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Old 06-19-2012, 09:32 AM
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Pronounciations that grate: Is it because I'm old?


Lately I've been noticing people in the media talking in ways that make my teeth itch. Now, I know this is hypocritical coming from a person whose Bronx accent is so thick even her children make fun of her, but I can't help it. And it seems to be getting worse the older I get.

This started when I noticed the guy who narrates How It's Made pronounces the word "robots" as "robits". I even asked here where the guy was from. Then William Shatner tried to ruin my enjoyment of a nature show by pronouncing "lava" like "lather" only with a 'v' instead of a 'th"-- and then stretching the word out, making it sound even worse. He kept talking about "the laaaava tubes" and making me cringe. Then I saw this youtube of Shatner asking Spock to "sabataaage" the ship. Did he always talk that way and I never noticed?

Right in the middle of the Shatner narrated doc was a commercial for a veteran's organization in which the spokesman kept pronouncing the word 'vechrins'. He'd somehow lost a syllable and gained a 'ch'. WTF?

And finally I realized that it must be me getting old and cantankerous because yesterday Destiny's Child's Irreplaceable played on the radio and all I heard the whole time was Beyonce and her inability to say the word correctly. She pronounced it 'irreplaceaboo" throughout the entire song and it drove me crazy.

So I ask: what's with the weird pronouncations all of a sudden?
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Old 06-19-2012, 09:40 AM
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So I ask: what's with the weird pronouncations all of a sudden?
By "all of a sudden", do you mean "since the dawn of language"?

If odd pronunciations bother you, I suggest you stay away from the works of Charles Dickens, for instance.
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Old 06-19-2012, 09:43 AM
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By "all of a sudden", do you mean "since the dawn of language"?

If odd pronunciations bother you, I suggest you stay away from the works of Charles Dickens, for instance.
What? You can hear pronounciations when you read? Wow! You're good!
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Old 06-19-2012, 09:56 AM
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Have you considered that you might be the one who's wrong? You see, instead of complaining, I looked up the words in a dictionary, and "lava" is indeed pronounced the way you describe. The pronunciation of "veteran" is a standard regional variation (much like "murdrer" for "murderer").

And there really isn't any difference in the pronunciation of "irreplaceable" as you describe.
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:03 AM
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Well, it's not like Shatner is some hot new star who just emerged on the scene. The man remembers where he was the day Mckinley got shot.
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:05 AM
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So I am being a cantankerous? This is a possibility. However, I don't care what you've read or heard, "irreplaceable" is never correctly pronounced "irreplaceaboo".
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:20 AM
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So I am being a cantankerous? This is a possibility. However, I don't care what you've read or heard, "irreplaceable" is never correctly pronounced "irreplaceaboo".
While I haven't heard adults speak like that, I have heard chirren pronounce a terminal "-ble" sound somewhat like "boo." Two that I can remember from two different nephews reared in different households were "tickoo" and "jungoo."
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:22 AM
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Have you considered that you might be the one who's wrong? You see, instead of complaining, I looked up the words in a dictionary, and "lava" is indeed pronounced the way you describe.
Only if you drop the "r" in lather and pronounce it "lathuh".

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The pronunciation of "veteran" is a standard regional variation (much like "murdrer" for "murderer").

And there really isn't any difference in the pronunciation of "irreplaceable" as you describe.
Really? No difference between ear-uh-place-uh-buhl and ear-uh-place-uh-boo?
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:23 AM
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While I haven't heard adults speak like that, I have heard chirren pronounce a terminal "-ble" sound somewhat like "boo." Two that I can remember from two different nephews reared in different households were "tickoo" and "jungoo."
Ah, but Beyonce is a grown woman. And to think, it used to be to me that the worst part of that song was how she rhymed "in a minute" with "in a minute".
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:26 AM
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What? You can hear pronounciations when you read? Wow! You're good!
Dickens spells out his characters non-standard pronunciations for you. It's werry vearing, after a while.
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:27 AM
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My dad says "sabotage" the same way Shatner does. I'm guessing it's a regional/cultural thing.
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:30 AM
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Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE)
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The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is a multi-volume reference work that documents words, phrases, and pronunciations that vary from one place to another place across the United States.

Challenging the popular notion that our language has been "homogenized" by the media and our mobile population, DARE demonstrates that there are many thousands of differences that characterize the dialect regions of the U.S.

DARE is based on face-to-face interviews carried out in all 50 states between 1965 and 1970 and on a comprehensive collection of written materials (diaries, letters, novels, histories, biographies, newspapers, government documents, etc.) that cover our history from the colonial period to the present.

The entries in DARE include regional pronunciations, variant forms, some etymologies, and regional and social distributions of the words and phrases.

A striking feature of DARE is its inclusion in the text of the Dictionary of selected maps that show where words were found in the 1,002 communities investigated during the fieldwork.
I've bolded the most relevant phrases.

It's not new. It's not getting worse. It's not wrong. People with thick Bronx accents should be barred from the public airways, but that's because of what they say, not how they say it.
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:38 AM
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I know all about regional accents. This is why I don't narrate nature docs-- because of my accent and because no one has asked. But if someone asked me to narrate a nature documentary, I would try very hard not to say, "Dingos are dawgs who don't drink cawfee" because I know that is not broadcast American.

And "laaavar tubes" was jarring to me, especially since everyone else pronounced it the way one expects to hear it.

But, as I said, I am getting more ornery as time passes.
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:41 AM
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Merriam Webster on-line has the OP pronunciation of lava first, followed by the Shatnerish pronunciation second. I vote for the first pronunciation too.
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:48 AM
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Shatner is Canadian. Blame it on Canada.
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:52 AM
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I'll note both Shatner and the How It's Made guy are from Canada. Did you have an unfortunate incident with a Mountie as a child perhaps? So soory.
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:54 AM
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As it was noted in the thread about the How It's Made guy. The American version does not use a Canadian narrator. Our narrator is from Pennsylvania.


P.S., 'soory' is strange too.
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:56 AM
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What? You can hear pronounciations when you read? Wow! You're good!
Indeed I can! In fact, it was not so very long ago that I read an internet message board post where "veterans" sounded like "'vechrins" and "irreplaceable" sounded like "irreplaceaboo".
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:58 AM
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The "robits" thing is a well recognized phenomenon.
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:59 AM
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As it was noted in the thread about the How It's Made guy. The American version does not use a Canadian narrator. Our narrator is from Pennsylvania.
Huh, interesting...I missed that thread. The narration is so bland so as to not distract from the Making visuals I always assumed we were getting the native Canadian narration.
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Old 06-19-2012, 11:05 AM
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Indeed I can! In fact, it was not so very long ago that I read an internet message board post where "veterans" sounded like "'vechrins" and "irreplaceable" sounded like "irreplaceaboo".
It "sounded" like no such thing. Unless you have one of those text reader thingees. Then it probably sounded rather robotic.

Perhaps I was not clear. These pronounciations grated in my hearing. I know about accents. I've read things written in dialect, including Dickens. I watch TV shows where people speak with thick accents and use regionalisms in character. And you know what? Those people sound funny to me, just a I sound funny to other people not from The Bronx.

And 'irreplaceaboo' is not acceptable in any context.
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Old 06-19-2012, 11:23 AM
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I'll note that singing often results in modified pronunciation. Classical singers are even trained on how to change their pronunciations in order to have the best effect.

With regard to "Irreplaceable," to me it sounds like she's saying "IrreplaceaBOW" to rhyme with "what didja think I was puttin' you out FOW."
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Old 06-19-2012, 11:41 AM
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Perhaps I was not clear. These pronounciations grated in my hearing.
(Bolding mine) Spelling nitpick: pronunciation

The mispronunciations that bug me are from actors. Apparently they're guessing at how to pronounce written words and nobody is correcting them. Examples: All throughout the movie Space Cowboys, the diphthong in "Project Daedalus" was mispronounced with a long A instead of a short e. In Breaking Bad last season, Colin Hanks repeatedly mispronounced "omega", with a short e instead of a long A sound in the middle syllable, though his character was supposed to be well educated.
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Old 06-19-2012, 12:04 PM
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(Bolding mine) Spelling nitpick: pronunciation
Thank you! Now that was grating.
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Old 06-19-2012, 12:05 PM
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In Breaking Bad last season, Colin Hanks repeatedly mispronounced "omega", with a short e instead of a long A sound in the middle syllable, though his character was supposed to be well educated.
I think you mean Deexter.
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Old 06-19-2012, 12:08 PM
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I think you mean Deexter.
Right! Thanks!
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Old 06-19-2012, 12:13 PM
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(Bolding mine) Spelling nitpick: pronunciation
It was underlined in red and everything. I'm a nincompoop.
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Old 06-19-2012, 01:10 PM
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Old 06-19-2012, 01:39 PM
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Two I particularly hate are "calvary" when someone means "cavalry" (the first is where Jesus was crucified, the second is Custer's branch of the Army), and "short- (or long-) lived," with a short, not long, "i."

You are short- or long-lived if your life is short or long, not your "liv" (if you even have one, which I doubt you do).

I also loathe hearing "further" when the speaker clearly means "farther." Apparently they don't bother teaching the difference between the two even in journalism school nowadays.

And "loathe," BTW, is not interchangeable with "loth." The first is a verb ("I loathe you!"), the second is an adjective ("I am loth to close." ---A. Lincoln). They're not spelled the same, and they're not pronounced the same.

Last edited by terentii; 06-19-2012 at 01:41 PM.
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Old 06-19-2012, 01:59 PM
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"off-ten" grates on me as does "acrosst" as in "he lives acrosst the road"
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Old 06-19-2012, 02:25 PM
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You are short or long lived if you have lived a short or long time. I'd say "live" the verb past tense is more accurately pronounced with the short i. So that pronunciation doesn't seem very off. Saying -ble like boo is odder, but yes, singing pronunciation is often mangled a bit to make it fit the music and tempo. Singers put the accent on the VREE syllable in "everything" sometimes, which no one would do in spoken English.
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Old 06-19-2012, 02:30 PM
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And "loathe," BTW, is not interchangeable with "loth." The first is a verb ("I loathe you!"), the second is an adjective ("I am loth to close." ---A. Lincoln). They're not spelled the same, and they're not pronounced the same.
And there is also the now more common spelling of "loath." Loth is given as an alternate spelling in dictionaries, to be sure, but this is a spectacularly bad example to use for "correctness" in language. N-grams shows that loth has been waning in usage for a century.

Language is change.
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Old 06-19-2012, 02:32 PM
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You are short or long lived if you have lived a short or long time. I'd say "live" the verb past tense is more accurately pronounced with the short i.
No, something is long-lived (with a long "i") if its life is long, just like someone would be "knifed" (with a long "i") and not "kniffed" (with a short "i") if he/she had a knife stuck in them.

"Lived" is in this case an adjective (a past passive participle, actually), not a verb.
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Old 06-19-2012, 02:35 PM
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Two I particularly hate are "calvary" when someone means "cavalry" (the first is where Jesus was crucified, the second is Custer's branch of the Army)
That drives me nuts too!

Another mispronunciation annoyance for me is in the Natasha Bedingfield song "Unwritten"; she pronounces "lips" as "lisp," e. g." No one else, no one else; Can speak the words on your lisp...."
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Old 06-19-2012, 02:36 PM
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Saying -ble like boo is odder, but yes, singing pronunciation is often mangled a bit to make it fit the music and tempo. Singers put the accent on the VREE syllable in "everything" sometimes, which no one would do in spoken English.
There have been a number of threads on "most annoying pronunciation in song lyrics". My personal (least) favourite is Tom Cochrane in the song White Hot pronouncing "Somalian" as if it rhymed with "summer lion".
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Old 06-19-2012, 02:40 PM
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And there is also the now more common spelling of "loath." Loth is given as an alternate spelling in dictionaries, to be sure, but this is a spectacularly bad example to use for "correctness" in language. N-grams shows that loth has been waning in usage for a century.

Language is change.
Quite true. But if you change the spelling, you change the pronunciation. That a word is commonly misused is often offered as justification for mangling the language.

Granted, the word is not widely used nowadays (I suspect it was considered literary even by the 1860s). But Lincoln did not say "I am loath (rhymes with "oath") to close," but "I am loth (rhymes with "sloth") to close."

As for "correctness," I happen to work as both a translator and editor, and I used to teach English as a foreign language. So you bet I know my native tongue backward and forward.
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Old 06-19-2012, 02:40 PM
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Age might have something to do with it bothering you more now. I've noticed I have to pay more attention to make sure I'm hearing correctly now. If your hearing has changed enough so that you have to listen more closely, but not enough to make you think you have a hearing problem, you'll notice the alternate/mispronunciations more, and they will be more annoying.
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Old 06-19-2012, 02:50 PM
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Old 06-19-2012, 03:55 PM
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No, something is long-lived (with a long "i") if its life is long, just like someone would be "knifed" (with a long "i") and not "kniffed" (with a short "i") if he/she had a knife stuck in them.
This particular point is gibberish. It's not "kniffed" because "knif" isn't a word. You live a life. You don't knif a knife.

If it is supposed to be a long i, one would assume it should be long-lifed, not long-lived. I will continue using the short i version because I find none of your arguments compelling.

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Old 06-19-2012, 05:00 PM
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Quite true. But if you change the spelling, you change the pronunciation.
Not historically accurate. The spelling often changes to follow the pronunciation.
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That a word is commonly misused is often offered as justification for mangling the language.
Only by prescriptivists. And nobody pays attention to them.

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Granted, the word is not widely used nowadays (I suspect it was considered literary even by the 1860s). But Lincoln did not say "I am loath (rhymes with "oath") to close," but "I am loth (rhymes with "sloth") to close."
How do you know that? Wouldn't he have used the long "o" to make the assonance with "close" stronger? And even if true, if rhymes with oath is the preferred pronunciation today - which it is - what difference could it possibly make?

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As for "correctness," I happen to work as both a translator and editor, and I used to teach English as a foreign language. So you bet I know my native tongue backward and forward.
And I've been a professional writer, editor, and critic for 40 years. But I didn't know anything about usage until I studied it as a separate subject. That study convinced me that being a prescriptivist was insupportable by facts or history. There is certainly good English, which I always define here as the English used by professional communicators. But that even professional communicators never agree on anything unanimously has been indisputable since the American Heritage Dictionary's first word usage panel back in 1966. You are certainly free to hold yourself to standards of what you consider good English in your work, as I feel that I do in mine. But virtually every discrepancy between those two visions is arbitrary and personal and has nothing to do with "correctness." That's a myth.
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Old 06-19-2012, 05:04 PM
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By "all of a sudden", do you mean "since the dawn of language"?
Well, since the dawn of Star Trek: TOS, anyway.
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Old 06-19-2012, 05:09 PM
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The one that drives me flippy is the current vogue for pronouncing "negotiate" as ne-go-SEE-ate. NPR's broadcasts are full of it (ba-dum-ching!).

I always want to shriek, and sometimes do shriek, "Ne-go-SHE-ate, you ash-holes!".
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Old 06-19-2012, 05:13 PM
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The one that drives me flippy is the current vogue for pronouncing "negotiate" as ne-go-SEE-ate. NPR's broadcasts are full of it (ba-dum-ching!).

I always want to shriek, and sometimes do shriek, "Ne-go-SHE-ate, you ash-holes!".
Ne-go-see-ate is the British pronunciation, almost as grating to my ear as "tissue" and "issue" with an S sound instead of an SH sound. Or shedule instead of schedule.
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Old 06-19-2012, 05:24 PM
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"Real-a-tor"

"PROH-grum" for program (much of like the "robit" example). To a certain extent, this does seem to be standard American media-speak, which is said to be closest to a slightly-upper Midwestern accent (e.g. Indiana or Illinois but not too far north, thus excluding greater Chicago and points north.

"Tear", "air", "mere" for terror, error, mirror. Admittedly, the last one seems questionable, but I hold to the impression that the words are still distinct on the lips of most Americans, even if that distinction is nothing more but a lengthing of the /r/. Consonants like /r/ can have length variations too.
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Old 06-19-2012, 05:34 PM
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The one that drives me flippy is the current vogue for pronouncing "negotiate" as ne-go-SEE-ate. NPR's broadcasts are full of it (ba-dum-ching!).
I've always wondered if they're really pronouncing it that way, or if it only seems that way due to limitations of sound transmission and reproduction. It's been ages since my phonology class, and what I was told may well be technologically out of date. But FWIW, it was that several phoneme pairs are distinguished only by frequencies which were too high to be transmitted by phones, and presumably most radios as well. This was the main reason why special letter names, like Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie, were developed in the early days of telecom, as well as the cliched telephone operator pronunciations of the numbers "fower", "fiyiv", and "niyun".

Last edited by Spectre of Pithecanthropus; 06-19-2012 at 05:36 PM.
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Old 06-19-2012, 05:39 PM
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Two I particularly hate are "calvary" when someone means "cavalry" (the first is where Jesus was crucified, the second is Custer's branch of the Army),
And "Calgary" for "Calvary".
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Old 06-19-2012, 05:48 PM
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When did "Harass" turn into "Harris"? Was there a guy by that name who was really good at harassing? Did it involve something other than blood on the badge?
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Old 06-19-2012, 05:52 PM
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When Joan Holloway got married?
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Old 06-19-2012, 05:59 PM
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Dickens spells out his characters non-standard pronunciations for you. It's werry vearing, after a while.
In fact, as a NAE speaker I sometimes have to enunciate some of the dialog, just to understand it:
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Originally Posted by Sam Weller, of the Pickwick Papers
I had a reg'lar new fit o' clothes that mornin', gen'l'men of the jury,’ said Sam, ‘and that was a wery partickler and uncommon circumstance vith me in those days. … If they wos a pair o' patent double million magnifyin' gas microscopes of hextra power, p'raps I might be able to see through a flight o' stairs and a deal door; but bein' only eyes, you see, my wision's limited’...
If I read that quickly, I don't always catch it all--but if I sub-vocalize, I get it. So yes, I'd say that sometimes you have to hear what you read, in a way.
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Old 06-19-2012, 06:01 PM
california jobcase is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: S. GA
Posts: 3,326
PRO-grum is common here in south Georgia. People also mistakenly pronounce the L in salmon here.

The one I'll hate forever is when people mispronounce mischievous. There is no i after the v and never has been. Every dictionary I've ever checked has one pronunciation only, and it ain't "miss chee vee us"!!

If one looks up "harass" in an old dictionary, say a 1950's edition, you'll find only the hare-us pronunciation. I have a '79 edition that has both, with hare-us first.

Last edited by california jobcase; 06-19-2012 at 06:05 PM.
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