Archive for November 7th, 2008

Correct pronunciation – we old (-er) folk are particular about this

November 7, 2008

In which Dr Aust starts worrying about the pismonunciation of worms

Sorry to have been off-line for so long. Pressure of work, and other not-quite-day-job writing projects with recent deadlines. Not to mention half-term holiday, teething/colicky Baby Aust, and intermittently manic Junior Aust, who is having a “You-Parents-will-PAY-for-having-another-child-apart-from-me” phase.

So blogging is slightly back-burnered. The ideas are there… it’s just the time to finish them, as I think I warned in the one-year round-up.

Anyway,apologies if today’s snippet is a bit short, slight, and Grumpy Old Man-ish, and not very Bad Science.

So what’s it about?

Well, as part of the day job, I have been tracking down useful bits of free animation that can be used to help with teaching my main subject of physiology.

It turns out there are some pretty useful ones… and some not so useful.

The one I want to tell you about came from a site which says it provides “Professional Resources for Teachers”, and this particular animation is supposed to be directed at A level Biology students.

The animation is for the cardiac cycle, and can be found here.

If you want to view it, click “play”, close the obtrusive “YOU MUST PAY!” window, and click “play” again. You will find an animation of the cardiac cycle – the chambers of the heart filling and emptying, and valves opening and shutting. WARNING – it has a rather too loud voiceover in a very authoritative voice.

Just one problem.

The words “systole” – usually used to refer to ventricular systole, the phase of your cardiac cycle where your ventricles, the big chambers, are contracting to eject blood – and “diastole” – referring to the time when the ventricles are relaxed and filling up with blood – are pronounced wrongly.

In the voiceover, systole is pronounced strictly as written – “sys-toal” or “sys-tole” – rather than the correct “sys-toe-lee” (which rhymes with “fiscally”).

Similarly, diastole is pronounced “die-as-tole” rather that “die-as-toe-lee”.

Well, you might say, so what? Only pompous grumpy old farts like Dr Aust insist on correct pronunciation these days. It is clear what the word is, pronunciation regardless.

Hmm. Not sure about that.

For generations, medical school teachers have been teaching medical students (and students from other health-related and bioscience degrees) to say “systole” and “diastole” with the correct pronunciation. We aren’t nasty about it, and we don’t publicly humiliate people – we just give them the correct pronunciation, if they don’t already know it, and everyone is happy.

So why aren’t I happy here?

Well, because this is a ”teaching package”, The site suggests it is a specialist resources for Maths and Science. For any teachers using this to teach A level Biology, the students they teach will be my next lot of volunteers, or clients, or whatever we are calling them this year.

And this might be the computer package their teachers use to teach them about the mammalian heart. But apparently, no-one involved in producing this package knew enough to know how to pronounce the words properly – or, at least, whoever was in charge wasn’t paying enough attention to detail to tell the voiceover artist how to say the word correctly.

[Which is not terrribly difficult-to-find information. You can, for instance, find it easily on the Internet.]

But someone couldn’t be bothered. Or was in too much of a hurry.

At which point you might think – well, if that’s how careful they are (or aren’t), what else might they have got wrong?

Finally, just to show I’m using the Web-technology to the full (not), how about a poll?