Wednesday, February 25, 2009

WNW: Mormon Edition

Because we're a "curious" people with lots of quirks, I thought I'd throw in some Mormony word missteps for a change of pace.

I'm not going into common phrases that crop up in LDS prayers, testimonies, and the like. Instead, here are four common word bloopers you find frequently at church.

Three are pronunciation errors. The last one is a common scripture word mix-up that I think is important to understand correctly, because it impacts the meaning of other scriptures as well.

The first two I credit Lucy at An Ordinary Mom for pointing out to me:

As in the official Church magazine.

The title is NOT pronounced, "en-sun" (the pronunciation used for a low-ranking military officers) but "en-ZINE" (an emblem, or sign).

Until recently, there was even a notice on the contents page explaining the pronunciation.

Note the last half of this word. Is there a T in it? No, there is not. This is a four-syllable word.

But sometimes people panic because it's a biggish word and so they add an extra syllable. They pronounce "archal" as "article," yielding, "patri-article."


I had a religion teacher at BYU point this one out to me, and ever since, it's been a peeve. Note the last three vowels in this word: I, E, E. They're all pronounced as short vowels.

It should be Melch *I* z *E* d *E* k.

But invariably, you usually hear people flip the I and the E, yielding:

Melch *E* z *I* d *E* k.

Say it aloud over and over with the *I* sound first, and the last two syllables with a short E. Say it again to drill it into your head. :)

Strait and narrow
Here's one that most people hear as one thing and assume it means the same thing as the homophone does.

What most people think this means is that the path is STRAIGHT (opposite of curvy) as well as narrow.

Not so.

STRAIT is a synonym for NARROW, as in a "strait jacket," which is narrow and close-fitting. So it's basically redundant: the way is "narrow and narrow."

What we forget is that Isaiah, Nephi, and other prophets often used repetition as a poetic technique to emphasize phrases and concepts.

In this case, the path wasn't both this and that. It was this and this some more. In this case, the passage emphasizes the narrowness, the closeness of the path, and the phrase is "strait and narrow."

Recognizing that emphasis makes the next part make more sense:

"and few there be that find it" (3 Nephi 27:33)

If the way is narrow, it'll be harder to find, right? The amount of straightness (curviness) isn't relevant.

Then remember what comes after the "strait and narrow" part? Yep:

"wide is the gate and broad is the way which leads to death"

using both WIDE and BROAD is the same technique: it repeats the concept, since wide and broad mean basically the same thing here.

Plus, it makes the second line perfectly parallel to the first line: they're both repeating one simple idea (first the narrowness of the path to life, then the wideness of the path to death).

It wouldn't be parallel if STRAIT meant "in a direct line" (STRAIGHT). If it meant that, in order to be parallel, the second half would have to say something like:

"But curving/meandering/winding is the gate and wide is the way"

Instead, both cases simply have repetition for emphasis, a very common technique in scripture.

Here are a couple of example pulled from Isaiah as I just scanned over the pages randomly. Note how the second line in each is essentially a repetition of the first one, just using slightly different words.

Isaiah 50:3
I clothe the heavens with blackness and
I make sackcloth their covering

Isaiah 38:18
For the grave cannot praise thee,
death can not celebrate thee

Isaiah 35:3
Strengthen ye the weak hands,
and confirm the feeble knees.

There are dozens and dozens more like that.

I keep a running list of WNW ideas. If you have any Mormon-isms you'd like to me add (or any other ideas), leave them in the comment trail!


Kristina P. said...

OK, I totally do the Melchizedek one. I didn't know the Ensign took that part out of the contents. I almost wonder if that pronunciation is a Utah thing.

I saw your comment about the Anniversary Inn, and wow, seriously, some of those rooms really freaked me out!!

Brooke said...

Mine is the one that is on "The best two years". Book of mormons. It's BookS of Mormon.

Lara Neves said...

These are all great...Ensign and Patriarchal are pet peeves of mine. It's almost hard to hear whether someone is saying Melchezidek correctly or not, but I'm glad to know I say it right anyway. :)

Actually, about Book of Mormons/Books of Mormon...I'm not sure which is correct anymore. I would lean toward Books of Mormon, just like sisters in law, however I have heard several people say that since Book of Mormon is the entire title it would actually be more correct to say Book of Mormons, so now I'm confused.

Josi said...

I actually pronounced all of these right! I feel so smart, but not as smart as you because I had no idea on the strait thing. Fascinating.

Debbie said...

I am not Mormon but I do like to know how to pronounce words correctly. Thanks!

LisAway said...

LOVE this one, Annette. I think I sort of say Melchizedek wrong unless I'm reading it. And I think patriarticle is sort of cute, but I find myself thinking someone isn't too bright when I hear them say it. Until I remember that I sometimes say Melchizedek wrong.

Your thoughts on strait and narrow are super interesting. I'd been wondering why the path I'm following didn't seem to be so very straight! :)

And I can understand the Book of Mormons annoyance, but I think there is nothing wrong with it. Sort of like how I will NEVER talk about "jumping rope." I'm sure jumproping is absolutely wrong (and sounds/looks horrendous to many/most people), but jumping rope sounds like something my great grandmother did. When I jumprope, I'm jumproping.

Anonymous said...

En-SUN might be my biggest Mormon pet peeve. I can not stand it. And when they took the pronunciation guide for it out of the front of the magazine, I was not happy!

Annette Lyon said...

For the record, here's my take on the Book of Mormon thing--

I side with those who say it's a title, and therefore you wouldn't say BOOKS of Mormon. (Kinda like you wouldn't say "Huckleberries Finn" to make that book plural.

BUT since so many people argue over it, I just say, "copies of The Book of Mormon." Keeps everyone happy. :)

(And Lisa, I'm with you on jumproping.)

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...


I'd never thought of the strait and narrow concept that way before...have always had it wrong in my head.

Heatherlyn said...

I'm pretty sure Annette is right about the Book of Mormon being a title so the "s" goes at the end. But really? Do people really even get annoyed by stuff like this?

I did think the info on the parallel poetic structure was interesting.

Julie Wright said...

Fun! And I say all these right! Hooray! I'm smart like Josi!

Julie Wright said...

Oh and I meant to tell you my blog address has changed. Feel free to update it in your gogle reader.

Brittany Marie said...

Brooke: I got corrected by a smarmy 15 yr old Sunday School student of mine when I said that. He said it is actually "Copies of the Book of Mormon."

Patri-article is one of my pet peeves too. I think saying Ensign as "en-zun" is more of an older generation thing. Thank goodness. :p

amelia said...

Now these are going to drive me crazy. It also drives me crazy when people pray for moisture. You don't see it much in Utah, but in California, the state that is constantly in a drought, people are constantly praying for moisture. I think it's the word that bugs - and the fact that they don't just say "RAIN" like moisture sounds more refined or something.

Charlie Moore said...

Another Elder and I were in the temple yesterday and I heard words that I've personally heard mispronounced. Elohim and Jehovah. People sometimes use long E for Elohim and Gee ho vah for Jehovah. If ever one should try to get two names correct, it would be those of Heavenly Father and our Savior.


Erin said...

Yep, these things bug me too! I should be a writer. Or an English major.

Cheryl said...

This was interesting. I know I've been guilty of a few of them. Along the lines of redundancy the one that I always groan over (and hear a few times EVERY sunday) is "each and every one of you".

Melanie Jacobson said...

I heard the straight/strait thing once before but it didn't stick. Thanks for the explanation!

Anonymous said...

I've always been annoyed by mispronunciation of Melchizedek as well.

Oh and I've never heard anyone say Patriar-tical - though I'm not surprised people do that.

Jen said...

I enjoyed the "lesson". I always laugh at my husband who has a hard time pronouncing words. I tease that he has his own "dictionary". Thanks for the clarifications!

Wonder Woman said...

I know all of these rules, but unfortunately have been guilty of the mispronunciation (sp?) of Melchizedek. I had a seminary teacher talk about The Straight of Magellan, and *that's* how that image was ingrained in my mind. Narrow, and often difficult ot navigate.

Patri-article REALLY bugs me.

Heffalump said...

Educational as usual!
I can't think of any peeves that haven't been mentioned, except maybe "I'd like to bury my testimony."

Sher said...

You forgot Sacrament meeting.
The way some people pronounce it drives me batty!

Sackerant meeting?

What the heck is sackerent?

It's Sac-ra-ment!

Jenna said...

GREAT post! I have those same pet peeves, especially the patriarchal one. I even have a friend who pronounces it "patriotical", which totally gets me.

Loved this!

wendy said...

I have been LDS my whole life --that was alot of things I didn't know. Like Straite and narrow----I have issues with Isaiah........

Anonymous said...

Great post! Ensun is a big pet peeve. As is "Release" Society. And of course, "Ladder"-day Saints!

And I would also like to bear my testimony of the correctness of COPIES of the B of M. I think there was even an official thing that came out in the 80s about that.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I am glad I am not the only one with these pet peeves :) !!

I knew what strait and narrow meant, but I love the way you explained the poetic technique behind it.

Heidi said...

I am so proud of myself, I knew all of these! My pet peeves are more along the lines of saying things like "please bless us with moisture" when what we really need is RAIN, people, RAIN!

Jules AF said...

patri-article has to be a lie. There's no way people do that!

Alison Wonderland said...

I'm going to fall on the Book of Mormons side of the argument due to the title being Book of Mormon. But that's me.

I love/hate the "in name of the name of thy son" line. It's ok when praying because, hey you are actually talking to the guys father, but when giving a talk or something... He's not my son.

Annette Lyon said...

Boob Nazi, If only it were made up . . .

And Alison, I'm with you. Drives me crazy when people say "thy son" at the end of a talk--it tells me they aren't really thinking about what they're saying, which is offensive to me, using the name of the Savior flippantly. Just another personal peeve. :)

Anonymous said...

An interesting thing about the Ensign pronunciation notice on the contents page is that before it was taken out altogether, it went through a phase where the tone was softened. It used to say, "Pronounced en-sign, not en-sun". In 2000 it was changed to say "Preferred pronunciation en-sign, not en-sun". It's as if the Ensign editors got tired of an uphill battle, and stopped caring, and give tacit approval of the ear-rendingly bad mispronunciation.

annie valentine said...

Okay, what about people who like to give out Book of Mormons? The plural should be on the Books not on Mormon himself, should it not? Clarify this one for me, will you?

And I was solid on the first three and enlightened on the fourth. Thank you! We could totally sit next to each other in Relief Society.

Blondie said...

I know you said you weren't going into prayer mispronunciations but I just have to say that I can't stand prayers which delineate a list of things we're thankful "fer".
Thanks probably just a Utah thing.

I actually don't mind "En-sun." That's how my day always said it. I agree that it's probably a generational thing.

mormonhermitmom said...

LOL! Amen.

LisAway said...

These comments are so fun to read! I have a question:

Mina mentions "of course" ladder-day saints? I don't get the of course, because if you pronounce it any other way I would assume you were British (I looked her up to see, and she's not. . .)

Maybe she's not suggesting we pronounce the 't's as t's, but I just wanted to say that I would find it strange if I heard someone saying it that way.

Unknown said...

Words can be such fun and I've been known to find enjoyment in leafing through a dictionary page or two, myself. But be careful when you talk about people's mispronunciations driving you crazy. Before you get feeling too superior, remember there are probably some things that you don't say correctly either. Did you know that there is no such word as "scriptorian"? It's "scripturist". See what I mean?

Annette Lyon said...

Beverly, Good point. In real life, the one place word issues make me cringe in professionally published works, like novels, where the author and editor should have caught them.

So no supreriority here--regular conversation and blogs and the like don't bug me--but I do find it fun to notice these kinds of things (much like scanning a dictionary--we word nerds enjoy this kind of stuff).

I'm sure I say things that drive people crazy. For starters, I'm pretty sure I have a pretty solid Utah accent!

Anonymous said...

Aw, I like scriptorian. (I had no idea that wasn't a word!)

Annette, thank you for the explanation of the strait and narrow. I knew and didn't know it, and you're explanation was excellent as usual.

Heffalump, I think I know some that really would like to "bury" their testimony (and pretty much do.) It's cute when kids say it though because it's innocent. ;-)

Luisa Perkins said...

I was hoping you'd mention that "proselyting" is not a real word (although it is probably becoming one through rampant misuse).

The word people mean is "proselytizing," which means to gain proselytes, or converts. As in, "Are you going on a proselytizing mission, or a family history mission, Sister Jones?"

Luisa Perkins said...

Oh, and Annette? Your instincts are correct. The official Church usage is "copies of The Book of Mormon." Both "Books of Mormon" and "Book of Mormons" are incorrect. It made me crazy when I saw that scene in The Best Two Years.

Not sure why I'm writing this; I'm very late to the comment party, and I'm fairly certain no one will read this.

Luisa Perkins said...

One more: don't y'all know that it's "Luisa 'Ciety?"

That's what I thought it was when I was a little girl. :D

Little GrumpyAngel said...

You should be required reading for all Mormons. One of my peeves is when people give a talk and end with " the name of thy son..." because it's wrong, they were talking to me and not to God when they are giving their talk. Sometimes it's symptomatic of the fact that some of us are Mormons by ritual and culture only. Our religion is a habit and we don't really think about why we do or say things.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Next time I see you, will you say Melchizedek for me so I can hear it? Although, I think I spelled it wrong. :)

Suzanne Reese said...

A very nice lady in our ward was recently assign an entire talk on patriartical blessings. I had a really hard time taking her seriously.

My pet peeve is when we're praying over a plate of cookies and punch and the Lord is asked to bless the food that it may nourish and strengthen us. As if he's going to zap it with nutrients for our benefit!

LisAway said...

So, Annette. On the drive to church yesterday I was telling Greg about the strait and narrow thing. He didn't believe it. He was sure it meant straight and narrow. I explained about your other examples, etc. He said, "We'll look it up when we get home." As we discussed it I realized the main reason he felt this way was because in Polish it is straight and narrow! Weird. So I was curious.

He checked two different Greek resources and they both say "narrow"! So I was glad it was proven to him.

And I'm really curious as to why it's translated like that in Polish. Prosta and wąska don't even rhyme, much less are they homophones!

(I'm pretty sure you don't say "much less are they. . ." but I can't be bothered to rearrange my sentence so I don't have to say it. But I can be bothered to write an entire paragraph explaining all about it. Whatever.)

Anonymous said...


I don't understand why you decided to use a Z in the second syllable of the formerly preferred pronunciation of Ensign. The online definition at has en(t)-sən as the primary pronunciation for all senses of the word and en-ˌsīn as a secondary pronunciation for most senses. In both pronunciations, the S is unvoiced.

Melanie Jacobson said...

I'm too lazy to see if anyone else pointed this out, but I thought of it yesterday. How about pronouncing "paradisiacal" correctly? Or the fact that there's no pre-existence, just a premortal existence? If you weren't so popular and didn't have eight million comments already, I'd go check for duplicates. Whew!

Anonymous said...

Although "premortal existence" is more common than "preexistence" at, "preexistence" appears in the writings of many LDS authors, including Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomos S. Monson, and others. "Pre-existence" with a hyphen is the main term for the concept at and has a glossary entry at

Mark Pennington said...

Check out these Top 40 Pronunciation Pet Peeves, but warning… you may cringe on a few that you mispronounce.

Helena said...

I personally am bugged by "return missionary" (rather than "returned") but I guess that's a colloquial thing.

"Thy son" drives me nuts. As does "Please bless that..."

Jake D said...


I love this post. You spoke about the Ensign having a place in the table of contents stating it is pronounced En-Zine. Thats how I've always said it, but I cant find it in my copies at home. could you possibly post which volume that comment was in? I'm attempting to prove it to someone, but it's not going very well.


Annette Lyon said...

The pronunciation note used to be in every single contents page of the Ensign, but it's not there anymore for some reason (maybe they consider it not worth the effort?).

Regardless, here's a link to a PDF with the contents page from 2001 from that shows it.

The paragraph you want to look at starts with the words "The Ensign" and is mostly about submissions but explains the pronunciation as well:

There's also this note from one of those "Ask a question" sections, from The Ensign, June 1975, page 63:

Ensine or Ensun?

Please tell us the correct pronunciation of the Ensign. Some people call it “the Ensine” and some call it “the Ensun.” Which is correct?

Harold Collier
Chicago, Illinois

We pronounce it En-sine because it most accurately reflects the pronunciation Church leaders give to the word “ensign” when they read it in scriptural passages.

Jake, hope that helps!

Rebecca Blevins said...

Interesting, and I admit that I've always said "Melchizedek" incorrectly. Now I know better.

I always though that the correct pronunciation of "Ensign," according to the magazine, was En-sign, not En-zine.


Amazon's famous Prime Day events are huge for so many reasons, and for bookworms, it's even better: books aren't high-ticket ite...