Two errors

Two errors from the past week — one an inadvertent phonological error (committed by me), the other a spelling error (committed somewhere in the process of getting information onto iTunes).

[I’ve been away from AZBlog and LLog for several days, pursuing threads on nominative conjoined objects (the famous “between you and me” and its kin). But I’m ok.]

Error #1. Four days ago I was trying to read information about a television show, episode by episode, from on-line program listings. So I intended to say “episode 6: …; episode 7: … “, etc., but to my frustration I kept coming out with “epizote” — that is, with [… z … t …] instead of [… s … d …]. (Eventually, I gave up, and produced “episode” correctly by taking it slowly, one syllable at a time, with pauses between syllables.)

This is a cool error, involving a single phonetic feature, voicing, rather than whole segments. It’s a transposition error, with voiced … voiceless transposed as voiceless … voiced, all other features remaining constant. The literature on speech errors cites a number of single-feature errors, not all transpositions; section L (‘single features’) of the appendix to Fromkin’s Speech Errors as Linguistic Evidence (Mouton, 1973) lists 55, including the voiced … voiceless for voiceless … voiced transposition in “glear plue sky”.

Error #2. A few days ago I downloaded some Gilbert & Sullivan tracks onto my iTunes and discovered that the composer was listed as “Sir Authur Sullivan”. The first U in AUTHUR is probably an anticipation of the U in the next syllable. Though it’s could be an inadvertent blend of ARTHUR and AUTHOR.

Whatever is going on with “Sir Authur Sullivan”, it affects other Arthurs as well: you can google up loads of “Authur Godfrey”, “King Authur”, “James Authur Ray”, “Chester A. Authur”, “Authur Treacher”, “Authur Miller”, “Authur Murray”, “Authur Conan Doyle”, “Authur Ashe”, “the Authur Sackler Gallery”, “Authur C. Clarke”, Douglas McAuthur”, and more.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of examples of AUTHUR for AUTHOR, as in:

Who is the authur of “angels and demons”? (link)

she is also the authur of The Playskool Potty Training and the Potty Training Answer Book (link)

A clip of the series introduction, and a radio interview with the authur of Rebecca, “Daphne Du Maurier.” (link)

You write ARTHUR and I write AUTHUR. You write AUTHOR and I write AUTHUR. Let’s call the whole thing off.

4 Responses to “Two errors”

  1. Kyle Says:

    The best thing about those voicing transpositions is that unless I concentrate on them, the errors don’t sound wrong at all.

    I was going to suggest ‹Authur› for Arthur was due to confusion of //ɑr// with //ɑː// by a non-rhotic speaker, but being an American I had forgotten that for most non-rhotic speakers ‹au› would make it [ˈɔːθə], not [ˈɑːθə]. Silly historical-but-not-in-my-idiolect vowel distinctions…

  2. h. s. gudnason Says:

    I was listening yesterday to a U.S. newscaster reporting on the Lufthansa pilots’ strike, and could have sworn she said pirates.

    Perhaps Author Sullivan and Walliam Gilbert could write something about it.

  3. Theophylact Says:

    In Mark Harris’s Bang the Drum Slowly, the pitcher/narrator Hank Wiggen, known to his teammates as “Author” because of his book about his rookie season, is called “Arthur” throughout by his not-too-bright catcher/friend Bruce Pearson.

    (Incidentally, the book was made into a fine movie with the young Robert DeNiro as the catcher.)

  4. mollymooly Says:

    In Ireland, I had a (rhotic) history teacher who consistently pronounced Arthur nonrhotically, though perhaps not as “author”. I pronounce “episode” with a /z/ myself, though not a /d/.

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