Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shew and Tell!

How many of you have one of these? 

Now, how many of you have been called upon to read out loud in, say, a Sunday School class, and have read the following verses this way:

“And I will shew (shoo) wonders in the heaven, and in the earth…” Joel 2:30

“And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread (shoobread) before me alway.” (Exodus 25:30)

“For the Father loveth the Son and sheweth (shooeth) him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew (shoo) him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. “John 5:20

When I first read the Old Testament in high school, my mother told me that “shew” should be pronounced “show”. I never thought to ask her why, but I thought my mother knew everything, so I read it aloud that way. But I soon became very aware that everyone reading around me was saying “shoo”, and it wasn’t long before I crumbled beneath the peer pressure and started reading “shoo”, too.

I have continued to do so for years, until recently I was listening to a panel discussion on the Old Testament on TV, where one of the panelists said that “shew” should be pronounced “show”, comparing it to our word “sew”.

“Duh!” I thought to myself. “Now that makes sense!” After all, we don’t “sew/soo” a dress, we “sew/so” a dress, right?

Still just to be sure…after all, how did I know this panelist actually knew what he was talking about?...I pulled out my Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary and looked up the word “shew”. Sure enough, it said right there that “shew” should be pronounced “show”, being an Old English version of our modern spelling for “show”.

What do you know? My mother was right all along! (As mothers usually are.)

So(!) the next time you’re called upon to read out loud at Church, don’t say “shoo” for “shew”, say “show”!

And spread the word so others will know how to say it, too!

11 comments:

Annette Lyon said...

I learned this not too long ago myself--and the Word Nerd in me loved it!

Taffy said...

When I said 'show' in church I got strange looks but I raised my chin and kept reading. :)

Joyce DiPastena said...

Bully for you, Taffy! I won't be bowing to peer pressure anymore. :-)

Annette, I took a course in college called "History of the English Language" that I LOVED! I only wish I could remember of fraction of what I learned there now. (Though I don't remember the professor ever addressing "shew" vs "show". ;-) )

Angie said...

Now that's good to now! Thanks, Joyce.

Tamara said...

Well, thank you Joyce. I love knowing the right way to say tricky little words!!

Christine Thackeray said...

Thank you!!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!! I have been on a personal mission to correct this error and am SHOCKED when people don't believe me despite reference sources. It drives me NUTS!!! Now will people realize that the two "ee"s in Zeezrom are there for a reason Ze-ez-rom and pronounce his name right too and that the Hebrews did not use a long A in any word (may be a bit too literal, although accurate) and usually emphasized the last syllable of two syllable words so its Mount Ta (as in ta-ta) BOR with soft "r"? I could go on but I'll stop now.

CL Beck, author said...

That's a great tidbit to know. Thanks for sharing it, Joyce!

Rachel Rager said...

Facinating! I'd never even thought about it before! But it makes a lot more sense!!! Thanks for sharing!

Peggy Urry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jordan said...

Wow, never knew that!

@Christine—People pronounce it Zeez-rom? Weird. Apparently they haven't read ALL of the Book of Mormon. (The pronunciation guide is one of my favorite parts ;) .

However, just because a word/name is pronounced a certain way in its language of origin doesn't mean we have to say it that way in English. (I'm the only person I know who says COR-do-ba [with a letter actually between a b and a v].) Mount Tabor, for example, is listed as TAY-bur or TAY-bor in Merriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tabor

Peggy Urry said...

Fascinating! I love learning little quirky things like that in our language. I turn onto a street named 'Kiowa' to get to my house, the Japanese language part of my brain always says 'Key o wa' but it's really an Indian word and is pronounced with a long I sound. I had to pratice a long time to pronounce it the right way without thinking about it. Thanks for sharing!

June