Careful Listening Creates a Critic

If you hated English class in high school, you might want to skip this post, but then again, maybe you shouldn’t. It’s time for another of Mary’s observations in how the English language has changed and how it’s been abused over the years.

Top on my list today is the mispronunciation of a word with a vowel in it, followed by a single consonant. Here’s a very easy example. My name is Hiland, as in Highland, not Hilland. Notice that my name has only one consonant after the i. that means the I should have a long sound, as in eye. I use this example, not to promote my name, but to point out that it’s mispronounced most of the time, and I always, I mean ALWAYS, have to spell it for counter workers at doctors’ offices and anyone else who needs to look up my name. It’s actually my former husband’s name, which I kept for my children, but I also like the sound of it—if it’s pronounced correctly.

Speaking of pronunciation, I must comment on another subject I know a great deal about – how people read aloud. I use talking books and am distracted when the narrator puts the question in her voice at the end of the sentence, instead of at the end of the question. When I was director of volunteers at the radio reading service and routinely administered auditions, this was a common correction I had to make. Example. “Do you want sugar in your tea?” she asked. Note that the ? mark is inside the quotation marks. It does not read like this. “Do you want sugar in your tea, she asked? In other words, the reader’s voice should not continue the upward inflection after the question mark in the text. Another correction I often had to make is the pronunciation of “nuclear.” There is not a second u in this word. Preventive is only an adjective, according to Alexa, while “preventative” can be both a noun and an adjective. And we all know that Alexa is the ultimate authority.

I am also an avid listener to a radio show called “The Moth,” in which people tell stories. Invariably, the story-teller begins with the word, “So.” People, this is the beginning of your story, not the conclusion. If I were still in Toastmasters, you can bet as the grammarian, I would be emphasizing this bad habit constantly.. Or maybe, I could be all wrong about this. Maybe this is the new acceptable way to start a story.

And here’s another change in English usage I might be wrong about. We used to say “You’re welcome,” or “my pleasure,” when doing something or a service for another person. But most of the time, when you say thank you to a server in a restaurant or thank someone for giving you change, the response is “No problem.” And when did “Invite” become a noun? what happened to “invitation?” Here’s one that you hear all the time in ads. “Free gift!” Aren’t all gifts free? It’s like when you ask for a substitution of fruit for the fattening fries, the server says “Yes, for an upcharge of $2.” An upcharge is not a substitution.

Now on to a couple grammar reminders. Say “Not all men are handsome.. “ Do not say “All men are not handsome.” Be careful where you put the word “not,” because it changes the whole meaning of the sentence.

I’m going to repeat this next one, because it is so prevalent. “It took my wife and I 3 weeks to choose a paint color.” If you leave “my wife” out, see how silly the sentence sounds. Now put her back in and use “me” instead of “I.” If you think always using “I” or “myself” instead of “me” makes you sound more educated, please think again.

And one final humorous comment. Each time I wrote “pronunciation,” my spell check changed it to pronounciation. My spell checker must have flunked English.

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261


Apologies Accepted, Lessons Learned

Some of my loyal readers have asked for the end of the story of my confiscated and abused items at the security check in the Columbus and Syracuse airports.

I did report to that at the Syracuse airport, , my lap top computer apparently was taken apart and then slapped together, just enough to appear that it was intact. When I got home and lifted it out of my back pack, it fell apart in my hands. I also reported that in the Columbus airport, when I was asked to remove all electronic equipment, I had forgotten to take my Braille and Speak out of my back pack, and when the TSA worker apparently took it out to examine it, he or she did not return it to my pack. Even though the website said that this site was not actively maintained, I was delighted to receive an apology from both TSA supervisors. The one in Syracuse said she would pursue this matter and take action. The one in Columbus invited me to call him to discuss it further. So I did. He couldn’t have been nicer or more apologetic. He took the time to watch the video of my going through security, and he described exactly what he saw. The worker did indeed take the Braille and Speak out of my pack, examined it, and placed it in a bin and sent it on its way. His mistake was that he did not return it to my pack or say a word to me about it, so I was unaware that it had been placed in a separate bin. I did not look for it, because I thought I had forgotten to take it out, which I had, so I assumed that it was still in my pack. The supervisor claimed full responsibility and promised that he would make sure more training was done. Clearly, the wrong-doing here was that the TSA agent did not communicate with me about the object in question. However, I made a few mistakes along the way myself.

From now on, I will have identification on every item that I think might be questioned, including my purse, my phone, my shoes, and all other special equipment that I carry, such as lap top, Braille and Speak, and Victor Trek. Having possessions taken out of my control can lead to disaster, so it’s up to me to never assume. Then, when I retrieve my belongings out of the bins, I will handle each item myself and make sure they are all there. My extreme anxiety about the loss of my lifelines to the world could have been avoided if I had taken the time to check each item. If it slows down the line behind me, too bad. They can go around me. I’m not going through that again. Thanks for asking, but my world is now back in place.

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261