Ever since I finally finished the edits on A Temporary Engagement, I’ve been feeling “lazy”, which means that I’ve had time to do a fair bit of reading. At the tail end of last month, I got sucked down the rabbit hole that is the Vanity Fair online archives, polishing off the Crime Archives and the Dominick Dunne Archives in quick successions. Long-form VF articles, particularly those that focus on high-profile scandals or prominent society figures, are one of my reading “comfort foods”; I devour them the way other people do, say, romance novels. Following from that, I ordered and quickly read Dominick Dunne’s Fatal Charms & The Mansions of Limbo (chapters of which are available for free on the VF archives, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend buying it) and The Two Mrs. Grenville (fun, gossipy read), as well as Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers (a more literary version of Dunne’s gossipy fiction). I was tempted to buy The Swans of Fifth Avenue, a novel based on the lives of Capote’s “swans” (Babe Paley et al), but the hardcover was kinda pricey, and I decided to hold out for a good biography instead. If anyone has recommendations, I’m all ears.

Here are a few more interesting articles I found online recently. As a well-read, non-native English speaker, I have a constant, mild fear of mispronouncing words I’ve never heard spoken. It was reassuring to read that I am not alone, even among those for whom English is the first language. Yay! Personally, I struggle a lot with words that are common in both my mother tongue and English (usually borrowed from French) because I can never be sure if my inflection is correct in whatever language I’m using (it can differ). Like, I will never use “banal” in conversation, even though I’ll happily toss it around when I write, because my pronunciation inevitably sounds wrong to my own ears. But, quite apart from that, English pronunciation is bananas — just saying. Cholmondeley = Chumley? I mean, really! Share your mispronounced words in the comments … if you dare.

I was also intrigued by this article about maximizers and satisficers. I think I’m 80% satisficer, and the balance maximizer; my husband is the opposite. Somehow, we get along without wanting to murder each other (most of the time). For the record, if you can scroll to the mini quiz embedded in the article, the questions where I score high (i.e. have maximizer tendencies) are 6,8, 11 and 12. Needless to say, I’m a satisficer when it comes to clothes. I also thought it was interesting that research suggests that people tend to move more to the “good enough is good enough” camp as they get older. I certainly follow that trend, but I wonder how much of that has to do with becoming a parent versus other life experiences (in my case, I think the answer is “everything”).

Speaking of psychological “types”, I also dug into Enneagram typology after reading a comment from a reader. I was familiar with the Meyer Briggs system, but had never heard of this. I tend to approach these things in much the same way as astrological signs — pseudo-science, but fun to read about and debate with friends. I have to say that, of all the ones I’ve looked into, the Enneagram system is the most bang-on. I also appreciate that it can be used as a tool for personal growth, rather than merely pigeonholing people into rigid categories. If you’ve looked into this before, I want to hear what you think about it!

Last but not least, a reader sent me a link to this thoughtful article about thrift store donations, written from the perspective of someone who relies upon thrift stores as a matter of necessity not choice. Even though I’m a committed thrift donor (in additional to thrift shopper), I appreciated the different perspective, and learned some new things — such as the importance of donating, not trashing, my old Tupperware.

17 Comments on What I Read: This ‘n That

  1. I find it fascinating that English isn’t your first language – I never would have known! It’s very interesting that you will use certain words while writing but not while speaking. I always try to remember that when someone mispronounces a word, it’s usually because they learned it phonetically from reading it, and that’s always commendable.

    • I know, and probably fewer people judge me than I imagine, but I always feel self-conscious about it because I’m not a “visible” non-English speaker, if that makes sense. Like, if anyone had to guess where I’m originally from, they would pick Ireland or Scotland, most of the time, which isn’t even remotely close. So when I mis-pronounce something, I feel like people just double-take

  2. Assuage. I have read that word so many times, I cannot pronounce it correctly at all.

    There are other words that I know how to pronounce, but change the pronunciation in my head when I spell it to remind myself how it is spelt:
    – busy-ness
    – penne lope
    – Wed nes day

    As for a good biography I have two to recommend: “Born with Teeth” by Kate Mulgrew, and “A Carling Home Companion: Growing Up with George” by Kelly Carling

  3. I had NO IDEA that your mother tongue was something other than English. How interesting!
    Words I’ve mispronounced (those that I know of that is!) in the past include: minutiae (min-you-shay from me) and Hermione (her-me-own-ee).
    Living in Scotland provides a few funny potential pitfalls: Cockburn (actually not painful at all, it’s “Ko-burn”), Dalziel (literally just pronounced “DL”) and Menzies (pronounced “Mingis”).
    Thanks for the links – I’m away to go check them out 🙂

    • I would have gotten ALL of those wrong!! I also only learned how to pronounce Hermione after I saw the first Harry Potter movie.

  4. My husband and I have conversations about mispronounced words a lot, since he is a non-native speaker as well. His major complaint is the distinction between long and short vowels, something not part of his native language. Our five-year-old was very upset when she learned this week that the plural of “mouse” (spelled with an “s”) was “mice” (spelled with a “c”)! English is the worst.

    • OMG! Long and short vowels are the worst! Like, I cannot say “sheet” right after “ship” because 50% of the time or more it comes out, well, sh*t.

      I am very particular about spelling (years of reading), but English pronunciation still stumps me all the time.

      It’s also awkward because I don’t normally have an accent, so when I mispronounce something, people do a double-take. Or maybe it’s all in my head but still …

  5. Great post! I read a ton when I was young, so there were a lot of words I mispronounced due to never having heard. Of course I can’t think of any at the moment. Banal is certainly one. Hubs pronounces “supposedly” as “supposably” and it drives me nuts! But no one else seems to notice.

  6. Phryne as in Phryne Fisher. I had no idea Phryne was “Fry-Knee” as a name, and basically any name in the U.S. that looks like a French name but it said in a completely different manner.

    OH HERE I FOUND THE ARTICLE

    http://mentalfloss.com/article/50967/20-towns-named-other-towns-pronounced-differently

    UGH. SO ANNOYING.

    I can’t recall right now any words I struggle with, but I’m a native English speaker… who read a lot and liked to look up words in the dictionary to know how to say them.

    I’m now thinking of difficult words…

  7. Everyone has pronunciation bobbles. I’m purportedly EFL, but have my own unique mix of US Dust Bowl, L.A. Valley Girl and English pronunciations from my family and schooling. “Almond” and “TV” each have three competing pronunciations rattling around in my head.

  8. I think I made the Enneagram comment. I appreciate it for the same reason you do – it teaches you what “health” looks like for your personality type and gives you tools for how to grow into that. Glad you found it worth digging into; hope it’s helpful!
    Ps I thought eh-PIT-oh-me and eh-pih-tome and ah-RYE and AW-ree were two different sets of words that happened to mean the same thing. Like another commenter said, native English speakers who read a lot growing up often mispronounce words they learned from books.