I found myself listening carefully not so much to what the young doctor was saying as how he was saying it.
“How is your appetite?” he asked, the first three words slightly higher in pitch than the one that preceded it.
But appetite — I thought about finding a piece of scrap paper to write down the way he pronounced it so I could remember it properly and recreate it. I think it was ah-PET-it.
My father understood and answered appropriately. Well, almost. He looked at me, repeating the question as he did. “My appetite?”
I nodded a yes — yes, that was the question, and yes, his appetite is good.
“I have no problem with my appetite,” he said, and patted his stomach.
“How is your weight?” the doctor asked, but he pronounced the w as a v — like vayt.
My father looked at me, questioningly.
“Your vayt. Your vayt,” repeated the doctor.
“He’s asking about your weight, Dad,” I translated, a little surprised that my father had deciphered appetite but not weight.
“Oh! My weight is fine,” my father answered, and the exam went on.
The young doctor with jet-black hair, soft hands, and mostly perfect English was from Pakistan. Pah-ki-stahn, as he pronounced it.
There are times I wish I had an invisibility cloak, so I could listen, unnoticed, to the way people from different parts of the world talk.
In Bosnia, I didn’t pay close enough attention. I think I need to go back and try again.
Once I had an on-line discussion on the pronunciation of the word LABORATORY. It turns out that laboratory can have anywhere from three to five syllables, depending on where the speaker is from.
It also turns out that there are dozens of videos on how to pronounce that one word. Crazy.
I watched some of the videos and found my favorite — partly because the video itself has nothing to do with the audio, and partly because I can picture one of my sons playing the semi-gory game shown.
For the record, I say LAB-ra-tor-ee.