Sue is hosting the blogathon and she says "If some word/ phrase/ idiom/ spelling/ syntax/ punctuation incorrectly used drives you up the wall, blog about it"
I have been thinking about writing this particular post ever since she announced the blogathon but it's only while writing the last paragraph that I realised that my post is not technically eligible because this is about pronunciation (one in particular), which does not figure in Sue's list of errors. Anyhow, I shall post nonetheless.
The culprit is this case is none other than my very own son and the word he mispronounces is 'the'. And he says it as 'thee', instead of 'thuh'. Typically, it goes like this:
I want to watch thee Bee Move?
Mama, can I help you with cooking thee pasta?
I am looking for thee box of crayons
Thee milk has fallen on thee floor and I looking for thee cloth to wipe it with.
And so on and so forth. And I wince every time, a thee leaves him mouth. I look at him, arch an eyebrow and say, 'Thee pasta?' His typical response is to look at me rebelliously and repeat 'Thee pasta'. Not one to let such matters rest, I repeat the question somewhat sternly, 'Thee pasta?'. At which point, he sees the steely, stubborn glint in my eye and caves and mutters, 'Thuh pasta'.
I wonder where he picked this up because it is a relatively recent phenomenon.
It could be because his teacher might be pronouncing 'the' in this fashion. I have not had a chance to verify this theory though and am waiting for an opportunity to meet her to do so.
My other theory is that he might have heard the thee pronunciation being used correctly in conversation and decided that this is the way the word is always pronounced. Because (Sue, don't look now, I started a sentence with because) there are sentences in which the thee pronunciation is necessary and correct.
When researching the correct pronunciation of 'the', I learnt something new as well. My own thinking was that one only used the 'thee' pronunciation when one wanted to place special emphasis on the word immediately after it. For example,
It is thee place in town for margaritas
He is thee person to talk to if you want to understand thuh current financial crisis.What I did not know is that there is another appropriate usage of this pronunciation. We must also say thee instead of thuh if the word that follows starts with a vowel sound. For example:
He moved her deck chair so that it was shaded from thuh sun under thee umbrella
He took thee orange for himself and offered her thee appleThe important thing to remember here is that it is the sound of the first syllable, not the actual letter that requires the change in pronunciation. Therefore,
Thuh university campus is full of greenery (because university sounds like is starts with a Y')But,
Thee hour hand on thuh clock is on three (because the H is silent)That ends my grammar lesson for the day.
Thee End :)