The patio footnote

Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky reported a few days ago that she had found an odd footnote in L. Frank Baum’s The Magic of Oz (1919), p. 73. The text goes:

The Sorceress smiled and answered:

“Come into my patio* and I will show you.”

So they entered a place that was surrounded by the wings of the great castle but had no roof …

This is in effect a definition of patio, giving the OED’s (draft revision of June 2009) older sense, ‘In a Spanish or Mexican house, a roofless inner courtyard open to the sky’, attested from 1764 (but obviously not always restricted to Spanish or Mexican houses); the external version (‘A paved roofless area adjoining and belonging to a house’) is attested from 1931 (from P.G. Wodehouse!) on.

So far so good. The footnote gives a pronunciation:

* Pronounced pa′-shi-o.

That’s the odd part: the assibilated middle syllable [ʃi], instead of [ti]. A variety of pronunciations have been reported for patio, but I haven’t seen this one before.

In any case, you can view the original by going to page 73 here.

Well, the [ʃ] is not the only notable thing here. The fact that there’s any footnote at all is itself notable (though it’s remotely possible that it was a little joke), since Baum virtually never used footnotes. The edition that Elizabeth was reading to her daughter Opal from — they are both great fans of the Oz books — was a “hundredth anniversary edition”, a facsimile copy of the 1919 original (but with endnotes copyrighted 1999).

As it happens, Elizabeth has a second copy of The Magic of Oz (from her own childhood), of which she says:

It has no copyright statement of its own (it reproduces the original 1919 copyright statement) and no edition information that I can find, and appears to have been printed from very similar plates — except the footnote does not appear. BUT it’s pretty clear that it was deleted, because there’s a blank space where the asterisk used to be. (Both my copies have “disappeaerd” on page 155, which is the sort of thing that makes me say they are based on the same plates.)

Enough of textual criticism. Now a few words about pronunciations of patio. The main divergence on the topic has to do with the vowel in the first syllable, which is either a front vowel, [æ], or a more back counterpart, the quality of which varies from dialect to dialect. For patio, some dictionaries (especially more recent sources, like NOAD2) list only the front vowel; some (like AHD4) offer both as alternatives; some, especially older sources (like Kenyon & Knott’s Pronouncing Dictionary of American English), give only the back vowel; and the OED has the front vowel as the U.S. variant and the back vowel as the British variant. (The OED also marks flapping of the medial t in U.S. pronunciations, and no flapping in British pronunciations.)

Back vowel pronunciations approximate the original Spanish pronunciation, while front vowel versions are Anglicizations, in a rather special sense: since the back vowel versions are perfectly acceptable in English, the front pronunciations almost surely derive from the spelling of the word.

I’ve unearthed one further pronunciation, in William Henry Pinkney Phyfe’s Eighteen Thousand Words Often Mispronounced (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1914), where a two-syllable version is prescribed: pä′-tyō (where ä represents “the a of arm”). This reproduces something like pronunciations of the word in some regional varieties of Spanish (according to Mike Salovesh on ADS-L on 6/16/2000, among them southeastern Mexico and Guatemala).

(A spelling pronunciation with patio rhyming with ratio wouldn’t be surprising, but I haven’t seen any references to it.)

ADS-L had some discussion of this variation in pronunciation back in June 2000. Tucked in there was this observation (of 6/15/2000) from Andrea Vine:

I seem to recall my mother jokingly referring to the patio as a “pah-sho” when she was trying to parody sophistication. Other than that, I’ve never heard “potty-o” [the back version] until this discussion.

Other posters found the front version unacceptable. Still others found the back version affected. A lot seems to depend on how old you are and where you grew up, and probably on other factors as well. This seems to me to be about as far as you can get by collecting opinions. I don’t, however, know of any systematic studies of who uses which version.

6 Responses to “The patio footnote”

  1. dw Says:

    I grew up in England with a RP-like accent and generally have a backed vowel in words such as “bath”, “pass”, “ask”, “dance” etc.. However, I have never heard “patio” pronounced with anything but a front a as in “trap”. And it’s a word I heard and spoke very often growing up. So I’m somewhat surprised that the OED marks this as a US variant.

  2. sdt Says:

    It took me a minute to figure out how there could be a “hundredth anniversary edition” of a 1919 book. Fortunately, the quote marks alerted me that there was an explanation, which is that the 100th anniversary edition of the series was published in 2000, 100 years after the Wonderful Wizard of Oz appeared.

    To me, the footnote sounds like a lame joke based on the pronunciation of the -tion suffix, but perhaps that’s wrong. Maybe Baum was trying to use an exotic word for an exotic scene, with the 50 handmaidens weaving cloth with emerald threads, and he thought his readers would like to know how to pronounce it.

  3. Richard Pfeiffer Says:

    To add slightly to the textual criticism, I can verify that this footnote was present in an edition that was available in the late ’60s or early ’70s, as I vividly remember reading it at the time.

    I was so struck by the odd pronunciation of patio that I asked my mother about it. She, too, was mystified. This was a word in our daily vocabulary and we had never heard it pronounced like that.

  4. John Lawler Says:

    I would tend to interpret the transcribing of patio with pa′-shi-o as intending to represent the pronunciation /’peʃio/, i.e, a sogenannte ‘long A’ in the stressed first syllable, instead of /æ/. Cf ratio and patient for the model. Of course, one is always uncertain just where such transcriptions are coming from, especially if they’re 90 years old.

  5. arnoldzwicky Says:

    Two points have gotten further discussion in ADS-L: the value of the vowel in the first syllable, and the source of the medial consonant.

    The first question might be unanswerable, since there are possible accounts for /a/ (modeling on Spanish, or modeling on French on the basis of the spelling), /æ/ (anglicization), and /e/ (spelling pronunciation in English).

    On the second question, Doug Wilson suggested that the medial consonant (a spirant — /ʃ/ in the Baum version, though /s/ would also be possible and could serve as a step on the way to /ʃ/) is a “frenchified” pronunciation. English often deals with words from Spanish (and some other languages) by taking the words as they are spelled in Spanish (or whatever) and pronouncing them as if they were French.

  6. mollymooly Says:

    As per dw and Richard Pfeiffer the vowel is “front” in both US and UK. The OED does not make this clear because it uses different transcription conventions for each accent:

    British English:
    a as in trap /trap/, and some pronunciations of bath /baθ/
    US English
    æ … trap /træp/, bath /bæθ/

    JC Wells disapproves “A further argument in favour of retaining the symbol [æ] is that it preserves the parallelism with American and Australian English, in which the movement towards an opener quality has not taken place.”

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