Pronunciation alert

Year in and year out, the Onion churns on, one of our great sources of modern political humor. A recent headline positively nailed it about as good as any one issue can be nailed in one headline. The topic was the recent shooting madness in Isla Vista, and the headline read “No Way to Prevent This, Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

Every year, every spring, there will be an afternoon when it's not windy, just maybe a light breeze at most, an afternoon when the light is perfect, the conditions are top notch, and I can see from my back patio about 40 miles to the south, to Slide Mountain and beyond. It's on afternoons like these that I'm reminded as to just how completely goddamn gorgeous it is around here. Not just decent, not just acceptably pretty, but stone cold flat out beautiful. Which is nice. We have that going for us. A real nice chunk of geography in which to live.

I'll reflect on this lush wondrous meadow zone we're in, and how it's now home to what, 325-350,000 people? And I'll invariably be thankful that it's not double that number. Then, for some quirky, parochial reason, I'll take comfort in the notion that Spanish Springs really does kick Pahrump's ass.

Say the word “risk.” It's easy, right? Not a prob. Now, say the word “aster.” As in the flower. Ass-ter. Again, simple. Right?

So we've got these two very simple, very easy words to say. Nobody over the age of 7 who's halfway competent with English really has any trouble with either of them. So why is it that when we take these two basic, elementary words and put them together, most of the population immediately proceeds to blow goat curds all over its chin. Asterisk.

It's a word that's just as simple as the two words that construct it. Yet, most Americans, when confronted with “asterisk,” don't even try to get it right. They don't even try to come close to getting it right. They pretty much (1) melt down, (2) overload, (3) blow a fuse, (4) stab themselves in the head with a fork, and (5) spit out the word “aster-RICK” and hope nobody notices that they just got on the fast track to Bozoville.

With just a minimum of practice, you can get it. You can bring this word into your speaking comfort zone. Will its mastery get you a job? Get you laid? Highly doubtful. No, if you say “asterisk” properly, that—and three bucks—will get you a latte at Starbuck's. But you can enjoy instant smugness the next time you hear some oaf on the radio say “aster-ick,” knowing that you pretty much own his ass when it comes to vocabulary.

Speaking of vocabulary, I want to finish this week by going on the record with this—the word “convo” will never be used in this space. Sorry. Can't do it. I'd just as soon use all four syllables, thank you very much. Yes, it's a lot more work, for sure, to go ahead with those extra two syllables, but what can I say? Must be my Puritan upbringing …