Saturday, January 05, 2013

Spelling Pronunciation

I posted a few years ago (hmm, six years ago, in fact) on the pronunciation of often.  I had some of the history wrong.  I had thought adding the "t" back into it was a 20th C phenomenon gaining steam, and that the "t" had fallen out about 300 years ago.  I was off by a factor of 2 in both cases. The t-sound disappeared in the 15th C, and started coming back again in the 19th, as more people became literate.  People just naturally thought it must be more correct to say off-ten, because heck, it's got a t in it, dunnit?

Well, I wasn't having any of it, because if it's a modern overcorrection it's a modern overcorrection, and that's that.

Except, as I discovered while following up another curiosity, if I apply that reasoning I have to change my pronunciation of some other words.  Pronouncing the "c" in "Arctic" was artificially added in later.  The "l" dropped out of falcon in in the 15th C and came back in in the 19th for the same reason as often's "t". Plus, in my effort to retain what I think of as older, but only recently older (and thus more correct) pronunciations by giving some indication of now-silent letters, I keep a whisper, a hint of the "th" in clothes and quite a bit of the "l" in alms.

I had waistcoat right, and knew that "Ye Olde" anything was a ridiculous visual confusion of the ancient letter thorn (pronounced "th") with the letter "y," which it maybe sorta does look like.  I knew that tsk and tut were representations of sounds, not tisk and tut.  But of the wikipedia list, I have victuals, forehead, conduit, covert, and medicine wrong.  (I'm less worried about proper names.  That seems quite separate to me. Though "Versales," Kentucky likely did come in because people read the word without having previously heard it.)  Mispronouncing words one has only encountered in print happens to frequent readers often, especially when young.  After a pronunciation is in place for a hundred years, such as three-syllable medicine, I think we have to wave off any stigma.

BTW, what started all this was discovering that the words isle and island are not from the same root.  Old English had perfectly good Germanic words ig-lond or eah-lond meaning "water-land," the ig/eah/ah related to aqua.  When the Normans ruined everything in 1066, they thought that the word must be related to the Latin "insula," as in peninsula and its French derivative isle.  So they bapped the "s" into the English word, figuring it had just gotten misplaced somewhere because Anglo-Saxons were boorish and careless like that.  Male and female are also unrelated words.


Sam L. said...

As a kid, and later, I watched a lot of mysteries and other movies set in the NY area, NYC and environs, and every now and then there'd be some guy named Al-o-ishus. When I was in my 40s I read either a story or a news column about somebody named Aloysius. I think it was the third time I saw that name that I suddenly realized...

Dubbahdee said...

The pertinent content starts at 7:25.

Texan99 said...

I'm going to keep pronouncing "err" as "ur" even if I'm the last person in the country to do it.

We have mangled Spanish names down here. Palacios is "Pah-LAH-shus," "Refugio" is "Re-FERR-io," and "San Jacinto" is with an English "j." "Pedernales" is "Purdenalis." On the Italian side, the nearby tiny town of Tivoli is "TIE-voli." Pronounce them any other way and you're no better than a Yankee.

SJ said...

And I discovered, sometime in the past three weeks, that most people look at me funny when I spoke of the State of ConneCTicut.

Somehow, they think it ought to be pronounced "ConnetiTicut".

I confess to not living in New England. Last time I had to speak about that State, I was probably running through the memorized list of States and Capitols.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

SJ, I think I have softly kept the "c" in that pronunciation, falsely believing it to be more correct.

I'm not budging on February, however. Two "r's" on the page, two "r's" on the tongue.

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