Thursday, December 08, 2005


Asterisk not Asterix

Normally I refrain from correcting other people’s (spoken) grammatical errors. I think it is very rude to point out mispronunciations, incorrect usage of words, phraseology faux pas and sloppy syntax. However today I had to draw the line. I happened to overhear my boss, whilst talking on the phone, make a mistake I couldn’t ignore. Instead of saying “asterisk” she said Asterix. I think this is one of the most widespread grammatical mistakes made in the English language today, the majority of people who I happen to hear attempt the word asterisk erroneously say the name of the fictional comic book character from ancient Gaul created by Albert Uderzo, thereby instantly rendering the sentence complete gibberish and showing themselves to be well below average in the linguistic competency department.

So why is this? Can it be that these people have been exposed to the Asterix comic books but failed to take any notice in their English classes at school? Well that’s understandable I guess, but what happened after these people left school and had to make their own way in the world? Have they not heard of the word asterisk? Have they never read it? Did they not grasp the primary wordplay joke of Uderzo’s Asterix comics (the taking of everyday words and changing them into Gaulish and Frankish sounding names by suffixing them with the letters ix)? Have they never written it in a word processing program and seen the red line beneath it telling them there is no such word and the one the want ends in ‘isk’. I personally think the whole thing is self-perpetuating. The more people hear others say it the stronger their belief in their own misguided mispronunciation is, and so they continue the propagation of this widespread error. I wonder if when these people hear the correct pronunciation of asterisk they think the person they heard say it, mispronounced it themselves?

* Asterix (and Dogmatix)