Friday, 26 October 2012

biopic

An interesting misinterpretation of spelling from Richard Osman, the resident expert on the BBC1 programme Pointless: he referred to a baɪˈɒpɪk, that is a biopic, a film about someone’s life, a filmed biography. It is, of course, normally called a ˈbaɪə(ʊ)pɪk, being composed of bio- plus -pic(ture).

Given bionic baɪˈɒnɪk and myopic maɪˈɒpɪk ‘short-sighted’, you can understand where he was coming from. After all, biopic looks as if it contains the suffix -ic, which regularly throws the word stress onto the preceding syllable.

This word thus joins a list led (!) by misled (ˈmɪzl̩d instead of ˌmɪsˈled) and also containing items such as the seabed siːbd, infrared ɪnˈfreəd rays, and (my favourite) ˈsʌndrid (sundried) tomatoes.

18 comments:

  1. I would have expected ˈmaɪzl̩d rather than ˈmɪzl̩d.

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    1. Yes, I still remember vividly - around the age of 13 - realising that there was NO verb *misle: I had seen the word 'misled' in books and had silently read it as ˈmaɪzl̩d'.

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  2. I've heard baɪˈɒpɪk a number of times recently. Mark Lawson has said it on BBC Radio 4's Front Row, I'm sure. And that's a film review program, so you'd think he'd know better.

    Thomas Ryan.

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  3. I like to pronounce the word "bigram" (only in my own mind, not aloud of course) as "big+ram".

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  4. When I was about 10 I was embarrassed to discover "inclement" wasn't pronounced "ɪnkl̩mənt"

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  5. Jack Windsor Lewis draws our attention to an OED entry for mizzle v.tr. 'to confuse, muddle, mystify; to intoxicate, befuddle'. Now regional (Brit. and N. Amer.).

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  6. The latest one to trip me up is 'miniseries', which I took to be the plural of 'minisery' until I realised it was 'mini-series'.

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  7. Clerestory as /klərˈestəri/ ...

    Martin J Ball

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  8. I was shocked when I realised it was bio-pic, and pronounced as such, just a couple of years ago. I had always idly assumed it was bi(o)-, op(er)-, -ic, without thinking "op" is no normal reflex of "opus".

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  9. Even well respected linguists have fallen down on "biopic": http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3560

    (Gareth Roberts)

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  10. How about two-syllable words that are both nouns and verbs, where, very often, the noun has the stress on the first syllable, whereas the verb carries the stress on the second syllable: record, contract, etc.
    With your comment on 'mizzle' in mind, isn't it possible, even likely, that the Osman pronunciation of the word will become the dominant?

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  11. For me, misle definitely had the PRICE vowel, similar to but not rhyming with isle. And straphanger had the FACE vowel (i.e. /strəˈfeɪndʒər/), until I realized that its etymology was strap-hanger.

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  12. Where can I write to John about a doubt not related at all with this post?

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  13. A Google search on my name would lead you to my home page, where you will see my email address prominently displayed.

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  14. Then there's legend = leg-end.

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  15. Oh dear. I've always said it like Richard Osman, and think that's the only version I've heard.

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  16. For years before I was corrected, I had /leɪpl/ for lapel.

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  17. Triple with PRICE (as in triad, tricycle, trident) is not unheard-of either: it's the obvious pronunciation spelling, though all(?) native speakers use KIT.

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