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  #1  
Old 11-18-2010, 08:25 PM
jebert jebert is offline
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Why do some people pronounce "ask" as "aks"?

I can think of two reasons someone would say "aks" instead of "ask."

1. He doesn't know that the word is pronounced as "ask."

2. He knows the proper pronunciation but chooses not to use it.

Regarding #1, how can anyone possibly not know how to pronounce this word (aside from deafness)? He must have heard it properly a million times on TV and radio.

This leaves #2. Why then would someone who otherwise pronounces words properly deliberately mispronounce this one?

In brief, WTF?
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  #2  
Old 11-18-2010, 08:29 PM
running coach running coach is online now
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It's properly pronounced "axe".

Last edited by running coach; 11-18-2010 at 08:29 PM..
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Old 11-18-2010, 08:31 PM
SpoilerVirgin SpoilerVirgin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jebert View Post
I can think of two reasons someone would say "aks" instead of "ask."

1. He doesn't know that the word is pronounced as "ask."

2. He knows the proper pronunciation but chooses not to use it.

Regarding #1, how can anyone possibly not know how to pronounce this word (aside from deafness)? He must have heard it properly a million times on TV and radio.

This leaves #2. Why then would someone who otherwise pronounces words properly deliberately mispronounce this one?

In brief, WTF?
3. He is speaking correctly, but he is using African American Vernacular English, a variety of English in which ask is pronounced aks (see the Phonology section of the article).
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Old 11-18-2010, 08:38 PM
jebert jebert is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpoilerVirgin View Post
3. He is speaking correctly, but he is using African American Vernacular English, a variety of English in which ask is pronounced aks (see the Phonology section of the article).
I have heard people using more or less standard English except for this one word. What's up?
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Old 11-18-2010, 08:40 PM
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4. He is a fan of Futurama.
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Old 11-18-2010, 08:40 PM
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"Axe" is slightly easier to say. Pronunciations change for various reasons or style or no reason at all. Say this word: "Zebra." I guarantee the way you said it isn't at all the way anyone in the world said it 150 years ago.

"Axe" is also, by the way, the original pronunciation. "Ask" is a change.
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  #7  
Old 11-18-2010, 08:43 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jebert View Post
I have heard people using more or less standard English except for this one word. What's up?
What do you mean? My grandmother, an ex-English teacher, pronounced "water" as "worter," "house" as "hoose," and "coupon" as "koo-pon". She was intelligent and literate. But her old-money-South dialect had these peculiarities.

So the third option is almost certainly the one:
3) He knows how some other folks pronounce it, but in his dialect, "ask" is pronounced "ax." In other words, it's the proper pronunciation in his dialect.
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Old 11-18-2010, 08:47 PM
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Around 1995 lots of people suddenly lost the ability to pronounce the letter "R", The gansta wappa effewt for that and the pwarty cwowd help that along.
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Old 11-18-2010, 09:05 PM
CookingWithGas CookingWithGas is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
My grandmother, an ex-English teacher, pronounced..."coupon" as "koo-pon".
That would be correct.

Do you say cue-pon?
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  #10  
Old 11-18-2010, 09:12 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
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4. That's how the people around him pronounced it when he was growing up.
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  #11  
Old 11-18-2010, 10:02 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpoilerVirgin View Post
3. He is speaking correctly, but he is using African American Vernacular English, a variety of English in which ask is pronounced aks (see the Phonology section of the article).
Or is from New Orleans.
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  #12  
Old 11-18-2010, 10:06 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Around NE Ohio, it is the quintessential Ebonics phrase: "I'm gonna axe my sister if she wants to see a movie Friday." I hear it all the time.
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Old 11-18-2010, 10:11 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
and "coupon" as "koo-pon"
Quote:
Originally Posted by CookingWithGas View Post
That would be correct.

Do you say cue-pon?
Yeah, since you brought it up: There is no Q in "coupon," so why do some people pronounce it that way?
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  #14  
Old 11-18-2010, 10:21 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
Yeah, since you brought it up: There is no Q in "coupon," so why do some people pronounce it that way?
How do you pronounce curious?
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  #15  
Old 11-18-2010, 10:28 PM
Belowjob2.0 Belowjob2.0 is offline
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http://linguistlist.org/issues/7/7-1048.html



Quote:
Some further comments came from Raj Mesthrie at the University of Cape
Town:
Aks is I believe alive and well in parts of Britain and
elsewhere in the world (e.g. my native dialect of South
African Indian English, where it co-exists with the
standard form ask). The Old English form is acsian
(suggesting an antecedent of aks); Middle English had
axian and I believe at least in the midlands of England
aks is a variant.
Apparently, then, both ask and aks have been around for a long
time. Why did one rather than the other turn up in Black English, and
why is aks stigmatized? Mary Niepokuj at Purdue commented:
I'm not absolutely sure how the word entered African
American English as /aks/; my guess (but it's just a
guess) might be that the form /aks/ was the form most
commonly used in the dialect of English to which the
slaves were originally exposed, and it's persisted in
African American English for the same sociolinguistic
reasons that other features persist. I'd be inclined to
treat it as a retention rather than as an innovation in
African American English.
Quote:
I'd like to close this discussion with what seems to be an
apropos maxim from Christ's sermon on the Mount in Miles Coverdale's
Bible, 1535 (supplied to me by Alain Thomas): "Axe and it shal be
giuen you."
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  #16  
Old 11-18-2010, 11:22 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
How do you pronounce curious?
Qhy is how I pronounce "cu" relevant to how I pronounce "cou"?
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  #17  
Old 11-18-2010, 11:25 PM
UDS UDS is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
How do you pronounce curious?
But it's not cu-, it's cou-.

Cough, council, count, counter, coup, coupe, couple, couplet, coupon, courage, court, course, cousin . . . A cue- pronunciation for coupon would definitely be anomalous. And, in fact, I've never heard it, or been aware of its existence, until I read this thread.

Last edited by UDS; 11-18-2010 at 11:26 PM..
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  #18  
Old 11-18-2010, 11:36 PM
mil0 mil0 is offline
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I occasionally have a lapse in judgment and will pronounce "ask" as "aks," and "water" as "warter." I'd imagine it's mostly due to people around me pronouncing it that way when I was growing up. I'm from Rockland, NY, if you're curious.

Last edited by mil0; 11-18-2010 at 11:36 PM..
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  #19  
Old 11-18-2010, 11:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UDS View Post
But it's not cu-, it's cou-.

Cough, council, count, counter, coup, coupe, couple, couplet, coupon, courage, court, course, cousin . . . A cue- pronunciation for coupon would definitely be anomalous. And, in fact, I've never heard it, or been aware of its existence, until I read this thread.
How strange, as it's the opposite situation for me. I grew up with "cue-pon".
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  #20  
Old 11-19-2010, 02:48 AM
Schnitte Schnitte is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
Qhy is how I pronounce "cu" relevant to how I pronounce "cou"?
It is relevant because it addresses a point you yourself made, namely, that the absence of a Q gives you a hint about the pronunciation of coupon. There is evidently no Q in curious either.
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  #21  
Old 11-19-2010, 02:52 AM
don't ask don't ask is offline
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Why do some people pronounce "ask" as "aks"?

don't aks me.
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  #22  
Old 11-19-2010, 04:24 AM
abel29a abel29a is offline
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/OT

Is it just me or is the term African
American English very cumbersome, and somewhat schizophrenic?

/OT OFF
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  #23  
Old 11-19-2010, 04:26 AM
Floater Floater is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
"Axe" is also, by the way, the original pronunciation. "Ask" is a change.
From Merriam-Webster online:

Quote:
Origin of ASK

Middle English, from Old English āscian; akin to Old High German eiscōn to ask, Lithuanian ieškoti to seek, Sanskrit icchati he seeks

First Known Use: before 12th century
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  #24  
Old 11-19-2010, 04:47 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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Quote:
Mary Niepokuj at Purdue commented:
I'm not absolutely sure how the word entered African
American English as /aks/; my guess (but it's just a
guess) might be that the form /aks/ was the form most
commonly used in the dialect of English to which the
slaves were originally exposed...
Fascinating theory.

Datapoint: I hear "aks" also from black Afro-Caribbean people too. Not sure if that's endemic or relatively recent cross-pollination from US ebonics.
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  #25  
Old 11-19-2010, 05:20 AM
Schnitte Schnitte is offline
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As a non-native speaker who has never heard this usage before, I find this thread quite fascinating. Just allow me one question: If you use the "aks" pronunciation (which, according to what has be said by others, is acceptable), what do you say if you used in the third person singular? "He akses"?
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  #26  
Old 11-19-2010, 05:31 AM
Frylock Frylock is offline
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In the third person singular, in that dialect, you'd just say "aks".
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  #27  
Old 11-19-2010, 05:49 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frylock View Post
In the third person singular, in that dialect, you'd just say "aks".
I believe it's the same in the past tense too. "Yesterday I aks him."
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  #28  
Old 11-19-2010, 06:35 AM
Andy Andy is offline
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I would like to have aks(ed ?) him doesn't quite seem right though
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Old 11-19-2010, 07:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
I believe it's the same in the past tense too. "Yesterday I aks him."
I've heard the past tense with a "ed" before, like:

"So I axed him what was wrong, and he said he got fired.."
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  #30  
Old 11-19-2010, 08:03 AM
Wheelz Wheelz is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
Say this word: "Zebra." I guarantee the way you said it isn't at all the way anyone in the world said it 150 years ago.
"ZEE-bruh"

How did people say it 150 years ago?
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Old 11-19-2010, 08:05 AM
Wheelz Wheelz is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bouv View Post
"So I axed him what was wrong, and he said he got fired.."
You mean he got axed.
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  #32  
Old 11-19-2010, 08:09 AM
Ruminator Ruminator is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wheelz View Post
"ZEE-bruh"

How did people say it 150 years ago?
"striped horse"

That's what the Hungarian's called it. It's tricky because the "z" sound is silent in "striped" and the "b" sound is hardly noticable in "horse."
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  #33  
Old 11-19-2010, 08:11 AM
Leaffan Leaffan is offline
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Cue-pon
Chube (tube)
Chuesday


Scottish 101.
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  #34  
Old 11-19-2010, 08:20 AM
Fake Tales of San Francisco Fake Tales of San Francisco is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wheelz View Post
"ZEE-bruh"
Or Zeh-brah in Britain.


Very few words are pronounced phonetically, 'as they are spelled'. The letters 'cu' could refer to several different sounds actually, not just 'koo'. Take the word abacus for example, you pronounce it 'kuh'.

What about the word cube? Do you say koob? There's no Q. Fact is, spelling only has a cursory relevance to how we pronounce things.
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  #35  
Old 11-19-2010, 08:21 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Here's another relevant reference:

http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/inde...?date=19991216

So the variation between /ask/ and /aks/ in different dialects of English both in the U.S. and in the U.K. has been around for a long time. I can't quickly find any reference, but the variation between /ku/ and /kyu/ has also been around for a long time. To return to the OP then, in general it's a bad idea to assume that because something is pronounced in a certain way in your dialect and another way in someone else's dialect, the way you pronounce it is obviously standard and the way someone else pronounces it is their own bizarre choice. The same is true in grammar and vocabulary. Unless you're a scholar of the history of English, you don't know accurately what items of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, etc. of English are of long standing and which are recent innovations. In fact, it often happens that people don't even accurately know the way they speak themselves. They will insist that they don't use some particular item of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, etc. and then a few minutes later in conversation will use that item themselves.
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  #36  
Old 11-19-2010, 08:39 AM
BwanaBob BwanaBob is offline
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The problem is when the so-called dialects overlap in a region. We figuratively beat "aks" and "liberry" out of children's pronuciations around here. I would only accept "aks" from a person who was raised with that pronuciation if they spelled it "a-k-s". The word spelled a-s-k has only only one pronuciation.
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  #37  
Old 11-19-2010, 08:54 AM
Fake Tales of San Francisco Fake Tales of San Francisco is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BwanaBob View Post
The word spelled a-s-k has only only one pronuciation.
No, it really doesn't!

Take the vowel at the beginning. Is it ć, or ɑː? Both are equally valid.
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  #38  
Old 11-19-2010, 08:56 AM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Schnitte View Post
It is relevant because it addresses a point you yourself made, namely, that the absence of a Q gives you a hint about the pronunciation of coupon.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fake Tales of San Francisco View Post
What about the word cube? Do you say koob? There's no Q.
Yes, yes, I am well aware that there is no letter Q in the spelling of the word "coupon"; I was referring to the sound.

I have heard lots of people pronounce it both ways ("koo-pon" and "kyoo-pon"), but the "kyoo-pon" pronunciation has always struck me as strange: I wonder where it came from, since there's nothing in the word's spelling that would give rise to a "kyoo" sound. Some people here have tried to argue that it's analogous to words with a "cu," like "cube" or "curious" or "cucumber," but that doesn't really explain it because "coupon" is spelled with a "cou," not a "cu," and I don't know of any other "cou" words that people pronounce with a "kyoo" sound. (Although now that I've said so, someone will probably come along to point one out.)
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  #39  
Old 11-19-2010, 09:00 AM
Ruminator Ruminator is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BwanaBob View Post
I would only accept "aks" from a person who was raised with that pronuciation if they spelled it "a-k-s". The word spelled a-s-k has only only one pronuciation.
How do you pronounce "knee"? Is it kuh-nee or nee?

"Wednesday"? Is it Woden's-day or wenzday?

"February"? febyouary?


It's not a negative decay. It's just evolution.
"Wednesday" --> wenzday
...same type of transformation as...
"ask" --> ax

Give it 150 years and probably everybody will pronounce it as ax. It requires less effort to pronounce. The human race is lazy. Pronouncing "ask" like ass-kuh is almost blurting out 2 separate syllables. That's too much work.
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  #40  
Old 11-19-2010, 09:07 AM
Leaffan Leaffan is offline
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Hmmm...

Well, I say WeDnesday, and FebRuary, and aSk, and it doesn't seem to require any extra effort on my behalf. How is the pronunciation of a three letter word any easier one way or the other?
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  #41  
Old 11-19-2010, 09:09 AM
Hypnagogic Jerk Hypnagogic Jerk is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruminator View Post
Give it 150 years and probably everybody will pronounce it as ax. It requires less effort to pronounce. The human race is lazy. Pronouncing "ask" like ass-kuh is almost blurting out 2 separate syllables. That's too much work.
Honestly, I don't think changes in pronunciation happen because of "laziness". They may be due to what sound clusters are more natural to speakers of a particular language, but that's different from calling it laziness which has a strong connotation of morality. I'll defer to the judgement of our linguists.

I know that to me, "axe" and "ask" are equally easy to pronounce.

ETA: "koo-pon" and "kyoo-pon" sound equally right to me, and I have no idea which one I would use when speaking English naturally.

Last edited by Hypnagogic Jerk; 11-19-2010 at 09:11 AM..
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  #42  
Old 11-19-2010, 09:16 AM
SeldomSeen SeldomSeen is offline
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Regional dialects, especially within the U.S. have always fascinated me. The only folks I've known to use the "aks", "liberry" thing are blacks and people from the deep South. The "yoo" in place of "oo" is, I believe a Texas/southwestern innovation. I base this assumption on conversations with an old friend of mine from Texas who went to extremes in this matter (e.g. "He NYOO he was dyin' when they started stickin' those TYOOBS into 'im".) One of the more interesting ones is the Americanized Spanish word "remuda" (a string of saddle horses). In Spanish, of course, it's rem-OO-da... but anyone from the western U.S. will say rem-YOU-da. Oddly enough, when this one gets to western Canada the process is reversed... they say rem-OO-da just like the Mexicans.

One of the more interesting and unique regional accents I know of is the one my wife and her family speak... the Ohio (ah-HI-uh) Valley dialect or "Pittsburghese" which is absolutely distinctive; I've never heard anything else that even resembles it.

For those interested, Wikipedia has a very thorough article on American dialects.
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Old 11-19-2010, 09:17 AM
Balthisar Balthisar is offline
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Of course "February" has an "r" in its pronounciation, but I'll have to pay more attention when February rolls around to make sure.

"Coupon" goes with way for me. When talking about bits of paper for commerce, I tend toward "cue-pon," and when talking about test samples, I tend toward "coo-pon." They're really two different words with different means to me, but they can just as easily be homonyms.

What bugs me about "aks" is when someone is otherwise speaking standard English (meaning, standard for my area in my demographic), and out comes "aks." It's almost race baiting, akin to using "niggardly" in a conversation.
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Old 11-19-2010, 09:19 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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SeldomSeen writes:

> The "yoo" in place of "oo" is, I believe a Texas/southwestern innovation.

Certainly not entirely, since it's also found in some British dialects.
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  #45  
Old 11-19-2010, 09:28 AM
Ruminator Ruminator is offline
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Originally Posted by Leaffan View Post
Well, I say WeDnesday, and FebRuary, and aSk, and it doesn't seem to require any extra effort on my behalf. How is the pronunciation of a three letter word any easier one way or the other?
Well, supposedly the average adult has a vocabulary of 17,000 word families. I'd be surprised if somebody (even the most Oxford educated) does not use a "lazier" pronunciation of one of those 17k words.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Hypnagogic Jerk View Post
... , but that's different from calling it laziness which has a strong connotation of morality ...
I know that to me, "axe" and "ask" are equally easy to pronounce.
I used "lazy" as a placeholder to describe expenditure of calories and not morality. If it takes 0.002 calories to say "ax" but it takes 0.003 calories to say "ask", I think civilization will evolve to pronounce it as ax.

If you say "ask" very slowly, you'll notice that the 1st part of the sound is closing the teeth to hiss out the "s" and followed by a 2nd motion involving the back of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth to momentarily block the airflow for the "k" sound. It's 2 motions (albeit very fast).

Saying "ax" is one motion. Observe very small children that start to speak their first words. It's much easier to say "ax" then "ask". They eventually grow out of it and start to to pronounce it the prim and proper "ask." However, for the human race as a whole, that trailing "k" sound is fragile and is ripe to get dropped. It won't tomorrow but maybe in a dozen generations.
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  #46  
Old 11-19-2010, 09:41 AM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fake Tales of San Francisco View Post
Or Zeh-brah in Britain.
Or Zed-brah.
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  #47  
Old 11-19-2010, 09:57 AM
Frylock Frylock is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeldomSeen View Post
(e.g. "He NYOO he was dyin' when they started stickin' those TYOOBS into 'im".)
Haha yes!

I lived for a year with my wife in extremely rural northeast Texas. I still get a chuckle out of my wife when I refer to cooking oil as something I can only transcribe as "kyuiken ahwel". Damn me and my lack of IPA.
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  #48  
Old 11-19-2010, 10:09 AM
cjepson cjepson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruminator View Post
How do you pronounce "knee"? Is it kuh-nee or nee?

"Wednesday"? Is it Woden's-day or wenzday?

"February"? febyouary?


It's not a negative decay. It's just evolution.
[INDENT]"Wednesday" --> wenzday
...same type of transformation as...
"ask" --> ax
But not really. All the examples you gave are instances of simply dropping a sound, i.e., one or more letters become silent but the word is otherwise pronounced as spelled. Pronouncing "ask" as "ax", however, is pronouncing the letters in the opposite order from the spelling. I wonder if there is any example of a pronunciation that is commonly accepted as the standard pronunciation that does this. (I do not count "nookyoolar" as the standard pronunciation of "nuclear", or "asterix" for "asterisk".)

Also... for those who pronounce "ask" as "ax", I wonder how they pronounce "bask", "mask", "flask", "task"... ?

Last edited by cjepson; 11-19-2010 at 10:10 AM..
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  #49  
Old 11-19-2010, 10:13 AM
XT XT is online now
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To me, this discussion is expecially interesting...

-XT
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  #50  
Old 11-19-2010, 10:17 AM
Leaffan Leaffan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cjepson View Post
But not really. All the examples you gave are instances of simply dropping a sound, i.e., one or more letters become silent but the word is otherwise pronounced as spelled. Pronouncing "ask" as "ax", however, is pronouncing the letters in the opposite order from the spelling. I wonder if there is any example of a pronunciation that is commonly accepted as the standard pronunciation that does this. (I do not count "nookyoolar" as the standard pronunciation of "nuclear", or "asterix" for "asterisk".)

Also... for those who pronounce "ask" as "ax", I wonder how they pronounce "bask", "mask", "flask", "task"... ?
Funny. I was discussing this over hors d' oeuvres with Brett Favre the other day.....
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