Thursday, October 23, 2008

The pronunciation of "elided"

The other evening on The News Hour, New York Times columnist David Brooks used the word "elided."
Having only read the word in memos from lawyers and never heard it spoken aloud before, I was surprised to hear that it has a long "i" (like "eye") and so is pronounced ee-LIE-dead.
elide [from the Latin elidere -- to strike out]
1a: to suppress or alter (as a vowel or syllable) by elision
b: to strile out (as a written word or passage)
2a: to leave out of consideration: omit
b: curtail, abridge

David Brooks is best known for coining the Red State/Blue State shorthand to describe the cultural rift between the urban/suburban, coastal/heartland, Pier One/Wal-Mart Americas.

A couple of years ago, Brooks used the word "elided" in a column in which he roundly roasted the writing abilities of a certain public figure up for a job that required clear and persuasive elucidation of ideas.

Wrote Brooks, "...the quality of thought doesn't even rise to the pedestrian [commonplace, unimaginative -- as in traveling on foot rather than riding in style]. .... I don't know if by mere quotation I can fully convey the relentless march of vapid [insipid, lifeless, boring] abstractions that mark [this person]'s prose. Nearly every idea is vague and depersonalized. Nearly every debatable point is elided [omitted, curtailed or abridged]."

Many of us experience similar slams (in red pen, perhaps) in tough English classes. With luck, we lick our wounds and learn to write something approximating clear, concise, reasonably graceful English. The alternative is to risk the kind of humiliation that the public figure above endured in the op-ed pages of the Times.

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