Thursday, October 30, 2014

Accidental Bad Words

     People mispronounce words all the time.  I am sure that more than a few people will agree with me when I say that sometimes an accent of any kind, not just deaf accents, will cause mispronounced words to sound like words with entirely different meanings.  Hearing people may experience this word mishap when they are trying to learn another language, but my experience takes place in my own tongue, English.
     This mispronunciation issue first occurred to me in second grade.  A boy in my class was talking behind my back.  I had no idea what he was saying since I could not read his lips.  So I faced him and asked what was he talking about.  He told me I said a bad word.  I was terrified, as a second grader.  I didn't even know that bad words existed!  Now that I'm older, I know some bad words, but then, I didn't know which words were bad.  Was 'bad' a bad word?  He reassured me that he would not tell the teacher and the incident was swept under the rug.  From that point on, I was a devoted non-cusser, or so I thought.
     Fast forward to ninth grade speech therapy, where the focus was on clarifying the difference between 's' and 'sh.'  My therapist introduced me to a computer app (DragonSpeak) that would write down everything it heard me say.  We started with some simple words, like 'acid', 'faucet', and 'sit.'  Seems easy enough.  What I didn't know until I started speaking into the app, was that my 's' sounds more like 'sh.'  So I went through the list above, and the computer wrote instead 'I said,' (not 'acid') "f*** sh** (ooh, two bad words!), and "sh**.'  Imagine my horror that when I try to say something simple like sit, I end up saying one of the most common bad words of all time.  Gack!  I was afraid the computer would wash my mouth out with anti-viral software.
     Luckily, my wonderful therapist reassured me.  Most people would figure out what I was trying to say from the context of the sentence instead of taking offense.  I was relieved to hear that, but figured it was better to not have that problem in the first place.  Imagine if I told a new friend "sit over there and I'll join you."  Eek!
     Now, nearly three years after I discovered my accidental bad words, and with lots of speech therapy and practice, I can say my speech pronunciation is much improved.  I can go through the same list again and the app picks up what I say perfectly.  Hard work and determination does pay off!

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