Help me help my friend learn how to say 'antithesis.'
August 1, 2014 6:55 AM   Subscribe

My friend mispronounces 'antithesis.' I've let it go too long. I need to find movies, television shows, songs, or some other audio media that I can recommend to him (on artistic merit alone) that will covertly expose him to the correct pronunciation. Little help?

You know exactly how he's saying it. And it burns. Bad. I let it go the first few times out of genuine shock and pity, but, yeah, also some avoidance. Now it's too late to just correct him, but I feel morally responsible to help, especially as he seems likely to drop it in a work meeting or something important like that. Can anyone think of any movies or whatever I can recommend that feature the correct use?

Thanks in advance; askmefi is truly the anti-thesis of an unhelpful community.
posted by jimmysmits to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
First off, don't be that guy who says "You know, it's ACTUALLY pronounced this way..."

The polite way to do it is to feign confusion, think for a second and then say "Oh, you mean antithesis?"

He won't remember the millions of times specifically he's used it around you.

Otherwise, just say it the right way around him apropos of nothing and keep modeling the correct pronunciation.
posted by inturnaround at 6:59 AM on August 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

You can't just correct him next time he uses it? IM him this video.

This really isn't that big of a deal. People keep learning things throughout their lives. I learned how to pronounce "banal" recently. I'm not even that embarrassed that I'd been rhyming it with "anal".
posted by theraflu at 6:59 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used to say epitome with three syllables. A friend said, "Oh, do you mean UH-PIT-O-ME?"

Problem solved.
posted by mochapickle at 7:00 AM on August 1, 2014

...why do you need to correct it covertly? Why not just say, "I think you mean an-tith-a-sis." Covert is good and stuff in some situations, but your friend may actually hear it as a totally different word rather than realizing "Oh, that is how you pronounce that word?". I know a woman (ie. me) who never made the connection between the written word "chaos" and the spoken word chaos because in my head I read it as "cha-hos" not "kay-os". Not quite the same thing, but you can see what I'm getting at.

Life is too short not to be direct. You aren't being an asshole by trying to get your friend to pronounce a word correctly so that they don't sound like a tool.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:01 AM on August 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Correct him the next time you hear it.

I used to think that DEB-a-cul and duh-BAH-cul (both "debacle") were two different words, because I would see it in print and hear people say it, and they were different.

Similarly, I would wonder why anyone would want to hurt cats. ("Doing this impossible project is very much like hurting cats.")

Also, I long wondered what "ojeda" was until I learned it was actually "agita."

And, recalling an AskMe from yesterday: "all for NOT" versus "all for NAUGHT" and similar phrases using the word "naught."

(I seem to have the opposite problem as your friend -- connecting how I hear certain words to how they are written.)

I don't mind corrections.
posted by tckma at 7:06 AM on August 1, 2014

I appreciate all of the feedback so far, and in many situations I would handle this more directly. However, in this case there are compelling reasons not to. Nonetheless, I am still interested in throwing this guy a life raft if anyone can recommend any media uses of the word. Thanks.
posted by jimmysmits at 7:13 AM on August 1, 2014

My technique is pretending like I too thought it was pronounced anti-thesis but just yesterday learned it was antithesis. Some guy corrected me! It might be a really transparent move but it might avoid embarrassment.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:15 AM on August 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is this too obvious?
posted by JanetLand at 7:29 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oooh, how about this? The word is said at 1:10.
posted by JanetLand at 7:31 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a coworker that knows he says certain words wrong and stubbornly keeps doing it, so be prepared for that too.
posted by advicepig at 7:31 AM on August 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't correct if it's being used correctly, just pronounce it correctly at some point. Many people are autodidacts, so know what words mean but may have never heard them. We're all learning this language, and we all mispronounce something.

Endeavour not to be “That Always-Correcting-People Guy”.
posted by scruss at 7:36 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here is a list of songs with the word "antithesis" in the lyrics, and here is a list of movie quotes containing the same word.

That said, the downfall of an indirect approach will be that he may not pay attention to the precise pronunciation used for that one word in that one song/movie/quote, or he may just think anti-thesis and an'tiTH…ôsis are two different words. He may also think you're trying to embarrass him. Since he doesn't know that it's his mispronunciation of this particular word that's bugging you, I'm having trouble figuring out a situation in which you could clearly indicate which word you're bugged about while never actually telling him which word it is directly.

As someone with a vocabulary that was drawn exclusively from quietly reading alone, I mispronounce a lot of words, and while I'm happy to be corrected, I would have a tough time dealing with anyone who felt the need to do so in an entirely passive way, just kind of expecting me to pick up what they're putting down with no guidance. It's always awkward to be informed that you've been screwing up a given pronunciation for years -- here's looking at you, "ennui" (enn-WEE) -- but I do appreciate corrections as long as they're issued directly with a bit of camaraderie. I like cranberrymonger's approach!
posted by divined by radio at 7:37 AM on August 1, 2014 [12 favorites]

You know exactly how he's saying it

Not all of us do, actually. I can't imagine how else that word could be pronounced.
posted by alms at 7:43 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not all of us do, actually. I can't imagine how else that word could be pronounced.

The mispronunciation would be /AN-ty-THEE-sis/.
posted by Shmuel510 at 7:47 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

How's your friend with other, similarly phrased words, like "epitome"? You know, with the accent on one of those middle syllables?

That may be a way to bring it up. "Man, sometimes those words with Greek roots are all wonky to say."


"Just like all those names of Greek Myths. Pegasus. Perseus. Medusa. Or real words, like epitome and antithesis. You gotta find one of those middle syllables and linger there for a beat."

"An tiiiiith uh sis?"

"Yeah, like that."
posted by notyou at 7:51 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have this question anonymized, then construct an email to him with a list of links including one to this thread that you found down the rabbit hole of mispronounced word threads/sites you went down today (finding them left as an exercise for the reader), and how you just found out you are pronouncing another word wrong, how funny.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:54 AM on August 1, 2014

I'm not even that embarrassed that I'd been rhyming it with "anal".

I'm glad, since that's one of the four accepted pronunciations of banal.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 8:13 AM on August 1, 2014 [7 favorites]

It might just be a habit that he can't quite quit, really. I know full well the correct pronunciation of meme, I have always known the correct pronunciation, and yet I CANNOT STOP SAYING "ME ME", which everyone who knows me finds utterly hilarious and I find infuriating but also hilarious because I am nothing if not a fully self aware narcissist.

Point being you might just be wasting your time, although I totally sympathize with your urgent need to make him stop being wrong.

All the casual conversation and song and film recommendations are usable but very very obvious and kind of obnoxious in essence. Just correct him the next time he says it wrong, no need for all this manufactured drama. There is also the possibility that he will hear (or HAS ALREADY heard) the correct pronunciation and not make the mental connection between that and the word he mispronounces, so you will have to point it out anyway. Better to avoid all that in the first place.
posted by elizardbits at 8:20 AM on August 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

Commenters above are correct: he'll hear the word in your carefully chosen media and assume it is a different word. That there's anti-thesis and an-tith-isis and they're two different things.

Do you ever hang out as a group? Start a conversation about how just yesterday you learned that the pronunciation of, say, epitome is eh-pit-oh-me, or misled is miss-lead not mizeled, and isn't it crazy how people who read a lot tend to mispronounce words for years because we read them rather than hear them.

Now, you've seeded one of your other friends -- preferably, a good liar or storyteller -- in advance. She chimes in with a story: "hahah, yeah, that happened to me with antithesis! I was pronouncing it anti-thesis all the time but then I read it in front of the class in high school and the teacher made fun of me" or whatever. Now, your friend has the chance to either go "ah holy shit I didn't realize I've been saying it wrong!" or to quietly burn with shame.

Either way: he's learned.
posted by AmandaA at 8:24 AM on August 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

My friend laughed at me for pronouncing requiem to rhyme with dream (I thought that was the whole point of the movie title!) and I appreciated it. I know she doesn't think I'm globally stupid, so a small correction on one word (as an also broad but silent reader) was appreciated.

Indirect is actually WAY more offensive to me...if I learned someone was trying to set me up like that "to educate me" passively, I would be very annoyed. Just say it. God. You are probably wrong about some things too, so they can correct you later on those. It's a doggie dog world!:)
posted by bquarters at 11:00 AM on August 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

Just wait till he says it again and then ask: "Antithesis?"
You know, for clarification. For yourself.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 2:47 PM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

After listening to this song a few times I can't hear the word without thinking of Killer Mike saying that he is the Antithesis of monkey shit.

So if he is a rap guy at all, send him the song. The line stands out, and he should probably be listening to Killer Mike anyhow.
posted by St. Sorryass at 8:58 PM on August 1, 2014

My style would be to not assume I'm the one who's right. (or at least pretend to not know I'm right)

Is that how you say 'antithesis'? I always thought it was antithesis. I could have sworn. [a bit of time elapses...] Ok, now I have to look it up, or it's going to bother me all day!

Oh, I was right. You had me going there for a minute.
posted by ctmf at 9:28 PM on August 8, 2014

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