Archive for the ‘Phonetics’ Category

The desert three-way

June 2, 2022

The 6/1 Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, a Desert Crawl cartoon in which the crawling man hallucinates a sexual oasis, where two saguaro cactuses offer to, umm, entertain him (Wayno’s title: “Prickly Playmates”):


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

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Cool [ʍɪp]

May 9, 2022

Voiceless /hw/ (phonetically [ʍ]) in a surprising place (the name of the artificial whipped cream Cool Whip), a place where even W-WH contrasters like me never have it. Made into a standing joke on The Family Guy. Which will cause me to tell you more about voiceless /hw/ in English than you might have wanted to know.

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The sequel to my allergic ass

May 1, 2022

🐇 🐇 🐇 pour le premier mai. A follow-up to yesterday’s posting “My allergic ass”, which was (mostly) about pronominal ass — possessive pronoun + ass, used of a person, to refer not to their buttocks but to that person: his ass ‘he, him’, your ass ‘you’, my ass ‘I, me’.

[Ambiguity may ensue: my ass is warm can mean either ‘my buttocks are warm’ or ‘I am warm’ (you have to figure out from context which was intended); while my ass is heart-shaped is probably about my buttocks (well, I might be Candy Man, shaped like a candy heart), and my ass is allergic is probably about me (though I might conceivably have buttocks afflicted by contact dermatitis).]

Now: through Facebook discussions, two different threads have emerged from that posting: one about material in a long citation in the 2006 Beavers and Koontz-Garboden paper on pronominal ass; the other about the source of the example — my allergic ass — that provoked my posting.

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An American tradegy

December 3, 2021

This morning, Stephanie Ruhle, reporting a Michigan school shooting on MSNBC, and confronting the word tragedy (with /ǰ … d/ ), replaced it by tradegy (with /d … ǰ/), transposing the two consonants; she noticed the error, and “corrected” it by, alas, a repetition of tradegy, which she didn’t notice, so she just went on. Then in a later report on the shooting, she again referred to it as a tradegy, this time without noticing. 

As an error in spelling — TRADEGY for TRAGEDY — this transposition of consonants is common enough to have been listed in Paul Brians’s Common Errors in English Usage, p. 207 (and on the website), where Brians remarks:

Not only do people often misspell “tragedy” as “tradegy,” they mispronounce it that way too.

Here I think that Brians’s focus on errors in written English has led him astray, led him to treat what is at root an error in pronunciation — with the erroneous pronunciation then carried over to spelling — as an error in spelling that then is then carried over into pronunciation. Admittedly, the latter transfer is part of the story for some speakers, but the problems begin with inadvertent speech errors like Stephanie Ruhle’s. An inadvertent speech error that seems to be part of a larger phenomenon.

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The khan con

August 10, 2021

The One Big Happy strip from 7/15, in which the Library Lady reads from the children’s book The Magic Cowlick, about Aziza, whose father was a powerful khan, and asks about the infrequent lexical item khan, which Ruthie takes to be the (to her) more familiar slang noun con (< confidence man), homophonous with khan for most Americans:


(#1) But then we have some vowel issues; compare the Library Lady’s pronunciation of khan in the first panel with her pronunciation of con in the last panel

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Twirly and girly

August 3, 2021

The One Big Happy from 6/5, in which Ruthie struggles, eggcornishly, to rationalize an unfamiliar name with familiar parts:

Mary, Susan, whatever.

Meanwhile, I now have “Honey Bun” from South Pacific in my head:

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Tod und Verklärung

April 18, 2020

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro takes a literary and anatomical turn:


(#1) literary: Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” / anatomical: the uvula, a tissue structure in the oral cavity (relevant here because of its involvement in snoring)

To make the allusions even denser, on his Facebook page, Wayno supplied the title “Mystery and Respiration” for #1, echoing the Paschal [that is, Easter] Mystery and Resurrection [of Jesus Christ], and alluding to the apparent resurrection of the body buried beneath the floorboards. And then this Death and Resurrection theme led me to Richard Strauss’s tone poem Tod und Verklärung, a secular (but still transcendent) story of death and transfiguration. Meanwhile, “Mystery and Respiration” also, of course, echoes the snoring theme.

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Deux clouseauismes

August 11, 2019

Morning names from early this past week: fondly remembered quotations from Peter Sellars’s Inspector Clouseau character in The Pink Panther (1963) and the series of movies following it. Both involve a bold effort by Clouseau to fix or remedy some situation, resulting of course in devastation — and clueless insouciance on the inspector’s part.

Besides the absurd situations, there’s Sellars’s deft timing and his control of the physical comedy, and, delicious cherry on top: his way-eccentric Clouseau-franglais syntax and phonetics (with pronunciation governed largely by a rigid constraint against back vowels, especially rounded back vowels, though even [ʌ] is affected, as in monkey > minkey). The transcripts below are in standard English orthography, so you should listen to the film clips.

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Nudie tales

July 8, 2019

The One Big Happy from 6/11 (in my comics feed today), in which Ruthie mishears a stock expression from tv news reporting:


Said: new details. Heard: nudie tales.

The stock expression is new details (sometimes more details, occasionally just details), frequently at 11 (because 11 p.m. is the conventional time for the late evening news in the US), but other times are of course possible (e.g. at 6), as are continuations like soon, later, and coming.

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Two cents, common sense, incense, and peppermints

March 27, 2019

The 2/26 One Big Happy, riffing on /sɛns/, in idioms with sense (common sense, horse sense, nonsense), in incense, and in cents (also in an idiom, two cents):

(#1)

Which, of course, leads us inevitably to the psychedelic days of 1967, with their whiff of incense and peppermints (plus some pot).

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