Low back issues

… in a One Big Happy cartoon (in auditorium) and in the title of a 1998 movie (the nickname Paulie): in American English, unrounded [ɑ] for rounded [ɔ], collapsing the distinction between the phonemes /a/ in cot and /ɔ/ in caught.


(#1) Discomfort in the low back region: Polly on the left, Paulie on the right

One Big Happy. From 2/13/19, the eggcorn impulse in action: Ruthie re-works the unfamiliar (to her) fancy word auditorium by finding some more familiar parts in it; but there’s some discomfort in the lower back region:


(#2) The aud of auditorium with [ɔ], but odd with [ɑ]

Schematically, in the mouth:


(#2) Monophthongal vowels of standard American English (not showing the diphthongs of buy, bough, and boy); crucial action in the lower right corner

(Typically, the phonetic realization of the phoneme /a/ in Don, Sol (Hurok, for instance), and the Fonz is not only lower than the realization of the phoneme /ɔ/ in Dawn, Saul (Steinberg, for instance), and the Fawns (Ollie North’s secretary Fawn Hall and biographer and historian Fawn Brodie), but also a bit fronter.)

Recently on this blog: a posting of 3/10/19, “Boynton: hippos and an occasional pig”, with a section on the cot/caught, or low back, merger (in North American English) in words spelled with OG; and the announcement of a Page on this blog on cot/caught.

The 1998 movie. Jon Lighter on ADS-L on 3/17, adding to a discussion of Polly want a cracker and its many variants, as produced by a parrot or to a parrot (Polly being a conventional name for a parrot):

This 1998 movie concerns a male parrot named “Paulie.” Get it?


(#3) “Paulie, a talking parrot, recounts his travels looking for his original owner to a Russian janitor who helps him to the end of his journey” (IMDb link)

Paulie/Paul with /ɔ/ (standardly), Polly/Poll with /a/.

From OED3 (Sept. 2006) on Poll ‘parrot’:

Etymology: < the female forename Poll…, originally a rhyming form of Moll…. Compare later Polly

A conventional proper or pet name for a parrot. Hence: a parrot. [1st cite 1600 from Ben Jonson]

Taboo-language bonus. Available from Amazon:


(#4) Polly The X-Rated Insulting Parrot (motion activated) by Playmaker Toys

Product description: Polly The Insulting Parrot Polly may look like a cute pet but he’s got a filthy mouth. In fact, he swears like a drunken sailor. Polly The Insulting Parrot says: Hey Baby! Show us your T*Ts. Polly want a F#ckin cracker. Nobody loves you, everybody hates you. Dickhead alert! Dickhead alert! …and more.

(#5) Insult Polly in action

2 Responses to “Low back issues”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I’m afraid that I often find Ruthie’s misunderstandings be a bit of a stretch, and in this case, while I get the “odd/aud” confusion, where is she getting ol’? Who would be pronouncing the second syllable of auditorium with anything that could be mistaken for an /o/-like vowel?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: