Saturday, November 18, 2006

Babble

As you may have noticed, I didn't post anything here last week. It wasn't because I was too busy or anything like that. As a matter of fact, I had plenty of time -- it seems like all I did last weekend was get a haircut and see a movie.

The movie, by the way, was Babel, which is a good movie that I recommend you go see, unless you don't want to or you've already seen it and you don't feel like seeing it again. But when I told a friend of mine I wanted to see it, she laughed at the way I pronounced the title. I pronounced it as "babble," but she told me it's pronounced "BAY-bl."

So the next thing I did, of course, was look it up in the nearest dictionary, which in this case happened to be Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition. It listed both pronunciations, but the preferred pronunciation was "BAY-bl."

I was a little surprised, I have to admit, but preferred or not, "BAY-bl" sounds too much like an Americanization to me. "Babble," on the other hand, is not only closer to the pronunciation of "Babylon" (the reputed location of the Tower of Babel), but it also seems more apt, considering the meaning of the word "babble" dovetails nicely with the story of the Tower of Babel.

But I was left with a question: When I get to the theater, should I ask for tickets for "Babble" or "BAY-bl"? I debated this in my mind for a few seconds. On the one hand, "Babble" is probably a more accurate pronunciation, but if "BAY-bl" is the preferred pronunciation (which means that it's more common among speakers of American English), then maybe the woman at the ticket booth wouldn't know what I was talking about if I said "Babble." But I said it anyway, and she knew what I meant, and we saw the movie without incident.

As a side note, a few days later I was having lunch with a friend of mine and I asked her how she would pronounce "B-A-B-E-L." Her answer was "babble." This proves nothing, of course, other than that I know people who use both pronunciations, but it still made me feel vindicated.

By the way, I think the term "Americanization" is also sort of an interesting word. You can't form a word like that out of all nationalities. It works pretty well with nationalities that end with -an (e.g., "Mexican," "Russian," and "Brazilian") but not so well with others, such as "French" (for which we'd have to say either "Franconization" or the comically stupid "Frenchification"), and "Portuguese" (for which we'd have to come up with something really awkward like "Portuguization"). I don't know what to do for Spain -- maybe "Spaniardization" or something clumsy like that. And as for the tiny nation of Singapore, whatever we come up with is bound to have too many syllables to be useful. So perhaps it's best if we don't spend any more time thinking about this.

Back to the subject of movies, then. If you happened to read a post I wrote a long time ago, you'll know that I'm no great fan of James Bond movies, so perhaps it won't surprise you to learn that I wasn't planning on seeing Casino Royale.

It's been getting some pretty good reviews, though -- even from people who hate most movies, like Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com and Manhola Dargis of the New York Times. What they both like about it is that it's so different from previous James Bond movies, so I may have to reconsider my decision. At this point, I'm still not planning on seeing it, but that doesn't mean I won't see it -- it just means that I'm not planning on it.

Anyway, whether I see it or not, I do feel the need to point out that with this latest addition to the endless stream of Bond movies, a milestone of a sort has been reached: This is the first Bond movie in which the actor portraying James Bond is younger than I am.

Okay, maybe that's more of a milestone for me than it is for James Bond movies, but it's still worth mentioning. I think the last time something like this happened was when I was about twenty and I suddenly realized I was older than most of the women who modeled in Playboy. I suppose the next time will be when we elect a United States President who's younger than I am. That's pretty hard to imagine right now, but it's bound to happen one of these days, especially if I continue to grow older, which most current evidence indicates will very likely be the case.