Caramel – An amorphous brittle brown and somewhat bitter substance obtained by heating sugar and used as a coloring and flavoring agent. Merriam Webster Dictionary
Why do you say it that way, Grandpa?
Our grandson was wondering why I said “car-a-mel,” as in, car-a-mel topping for ice cream, or carameled apples when he knows for certain it is “car-mel.”
Of all the sights and sounds at the South Dakota State Fair on Saturday, I can only speculate why this would arise as a topic of conversation. After all, the fair offers just about all a fourth-grader could desire – carnival rides, the livestock barns, exotic food along the midway, the political tents (Oh no, that was for granddad).
Full disclosure. He and I have had this discussion before.
The topic? Carameled apples. One of our all-time favorites. Even without the nuts, an apple dipped in rich, creamy caramel is hard to beat. And you don’t have to visit the State Fair to find one. The Corn Palace Festival in Mitchell also features them, and you can get the apple sliced in a bowl, heavily lathered in “caramel.”
But back to the issue at hand.
On arriving home, I said to Luke, I pronounce it “car-a-mel” because the word has three syllables. I know it is common to pronounce it “carmel” but trust me, I know what I’m talking about.
He looked skeptical.
“That’s not how my dad pronounces it,” he intoned, invoking an authority that exceeds even that of his grandfather.
OK, I said, but not willing to concede defeat. Let’s see what Mr. Webster has to say about it, and we traipsed off to a corner of the house where most of the books are shelved. (Hmmm. It was actually an American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language) .
We paged through the book, with its tissue-thin pages.
Here it is, I said, and pointed to the word: car-a-mel (kar’e-mel). See, it has three parts?
His forehead furrowed skeptically.
But I had one more move left. As the eldest of seven grandsons, Luke has shown a keen interest in the latest technology. Aha, I thought, I’ll prove my case by going to a website named howjsay.com, which provides oral pronunciations. We typed in “caramel” and listened to the voice say, “car’-a-mel.”
I detected a slight shaking of his head as he sauntered away. And so, I am left with a quote I recall my Grandmother Lindley telling me that applies in such cases:
“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
Sept. 9, 2015