On my way back to Colorado I listened to Thomas Cahill’s reading of the fifth book in his Hinges of History series, Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science, and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe. This is history the way I like it, a combination of broad perspective and detail told by a good storyteller in language that doesn’t talk down to me. Some historical figures whose names I recognized but about whom I couldn’t have told you much before listening to this book are now on my list for further investigation. The recording was abridged to six hours, helping keep me awake for a good chunk of my 17 hour drive.
I listen to audiobooks on road trips that I might not actually read through in the shorter chunks of time I spend reading when at home. I was feeling a bit guilty about this until I realized one of the advantages of listening to quality recordings. In the course of the book there were four different words that I recognized but for which, since I had only seen them in print, I had an incorrect pronunciation in my mind. (I would tell you what they were, but since I was driving I couldn’t write them down and after two days of in-service meetings to prepare for teaching summer school, I can’t remember except that one began with as—.) It took me back to sixth grade, when I was in the uncomfortable position of being teacher’s pet because my mother had forgotten to register me for school and all the spaces in the “smart” class were gone. I stood up to read from a textbook one day and came to the word debris. Now I could have told you exactly what it meant, but I had never actually heard the word, so I pronounced it just the way it looked. I was probably far more embarrassed than the occasion warranted, but I wasn’t used to making mistakes in front of that class. Anyway, Cahill’s rendition of history was entertaining enough to listen to again and try to capture those four words and learn how to say them correctly.