July 6th, 2005
Matchy-matchy and a “prepackaged sentence” contest / pronouncing etc.
by Barbara Wallraff
Marnie Richards, of Wichita, Kan., writes: “My friend Ann and I went shopping, and when I asked her what she thought of an outfit I tried on, she said it was ‘too matchy-matchy.’ OK, since when has it been a fashion mistake to wear clothes that match? But here’s the question I want to ask you: What is this ‘matchy-matchy,’ and what kind of fashion mistake does it refer to?”
Dear Marnie: Oh, go ahead and ask me anything. Yes, wearing clothes that match can be a fashion mistake. Here’s a little story to explain how and why: In the early 1980s I worked for a hard-to-like man who paid himself a lot better than he paid his staff. At some point he started buying his clothes at the city’s most pretentious department store. After that he looked different -- but prepackaged and phony. The mean joke we told behind his back was that a salesman at the store put outfits together for him, and the store tailor sewed on numbers somewhere discreet, to help our boss remember always to wear shirt number 7 with suit number 7, tie number 7 and belt number 7, etc. That’s the ultimate in “matchy-matchy.” Truly well-dressed people (and I don’t mean only people who follow fashion) show some originality, and they aren’t afraid to be spontaneous sometimes.
Judy Brown, of Southfield, Mich., writes: “I commonly hear ‘et cetera’ pronounced ‘ex cetera.’ Public figures, judges, highly paid and seemingly highly educated television news commentators say this. What’s up? Doesn’t the abbreviation ‘etc.’ give them some kind of clue?”
Dear Judy: Apparently not. You’re right, though: The correct pronunciation starts with “et,” not “ex.” Why not mail offenders a copy of this column? Maybe that will clue them in.
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