Re: You know what?

1

You do? Not to be all prescriptivist, but that's hilarious. We should do a talent show at an unfoggedcon sometime where you can say "nucular" and we can all laugh with you and clap and stuff.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:14 PM
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Why do people say 'nucular'? The reason is because there's no right and wrong anymore.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:18 PM
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Oh, and do a dance.

so y'all can stuff it.

Its no suprise to all of us that you can dish it but not take it, but I think we can commit to resolutely refrain from going on about this fact which isn't suprising. You enjoy a very unique prominence on unfogged, and you shall be proud of that.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:22 PM
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I also don't care about split infinitives.

Do people actually mistake "should" and "shall", or was that ad hoc?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:25 PM
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I mixed up "who's" and "whose" again today, an error I had never once in my life made before I started reading unfogged.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:28 PM
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Indeed they do. Not a common mistake, but when it is made, my inner pedant goes ballistic. I think it has something to do with people trying to sound British.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:29 PM
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Also I really wish I had taken vector calculus slightly more recently and been slightly less high when I did take it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:30 PM
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I don't care about earmarks.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:32 PM
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Geoff Nunberg & I were doing linguistics at Columbia at the same time. He has teh smart. We ran into each other a few years ago and had a lovely chat about our erstwhile professors. [One of them managed to lecture about the etymology of the word "fuck" without ever saying it, as there were ladies present.]

I have never understood why the mispronunciation didn't end up being "new-kleer" - it's spelt that way, after all.

There's a columnist who constantly uses "between X and I" or "he gave it to X and I". Me want to strangle her.


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:34 PM
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There's a columnist who constantly uses "between X and I" or "he gave it to X and I".

In print? Where are the copy editors? Civilization is crumbling.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:37 PM
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I recently saw a strange misuse of "erstwhile", but I can't remember what it was.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:37 PM
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As far as I can tell, only children's books are copyedited anymore.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:38 PM
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Maybe the new WPA can retrain unemployed investment bankers as copy editors.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:40 PM
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Erstwhile you were on Caltrain?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:44 PM
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The reason you mispronounce that word is because your one of those people who's all uptight about written english. Between you and I, though, spoken English is a different matter, and you know it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:44 PM
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Also I really wish I had . . . been slightly less high

Lies of the most transparent variety.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:47 PM
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I don't like "and whatnot."


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:47 PM
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15: Did the fact that youve already been powned escape you're unremitting notice or have you seen 3 rear it's head? And when it does, its over 15.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:52 PM
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Oh c'mon, Wrongshore. "and whatnot" is kind of cute.

18: I totally noticed, but a good joke bears repeating. Plus I really do say "the reason is because" all the time, and it really does reliably make young Benjamin angry with me.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:57 PM
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For some reason one of my friends has started saying "what-have-you" all the time, but he thinks it means "et cetera". For some reason this annoys me, partially because it's an affectation and partially because I know it's wrong but I can't exactly prove what "what-have-you" actually means.


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 10- 2-08 11:59 PM
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PK insists on saying "ekt" for et cetera, no matter how often I correct him.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:05 AM
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re: 21

Heh, that's pretty good. I used to refer to 'labes' when I was a kid, where 'labes' were quantities of weight and written 'lb'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:27 AM
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21: Show him The King and I.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:28 AM
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7: vector calc was the class in which we held "40 oz Fridays."


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:30 AM
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19: You do me too much honor, but dear Benjamin painted the crosshairs on his own chest, and who am I to deny him? But seriously, "the reason is because"? W-lfs-n, and everybody else on God's green earth, has justified occasion to mock you. I won't put up with nukyuler, and I won't put up with "the reason is because." Here I stand; I can do no other.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:45 AM
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My one and only published (in college!) attempt at a political cartoon centered on (yes, ben, not "centered around") Bush saying NYOO-CU-LAR.

But it wasn't a very good cartoon, I admit.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:53 AM
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27

You and me must make a pact,
We must bring non-proliferation back,
The reason for this [pause] is because.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:15 AM
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27 is so lovely.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:21 AM
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Also, don't say "between" when you are talking about three or more parties or things. The word you are looking for is "among":

The agreement among France, Russia, and Italy required a reduction in tariffs on trade.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:00 AM
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"Between you and I" grates me more than any other grammatical mistake. (Using less when one means fewer also bothers me a lot, but not as much.) It is a real struggle for me not to correct strangers who use that construction in real life.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:28 AM
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I try very hard not to be picky about grammar and pronunciation, but nucular still gets to me. I work in a field where the word is in constant use, so perhaps the reason is because of that.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 5:42 AM
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I rarely get really annoyed by pronunciation. There are a few things that grate -- the GenAm rhotic-schwa, for example -- but generally I am chilled about it.

Some of the things that do grate, grammatically, are formally correct.

People who say "an hotel" for example.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 5:47 AM
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There are a few things that grate -- the GenAm rhotic-schwa

I continue to find this a completely lunatic peeve. It's like being annoyed that English doesn't have palatal clicks. I'm right there with you on "an hotel," though. Ugh.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 5:58 AM
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re: 33

I didn't say it was sane. And it only grates in some accents and some voices. I don't find all US accents irritating. But some people are so uni-vowelled it makes listening to them infuriating.

Also, come to think of it, that very very posh English English accent that's so posh it sounds like the speaker has had a stroke or suffers from some horrible phonological disorder -- that one's annoying, too.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 6:08 AM
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But some people are so uni-vowelled it makes listening to them infuriating.

Like an intelligible version of the teachers in Charlie Brown.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 6:20 AM
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36

The last presidential campaign drove me nearly nuts for both Kerry and Dean pronouncing "idea" with an R at the end of it (idear).


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 6:30 AM
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37

32.1: Examples?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 6:50 AM
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ttaM, that pet peeve sounds like an entry in a competition. I, personally, am horrified only by Finnish diphthongs.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 6:54 AM
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39

I had a housemate who used the word "poignant" when he meant "pointed." He generally did this in discussing disagreements, so that when someone said something very harsh, he would call it a "poignant remark."

It took me a very long time to figure out what the hell he was talking about. Examples like that have convinced me that the anti-prescriptivism of linguists is just insane.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:00 AM
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re; 37

Take the following sentence:

"Merry Mary wants to Marry"

In my own accent, the capital 'M' words there are three distinct vowel phonemes, each followed by a consonant phoneme.

In some US accents, though, there's not a distinct vowel phoneme + consonant phoneme pair in the middle. Instead, there's a single vowel phoneme with an 'r' like quality -- it's a rhotic vowel. Then, in a subset of those accents, ALL of the M words in that sentence contain the same rhotic vowel sound.

So, taken out of context, 'Merry', 'Mary' and 'Marry' are pronounced exactly the same.

In the more extreme versions of that accent, it just grates on my ear.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:02 AM
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The reason why I keep all my nucular materials in an aluminium pale is because I'm British.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:04 AM
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Rhotic-schwa? Is that like reducing the word "for" to something more like "f'r"?

"Nucular" grates on my nerves sometimes, although I don't really think it should. My childhood idiolect, for instance, didn't distinguish the pronunciations of 'pin' and 'pen'; at some point I decided it was a useful distinction and changed the vowel sounds I used (this is, I think, the only thing I've ever consciously changed about my accent). At some point later in life I heard someone talking about how much they hate it when people can't say 'pen' or 'ten' correctly, how very stupid such people are, etc. Made me think twice about my innate reaction to things like 'nucular'.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:04 AM
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re: 38

FWIW, one of the accents that also grates most [apart from that uni-vowel'd US one, and super-posh English] is a particular Glaswegian one.

Lots of people have pet hates in pronunciation/accents. It's just I studied phonology so I can actually name/describe what it is about a particular accent that annoys me.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:07 AM
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Once in Mass, the priest ascribed the phrase "reason why" to Jesus, and my mom visibly flinched.

I mean, I don't think the priest saw her, but anyone nearby could have.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:07 AM
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42: I think "nucular" is a different case than pen/pin merry/marry. There is no way to get from nuclear to nucular via accent.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:09 AM
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Ben has forever besmirched any prescriptivist credibility he ever had, and can no longer be permitted to hold forth on proper usage.

That is all.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:11 AM
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"Merry Mary wants to Marry"

What I've always found interesting about that example is that some people who pronounce those three words the same cannot hear the difference between the pronunciations, even when it is pointed out to them.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:11 AM
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re: 47

Yeah they do literally have one phoneme.

A friend tried to teach me some Punjabi many years ago, and even though i've studied phonetics, and I know what aspiration is, I still struggled to hear the difference between certain aspirated and non-aspirated phonemes. They sounded essentially the same, much of the time.

I could spot them, but it didn't jump out and was non-natural.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:14 AM
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49

I pronounce Mary and marry the same, but merry is different (though only slightly so).


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:16 AM
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Speaking of where have the copy editors gone, the TV writer in the local paper today attempted the construction "(read 'cheaper')," but instead wrote "(re: 'cheaper)." I shit you not.

One time our copy editor - who's pretty well a stickler - missed a homonym-type typo (I can't recall the example - it was something where we had inadvertently left off a letter, and the result was still a word) in the conclusion. Rereading it myself in the paper, I kept trying to figure out what the hell it was supposed to say - since the typo ended up a real word, my brain insisted that it must mean something.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:20 AM
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51

"Merry Mary wants to Marry"

I would pronounce all of those identically.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:27 AM
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49: There are very slight differences in the way I pronounce all three, with "Mary" being slightly closer to "merry" than "marry."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:28 AM
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Count me among the Mary-Merry-Marry all the same crowd. I'm not even sure I can visualize what the difference might be.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:40 AM
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re: 51

I am sitting here, quietly despising you.

Then again, some of the time I merge 'cot' and 'caught'. Same vowel phoneme [unless I am making a conscious effort to speak clearly].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:42 AM
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re: 53

I'll record it. Gimme 2 secs.



Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:42 AM
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55: 2 s/b butt.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:45 AM
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I was in college before I stopped pronouncing milk and bridge as melk and bredge.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:46 AM
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I also pronounce "Merry", "Mary", and "Marry" exactly the same. I can hear the distinction in some dialects, but there's no way I could consistently emulate it.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:47 AM
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In college, though, I started distinguishing between "tin" and "ten", and between "pin" and "pen".

And in grad school I shifted the accent in "umbrella" to the second syllable.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:49 AM
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apo is a midwesterner?

This reminds me of the guy I knew in college who was from Wisconsin and pronounced "bag" with a long 'a' sound. His girlfriend was horrified every time he said it, and eventually trained him to say it the way most Americans do. You can imagine what happened the next time he went to order a bagel.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:49 AM
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It's funny, I say all three differently, but I don't notice other people who don't. I'd been married years before "Mary, merry, marry" came up in conversation, and I realized I'd married outside the clan.

(I think I'd notice with all three in a sentence, but one at a time the pronunciation usually doesn't sound off. Oh, except on AWB, who's an unusually clear and non-mumbly speaker, which allowed me to notice that she uses what I consider the wrong vowel in her own name. At which point what I mean by 'wrong' is a fraught question.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:51 AM
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I have never in my life emphasized "umbrella" on any syllable save the second.

I think I can hear a difference between merry on one hand, and Mary and marry on the other, but I don't think I usually pronounce that difference. On the other hand, maybe I do pronounce it but it's the same phoneme either way.

I pity you people that take umbrage at most of these things. The only thing mentioned that bugs me at all is the "John and I" thing, and that's only because of the construction's unceasing use in Atlas Shrugged. Before I read that, it didn't bug me.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:52 AM
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I'll come to ttaM's defense on Mary/merry/marry. Three distinct vowels, please.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:52 AM
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You know what does bug me, though? Prescriptivism.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:54 AM
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apo is a midwesterner?

Heh. I guess Durham would be considered midwest North Carolina. My southern accent is slight and only really comes out in force when I'm good and drunk.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 7:59 AM
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I don't even know what the vowel would be if you pronounced all three of those with the same vowel.

And I don't know what the vowels would be if you pronounced all three of them with different vowels, either. I guess I have limited ability to identify with others.


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:00 AM
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Mary, merry, marry are all the same to me, and I can't recall ever having heard them pronounced differently. Whichever one it is that Jimi Hendrix says that the wind whispers, cries and screams, that's the one I say.

What am I saying, oh discriminating ones?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:00 AM
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You know what does bug me, though? Prescriptivism.

You shouldn't feel that way.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:01 AM
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The first time I noticed the pin/pen merger was when I was watching my little sisters watch Barney and one of the kids on the TV kept saying it was the letter "IN".


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:01 AM
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The best demonstration of the Wisconsin accent is the way they say Wisconsin. Ditto Minnesota.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:02 AM
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On the Mary/Merry/Marry thing, I'm also really trying to figure out how they could be pronounced differently. In fact, despite spending my entire life around the (admittedly fairly posh) English accent of my father and then three years surrounded by a variety of British accents at college, I still can't think of the distinction.

And you know why? Because no one under the age of 60 is named Mary, and no one fucking uses the word "merry" when they mean "drunk" anymore.

That said, I still look forward to ttaM setting the record straight.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:03 AM
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http://www.mcgrattan.f2s.com/merry.mp3

From the wee mic in MP3 player. So, not audiophile.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:05 AM
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In writing, the only grammatical issue I am enraged by is the failure to distinguish "which" from "that".

The occasional prescriptivist who will defend that failure should be put on a remote island with all of the people who say "nucular".


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:05 AM
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74

So, not audiophile.

W-lfs-n says unacceptable. Ogg format, please.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:08 AM
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74: W-lfs-n also says "nucular." He can no longer be considered the arbiter of what is acceptable.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:09 AM
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73: I've never been able to keep that one straight, and was immensely relieved when I read that Fowler invented the rule out of whole cloth.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:10 AM
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Heh. I guess Durham would be considered midwest North Carolina. My southern accent is slight and only really comes out in force when I'm good and drunk.

I knew you live in NC now, but I associate 'melk' with the midwest.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:12 AM
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On the Mary/Merry/Marry thing, I'm also really trying to figure out how they could be pronounced differently

Wow ... I know this example, but I'm still always surprised by the non-differentiators.

In fact, despite spending my entire life around the (admittedly fairly posh) English accent of my father and then three years surrounded by a variety of British accents at college

Irish people differentiate the three sounds, too (and there are plenty of them under 60 named Mary). Although of course depending on context many English people can have trouble differentiating between British and Irish, but this is a separate problem.



Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:12 AM
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77: Bah! Do you avoid using electric light because that was "invented"?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:12 AM
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80

You know, with people from Ellinois.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:12 AM
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81

Whoops - 77 moved to 76, I think.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:13 AM
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In writing, the only grammatical issue I am enraged by is the failure to distinguish "which" from "that".

My I-am-an-old-prescriptivist-crank version of this is when I become enraged by people who use "incredibly" as a synonym for "very".


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:14 AM
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67:What am I saying, oh discriminating ones?

You're saying that the mother of Christ is a Hobbit.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:14 AM
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79: I would if I couldn't remember how a switch worked.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:16 AM
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82: What's the problem with that? The interpretation is "so extreme it strains credulity". Now, I can understand being annoyed when people use it to lightly.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:19 AM
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A few other samples.

Merged

Different

via wikipedia

Me, I'm from Boson, Mass. and I say these words with 3 different vowels.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:19 AM
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Um, too lightly.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:20 AM
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"melk" is one I said as a kid. I think I killed that somewhere along the way.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:20 AM
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86: I hear the same vowel in mary and merry in the differentiated example there, while I can clearly hear the difference between all three in Matt's example.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:21 AM
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What's the problem with that? The interpretation is "so extreme it strains credulity".

I mean people who use it all the time, like "We met this incredibly nice woman named Mary who got incredibly merry because she's supposed to marry this incredibly nice guy."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:21 AM
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86: What I remember from a map I saw someplace is that Americans who differentiate are pretty much limited to people north of the Mason Dixon line who can see the Atlantic out their window. 100 miles inshore, and the extra vowels are gone. Buck grew up in the NYC local TV broadcast area, but he was still far enough off the coast to be in the one-vowel region.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:22 AM
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89: Not to pick on you, but really? You can't hear it? At all?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:24 AM
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"melk" is one I said as a kid. I think I killed that somewhere along the way.


A lot of people from my part of Ireland, including me, grew up saying "sangwich" for "sandwich."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:24 AM
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92: I hear two different vowels in the example, not three. Still better than one.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:25 AM
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I knew you live in NC now, but I associate 'melk' with the midwest.

I was born in Kentucky, because my Alabama-native father was in school there (my mother's from a military family, so from nowhere in particular) and have lived in NC since I was three. I, like much of my generation, have more of the television accent than a regional one.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:25 AM
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92: On a second listening, I think I might be hearing the difference I was talking about earlier, the difference I can hear in my head but still seems to be the same phoneme for me, so I can't reliably hear or produce it. Matt's distinction seems much more pronounced.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:26 AM
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91. Every day I checked to see that the Royal Navy had not returned. That is why I am qualified to be vice president.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:26 AM
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Gah! Who keeps renumbering the comments!? My two previous comments to 92.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:27 AM
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Irish people differentiate the three sounds, too (and there are plenty of them under 60 named Mary).

Eh, the only Irish person I was close to at uni was named Lindsay, and all of her friends had more traditional Celtic names.

Doesn't change the fact that I immediately recognized the differentiation in one of the main Scottish accents after I heard ttaM's recording, and felt pretty dim. I'll have to listen to the other (presumably American) examples since I can recognize and reproduce the differentiation that ttaM makes, but it sounds horribly affected.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:27 AM
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I don't mind the fact that most Americans don't distinguish between Mary, merry, and marry, as long as they admit that they're doing it wrong, and are inferior for that reason. (In turn, I'm prepared to concede that I'm inferior for not liking boba tea, or bubble-gum-encrusted steak, or whatever weird-ass food Asians have perpetrated on us now).

I rediscovered Mary/merry/marry independently, when I was trying to explain to my Seattle neighbors that in Philadelphia, English had more than two vowels. I was surprised to find out it was a standard linguistic example (I think I may have learned that here on Unfogged, in fact.) The one I noticed first was Don/dawn (I don't know if that's a standard example).


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:28 AM
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86: What I remember from a map I saw someplace is that Americans who differentiate are pretty much limited to people north of the Mason Dixon line who can see the Atlantic out their window. 100 miles inshore, and the extra vowels are gone. Buck grew up in the NYC local TV broadcast area, but he was still far enough off the coast to be in the one-vowel region.

This is why Sarah Palin was right to talk of the East Coast elites. (I liked this one because it was Manhattan Myopia in reverse.)


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:28 AM
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I've noticed recently that my pronunciation of a long 'o' has started to wander the map. I'm blaming it on being married to someone who pronounces 'sorry' as something close to 'sore-y.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:28 AM
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Because no one under the age of 60 is named Mary

I'm pretty sure that's not true.

ttaM, your reaction to American pronunciation seems a bit extreme.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:32 AM
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I hear no distinction between Don and Dawn, unless I consciously try. I think that English could stand to lose a few vowels. There are too many now. Spanish makes do with five. We could probably trim it down to 10 without too much trouble.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:33 AM
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104 - This is part of your secret agenda to switch us to Loglan, isn't it?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:34 AM
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A broom is drearily sweeping
Up the broken pieces of yesterdays life
Somewhere a queen is weeping
Somewhere a king has no wife


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:37 AM
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Lojban is based on Loglan, but due to the creator of Loglan not wanting to share, Lojban has a different vocabulary, and Lojban has been developed for about 15 years after Loglan was dropped. Lojban words tend to sound less english-like, since the algorithm to generate Lojban words weighted Arabic and Chinese more highly than it did for Loglan, using more recent population figures for those regions.

Oh, and, not particularly. I think Spanish sounds prettier than Lojban, though depending on whether you think Spanish has a schwa sound, both have about the same number of vowels.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:38 AM
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104 - I'm with you provided we get to add some clicks.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:38 AM
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You can hear happiness staggering on down the street.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:39 AM
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ttaM, your reaction to American pronunciation seems a bit extreme.

People were talking about pet peeves. It's not like I walk about all day seething about it. It's something about some people's pronunciation that's mildly irritating.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:40 AM
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I recently bought this book, and lately I've been reading random things aloud in my approximation of Early Modern English. It's a hoot. (The website has recordings.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:41 AM
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72: I can hear the differences, especially between the first two and the third. With the first two "merry,Mary" I can hear the difference with them right next to each other, but I probably wouldn't distinguish it if I didn't hear them really close together.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:49 AM
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It's something about some people's pronunciation that's mildly irritating.

Well, darn it, Matt, I think you're a hoot, doggonit!


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:49 AM
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It's something about some people's pronunciation that's mildly irritating.

Fair enough. I thought you were infuriated, since you used the term infuriating.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:51 AM
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114: ttaM is only mildly infuriated.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:53 AM
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My southern accent is slight and only really comes out in force when I'm good and drunk.

Oddly enough, the same is true for me.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 8:54 AM
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Nucular is, to me, in a different category than pin/pen or mary/merry/marry/morrie or melk/milk. There's just no way to get from the combination of letters you see on the page to that pronunciation. It implies to me that you don't know how to spell the word.

I was trying to think of an example while falling asleep last night (thanks, unfogged) and the only truly similar one I could come up with was "aluminium", which at least as some other element names to justify it. (I also thought of Worcester, Forecastle, and Newcastle, but decided they were more plausibly justifiable).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:01 AM
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Admit it, ttaM: you hate America.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:02 AM
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My (west coast) mother grew increasingly angry when we (east coasters) refused to believe there was a difference between the East Coast, West Coast and RP pronunciations of "pork". ("pohrk" vs. "poark" vs. "pawrk" apparently).

ttaM is only mildly infuriated.

s/b "ttaM is only being Glaswegian."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:04 AM
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117: Feb-you-ary? Ant-ar-tic?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:05 AM
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My bourican girlfriend always mocked me for the way I pronounce "warm"; apparently the proper way to do it is to say "worm."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:05 AM
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60: That's the Northern cities vowel shift. It's famous because it's very recent (last 40 years or so) -- it's like seeing evolution in action. I have a college friend from around here who's stayed in Minnesota most of his life, and he rhymes "bag" with "vague". I spent 1964-2005 outside Minnesota, and I didn't pick it up.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:06 AM
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48: even though i've studied phonetics, and I know what aspiration is, I still struggled to hear the difference between certain aspirated and non-aspirated phonemes. They sounded essentially the same, much of the time.

It may be that they contrasted only in certain positions, e.g. next to certain consonants or next to certain vowels.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:08 AM
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93: I've heard "sangwich" in Minnesota. Local people possibly from the south surnamed "Craig". The same guy said "venchtables" and maybe "hangerburger", but the third one may have been something someone made up.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:13 AM
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My southern accent is slight and only really comes out in force when I'm good and drunk.

I first learned to speak with an strong-ish accent that was rapidly lost when we moved. It comes out when I'm good and drunk, though.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:14 AM
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Now that I've listened to 86, I think I may actually pronounce the words with different vowel sounds, at least some of the time. "Marry" for sure, as I position my tongue slightly differently so I don't produce as flat of a sound as I do for "Mary". But the differences between the three sounds are pretty slight in my accent, and I'm not sure that I distinguish them all the time.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:16 AM
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re: 119

But I'm not Glaswegian. I'm from the inner darkness [i.e. the bit in between Edinburgh and Glasgow around Falkirk].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:17 AM
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As I remember, English and most Germanic languages have eight vowels, whereas Romance languages have five. The Scandinavian languages have one sign per vowel, more or less, which is why you see those weird heavy-metal thingies in their writing. In English we use various two-vowel combinations to represent the extra vowels, but it's inconsistently done and you have the Great Vowel Shift too, so English spelling is, to use a technical term, no fucking good at all.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:18 AM
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re: 118

This goes without saying, imperialist running dog.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:19 AM
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Snark is a "melk" sayer! He's from Maryland, though, so I don't know how that happened.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:24 AM
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He's from Maryland

Perhaps it's a mid-Atlantic thing.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:25 AM
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re: 128

No, it's more than that. RP English has about 20 or more vowel phonemes. Scottish English has slightly less but Scots uses monopthongs differently.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:26 AM
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I'm pretty sure English has well over 8 vowel sounds, though most may be allophones and not practically important to distinguish between.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:27 AM
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73: I've never been able to keep that one straight, and was immensely relieved when I read that Fowler invented the rule out of whole cloth.

Not quite whole cloth; unrestrictive clauses really do use "which" (cf. "the road, that I took, was unpaved"). But for restrictive clauses either is acceptable.

Fowler is perfectly frank that he's making up the rule as generally given today, though: "On the other hand, we cannot say 'All which I can do is useless'; this time, it is true, the generalization will not hold; 'which' can, and sometimes must, be used, and 'who' commonly is used, in defining clauses."


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:28 AM
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It'd be interesting to have a chart with the number of different vowel phonemes distinguished by region.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:32 AM
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"melk" sounds plummy to me.

I wonder why no one is as intolerant about "melk" as they are about "nucular"? Probably because the latter is more rube-associated. Cf. various pronunciations of "jaguar".

The real distinguishing mark of the clauses Fowler hoped to distinguish by relative pronouns is the presence or absence o commas.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:33 AM
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re; 133

No, there are about 20 or more actual phonemes, i.e. that distinguish meaning. Although it varies a fair bit from dialect to dialect.

Scottish tends to replace several of the diphthongs in RP with monophthongs. Some US dialects replace several monophthongs that are in Scottish or Irish or RP with a single monophthongs, and so on.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:36 AM
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Americans are not running dogs but primary oppressors. The running dogs / jackals / lackeys / minions are the people like Blair.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:50 AM
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"melk" sounds plummy to me.

Plum milk is disgusting.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:50 AM
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re: 138

Bourgeois academic Americans are running dogs of the RoveCheneycrats, naturally.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 9:58 AM
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Well, running dogs do run in wretched starving mongrel packs. But I like the idea that B. is the very face of American imperialism.

When I first saw 140 I assumed that our poor banned friend had finally come up with a good comment.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 10:01 AM
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130: Snark is a "melk" sayer! He's from Maryland, though, so I don't know how that happened.

My brother (raised in upstate New York and then Massachusetts) continues, at age 38, to say "melk," "bag" with a long A, and "idear." I finally browbeat him into getting rid of "basgetti" for spaghetti; it's on a different order altogether.

But I have no idea where he's gotten these things from. There's no doubt that my own pronunciation, or accent, changed quickly and noticeably throughout childhood as we moved from western PA to upstate NY to central Mass. Now it's just generic newscaster. Except for "Boston," which seems to have gradually and almost imperceptibly morphed into "Bawston."


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 10:53 AM
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t some point later in life I heard someone talking about how much they hate it when people can't say 'pen' or 'ten' correctly, how very stupid such people are, etc.

I mostly hear/think it in the context of class rather than "stupidity." Certainly when I was admonished not to use certain pronunciations as a child it was justified on grounds that it wasn't correct, which was usually code for "it sounds lower class."

Beyond the vowels issue, I think the syllable-stress is really interesting. Sometimes you can hear that a speaker has clearly made a significant effort to shift his/her vocabulary to a more highly educated level, but the pronunciation differences and the outright errors (pronouncing umbrella or police with the accent on the first syllable; confusing "anecdote" and "antidote,") remain a significant tell.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 10:54 AM
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Anglophones think [ei] is a long a. This is a revelation.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 10:57 AM
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It's also completely insane, I should say.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 10:59 AM
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Day has a long A [eI] to me. Neighbor has the same sound. What's the insane part? I'm curious.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:05 AM
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Well, in no other language in the world, I think, does the character "a" indicate a sound like that.


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:07 AM
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Ah, Okay.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:09 AM
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Isn't that the result of the Great Vowel Shift? All our vowels moved forward? or something in the later middle ages?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:11 AM
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144, I do have to admit, puzzles me completely. David, you write English absolutely fluently -- I suppose it's possible that you haven't heard it spoken much, but that seems really, really, really, really unlikely. Do you mean you just never thought consciously about how vowels are pronounced in English?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:16 AM
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I think CN hit it. A peculiarity of our spelling. But I await David's reply with bated breath. (Hurry! Can't bate too long.)


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:24 AM
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I think that David was saying what CN said in 147> What we call a "long a" is not an "a" in other languages.

Languagehat.com has tons of discussions of this type. The boss, Mr. Hat, is a copyeditor, now-amateur linguist, and anti-prescriptivist with a fascination for the study of languages and their literatures.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:29 AM
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Well, sure. I just can't figure out how it could be a revelation, other than to someone who hadn't heard English spoken.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:33 AM
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Anglophones think [ei] is a long a. This is a revelation.

Is [ei] pronounced with a long a sound other than when combined with [gh]? The only examples I can think or are either and neither, neither of which is pronounced long a.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:34 AM
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When placed in brackets, it means he's using the letters as IPA letters.


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:38 AM
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Ask Paddy how to pronounce n/either.

I think David meant it the other way around. "A" standing for the [eI] sound was what is weird.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:39 AM
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And, as you know Bob, IPA letters are measures of hoppiness in beer.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:42 AM
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What I find interesting about the long a sound is that it's actually a diphthong, but it's treated like, and sounds like, a single vowel to the American (and probably any English-speaking) ear.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:44 AM
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Except when articulated by Fonzie.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:48 AM
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Few Americans know what a dipthong is. By the time I started teching ESL, I'd forgotten even though I'd once known.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:51 AM
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159: I'm not terribly familiar with Happy Days, but I do believe that even Fonzie says it as a diphthong.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:54 AM
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What I meant was that when Fonzie says it, anyone can tell it's not a single vowel.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:56 AM
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160: If you introduce an American to the concept of a diphthong, and then ask if the "ou" in "ouch" is a diphthong, they'll correctly tell you "yes". If you ask them if the sound of "I" is a diphthong, they'd incorrectly tell you "no". I'd wager, anyway.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:57 AM
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Oh, hey. It's both the long A and long I with this property. Interesting.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 11:58 AM
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Canadians and Americans say "about" with a different "ou" dipthong: "uh-oo" vs. "ah-oh", roughly. But when they imitate each other, they get it wrong: "aboot" vs. "aboat".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:03 PM
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Wouldn't that be explained by the spelling? If you're not used to thinking about sounds, you're going to believe that one letter spells one sound. Your hypothetical American is going to spot the two-letter diphthongs, and miss the one-letter diphthongs.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:04 PM
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One of the things I enjoyed about watching the Senate closely for a couple of weeks earlier this year was listening to all of the accents on display. That affirmative action quota written into the Constitution does wonders for a certain kind of diversity.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:21 PM
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re: 158

It's not a diphthong in my dialect. Several of the long vowels that are diphthongs in other dialects are long monophthongs in Scottish English.

English has lots of dialects, and they have different vowel schemes. Even if English did undergo spelling reform, the spelling would never accurately reflect that.



Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:27 PM
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Southerner monopthongs drive me up the wall. "Ah" for "I", etc.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:33 PM
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Thinking about this stuff, I'm realizing that I am the anti-ttaM. I pretty much like listening to anything that sounds to me like an 'accent' (some accents sound comic to me, but basically any variation on what I think of as ordinary -- neutral NY -- is pleasant to listen to.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:36 PM
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"What I find interesting about the long a sound is that it's actually a diphthong, but it's treated like, and sounds like, a single vowel to the American (and probably any English-speaking) ear."

That's what I meant. I wasn't aware that English speakers don't know what a diphthong was. This makes it less curious that you always pronounce a long e as "ey".


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:38 PM
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what I think of as ordinary -- neutral NY

This made me chuckle.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:39 PM
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monophthong is Borat's swimsuit


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:40 PM
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But if there's some subtle difference between the a in hate and the ey in hey, I've never noticed.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:41 PM
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I like accents of all varieties, you elitist snobs.

There is no audible difference between the words "tower" and "tire" in my father's speech--even I can't tell the two apart other than by context. Once, a few years ago, I was confused for a full conversation about why his neighbor would put a 30-foot tire in that neighbor's back yard (or where he even could have gotten a 30-foot tire).


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:42 PM
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LB does have a pretty neutral accent, IIRC.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:45 PM
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158: dood if ur ears are speakin ur wired rong.
165: So, so true. No one says a-boot. It's just a different ou sound.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:46 PM
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where he even could have gotten a 30-foot tire

Michigan.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:47 PM
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174: Nope, those are precisely the same, at least for me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:47 PM
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174: Neither have I.

175: I dislike Chinese/Korean accents in English, but not Japanese or Indian accents. But those aren't native accents, probably not what you meant.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:48 PM
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174, 176: Yeah, that's my self-image, at least. Network newscaster, with some fairly subtle NY features like the extra vowels (and the Pawl Bawldwin Cawfee Tawlk "aw" shows up sometimes), and some idiosyncratic overformality that's not regional, just peculiar.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:49 PM
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You can find people with neutral American accents it pretty much any region of the country.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:50 PM
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neutral American accents

The television accent, I call it. Also, the redneck accent is surprisingly similar across America.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:51 PM
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Then the concept of diphthongs shouldn't be so confusing as pdf something thinks.

I rhymes with buy. I contains two sounds. Not complicated.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:52 PM
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I dislike Chinese/Korean accents in English, but not Japanese or Indian accents. But those aren't native accents, probably not what you meant.

Huh. I was including 'foreign accents' but hadn't thought of Chinese/Korean, which come to think of it I do find uneuphonious, not horrendously so, but they don't fall into the 'active pleasure to listen to' category. I think what throws me is the tonality maybe? People used to speaking a tonal language sound odd to me in English.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:52 PM
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It's John that thinks it's confusing.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:52 PM
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Funny, I thought LB had a fairly noticeable NY accent. (More than I'd been expecting before we met, for whatever reason.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:53 PM
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185: Hey, I speak a tonal language.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:55 PM
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but not Japanese or Indian accents

Pronounced Indian accents sound completely invented to me. Like if you woke them up in the middle of the night, they'd talk normally for a few sentences until they realized what was going on and got back into character.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:56 PM
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188: You're Swedish, right? I can't think of ever having met anyone with a noticeable Swedish accent, so I'm working from the Swedish Chef, here. While I presume that's almost perfectly accurate, there may be some subtleties I'm missing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:57 PM
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I understand dipthongs fine now, but they're not taught in most HSs and you can miss them if you don't major in English in college. "Short a" "long a" are what you learn, and that's poor terminology. On top of that there's no match between written letters and sounds in English.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:57 PM
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189: I'd hate to be your Indian friend, Apo.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:57 PM
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I believe Indian accents aren't at all homogeneous, as there are many, many different languages in India that have different sounds, so depending on where you're from in India you probably have a different English accent. But I'm not sure how *much* variation there is.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:57 PM
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180, 189: Racist.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:57 PM
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you can miss them if you don't major in English in college

More like Linguistics, IYKWIM.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:58 PM
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Funny, I thought LB had a fairly noticeable NY accent.

I haven't noticed it.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:58 PM
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187: Well, obviously, I can't judge. I do think I get New Yorkier when nervous, and it's possible that the emotional stress brought on by watching you order a lunch composed of several bowls of different varieties of tomato soup brought it out.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:59 PM
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Well, she didn't sound like someone not from NY, let's put it that way.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 12:59 PM
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It's John that thinks it's confusing.

pdf, if I weren't anti-prescriptivist, I'd have to pelt you with rotten vegetables for your insistence on "that" in place of "who" in that sentence.

But it's a peeve on my part, nothing more. I'm over it already.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:00 PM
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What is it you have against tomato soup, LB?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:00 PM
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Kobe knows: it's the commas.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:01 PM
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In American education, where there should be phonetics we have spelling instead. And a LOT of spelling teachers insist that English spelling makes sense. If the disengagement of spelling from phonetics were recognized, we'd undertand the phonetics better, but spelling teachers would always have to be explaining why we used such a fucked system.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:01 PM
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189: I think the classic indian accent is a kind of English dialect, even though the speakers aren't native. It's not just Enlish spoken with a hindi accent, even thought it's derived from that.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:02 PM
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Nothing against the soup in itself. Making up a meal of varieties of tomato soup seemed to have left the realm of conventional ordering, and moved into something more like performance art. I was waiting with bated breath to see what you intended to do with it all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:02 PM
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Emerson's Minnesota accent is quite noticeable, though.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:02 PM
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I don't think I even know what dipthongs are, much less understand them. I supposed I'm going to have to go read wikipedia now.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:03 PM
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there's no match between written letters and sounds in English

Well, there is a system, but it's horrendously complicated and inconsistent and doesn't really give you any ideas about diphthongs. But there's enough of a system for native speakers to tell when a word "looks wrong" or "doesn't look English", and enough to tell how to pronounce a word maybe 70% of the time. Granted, that percentage is much higher in more consistent languages. The system is the reason that no one would ever try to pronounce "ghoti" as "fish", even though each of those consonant pairs and vowel can be pronounced that way in certain contexts ("tough", "nation", and I forget the word for the vowel).


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:03 PM
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"women".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:05 PM
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re:

Thinking about this stuff, I'm realizing that I am the anti-ttaM. I pretty much like listening to anything that sounds to me like an 'accent' (some accents sound comic to me, but basically any variation on what I think of as ordinary -- neutral NY -- is pleasant to listen to.)

No, I really like accents. There's just a couple of particular accents that, in some speakers, grate a little. In general, I think they are really interesting.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:05 PM
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Dsquared got some flak at Crooked Timber and here recently for not explaining the current crisis to us for free, but it turns out that he had already explained it six years ago.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:05 PM
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For the longest time, I didn't even know how to spell "diphthong", though I had seen the word countless times. I was using a standard (though not the most standard) pronunciation of the word, which as it turns out is not a great guide.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:11 PM
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70% is not really a high rate of efficiency for a job that can be done with near-100% efficiency.

The Finnish writing system is supposed to be near-perfect: one spelling per sound, one sound per spelling. I'm sure that;s an exaggeration, but I doubt by much.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:11 PM
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212: A while back the South Koreans (don't know about the North) reformed their entire orthography, and it was completely phonetically consistent. In like 30 or 50 years, I forget exactly how long, the pronunciations have drifted out of sync with the spellings to some degree. In order to keep that correspondence you have to have regular spelling reform. Languages like French and Spanish have that sort of thing. English? Ha!


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:13 PM
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211: I'm mentally pronouncing "dip-thong", though for some reason I doubt that's quite right.

212: Latin's pretty damn good on that score.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:15 PM
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214: It helps if it's not a spoken language.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:16 PM
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diph·thong /ˈdɪfθɔŋ, -θɒŋ, ˈdɪp-/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[dif-thawng, -thong, dip-]


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:18 PM
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I have no idea if this is one of the standard pronunciations, but I say dip-fthong. How I arrived at this pronunciation, which when examined in cold blood looks peculiar, I do not know.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:20 PM
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Krugman via Thoma:

One thing's for sure: The next administration's economic team had better be ready to hit the ground running, because from day one it will find itself dealing with the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:24 PM
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Crises are not good.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:26 PM
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re: 212

As I already said, spelling reform in English runs smack bang up against the fact that there are multiple spoken dialects with radically different pronunciations. It's not even a matter of choosing one high-status dialect like RP, as some of the other dialects are also fairly high-status. Whether you choose RP, or educated Scottish English, or Hiberno-English or GenAm, or whatever, you are going to hit the problem that they just don't pronounce the words the same way.

Of course, some English spelling is just stupid and doesn't really reflect any English dialect.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:28 PM
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"Crisis" is just another word for "opportunity." The Chinese character meaning "crisis" is also shaped like a half-full bowl of rice.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:28 PM
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Does anyone make a distinction between Erin and Aaron? They've always sounded the same to me.


Posted by: no one | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:31 PM
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re: 222

Completely different for me. Both vowels are completely different.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:32 PM
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222: Yes. I come from a vowel-rich environment.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:32 PM
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223 and 224: I can understand that Aaron has more emphasis on the first syllable, but I can't see how they're pronounced differently otherwise.


Posted by: no one | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:35 PM
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I'm not terribly familiar with Happy Days

In the middle if GD2, President Obama's favorite TV will be a syrupy, whitewashed nostaglic show about the 90's called "Boom Times". It will be about a teenage dotcom wizard pre IPO. His subcontinetal first generation parents love and support him. His wacky friends tease him about his future millions. The randy neighbor is a thinly disguised Bill Clinton stand in. Hijinx ensue.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:35 PM
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Does anyone make a distinction between Erin and Aaron?

I do but in the "in on" part not the "E Aa" part. I have a feeling other people differentiate the first vowel.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:36 PM
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re: 225

First syllable in 'Erin' prounced like the first syllable in 'error'. First syllable in Aaron prounced like 'air'.

Second syllable in 'Erin' pronounced as in 'pin', second syllable in Aaron pronounced as in 'on'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:37 PM
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227: yes, I can see that. Thanks! This has bothered me for years, ever since I was simultaneously friends with an Erin and an Aaron and no one ever knew who I was talking about.

...or is it "whom?"


Posted by: no one | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:39 PM
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212: A fair proportion of English spelling has been obsolete almost everywhere for centuries. It's true that a rational spelling system would require imposition of a standard dialect, but TV is already doing that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:39 PM
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People do pronounce "err" and "air" differently, right?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:40 PM
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First syllable in 'Erin' prounced like the first syllable in 'error'. First syllable in Aaron prounced like 'air'.

That would be helpful if I would pronounce the first syllable of error and air differently, which I don't. I come from a vowel poor dialect.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:40 PM
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First syllable in 'Erin' prounced like the first syllable in 'error'. First syllable in Aaron prounced like 'air'.

That doesn't help those of us poor in phonemes, ttaM! You should link to the IPA pages in Wikipedia.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:41 PM
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People do pronounce "err" and "air" differently, right?

Not me, but to air is human.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:41 PM
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212: That's pretty much it, which confuses many who try to learn the language. "Custom" [tapa], "lid" [tapaa] and "kill" [tappaa] sound very different in Finnish; a lot of new-to-Finnish speakers pronounce them identically.


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:41 PM
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228: I had no idea that people make a distinction between the err in error and air. The things I learn from unfogged!


Posted by: no one | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:41 PM
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To my horror, I have just verified that in the dominant American accent, "err" and "air" are the same word.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:41 PM
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I tried to pronounce "err" differently from "air", but it was almost physically impossible. I do think "Erin' and "Aaron" are quite different though. One has the short E sound in egg, and one has the long A sound which is actually [ei].


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:42 PM
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238: I've never known an Aaron who pronounced their name with a long A, and I've known several Aarons. And an Erin. I think I pronounce "err" and "air" differently, very slightly, but I wouldn't distinguish between the two pronunciations.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:44 PM
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I had no idea that people make a distinction between the err in error and air. The things I learn from unfogged!

Hey, I do. "error" doesn't rhyme with "bearer".

However, by removing the second syllable from "error", suddenly it becomes "air".


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:45 PM
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Apparently I'm married to Cryptic Ned.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:47 PM
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re: 233

Then we run up against the fact that my own vowel phoneme system is slightly different. But, here goes:

<Erin> /ɛɾ ɪn/
<Aaron> /eɾɔn/

Slightly complicared by the fact that first vowel in Aaron is sort of vague for me. It's almost a diphthong.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:48 PM
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I say the "a" in Aaron the same way I say the "a" in "marry". I say the "a" in "air" the same way I say the "a" in "Mary".


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:50 PM
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Once, a few years ago, I was confused for a full conversation about why his neighbor would put a 30-foot tire in that neighbor's back yard

AB has a great story about talking to a property owner who was telling her about the towels in his building and how they started having proms there after the fire.

"tiles" and "problems."

I never had a regional accent until I had spent 7+ years in Pittsburgh - NY, Miami, and NJ (plus parents from Chicago and Connecticut via Pgh) left me without any distinctive accent. I now occasionally catch myself talking about fahr (in which one burns things) and ahrn (which melts in a fahr).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:50 PM
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'Air' for me is basically a diphthong. But the second vowel is very short.

/eɛɾ/ or /eʌɾ/

The second vowel is somewhere in between /ɛ/ and /ʌ/.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:52 PM
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The initial vowel sound of 'err' is very different from that of 'error'.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:54 PM
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Here's a good place to start for IPA symbols.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:55 PM
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I'm sitting in a talk where a non-rhotic English person just pronounced alpha as "alpher".


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:56 PM
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This page for vowels.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:56 PM
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re: 246

For me there's a length difference. And 'error' is a definite monophthong, whereas in 'err' there's a wee tiny bit of a diphthong creeping in. You get that a lot in Scottish accents on long vowels. The vowel starts fronted but sort of drifts back and down. But it's very slight.

The basic vowel quality is the same.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 1:57 PM
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re: 249

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPA_chart_for_English_dialects

Is very useful for vowels.

The IPA cardinal vowel system is odd, though. By tradition, you are supposed to learn it by imitation from someone trained in the correct vocal tradition.

I've mentioned this before.

So, for me, it goes:

Daniel Jones [who invented it]
David Crystal
Mike MacMahon
me

[I think I've got this right, I'm remembering Mike MacMahon's version of the 'lineage']

Proper 'scientific' phonology wouldn't/doesn't use it. It doesn't actually accurately reflect the anatomy of vowel production.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:02 PM
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250: The pedant's pronunciation in American English rhymes with 'her'. That's correct or not depending on which authority you cite.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:05 PM
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1. Accents are, in general, excellent, though everyone is entitled to find a few particular accents unpleasing. Long live regionalism!

2. M/tch doesn't have much of a Southern accent, but his "tin" and "ten" sound the same. I've known some Southern African-Americans (maybe whiteys do it, too) who pronounce "pen" and "pin" the same and say "ink pen" when they mean the former. I'm fond of that construction.

3. For me,
merry = meh ree
Mary = mair ee
marry = mah ree

Do "Merry Christmas!" and "Marry Christmas!" sound the same to some people? Surprising.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:06 PM
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Does anyone make a distinction between Erin and Aaron?

South of the Manson-Nixon line, the "a" in "Aaron" frequently rhymes with the "a" in "hay."


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:07 PM
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The only thing that really bugs me about merging vowels is that it makes it really hard to do accents when your own dialect merges vowels that aren't merged in the accent you're doing. You have to learn a bunch of new pronunciations as well as the accent.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:08 PM
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Okay, I went to m-w.com to listen to the pronunciations for Erin and Aaron. They sound so similar to me that I might have imagined a distinction.

As for Mary and marry, they sound the same to me unless you use the second pronunciation listed on M-W.com, which sounds like how an Irish person would pronounce the word and not in any way how I have heard anyone in any part of the US pronounce the word.

Thus, I have concluded that I have the equivalent of tone-deafness for pronunciations.


Posted by: no one | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:09 PM
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By the way, I'm delighted to have a recording of ttaM saying "Merry Mary wants to marry." I propose his recording "Peter Piper picked a pack of pickled peppers" next.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:11 PM
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Do "Merry Christmas!" and "Marry Christmas!" sound the same to some people? Surprising.

Depends on who is saying them. I would say them the same which is what I assume you are asking.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:12 PM
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I've known some Southern African-Americans (maybe whiteys do it, too) who pronounce "pen" and "pin" the same and say "ink pen" when they mean the former

This is me, except I'm not African-American and I don't say "ink"--I trust context to reliably sort the two words on my behalf.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:12 PM
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Here's a neat interactive chart that lets you hear all the sounds of IPA symbols. 256: You might want to listen to that chart before giving up.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:13 PM
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Fourier really shouldn't sound like "furrier".


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:16 PM
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My merry, marry, and Mary are all entirely different, which is right and appropriate (at least for folks from NJ/NY).


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:16 PM
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I did heard the distinctions in ttaM's recording, so I guess I'm not entirely deaf.


Posted by: no one | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:17 PM
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And in grad school I shifted the accent in "umbrella" to the second syllable.

To add to UMbrella and POlice, there's TEEvee and INsurance.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:17 PM
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Penultimate's the ultimate.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:18 PM
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Oh, wait. That doesn't work for police and TV.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:18 PM
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My favorite niche pronunciation is how British people accent the first syllable of "debris". I bet that's the number one pronunciation that actors don't realize they need to change when their accent crosses the ocean.


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:23 PM
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267: British people pronounce it that way solely to piss off the French. See also "filet", "gateau", "chalet", etc.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:30 PM
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258: Yeah, that was a little unclear. What I was really trying to understand was whether some people pronounce them the same when they're being careless or sloppy (which sounds perjorative, but I don't mean that; more like when we say "coulda" instead of "could have"). If so, I thought putting it at the beginning of the sentence might force a more careful pronounciation. But you have shot down my theory.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:30 PM
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re: 257

Your wish is my command:

http://www.mcgrattan.f2s.com/peck.mp3

Slight popping on the 'p'. MP3 players don't have pop shields.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:34 PM
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267: STRAW-bry too -- I think I've heard British actors doing really pretty good American screw that up.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:41 PM
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270: This is fun! Now do this.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:44 PM
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It's pronounced "STROR-bry".


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:44 PM
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271: I once saw an improv comedy group in London and the biggest fun of the night came when the sole American member used the word "popsicle". Every other member of the group broke character and starting laughing and then the audience joined in too. I couldn't figure out what the heck was going on until a British friend told me that the correct term is "ice lolly".


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:46 PM
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My mother was completely stymied when she visited me during my year abroad and a Manchester friend of mine asked if I had any hair spray--or rather, "spare hair lacquer." Between the accent and the "lacquer," she had absolutely no clue what he was saying.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 2:57 PM
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267 - The only mistake I've ever noticed Hugh Laurie making on House was putting the accent on the wrong syllable.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 3:04 PM
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Of "debris", I mean.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 3:05 PM
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And the reason is, is because John said, Enforce the antitrust laws that have decimated us.

Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 3:26 PM
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272: you want him to read the whole comment thread?

I want to hear "Around the rough and rugged rocks the ragged rascal ran".


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 3:35 PM
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I was hoping for the works of Robert Burns, myself.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 3:41 PM
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Or "Hallaig".


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 3:45 PM
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re: 279

http://www.mcgrattan.f2s.com/rascal.mp3

Can you tell I am procrastinating rather than doing a piece of proof-reading [which I am too tired to really feel like doing]?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 3:46 PM
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I was hoping for the works of Robert Burns, myself.

Yes, this would be good. Someone will have to whip us up a haggis, though!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 3:51 PM
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Amazing!


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:03 PM
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I want to hear a recording of Matt yelling this.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:07 PM
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Isis, teh kitteh, loves ttaM's voice. She's been sitting here listening and purring like mad. Now she's patting the screen, trying to make him talk again.


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:13 PM
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ttaM does have a good voice. I second 285.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:16 PM
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OK, Burns:

http://www.mcgrattan.f2s.com/haggis.mp3

Any more will have to wait for the limited edition CD box set.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:17 PM
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279: Crap. This is what I meant. But reading the archives would be awesome, too. Then we could say to noobs, "LTFM!"


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:29 PM
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288 is great, but all through listening to it I was hoping against hope that at some point Ttam would bellow "A HAGGIS! A FOOKIN' HAAAGGGIIS!!!"


Or at least end the poem with "Fuck you, Clown."


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:30 PM
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Or at least end the poem with "Fuck you, Clown."

Damn, I wish I had thought of that.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:33 PM
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You're a good sport, ttaM.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:35 PM
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I enjoyed the Burns.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:35 PM
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Aw holy crap. Merry, Mary and marry. My dad used to grill us on that. My dad is super rigorous about pronunciation and hated our western drawls. He'd correct and correct us. I don't even know what he corrected us to, but it isn't standard Californian. This is why my native English is painfully correct* and I spent three or four years around high school age figuring out colloquial speech so I could have friends. When I'm with other Angelenos I revert to a SoCal Valley-Girl-esque speech. When I am completely flustered (or want money from my dad) I revert to formal speech with inappropriately difficult vocabulary and meticulous enunciation.

Every now and then I get questioned on my accent, which means someone noticed both layers. Or that the casual speech patterns I put together aren't an authentic whole.

*Unless we're careful, my sister and I pronounce all three syllables of diamond and all four syllables of parliament.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:45 PM
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Di-a-mond? Where's your dad from?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:47 PM
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You've never heard that, LB?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:47 PM
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I do have to wonder about those four syllables in "parliament", though.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:48 PM
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all four syllables of parliament

I don't know that I've ever heard it pronounced with four syllables.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:49 PM
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Huh. That one sounds like a possible pronunciation to me, although one I'll admit I can't remember ever hearing. Par-li-a-ment.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:50 PM
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It seems to be completely unattested except in the population consisting of Megan's immediate family.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:52 PM
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Par-li-a-ment.

I was going with Pa-rli-amen-t.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:53 PM
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Cf. "diamond".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:53 PM
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295 - DUDE! He's a New York Jew, moved in late childhood to Westport. With not one trace of the accent. I don't know which accent he thought was the correct American accent, but it isn't his native accent. His dad was an English teacher, so I'd guess it started there. One of the types in my family is to be extremely auditory/good memory/poor spatial skills/clumsy, and in him I guess paying attention to what you hear turned into a fascination with phonetics.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:55 PM
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Wow. According to OED, the preferred pronunciation is three syllables.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:55 PM
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Megan's father obviously just believes if there's a vowel there it's got to be pronounced, dammit. Which is really a more logical system than the one we have.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:56 PM
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If Megan isn't careful, she still pronounces all three syllables in "careful", both in "three" and "four", and all four in "pronounce".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:57 PM
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I've heard posh old English people pronounce it as if it's for syllables. But the third syllable is very short. More like the sort of diphthong you get in a french word like "lieu".


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:59 PM
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It seems to be completely unattested except in the population consisting of Megan's immediate family.

This is how we'll be recognized when we step up to claim our royal inheritance.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 4:59 PM
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If Megan isn't careful, she still pronounces all three syllables in "careful", both in "three" and "four", and all four in "pronounce".

I stopped doing that in high school.



Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 5:02 PM
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High schoöl.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 5:03 PM
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Did he make you pronounce double consonants too?


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 5:05 PM
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re: 310

I've said before, 'school' is two syllables in my dialect.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 5:05 PM
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I thought of that as I typed. I used to get corrected for skoo-well.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 5:06 PM
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Oh, and swallowing the double o to sound slightly like a u wasn't allowed either. Clean oooo, sharp single syllable.

On the other hand, I can now copy most sounds other people say.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 5:09 PM
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294: figuring out colloquial speech so I could have friends

High school is a little early to have needed to go through that, but having (at least) 2 dialects isn't that unusual, is it? I developed a way of speaking in college that I shift into on certain occasions, without really consciously doing so, and otherwise speak much more colloquially -- not just in vocabulary and grammar, but pronunciation. The situation was reversed in college: I consciously simplified my speech in certain non-collegiate environments.

I thought this was fairly normal for, well, some of us.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 5:17 PM
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ttaM, thank you. That was wonderful. (Sadly realizing how very far from the mark my recitations have been, however impassioned.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 5:17 PM
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I thought this was fairly normal for, well, some of us.

Yeah, for a lot of people there'll be both dialect- switching/pronunciation-switching and code-switching/register-switching stuff going on I'd imagine.

People who come from social and ethnic class groupings that are, nominally, the dominant ones in a society probably don't do it as much, though. They may not even do it at all.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 5:26 PM
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317: Yeah. What's surprised me about it is just that I do it unconsciously and effortlessly at this point, and only after the fact, if I reflect upon it at all, am I surprised at myself.

And ttaM, the Burns reading was wonderful indeed. Thanks.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 5:41 PM
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Last time I visited Frowner caught me switching from educated to Wobegonese when I made a phone call at her house.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-08 5:56 PM
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It took me a long time to figure out that I had spent my whole childhood gradually shifting my dialect from the Midwestern one I'd developed in Kansas and Ohio (with an Iowan mother and a Nebraskan father) toward something more like the Mid-Atlantic States accent spoken by higher-status people in the DC suburbs.

And it turns out that to Northeastern prep school kids I still sound exactly like a character out of Fargo, even though I've never even been to Minnesota.

Which makes me defensive when people snark on Sarah Palin's supposed Fargo accent; I don't actually talk like her but I suspect that to the kids I taught at Harvard, I do.

For a time my mother worked as a school psychologist in Prince William County, Va., and I remember hearing her voice shift fractionally toward a Southern accent when she was on the phone talking to somebody who had one. She never consciously realized she was doing it, and denied it when I brought it up.


Posted by: Matt McIrvin | Link to this comment | 10- 4-08 9:33 AM
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...also, I trained myself out of saying "nucular" at an early age, but I still usually pronounce "comfortable" as "cumfterble" which makes just as little sense--the consonants aren't even in that order! But this is common in many American dialects and I don't even think I've heard any pronunciation-correctness freaks making a big deal out of it. Maybe for fun I'll try to make somebody anxious about it.


Posted by: Matt McIrvin | Link to this comment | 10- 4-08 9:52 AM
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i say merry like cherry, Mary close to Larry, marry with a little longer a then in Mary
so merry and Larry sound very differently to me


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 10- 4-08 10:53 AM
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read thats just unamerican


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 4-08 11:36 AM
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i meant than


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 10- 4-08 11:44 AM
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oh well in that case


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10- 4-08 11:46 AM
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320 - My mom's English, Dad's USAmerican. When I was a little kid I talked to her in an English accent and him in an American accent.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10- 5-08 10:04 AM
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How many people have pointed out already that "Palin" is an anagram of "Plain"?


Posted by: Melvin | Link to this comment | 10- 6-08 2:41 PM
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Sarah Palin and Tall?

If only she or McCain was tall.


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 10- 6-08 2:46 PM
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