Stressing THE wrong word

I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek lately, and I’ve noticed something that happens a lot:

A character is supposed to refer to some science or tech thing, but they put primary stress on the wrong word of the phrase.

For example, they might refer to the Omicron Theta star system, but they emphasis the word system: “the Omicron Theta system.” Or they might refer to a stasis field as a “stasis field.”

(Let us set aside the Trek writers’ habit of naming stars after two Greek letters. I assume that they heard star names like Alpha Centauri or Omicron Ceti but didn’t know about the Bayer designation system, in which a star name consists of a Greek letter followed by the name of the constellation it’s in. I’m guessing that at some point some Trek writers thought Okay, so star names consist of two Greek words, and the easiest Greek words to come up with are letters, so we can just string together pairs of Greek letters.)

The mis-emphasis throws me right out of the show. Every time I hear it, it reminds me that these are actors saying lines that they don’t necessarily understand. And it happens a lot; I haven’t been counting, but I would guess on average once every couple of episodes, in nearly all of the Trek series.

I wish that at some point someone had told all of the Trek actors, “Think about how you would say this phrase if it were an ordinary English phrase. Like if you’re referring to a baseball field, you don’t put extra stress on the word field. Or if you’re referring to a betting system, you don’t put extra stress on the word system. So even if some of this technobabble is nearly unsayable, try to say it as if your character considers it an ordinary phrase.”

(Yes, yes, you can come up with plenty of contexts in which one would put extra stress on those words. I’m not saying that’s never correct; I’m saying that it’s not usually correct, and it’s not correct in the context of these Star Trek phrases.)

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