February 21st, 2007
Pronunciation of o / us people or we people?
by Barbara Wallraff
Steve White, of West Bloomfield, Mich., writes: “I have noticed that radio and TV announcers are accentuating the ‘o’ in words beginning with it. It’s especially noticeable in ‘official’ -- as in ‘The official temperature at the airport is ...’ This has begun during the past few years, among seasoned reporters who didn’t do it before. Was there some kind of media convention they all went to where they switched to this pronunciation?”
Dear Steve: How interesting. As it happens, a local anchorman for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” in Boston, where I live, started driving me crazy about a year ago by practically mooing the pronunciation of “Moooooorning.” He’d never done it before; he’s done it every morning I’ve heard him since. So I, too, have been wondering: Is something going on with the pronunciation of “o”?
Elinor Guess, of Ballston Spa, N.Y., writes: “I couldn’t help but notice your use in a recent column of ‘us’ in the phrase ‘if the rule doesn’t come naturally to us native-English-speaking people.’ Thank goodness our forefathers didn’t begin the Declaration of Independence with ‘Us the people.’ Am I not correct that the proper way to state it is ‘we native-English-speaking people’?”
Dear Elinor: Actually, you’re thinking of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, not the Declaration of Independence. Its grammar is fine by me. But the fact that “we the people” is such a familiar phrase in American English sometimes leads people to misuse it.
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