Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Where are my bras? (or It's enough to give you pluralsy)

One size does not always fit all.
This question is surely a way to raise the ire of my 16-year-old grammarian daughter who says (after my habitual linguistic faux pas), 'mum, it's NOT bras, it's bra. It's SINGULAR. ONE BRA'. I then answer (rather smartly and smugly, even if it is a non-sequitur), 'well how come it's over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders, then, and not over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder?' (A quick search on Wikipedia has confirmed that the brassiere * is mostly referred to as 'bra', but I am not owning up to that one!)

My 13-year-old is similarly vexed when I ask, 'can I please borrow your hair straighteners'. She self-assuredly answers, 'mum, it's not hair straighters, it's hair straightener. It's SINGULAR. ONE HAIR STRAIGHTENER'. To which I answer, 'well how come it's curling tongs and not curling tong?!'

Don't you love it when your kids correct you?

I expect my long-standing pluralsy is generational and was conditioned into me at a very young age by my mother who always referred to her 'bras' and not to her 'bra'. Perhaps she was using an abbreviated version of brassiere* rather than meaning it to be plural? That's it. She was being sophisticated.

This little linguistic idiosyncrasy was part of a suite of quirks which included unusual pronunciations ('brocol-eye' instead of 'brocol-ee', for example) and culturally adapted words and phrases ('Dr Logan hung his entrails on a brass plaque outside his door').

We can go on and on through life using these family adaptations, not realising how daft we sound until a 16 or 13-year-old corrects us.

Just when we think we have mastered the art of self-correction, though, they can turn the tables once again:

'Mum - did you say straighten your hairs? Because if you did, you are technically correct as there is more than one hair on your head.'

Go figure.

Do share your own family foibles. I'm sure every one of our blogging community must have them. As long as they don't find their way into a public speech or university essay, then they're kind of cute.


* A quaint point I would like to share with you (and I am laughing as I write this) is that we have our own little cup of bra history in Adelaide. Yes, little old Adelaide "down under", in South Australia, at the bottom of the world (or top, whichever way you want to look at it) is home of the sports bra. This was invented by composer, pianist, Adelaidian AND New Yorker, Percy Grainger. Mr Grainger's life makes for very interesting reading.

Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882–1961) from Wikipedia

Post your curly question to the Owl and Possum Helpnest


Julia Miller said...

An older member of my family refers to 'a scissor' rather than 'a pair of scissors'.

Karen said...

My whole family pronounces the word "garage" as "grrrage." I never realized we said it funny until a friend of mine pointed it out when I was 19.

Andrea Duff said...

I remember another one

'Coldslaw' instead of 'Coleslaw'


JuniorG said...

I've noticed different pronunciations in various words. For example,I pronounce caramel: kar-muhl, but almost everyone I know says ca-ruh-muhl. Also, I pronounce envelope: ahn-vel-ope, while others prefer en-ve-lope.

Herman (call me, William) said...

Well, I got trouble in saying "Possible" as "postsible". It's like a "post" and "sible" which is pronounced "sebel" in Indonesia which creates far different meaning. (smile...)

Please visit my simple blog at http://william-4shared.blogspot.com and http://3nglish7.blogspot.com.

I hope we can share everything about English Language because, as an indonesian, we have so many difficulties in pronouncing English.

Please make correct of my English at my english blog. Nice surfing here, buddy