“Start the New Year with a better night’s sleep! Check out our extra ordinary year-end closeout on all mattresses and box springs!”
Who doesn’t want a better night’s sleep in the new year? I do. I mean, even if you normally sleep well, I’m guessing squeezing a little something “extra” out of the overnight experience wouldn’t hurt, right?
For me, I sleep OK, sometimes on the “good-to-well” side, but overall, if I were taking a survey, and I was asked to respond to the statement, “Most nights, I sleep well,” with multiple choice answers of “Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree Nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree, I’d probably fill in the “Neither Agree Nor Disagree” box.
But that’s not the point of all this. What got me hung up – and admittedly, increasingly frustrated over a period of minutes while running errands on Saturday – was the radio pitch person’s use of the word “extraordinary.” Notice how I broke into two words above? It’s not a typo; it was intentional because that’s the way the voiceover talent read it on the radio spot advertising a sale at Slumber & Sons Sleepover Hideaway (not its real name).
Now, I’ll grant you that the spelling of the word “extraordinary” throws us all for a loop, and many argue that because the “a” is included in the spelling, it should also be part of the pronunciation. Point taken, however, it’s not, and while that may be “extra” confusing or seem “extra” stupid, that’s the way it is, because sometimes the English language is both “extra” confusing and “extra” stupid.
But more than that lame “because I said so” argument that the spelling and pronunciation police have used so skillfully all these years, there’s another reason why the “a” should be silent. Because when we pronounce the “a,” it also changes the meaning.
I know what you’re thinking. “Dave, isn’t that giving into ‘The Man’ by covering up his mistake and therefore, enabling more stupid mistakes to be swept under the rug?”
In a word, yes. But I’ll also say at some point (one I do not wish to research now or probably ever), there was likely a reason for it.
On the lighter side, let’s look a bit deeper into what “extra” ordinary really means.
For instance, I was not an extraordinary high school football player; I was “extra” ordinary. That is, I certainly wasn’t a standout, and many sources (coaches, fans, fellow players and VHS tapes of games) would support that fact.
Some of these sources might say I didn’t even reach everyday “ordinary” status on the gridiron, claiming I was so ordinary that I was indeed “extra” ordinary. Want proof? On the field, I once dropped an easy, game-winning touchdown pass that instead, became a game-losing incompletion. Off the field, I was once the reason a chalkboard was broken in anger during a halftime locker room discussion of “How the #$%* can our $#%^-ing defense – and I’m looking at you, Haznaw! – miss so many tackles in one %^&%-ing half of football!?!?”
The same goes for basketball. While I was a solid player growing up, with skills good enough to always place me in the starting lineup through about eighth grade, by the time high school rolled around, I didn’t even try out for the team. Let it be known, our high school had a strong basketball program, with a coach who boasted a long history of winning. I knew it would be a stretch to make the team, but until I actually talked to the coach about it, I remained on the fence.
That coach was also my Phys. Ed. Teacher. It was during the team handball unit (a sport that I can best describe as water polo without the water or the funny hats), and as I was tearing up the gym floor with my skills and leadership. Mid-game, Coach Bobbins (not his real name; “Bobbins” just popped into my head and I thought it appropriate here) approached me.
“Haznaw, you considering trying out for varsity this year?” he asked in a low tone, as though he already knew the right answer but wanted to see if I did too. (He was smug that way.)
“Um, you know, maybe.” It was the best I could do. After all, he’d caught me off-guard with the question, and I was only half listening, since we were all tied up in our match, and needed to find a way to squeak out a gym class victory without working up a sweat so we wouldn’t have to shower before next period.
“Frankly, I wouldn’t bother if I were you,” he said before I could muster a decent response, and with that, he walked away. Apparently, Coach Bobbins recognized just how “extra” ordinary I was on the basketball court before I’d noticed it in myself.
That season, I attended every home game as part of the high school pep band, where I exhibited my “extra” ordinary skills as a trombonist.
Over the years, I’ve also become an “extra” ordinary golfer, volleyball setter and tennis player.
Away from the athletic fields, courts and pitches, I’ve also achieved “extra” ordinary status in a number of areas. For instance, I’m an “extra” ordinary listener. I try so hard, but my short attention span often gets the best of me.
On the flip side of the listening coin – and likely something that contributes to my “extra” ordinary ability to listen – is the ability to keep my mouth shut. Again, I try, but because I have an extraordinary love of talking, my “keep your mouth shut” skills are often “extra” ordinary.
I’m also an “extra” ordinary typist, even though I spend much of each day at a keyboard. For some reason, after so many years, I still can’t get my fingers to type what my brain is telling them for more than a couple words before I have to go back and make corrections.
I’m also an “extra” ordinary video game player, though I was once pretty extraordinary at pinball.
And eating? Certainly “extra” ordinary. The good news is, I never suffer from lack of nourishment. The downside? I eat too fast, I spill too much, and in general, it isn’t always pretty for those sitting across the table.
So, I think if I haven’t already beaten the “extraordinary” vs. “extra ordinary” horse to death, I’d like to take a moment to go one step (or beating) further, by introducing “sub” ordinary to the mix. These are skills, objects, events and such that don’t even make the grade of “extra” ordinary.
For me, those are things like auto repair, carpentry, or really anything that qualifies as a trade or DIY skill. In those things, I wish I was extraordinary – or even “extra” ordinary – because “being handy” comes in so … handy.
Other examples of “sub” ordinary include things like TV series finales, chocolate-covered cherries, trips to the DMV, long driving trips where the destination is NOT a resort or other vacation destination.
And decaf coffee.
Anyway, what I really wanted to say (and I’m not sure what makes me think I’ll magically cut to the chase now after writing the past 900 words of “extra” to “sub” ordinary prose) is this: extraordinary is an OK word, victimized by bad spelling which often leads to mispronunciation.
That said, please don’t let that fact keep you from taking advantage of Slumber & Sons Sleepover Hideaway’s big year-end sale, so you too can have the best night’s sleep of your life. (That is, if you can find it, since I didn’t use the store’s real name.)
More to the point, after such a “sub” ordinary year, I’m hoping your meter shoots past “extra” ordinary and redlines at “extraordinary” in 2021. We all deserve it: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree Nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree?
© 2020 David R. Haznaw