“You say ‘to-may-to’ and I say ‘to-mah-to,'” Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sing in the 1930s movie Shall We Dance. The song’s cheeky suggestion, “Let’s call the whole thing off,” is a playful and hyperbolic reminder that pronunciation can be the difference between comprehension and confusion.
The theme for the 2017 Sigma Tau Delta Convention, which will be held March 28-April 1 in Louisville, KY, invites such considerations of pronunciation and of how subtle shifts—from /ĕ/ to /ɛ/—matter. In shifting from the notion of recreation—rebirth, renewal, a second go at existence—to recreation—play, leisure, pastimes—we tap into one of the glorious aspects of the English language: we often must know context before we can properly affix a word with its meaning.
The word recreation, in microcosm, represents the work we do in our discipline. The theme invites us to ponder our own existence…and the means by which we seek answers to such vexing questions. We reach for the divine, the mystical…and find ourselves, instead, embracing the popular and secular. One word demands the study of the most erudite notions to face humans—as well as the most common or mainstream views.
No matter how we pronounce this year’s theme, we come to the intersection of numerous threads of the study of English. We look forward to seeing you in Louisville!
Announcing Our 2017 Common Reader
by Shannin Schroeder, 2017 Convention Chair