June 13, 2007

Are you hilarious or hysterical?



It's been a while since I've posted something for the Word Nerds. I came across this one twice today; I think it's a sign.

When something is really funny, it's hilarious.

When a person "exhibits overwhelming or unmanageable fear or emotional excess," that person is hysterical. (From Greek hysterikos, from hystera - womb - from the Greek notion that hysteria was peculiar to women and caused by disturbances of the uterus - but you knew that, right?)

Here's another one for you. Have you seen the way "voila" (or "voilà") is butchered in writing? I think the most common spelling is "wahlah", but I've also seen "wa lah" and "wa la." Do people really think "wahlah" is a word? What language might that come from? Maybe Native American, from the spelling. . .

Even if you're not writing it, but only using it in speech, it's pronounced vwä-'lä. Listen to the pronunciation.

Ahhh. Feels good to get that off my chest.

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7 comments. Please add yours! :

Jacki Hollywood Brown said...

Hi Lisa,
I don't know if you are familiar with the TV show NCIS (http://www.cbs.com/primetime/ncis/) but at the moment they are trying to capture an arms dealer known as "The Frog" but as he is from France, he is know as La Grenouille. It is very frustrating to listen to it being pronounced as "la grenwee".
For all you language junkies here is an interesting link to Canadian French: http://72.14.205.104/search?q=cache:DUCllRARFvsJ:www.ucalgary.ca/~dcwalker/PronCF.pdf+french+pronunciation+grenouille&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=9&gl=ca&client=firefox-a

Tony said...

Lisa, your post today kind of went the way of a dark psycho thriller. Big ol hatchet meat cleaver for the pic. Buthering up words. Whatcha been watching lately?...laugh. Great reminder. As always, your blog tends to put the cream of the kremlin, or peace of resistancy, or cherry on top or whatever....

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Jacki, French is certainly hard for Americans. My husband was a cheesemonger for many years, and as there are a lot of cheeses from France, he struggled to train his staff to pronounce the names correctly (see my post "risk takers make better speakers").

Tony, we did watch "V for Vendetta" the other night. . .

allison said...

i like this entry!

you crack me up.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

What do you think, Allison - am I hilarious or hysterical? :-)

allison said...

Ha - Personally, I think you are hilarious. I think the use of the word hysterical to describe something or someone very funny might be one of those 4th or 5th definitions that has become accepted through frequent use.

Bernita said...

Once I heard a speaker pronounce "Goethe" as "go-eth"...

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