Annals of mishearing

It came by again yesterday morning on NPR: a spot for the Portuguese Cork Association, promoting the use of cork for wine bottle stoppers on environmental and sustainability grounds. Even though I hear it almost every day, this time I heard it as “Portuguese Pork Association”, which fascinated me — is there something special about pork from Portugal? how long has the U.S. been importing Portuguese pork? (you learn something new every day!) — until I realized that I’d misheard the thing.

Now /p/ (as in pork) and /k/ (as in cork) are phonetcally very similar, so that it’s easy to confuse them perceptually (and they are good in half-rhymes). In this case, it looks like the initial /por/ of Portuguese got carried over — persevered — in my perception of the /kor/ of cork.

Surprisingly hard for me to shake.


3 Responses to “Annals of mishearing”

  1. James C. Says:

    The main difference should be in F1, given that both bilabials and velars lower F2, but that bilabials lower F1 and velars raise F1. If this was acoustically caused then perhaps the radio was smearing frequencies around F1, or perhaps there was some sort of resonance around the frequency that was overriding the speaker’s vocal harmonics…

  2. John Lawler Says:

    A case in reverse is the propinquity of the labiodental reflexes of PIE *kʷetwor ‘4’ and *peŋkʷe ‘5’ in Latin counting — quattuor, quinque — which is supposed to have occasioned the change from earlier Italic piŋkʷe to Latin kʷiŋkʷe. A “Unique You Nork” situation.

  3. Annals of mishearing « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Annals of mishearing (link): Portuguese Cork Association heard as Portuguese Pork […]

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