What is it about the letter n that accounts for its unwelcome intrusion into so many otherwise n-free words or syllables? I have already complained about those who insist on pronouncing Supreme Court as Suprene Court, with an n sound in place of the m. Commenter Laura offered a benign and quite plausible explanation for that particular pronunciation error. But what could possibly explain why so many highly educated individuals, including geneticists and other biological scientists, pronounce chromosome as chromosone? Do they think the word is spelled with an n rather than an m in the final syllable? (Some journalists do. Check out this embarrassing example from the New York Post: “Isabella Santorum, 3, has Trisomy 18, an extra chromosone that causes such symptoms as heart abnormalities, kidney malfunctioning and mental deficiencies.”) Is there something awkward about voicing two m sounds so close together? I have no idea. But when I hear an otherwise brilliant scientist say chromosone, I find the error so irritating that I cannot pay adequate attention to the substance of his or her presentation. I envy those who either do not notice the mistake or can force themselves to ignore it.
Far more annoying than chromosone is the rampant mispronunciation of pundit as pundint. I do not think it’s an exaggeration to say that at least 50% of newscasters and politicians routinely — and unashamedly — commit this felony. I can understand why Sarah Palin would say pundint: she probably thinks the word is spelled that way. But even the great Jim Lehrer, who certainly knows better, is guilty of this detestable crime. Where does that alien n sound come from? Is it a product of confusion with pendant or independent? I’m mystified. I just wish that Lehrer could hear me scream at him each time he says pundint. Maybe that would induce him to take appropriate corrective measures.