Site of the Week: howjsay.com – A free online Talking Dictionary of English Pronunciation

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The tagline basically says it all. It’s an online dictionary that pronounces words for you. I thought this was a pretty cool resource, especially for those who could use more English help. It’s especially helpful because there are currently 132,358 entries in this dictionary. I haven’t listened to them all, but the ones I listened to seemed to be correct. There”s actually a cool FireFox plugin so you can just type in the word and it will pronounce it. You can add that by clicking here.

The site seems to be kind-of bare and without any flavor, and has way too many ads, but I guess they’ve taken the “Hey, it’s free – don’t complain” route, which is fine by me.

Site of the Week: howjsay.com

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“The Big Bang Theory” question regarding ‘Homo Habilis’

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The Big Bang Theory Cast

The Big Bang Theory Cast

A show that I only recently got into, The Big Bang Theory, is hilarious.

From the CBS website, a bit about the show:

Leonard and Sheldon are brilliant physicists, the kind of “beautiful minds” that understand how the universe works. But none of that genius helps them interact with people, especially women. All this begins to change when a free-spirited beauty named Penny moves in next door. Sheldon, Leonard’s roommate, is quite content spending his nights playing Klingon Boggle with their socially dysfunctional friends, fellow CalTech scientists Wolowitz and Koothrappali. However, Leonard sees in Penny a whole new universe of possibilities… including love.

This show is a nerd’s delight. Lots of obscure references, science concepts, et cetera, mixed in with a boatload of anti-social tendencies.

For some reason, because I assume the show is “geared” towards the more educated population, I (perhaps naively) thought that the various theories and ideas would be scientifically accurate.

Homo Habilis

Homo Habilis

There is one word that they mentioned numerous times, and the pronunciation is not how I learned it. The word is habilis, as in homo habilis. Homo habilis is the earliest known species of the genus Homo, according to many. Granted I only took one archaeology class in college, but every time I hear them say it I cringe.

On the show, they pronounce it as thought it’s ‘haBILLus’, while I was taught it was pronounced ‘HAbillus’. I looked it up on some website, and they pronounce it as I was taught. You can listen here.

Just sharing.

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Live and Learn: Beijing

Beijing Pronunciation Video

All my life I pronounced the name of the Chinese capital with the ‘zh’ sound, i.e., Beizhing. It never occurred to me to inquire as to the reasoning we use the French-sounding sound instead of the regular ‘j’ sound. This video by two charming gentlemen you above explains the proper way to pronounce Beijing, and the reason for it. The reason appears to be a very good one – Beijing is a compound word containing two Chinese words – Bei and Jing. ‘Bei’ means north, or northern, and ‘jing’ means capital city. Well golly, that sure makes sense when you put them together, especially considering there is no ‘zh’ sound in Mandarin Chinese! For some reason, Merriam-Webster has both usages listed as acceptable.

This has been discussed more fully (and with a fair amount of outrage, I might add), at a few other places, including here and here.