I’ve been enjoying audio books lately because I have to drive to distant parts of my county for work. One thing that fascinates me about the audiobook experience is the ways in which the readers pronounce some words. Now, I have degrees in English, and have always had a pretty good vocabulary, primarily as the result of reading. So consequently, there are many words that I’ve only ever read and not heard anyone use, so I’ve deduced my own pronunciations. Some of these have seemed clear, and there are others about which I’ve been unsure.
So now, when I hear some of these words uttered by the readers of different audiobooks it’s an interesting experience. I noticed this a lot with “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” as Tom Wolfe has an expansive vocabulary, and the audio book reader had some interesting pronunciations that mostly sounded right.
Today, listening to the history, “Occult America” the reader pronounced the word ‘eschew’ as “es-kew,” which seemed to me a novel way of pronouncing a useful word that sounds awkward the way I’ve always pronounced it, which is “es-shoo.” Looking online about the issue I saw some debate about whether the word (in American English) is pronounced “es-shoo” or “es-choo,” but interestingly, no mention of the potential “es-skew” version I heard on the audio book.
One writer on a message board on this matter, with the screen name “Packard,” amusingly commented:
“If ever I used “eschew” in conversation I would immediately be branded an effete snob. So that neatly exempts me from ever pronouncing the word as I do not wish to be considered an effete snob and I don’t use it orally. (I do use it in written communication, but rarely.)
In a subsequent post, Packard writes, “I do recall a teacher saying, “Eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation.”
Chew, Shoo, or Skew? All would seem to work.