Friday, October 9, 2009

You Say Tomato...

Today’s tennis lesson was ostensibly about moving in and taking control of the net. But I think we all took away a little something more.

Laura the Tennis Pro has asked, time and again, that we all wear black on Fridays. No reason, really, except that we all seem to show up in black most of the time and I think she just wants to institutionalize it. Ann and I, good Do-Bees that we are, wore black tops and skirts.

Kelly is new to the group and still needs to extend her black tenniswear. Weeks ago she had no black. Now at least she has a black skirt. But her top was grape colored today. And Lorna – subbing for Eileen – had a top that was raspberry.

Ann immediately pointed out the discrepancy. “They’re dressed like sherbet,” she said, in part because they did look like refreshingly flavored ices, but also, I believe, because Ann’s new diet has not permitted her to eat anything besides fruits and vegetables since Sunday and I think, deep down, she delighted at the idea of turning her competitors into frosty foodstuffs.

I could just imagine her saying, “Take that you freaky ice pop!” before slamming one down the line.

How it was that we began to debate the spelling of “sherbet” is a little less clear.

It is definitely one of those words that I see in my mind’s eye whenever I say it aloud. I pronounce it “sher-bert,” but I envision it with only one “r."

“You’re thinking of ‘sorbet,’” Ann said as the group vacillated about the existence of the second “r.”

“No, no. Sorbet is a whole different thing,” I said. I was certain that sherbet was spelled with one “r” but pronounced with two.

Lorna has an English accent and that made things more complicated. "In England it is very definitely spelled with one 'r.' We pronounce it “shuh-buht.” I don’t know, that still sounds like two “r’s” to me.

I agreed to take on the daunting task of research and dissemination – committed as we are to being a well-spoken tennis group. But my findings are not very enlightening.

"Sherbet" is the preferred spelling. And “sher-bet” is the preferred pronunciation. If you insist on saying “sher-bert,” then you must spell it “sherbert,” which is considered an American variation of “sherbet” and, just for the record, red-lined by my spell-check program every time I write it.

That's all there is to it. I admit, I’m left feeling a little confused and unsatisfied – a place I often find myself when my old, tired brain is trying to grok something new. I don’t think I will ever bring myself to say “sher-bet.” Luckily, I prefer sorbet.

1 comment:

  1. My dictionary had this to say: The tendency to insert an : r into the second syllable of sherbet is very common. Frequency of misuse has not changed the fact that the spelling sherbert and the pronunciation |ˈ sh ərbərt| are wrong and should not be considered acceptable variants.

    Nonetheless, I'm with you. I say sherbert.