"What would you like on your sandwich, ma'am?" the man behind the counter asked the woman.I was next in line at the sandwich counter of the deli as the above exchange took place. Like the man preparing her order, I raised my eyebrows in reaction to the haughty manner of her enunciation.
"A slice of to-mah-to," she replied to him.
I've heard 'tomato' pronounced as 'to-mah-to' before, and it came as no surprise to hear it from a lady who spoke with her nose in the air. It was her deliberate use of the long 'A' (rhyming it with 'day') to begin her reply that caught my attention.
( In response to the man, most of our replies would have sounded like, "Uh slice of tomato." )When referring to the letter 'A' itself, it is pronounced with a hard or long emphasis. But when used as an article in speech, it is generally voiced as "uh."
"Make sure the to-mah-to is fresh," she added waving her finger at him.With that statement, the word 'the' was expressed with a long 'e' to sound like 'thee.' Of course, most of us would have verbalized 'the' as 'thuh.' ( Hmmm ... curious that 'a' and 'the' would rhyme, isn't it? )
According to the lexicographer, Mr. Noah Webster, when referring to the letter a or A, it is correctly pronounced long. However, when used as an article, it is pronounced as 'uh' as indicated by an upside down 'e.' ( Give the lady one demerit for her verbal faux pas. )
On the matter of the word 'the', Webster lists first 'thuh' as the preferred pronunciation, but also mentions 'the' with a long 'e' as also acceptable, although archaic.
Either one is correct. Neither one is wrong.I suspect that this lady would have taken exception to my vocalization of those two words.
I say 'ee-ther' and 'nee-ther'.Now, even though she spoke in a blue-blood haughty manner, and had a typical Bostonian accent, her next request caught me by surprise.
No doubt she would have said 'eye-ther' and 'nigh-ther'.
"Could you wrap that in al-u-min-i-um ?"Wait a minute, I thought. This woman wasn't British. Why was she pronouncing 'aluminum' like those people across the pond. I thought only the British added the non-existent syllable to that word!
I can only assume that this woman was trying to put on an air of sophistication by displaying a holier-than-thou attitude. ( Should 'thou" be pronounced as 'thoo'? )
In the end I was about to dismiss her act, after all what harm was she doing anyway? I was about to ... until she was paying for the sandwich ...
"That'll be $3.07, ma'am," the counterman announced.She handed the man three one-dollar bills and inexplicably counted out seven pennies from the plastic tray next to the register.
I decided not to dismiss her act! Not only was she a phony and putting on airs, but she was cheap too!
Lady, you say to-mah-to, I say ... phooey!