Friday, September 21, 2007

40 Mispronounced Words in Church Music

Continuing in the spihdit of Not reading the names, today let's consider The 40 Most Mispronounced Words in Church Music by John Yarrington. I ran across this when googling what music the church placed the most emphasis on. Please check the link above for the 40 most mispronounced words in church music. Here is one example:

"3. Spirit–SPIH-dit
"Flip the 'r' by singing 'd'. Remember that the correct pronunciation is not the same as the words meaning 'to harpoon'!"

My, my -- where do they come up with this stuff? Who makes the rules? Surely the pronunciation meaning 'to harpoon' (spear it) can be as well understood as the pronunciation describing the forced expulson of expectoration from the oral orifice (spit it)...

...Actually, though, this gives me hope. It may be that we were correct in my growing-up years when we sang Albert Brumley's "Isle mee choo in th'mornin'."

FYI: the classification 'humour' refers only to my blog post. There is no indication that Yarrington's article is anything less than serious.

I will meet you in the morning in the sweet by and by
And exchange the old cross for a crown
There will be no disappointments and nobody shall die
In that land when life's sun goeth down


Unknown said...


Something else I have strong opinions about.

Why do choral leaders insist that we sing English words as if they were Italian? English has twelve or so vowels, plus our wonderful liquids and nasals -- why don't we sing 'em like we say 'em? The only reason 'warm' is a problem is that it's hard for Italians to pronounce.

Anonymous said...

After reading the list of 40 words and how they are listed to be sung, I realize why I use song books without notes(or don't use the notes when using a song book with notes); and do not have a bunch of people standing in front singing to the audience. Each person should clearly pronounce words when singing in the same manner in which they are pronounced in speaking (there are avery few exceptions when singing).
Hoyt D. F. Sparks

clinch64 said...

This all seems kind of humorous to me. Surely this gentleman has better things(thangs) to do.


R. L. Vaughn said...

Will, Hoyt -- I agree. I cannot think of any good reason for not singing words like we say them. In English this may vary a little from Australia to England to Canada to America -- but what's wrong with that?

Hoyt, I enjoy singing from both tune books and words only books. But I'm not sure how singing with notes correlates with deliberately mispronouncing English words and calling it the way things ought to be. Maybe you can explain further.

Neil -- I would think so!

tbeck said...

We don't sing words like we say them because singing is not speaking. Words in singing are pronounced to maximize their acoustic resonance so that they project well, tune well, and blend well. If you don't modify "speech" vowels to be more acoustic, you can't easily navigate the change in register that happens for all voices around D or so, and the upper range sounds thin and strained, or doesn't work at all. The voice just does not function the same in the upper range as the lower range. It's biology and physics at work here, not personal taste by directors who like how Italian sounds.

R. L. Vaughn said...

tbeck, such only becomes important when church music is moved out of the realm of spiritual praise and joyful noise to pride of performance.