My kids have pretty good vocabularies, but every once in awhile they slip in a made-up word or they mispronounce a word so badly that I know it’s one they’ve encountered by reading.

Last night, my son used the word “allegated” in a conversation.  I knew he meant to say “alleged,” but I couldn’t resist lifting my eyebrow and asking, “Allegated?  Is that, like, when two water lizards have a conversation?  Is it what happens to an alligator when someone makes it into a purse?”

He grinned at being called on it, and slapped his palm against his forehead.  “I can’t believe I said that!  What was the word I was trying to say?”

“Alleged,” I said, feeling a little smug that it’s not just me who messes up or forgets words lately.

That was a case of “verbizing” a noun, but often people pronounce words incorrectly because they saw them in print before they ever heard them spoken aloud.  One of my favourite “reading it before hearing it” stories took place when one of the kids was in Grade 1.  It was a parent-teacher interview and the teacher was eager to show-off the reading prowess of her students.  She gave my son a passage he’d not read before.

The gist of that piece is lost on me, but I’ll never forget the part where he got to the “two-wheeled bik-a-lee.”  I know you’re not supposed to laugh at your kid, and you’re especially not supposed to laugh at your kid when he is trying to learn to read, but I did. I made a motherly faux pas that we still laugh about, but his scars have mostly healed.

As for me, I’ll always trip over the word “epitome” when I read it.  To me, it will also read “epi-tome” and it will always have something to do with the inscription on a gravestone.

© 2012 Sue Farrell Holler