I try not to waste too much mental energy or blog space on the silly ways people find to talk about linguistic phenomena, because after all, not having had any education whatever in linguistics (which would provide them with non-silly ways), what are they going to do but fall back on the inaccurate? But this one really baffles me. From “The Great Pasty Debate” by John Willoughby (part of the NY Times Magazine “Food” issue, which has some very nice pieces): “As is so often the case, food is the last tradition left from those glory days, and I returned to Copper Harbor this summer in search of pasties (properly pronounced with a soft “a”).” Now, I happen to know that pasty, as in “Cornish pasty,” is traditionally pronounced with the low front vowel of pat or at, and that’s a useful fact to pass on to the reading public, but why not do it the way I just did? For an American audience, you could simply say it rhymes with nasty (adding “not with hasty” if you wanted to really drive the point home). But what is anyone supposed to get out of “a soft ‘a’”? In what conceivable way is the a of pat softer than any other kind? To make things even worse, when I googled the phrase I found this: “Soft A Sound ɑː (arm, father).” It’s like the very subject of language makes people unable to write sensibly.