DAD'S hobby was mispronunciations. He had been fascinated with them since childhood. He was particularly partial to the mispronunciations of small children, and those that took his fancy were incorporated into his conversation forever. There was one garbled pronunciation to which he was especially devoted. This one did not come from a child, however, but from an adult of some standing in the community. This is how it came about.
Dad was raised on a small farm and attended a one-room schoolhouse. On one of his many school days - days packed with learning the three R's and gleaning nuggets of wisdom from ``McGuffey's Reader'' - a member of the school board visited the little schoolhouse. The teacher, perhaps wishing to impress her pupils with the honor this important man was paying them, invited him to read aloud to her class, handing him a geography book. His eye unfortunately fell on an article about Egypt, and he began to read.
The gentleman was somehow under the impression that this exotic name, Egypt, was pronounced ``Egg-pit,'' and thus he read it, with full confidence, not once, but again and again until the lengthy article was finished. The students - even the smallest of whom knew better - were both consternated and amused. In spite of their barely suppressed giggles, the school board member read doggedly on, ignorant as he was of the cause of this unseemly behavior.
Dad, who was only 8 at the time, was astounded that a grown-up could display such appalling ignorance, especially a member of the school board. He never forgot the incident, or the novel mispronunciation, which quite took his fancy. Perhaps he liked visualizing the nation in question as a huge pit filled with gleaming white eggs. At any rate, he carried this bizarre pronunciation into his adulthood, and of course, ``Egyptian'' became ``Egg-pit-ian.'' Occasionally he would forget himself before company and embarrass us by coming out quite naturally with ``Egg-pit.''