of hair. Of course there is cah instead of car. I could go on and on. Is r really so difficult to say? –Diane Gerino. Delray Beach, Fla.

Language is a great pie, the slices of which are dialects. We learn language by learning our parents’ dialect. When babies are born, they are capable of uttering all human sounds, but as they grow, their speech will be limited to only the sounds in their dialect.

Because, as you point out, British English is rather r-less, most New Englanders and New Yorkers, historically influenced by British English, also drop that sound.

But don’t overlook the omnipresence in the northeast of the buffering r. Listen carefully and you’ll start to hear the Brits and New Englanders insert r’s to avoid the collision of two vowels. Thus, for every “Pahk the cah in Havad Yad” you’ll hear the compensating “I traveled to Cuber and other Caribbean islands” and “My idear is to eat at least one bananar a day.”

DEAR RICHARD LEDERER: I enjoyed reading your column about pronouncing both r‘s in the middle of words. I was a full-time baby-sitter for two of my grandchildren from their birth until they started school, changing more than 4.000 diapers. As soon as they could walk, I took them to every playground I could find within a 15-mile radius of home and to other fun places including the library. And I placed a great emphasis on liBRAIRy and FeBREWary. To this day when they, now 9 and 11, utter these words in my presence, they particularly emphasize BRAIR and BREW. –Frank Morkunas, Del Cerro

Good on you, Frank. While some children may chafe at pronunciation and grammar guidance administered by family adults, I have never heard a grown-up groan about having received such instruction in childhood. There’s an excellent chance that your grandchildren will inflict similar grammar lessons on their children!