DESERT.

My wife and I have been watching the new Ken Burns series on the national parks (nice images to take to bed), and tonight’s episode had quite a bit about Mount Desert Island. Half the time they pronounced it DE-sert and the other half de-SERT, so I went to Wikipedia and found this:

Some natives stress the second syllable (de-ZERT), in the French fashion, although many others pronounce it in a fashion similar to the English name of a landscape devoid of vegetation (DEH-zert). French explorer Champlain’s observation that the summits of the island’s mountains were free of vegetation as seen from the sea led him to call the island “Isles des Monts Desert”, or Island of the bare mountains.

Dammit, people, get your story straight! Seriously, though, I don’t know of many place names that locals pronounce two different ways.

Comments

  1. Well, there are the rhotic and non-rhotic pronunciations of New York, but I don’t know if that counts….

  2. Trapelo Road, running from Belmont to Lincoln in Massachusetts, is almost always pronounced traPELo in my experience. But I believe that the older pronunciation, not quite extinct, is TRAPelo.

  3. I suspect that the expression “desert island” (meaning an island devoid of humans, such as you might be stranded on an adventure novel or a New Yorker cartoon or a reality TV show) has been partly responsible for a shift from de-SERT to DE-sert.

  4. Here in San Diego we have Cowles Mountain, named after George A. Cowles, properly pronounced as in ‘bowls’ but even in my high school days in the 60s almost everybody pronounced it as in ‘towels’ and they still do today.

  5. In Montreal, the Enlish-speaking residents pronounce their city Mon-tree-all, whereas the French speaking residents, Mon-rhe-al.

  6. There’s a neighborhood in Raleigh, NC called Mordecai. The last syllable, as pronounced by natives (I’m one, or at least I used to be), sometimes rhymes with “key” & sometimes with “eye”. Also, I believe that people pronounce the name of the Bouquet River in upstate NY in at least 2 different ways – but I could be wrong about that one.

  7. The interesting thing is, as far as I know, which version of Mount Desert a native uses doesn’t tell you anything else about them, unlike New York, Montreal or Missouri.

  8. rootlesscosmo says:

    In San Francisco, Greenwich and Kearny Streets are called “Green-witch” and “Carny” by old-timers (genuine or pretended), “Grennitch” and “Kurny” by everyone else.

  9. Another toponymic shibboleth: Secaucus (New Jersey) is pronounced ['siˌkɔkəs] by old-timers and [sə'kɔkəs] by newcomers.

  10. Peter gives an example, and MMcM, indicates a vital implication, of the whole category of names in and of multilingually populated places. Which multiplicity might not have been what language hat was getting at (?).
    Right away, I’m thinking of the Anglo-Hispanic ‘border’ in the US. Te-has, New Me-hico, Porto Rico or Pu-erto Rico, the palate ‘catching’ the tongue on ‘r’s, etc.– much geography is alternately, and often enough rivalrously, pronounced by “locals” in the American Southwest.
    How about Brussels? Place-names in Switzerland or Singapore? (I don’t mean different ethnic words for the same places, like Gdansk/Danzig, which isn’t the linguistic/political issue language hat is introducing (?).) In the former Yugoslavia, do Serbs and Croats make a point of saying the same place-names, or other key identity-marking words, differently?
    Finally, is Loz Ang-(hard)geleez common enough to be an alternative to Los An-(soft)geles (among non-Hispanic speakers)?

  11. I grew up near Beaconsfield (Bucks, England). My mother’s family was local and she pronounced it as if the first part were a ‘come here’ signal (Beckonsfield), while my father, whose family was from London, pronounced it as spelled (as if the first part referred to a bonfire used as a signal).

  12. Shrewsbury?

  13. Does anyone here know anything about the pronounciation of Anstruther (in Fife)? My wife reckons that she’s heard (1) the spelling pronounciation, (2) Anster, and (3) Ainstrie.

  14. In Dublin: DORset Street versus dorSET; just off that there’s Eccles Street, pronounced eckles or eck-less (sorry, too lazy for IPA); Ranelagh is pronounced both ran- and ren-; and Chapelizod (Séipéal Íosóid, Iseult’s Chapel) is sometimes pronounced -lizard. That last one would be considered a solecism, but I think the others are generally seen as free variants.

  15. Honiton, in Devon.

  16. Wikipedia’s description of the pronunciation de-ZERT as “in the French fashion” is a bit of a stretch, since the French pronunciation of desert omits the ‘t’ sound (except as a feminine adjective, in which case the spelling is déserte).
    de-ZERT suggests to me the spelling “dessert”; Mount Desert pronounced this way would lead me to picture a giant dessert being mounted by a hungry and intrepid explorer.

  17. Daniel Nolan says:

    dearieme:
    When I’ve heard locals talk about Anstruther, they normally pronounced it the spelling way (rhymes with Ann other). Just about the only people I heard call it “Anster” were tourists, though I gather some of the locals do as well. And I didn’t ever hear “Ainstrie”.
    Allegedly, “Anster” is the more “Scottish” pronounciation, and for all I know it is more traditional.

  18. The river Colne, which runs through Colchester (southern England)n is pronounced either /koln/ or /keon/ (IPA won’t work) by natives, with no apparent distintion by origin or social background.

  19. Michael Farris says:

    Near where I grew up was a place called Matlatcha. Local usage was divided between those who said mat-LATCH-uh and mat-luh-SHAY. Both sides were convinced that theirs was the ‘real’ pronunciation and the other was either ignorant or prentious (guess which was which).
    Later I attended the University of Florida in Alachua county. Everybody called the county uh-LATCH-wuh, but there was also a town in the country, also called Alachua. Only ignorant outsiders pronounced the two the same, the town was uh-LATCH-uh-way

  20. British people who haven’t been there say San-Fran Cisco, instead of San Frncisco, and Los Angeleez, instead of Los Angelis. Even the BBC does it.
    One thing about Beaconsfield, and I’ve always called the place ‘Beckonsfield’, is that Disraeli is almost always referred to (nowadays, anyway) as ‘Lord BEE-consfield’ even though it’s the same Bucks village. Even I do this sometimes. So there is an inconsistency that is related to the context. It’s like the American use of both deFENCE & DE-fence, the latter being to distinguish it from OFF-ence and o’FENCE in US football. I think I got that from the late William Safire.

  21. British people who haven’t been there say San-Fran Cisco, instead of San Frncisco, and Los Angeleez, instead of Los Angelis. Even the BBC does it.
    One thing about Beaconsfield, and I’ve always called the place ‘Beckonsfield’, is that Disraeli is almost always referred to (nowadays, anyway) as ‘Lord BEE-consfield’ even though it’s the same Bucks village. Even I do this sometimes. So there is an inconsistency that is related to the context. It’s like the American use of both deFENCE & DE-fence, the latter being to distinguish it from OFF-ence and o’FENCE in US football. I think I got that from the late William Safire.

  22. A road in an upmarket suburb of Hastings is “Kopanga Road” – local Māori pronounce it as it is spelled, residents of the street tend to say “Kaponga”. Likewise with the Kawarau river in Central Otago. Māori locals pronounce it as spelled, ka-wa-rau (think roe), with more or less even stress non-Māori locals ALL say ka-WA-ra. Pronouncing the name “correctly”, in the Māori fashion is guaranteed to generate a blank incomprehension among non-Māori locals, until they figure it out and say “Oh, you mean “Ka-WA-ra”

  23. Well since his eminence Mr Emerson has mentioned Beaconsfield I shall share the dual nature of the nearby town of my youth, Berkhamsted. However this spelling had only been adopted in 1937 (accoording to wikipedia) and there were still all sorts of signs around the place where it was spelled Berkhampsted. This lead to it being variously pronounced as BURK-am-sted and Burk-HAMP-sted.
    It seems the old spelling has been difficult to eradicate and in some cases confusingly lingers on.
    I haven’t been back for years so can’t report on whether the dual pronunciation persists.

  24. Sydney and Sinny ?

  25. Nicholas Waller says:

    Somerset both Summerset and Zummerzet?

  26. @deadgod:
    Last week I watched a DVD extra from the 1930s about Los Angeles, which was pronounced throughout as Ang [like the director Lee's first name]-eles. I’ve also noticed that in other movies from the 30s and 40s, and remember hearing it when I was young, in the 50s in the Midwest.
    When did it become Andjeles, and is that what the (true) natives say now too?

  27. John Emerson says:

    There’s a lot on the internet about L.A. Apparently various people including a newspaper and a mayor (Yorty) supported the relatively more Span”Loss Anj-uh-luss” won.

  28. Natives pronounce Los Angeles ‘ell-AY’.

  29. There is of course that area of London whose name, ‘Kilburn’, is frequently pronounced ‘West Hampstead’.

  30. Kind of boring, but “Queensland” can be either “Queen’s Land” or “Queenslnd”. I was once asked by a visitor which was correct and I could only say “both”.

  31. Vienna, WV used to be pronounced “VYE -enna,” though now it is more common to hear “VEE- enna.”
    J. Del Col

  32. J.W. Brewer says:

    Baltimore/Bawlmer.

  33. Since I live in the Portland area and grew up in western Maine, I’m not considered “local” to the island in question… but I’ve almost always heard this “Desert” pronounced like “dessert.”
    My favorite tricky pronunciation is that Calais sounds like “callous”

  34. Man, I went to bed expecting to find a comment or two and discovered I’d opened a whole can of variously pronounced worms. I’m learning a lot here!

  35. marie-lucie says:

    In Canada, Newfoundland is usually NEWfnland but you also hear NewFOUNDland. The inhabitants of NEWfnland are sometimes referred to as Newfies, which some like and others find derogatory.

  36. marie-lucie says:

    “Isles des Monts Desert”, or Island of the bare mountains.
    Wikipedia’s English page gives the wrong spelling: the final s of the first word should be added to the last word. See the French version:
    L’île fut découverte par Samuel de Champlain, en 1604. Il lui donna le nom d’«Île des monts déserts» en raison de ses sommets dépourvus de végétation.
    Here the old spelling isle is replaced by the modern île, but the rest is correct. There is only one island, so there is no reason for an s at the end of the word. There is more than one mountain, so the words referring to bare mountains should both have the plural ending s.

  37. Do you have any idea how the pronunciation NEWfnland came about, m-l?

  38. Do you have any idea how the pronunciation NEWfnland came about, m-l?

  39. marie-lucie says:

    AJP, I suppose that it is due to the English language’s tendency to place the stress on the first syllable of a word, especially a compound word (made up of individual words). In a word of three syllables, the middle one tends to get the least amount of stress and to get squeezed out, so here “found” has become unrecognizable.

  40. J.W. Brewer says:

    In between Bawlmer and Fluffya lies my native state of Delaware, which is sometimes (but I wouldn’t say predominantly) locally pronounced DELawur (i.e., with the final syllable unstressed and its vowel reduced). I’m not sure how strong a local/outsider or class marker that is. I picked that pronunciation up as a kid without picking up too many of the other local non-prestige dialectisms that my teachers stigmatized, although perhaps this one was an idiosyncratic affectation on my part. I think I now use it in reasonably free variation with the “standard” pronunciation.
    I’ve heard Detroit with the emphasis on the first syllable (and with unreduced vowel, so DEE-troyt as contrasted with duh-TROYT), but interestingly the only examples I can recall seemed to involve involve adjectival uses (maybe that’s imprecise jargon – I mean uses other than as the head noun of an NP), so maybe there’s something semantic or prosodic driving that. (Also I don’t know that the examples I’ve heard were distinctively “local.”)

  41. I swear I’ve heard NEWfnLAND, or possibly even newfnLAND (anyway, land gets as much stress as anything and more than found) and taken it to be a local pronunciation.
    I’ve noticed that I pronounce the adjective ‘compact’ (as a technical term in my subject) sometimes COMpact and sometimes comPACT. I say ‘COMpact SET’ more readily than ‘comPACT SET’, but I think that I say ‘LOCally comPACT’ more readily than ‘LOCally COMpact’, at least if it comes at the end of a, shall we say, sentence. I would certainly never call a car ‘comPACT’.

  42. The verb ‘to contract’ is pronounced with different emphasis than the noun ‘a contract’. No big deal.

  43. The verb ‘to contract’ is pronounced with different emphasis than the noun ‘a contract’. No big deal.

  44. All my Mainer relatives say something closer to DEE-zert, like the English and French pronunciation of the word for ‘arid or uninhabited land’, putting the accent on the first syllable. Wikipedia has it wrong with ‘Some natives stress the second syllable (de-ZERT), in the French fashion’, surprise. In French isn’t ‘désert’ pronounced ‘DAY-zer’? I don’t know where pronouncing it like the food comes from. Probably from Massachusetts tourists who think they’re fancy for trying to sound French.

  45. I understand why the French, but why is the Wikipedia article on Mt Desert Island also available in Dansk, Deutsch and Русский versions? Does it have strategic significance?

  46. I understand why the French, but why is the Wikipedia article on Mt Desert Island also available in Dansk, Deutsch and Русский versions? Does it have strategic significance?

  47. John Emerson says:

    How can something be “the sixth largest island in the continental United States”?
    Mount Desert Island and Hans Island, between them, control the North American continent. I thought everyone knew that.

  48. John Emerson says:

    Apparently Denmark and Canada have declared Google war over Hans Island. Fortunately, neither has nuclear weapons — yet. Osama Bin Laden will presumably support Canada unless some Canadian cartoonist screws everything up.

  49. Various places, with the punchline: “Largest island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island.”

  50. Not local differences as such, but there are a coupla streets in Copenhagen that are pronounced differently by the natives and us furrinners.
    I only recall one at the moment, though: Gothersgade. I’d say /’gotɐsˌgæðɐ/ while those silly people living there say /’gɔtɐsˌgæðɐ/. Of course my IPA sucks, because there could be a street by the name of Gottesgade /’gɔtɐsˌgæðɐ/ which I’d prolly have to transscribe the same way as the latter, but I’m sure I pronounce that differently. (It could possibly /’gɔtəsˌgæðɐ/ instead, but I’m not happy with ə/ɐ mininmal pair. I think the problem is that I do infacts have some sorta ‘r’ in the first two, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what it is.)
    Yeah … that wasn’t helpful …

  51. My dear Emerson, we have something much worse.
    When Danes visit Hans Ø they leave snaps/brændevin. Those Canucks put brandy instead.
    Oh, and I do believe we all reraise the flagpole (it tends to fall down, I think) and put up our respective flags.

  52. CalGARY or CALgary

  53. John Emerson says:

    While the rest of the world is being distracted by insignificant Middle Eastern disputes, the entire global order is being drastically restructured on tiny Hans Island. Why have we not been warned?

  54. The verb ‘to contract’ is pronounced with different emphasis than the noun ‘a contract’. No big deal.
    But I’m talking about the adjective ‘compact’ and the adjective ‘compact’.

  55. marie-lucie says:

    I swear I’ve heard NEWfnLAND, or possibly even newfnLAND (anyway, land gets as much stress as anything and more than found) and taken it to be a local pronunciation.

    You may well have heard those two pronunciations. It is the found part that is usually reduced, not the land.

    CalGARY or CALgary

    In Canada, it’s CALgary.

    Mount Desert: ‘Some natives stress the second syllable (de-ZERT), in the French fashion’, surprise. In French isn’t ‘désert’ pronounced ‘DAY-zer’?

    No French people would stress the first syllable, but none of them would pronounce the t written at the end of the word. The only people who might say ‘DAY-zer’ would be anglophones (including some teachers of French).
    A very rough approximation of the French pronunciation for people unfamiliar with spoken French would be ‘day-ZAIR’.
    On the other hand, the word dessert would be ‘day-SAIR’ (the double ss in French is always [s], never [z]). French places a slight stress on the final syllable of a word, but it is not as strong as English stress, which English-speaking learners find it hard to suppress.

    CONtract/conTRACT, COMpact/comPACT

    There are a number of those, such as PERmit/perMIT, OBject/obJECT, SUBject/subJECT. Usually the noun stresses the first syllable, the verb stresses the second one.

  56. There’s an old joke that goes: Is the capital of Kentucky pronounced [ˈlu i ˌvɪl] or [ˈlu ɪs ˌvɪl]? The answer, of course, is that the capital of Kentucky is pronounced [ˈfræŋk frt]. The second pronunciation of Louisville is absolutely incorrect, but people in Kentucky do pronounce it two different ways. One of them is [ˈlu i ˌvɪl] and the other is [ˈluʊː vl] where the first syllable is elongated with something of an offglide and the last syllable is highly reduced. It sort of has 2 1/2 syllables. Both my husband and myself have always felt that the predominant pronunciation is the second one and that the people with the more “Kentuckian” accents (as wall as many with a less pronounced dialect)used the latter pronunciation, so we tend to use it too, even though I don’t know how lifelong residents of the city pronounce it. (It also has the advantage of being smoother and faster to pronounce.)
    I am not surprised at all at what J. Del Col wrote about the alternate pronunciations of Vienna, WV, because I live next door in Kentucky, land of the embarrassingly intuitive pronunciation of several local place names. Don’t get me wrong: I love my adopted state – technically it’s a commonwealth – but certain things do take some getting used to. For instance the town of Versailles. Here, it is pronounced [vr ˈseɪlz]. It took me a long time to learn to say it correctly by reflex and not pronounce it the French way that I had all my life. And I just knew that it was going to come back and bite me someday. I’ve lived here 15 years, and 2-3 years ago I was explaining to my children what Armistice Day was, including the Treaty of Versailles. Unfortunately, I reflexively pronounced it [vr ˈseɪlz] and my son looked and me and asked, “Mom, isn’t that supposed to be pronounced [vr ˈsɑi]?” Yep, it sure is. But Athens, Kentucky is pronounced [ˈe θənz].
    (Sorry about my very approximate and quirky IPA transcriptions. I am way out of practice and would not even be able to use IPA at all if my wonderful husband had not found me a very useful webpage. http://ipa.typeit.org/ The site has character sets for lots of other languages.)

  57. How about Hawaii? The glottal stop is a bit subtle for us haoles, but I’ve also heard reports that the w can have two different values. I don’t have firsthand knowledge, but perhaps someone can say whether that is really so, and if there a significant distinction between them.

  58. Charles Perry says:

    In the Forties, I remember hearing, and using, both Los Anjeles (3 syllables) and Los Angless (2 syllables). This was an old ambiguity. In the Twenties, the L.A. Times had attempted to bring order out of confusion … by promoting the Spanish pronunciation; every day page A1 bore a little note reading “lohs AHN-he-less.”
    So ostensibly there were three current pronunciations at that time, but in fact the Times’ campaign had zero effect. So much for prescriptivism, and for trying to get English-speakers to pronounce h at the beginning of an unaccented syllable.
    Gradually I found myself preferring the soft g because the affricate had a more pleasing sound. For whatever reason, Anjeles triumphed in the Fifties and the Angless pronunciation is now all but dead.
    NB: Los Anjeleez is never, ever used by locals.

  59. John Emerson says:

    LA and Frisco, LA and Frisco. Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.

  60. So what’s with St. Louis? Is it “Saint Loo-iss” or like the song, Meet Me in Saint Looey, Looey?

  61. Sili said:
    Not local differences as such, but there are a coupla streets in Copenhagen that are pronounced differently by the natives and us furrinners.
    I only recall one at the moment, though: Gothersgade. I’d say /’gotɐsˌgæðɐ/ while those silly people living there say /’gɔtɐsˌgæðɐ/. Of course my IPA sucks, because there could be a street by the name of Gottesgade /’gɔtɐsˌgæðɐ/ which I’d prolly have to transscribe the same way as the latter, but I’m sure I pronounce that differently. (It could possibly /’gɔtəsˌgæðɐ/ instead, but I’m not happy with ə/ɐ mininmal pair. I think the problem is that I do infacts have some sorta ‘r’ in the first two, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what it is.)
    I’m pretty sure that there is some r-coloring on the one vowel that the other would lack in your example of Gothersgade vs. Gottesgade. Now whether I can produce that sound when I’m not concentrating on it is another matter entirely — as is the question of whether I can hear the difference readily in the middle of a word. The rhoticization is so much easier to distinguish on the ends of words (and necessary if one hopes to distinguish singular from plural.) Personally, I think that the difference between /e/ and /er/ in Danish sounds a lot like the difference between [ə] and and a very lax ø.
    As far as the first vowel in those names…I’ve spent the last several minutes listening to myself, and I think my pronunciation falls closer to [ɔ]. Probably even with a stød (glottal stop for non-Danish speakers) somehow embedded somewhere in the vowel. (Danish is kind of cool that way.) I can’t even attempt a transcription of my pronunciation because the site I am using for the IPA symbols only gives a small subset directly relevant to English. Not to mention that I haven’t the foggiest how to transcribe those stødder pronounced simultaneously with the vowels, and I’ve never been convinced that IPA even contains a symbol that truly transcribes Danish intervocalic /d/ or the word-final /d/ and /t/ following a vowel. (Think “gade”, “mad”, and “Turkiet.”) If you know a symbol for either of those, please tell me. I can pronounce them, but I can’t notate them.
    I don’t think your IPA sucks at all, but I do have a question about whether you actually pronounce “gade” as [gæðɒ] with the [æ] being similar to the vowel in English “hat” (or the vowel in “kaffe” in some københavnsk dialects that I have heard people make fun of for that reason) or whether you accidentally used that symbol because the phonetic value of the Danish letter æ was the sound you were looking for. I think I pronounce “gade” something like [ˈgɛː ðə] with the proviso that the first vowel is not quite transcribed correctly and that [ð] definitely does not represent an interdental fricative here. (And looking at your transcription of that final /e/ as [ɒ] gives the nasty feeling that I may have been slightly mispronouncing my final /e/’s all along. They really aren’t truly schwas, are they? I don’t think I pronounce them as true schwas all the time, but I’m pretty sure that I do part of the time. I guess part of the problem is that it’s hard to hear properly because of how reduced the vowel is.)
    As far as your own pronunciation varying from those of residents of the street…I was told that multiple dialects are spoken within Copenhagen and heard some of those dialects made fun of. Is it possible that that is what is going on?
    Yeah … that wasn’t helpful …,
    It wasn’t unhelpful. I, at least, learned that I’ve been over-neutralizing the final /e/’s. By the way, I’ve never known whether the Danish “to” (two) and “tog” (train) were homophones or a minimal pair. Do you know? And I’ve never been able to figure out exactly what the IPA is for those vowels. It’s low, rounded, forceful, and way pack in the throat…and often accompanied by a glottal stop, which probably accounts for the forceful part of the pronunciation.

  62. “Finally, is Loz Ang-(hard)geleez common enough to be an alternative to Los An-(soft)geles (among non-Hispanic speakers)?”
    Yeah, but never in English. And the g is pronounced like an h.
    “A road in an upmarket suburb of Hastings is “Kopanga Road” – local Māori pronounce it as it is spelled, residents of the street tend to say “Kaponga”. ”
    This is exactly analogous to the way “Puyallup” in the Seattle area. It’s pronounced /phyuwallvp/ nowadays. It doesn’t much matter because the original form is /sbuw?albsh/.

  63. @ MMcM : It very well might tell you something about the resident. There is a large French-canadian population in Maine, and while the divide between the French and non-French communities is much less significant than it was even 20 years ago, one can still be said to exist. Many French families continue to speak French at home, and some individuals who came to Maine 60, 70 years ago speak almost no English (Memorably, one such couple, in their late 80s and celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary, had to be interviewed by the Kennebec Journal with the aid of a translator, their son.) As a native Mainer of the non-French variety, the difference in accent between the two populations is very obvious, with the pronunciation of Mt. Desert being just one example.
    Also, someone wondered why the wikipedia article was available in so many languages. If you ever have the chance, definitely go to the top of Cadillac Mountain – it is like standing at the Tower of Babel. I have heard German, French, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Swedish, Hebrew and Hindi on just one single day there. It is a very popular spot for international tourists.

  64. The inhabitants of NEWfnland are sometimes referred to as Newfies, which some like and others find derogatory
    A Newfoundlander of my acquaintance said “Newfies” were the dogs, while “Newfs” were the people. She was quite happy being a Newf.

  65. Dear anglophone comrades,
    could someone enlighten me:
    I have always thought that DEH-zert is an arid place, to deh-ZERT is when you leave someone, deh-ZZERT is pudding (but the more civilised way of pronouncing it in English is deh-SSERT). I now live in France and sometimes hear the French mock the way les anglais pronounce the word, when it should be, obviously, de-SSERT. In Russian, thanks to French, we, too, say деСЕРТ.

  66. Sashura, I am only 41 but as a native NZE speaker I can say that I have never, not once ever, heard the “pudding” version pronounced with a double “ss”. I guess that confirms that I’m uncilised, because the ONLY pronunciation I’ve ever heard or used is də-ZERT. The arid wasteland is a DEZ-ət in this non-rhotic corner of the world, but I think de-SSERT would throw most Kiwis for a loop.

  67. Thanks, Isidora. You’re absolutely right about the r-colouring. I can ‘feel’ that’s what’s going one, but not well enough to ‘draw’ it, so to speak.
    We’ve had a lot of discussion of German here, and that’s the main reason I’ve switched to /ɐ/ instead of /ə/ (schwa), but definitely not /ɒ/ (å). John Wells have talked about German and /ɐ/ lately, too.
    I’m pretty sure I have a pure /t/ in “Tyrkiet”, but saying it with the soft d doesn’t really sound off, so I think I musta heard that. /ð/ is the closest I can think of for the ‘soft d’, but the Danish version has the tongue lower. I can use a ‘soft d’ in English “the/these/those” without making myself reel, but not an English /ð/ in Danish “mad/gade/glad”. By the way, yes, I mean /æ/ in “gade” – both /ɛ/ and /a/ sound affected to me. But you’re right, it should be long, thanks.
    IPA has a tonnes of diacritics, but I wouldn’t know where to begin. I don’t think ˞ (rhoticity) works in the Gother/gotter vs. gotte case, since that seems to be reserved for alveolar rs and thus it’s hardly informative to outsiders when we’re talking uvulars.

    By the way, I’ve never known whether the Danish “to” (two) and “tog” (train) were homophones or a minimal pair. Do you know?

    Just to first add a bit of confusion, “tog” can also mean “took” – praeteritum of “at tage” (to take). In that case it is homophonous with “to” (two).
    to: /to/ with stød, I think. It’s more “mord” than “mor” to me.
    tog (train): /tɒw/ (~tåu). Come to think of it, this could also be “took” in some dialects – just not mine.
    Oh, and that dialect they make fun of (‘Gamel Halte’ for “Gammel Holte”) is used in one book I have in an attempt to describe RP /ʌ/. Unfortunately it didn’t really help me, since I’ve only heard the caricature which goes all the way to /æ/ (the ‘correct’ vowel is /ɔ/).

  68. Oh – it looks like the IPA has disappeared from the WP page. It used to suggest a suprasegmental glottal stop for stød – superscript ʔ. To me it ‘feels’ like an issue of length. Stød vowels are somehow ‘shorter’ than normal short vowels. But that may be a rationalisation based on the WP explanation about syllables Norse.
    The issue of Gothersgade’s odd pronunciation is mentioned in this book review (in Danish). (So I’m not just making this up.) Also in the ODS, but that uses some form of Dania for the transcription that I do not have the brain to decipher right now (it looks like they contrast d with d (italic).
    Actually – I just tried finding an key to the pronunciation, and there isn’t onec. Now excuse me while I headdesk.

  69. marie-lucie says:

    Newf for a Newfoundlander? that’s new to me.

  70. Cuyahoga.
    Also, Modern Israeli Hebrew has, for some place-names, alternation between a traditional pronunciation and what I believe to be a Yiddish-influenced one, the latter having earlier stress (e.g., BNEI-brak instead of b’nei-B’RAK, RI-shon l’-TZI-yon (or just RI-shon) instead of ri-SHON l’-tzi-YON, PE-takh TIK-va instead of PE-takh tik-VA, though I suppose that last one might also have to do with avoiding the awkward choriambic stress). In most of these, the traditional pronunciations seem to me to be mostly dead outside of newscasts and such, though KHAI-fa and khei-FA are both quite common in my experience.
    In some cases there are what I take to be secondary changes; aside from KHAI-fa/khei-FA (which may have to do with Arabic influence? just guessing here), there’s also KIR-yat SHMO-ne/kir-YAT sh’mo-NA, where the masculine sh’mo-NA “8″ of the traditional pronunciation seems to have morphed into the feminine, counting-form SHMO-ne.
    (Disclaimer: my family left Israel when I was a baby. I’ve been back a fair number of times, but even so, most of my Hebrew interactions have been with a fairly small and potentially unrepresentative sample of speakers, i.e. members of my family. I welcome corrections and clarifications from commenters with better knowledge.)

  71. Once upon a time there be a village spelt Nasty, the villagers would call all new comers nasty townies but locals said we are just natty. {true or false not remembered}
    There be another delightful village name spelt Ugley. Some locals would refer to it as Uttle the legal name as setup the gov.
    and the said village had a nice group of women that would meet and do their “thing” group was known as an Women’s institute so you some said UWI others WI of U.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uttlesford
    http://www.recordinguttlesfordhistory.org.uk/ULHRdone/oldmapsofuttlesford.html

  72. Also, this might not count, but Bill Bryson mentions in one of his books that Norwich, Vermont used to be pronounced Norritch, like its English namesake, but that within the past several decades, an influx of newcomers has almost completely spelling-pronunciation-ed it.

  73. @Sili
    Wow, thanks for the extensive reply.
    Now that you mention it, I suppose the rhoticity diacritic may not be right for Danish r-coloring. (For non-speakers who might be reading this, Danish /r/ is a voiced uvular approximate.) When I wrote my previous comment, I was simply listening to myself pronounce things aloud and had entirely forgotten about a book that I had sitting behind me. Nearly 20 years ago I brought home 3 Gyldendals Røde Ordbøger. Two were the standard set of Dansk/engelsk and Engelsk/dansk dictionaries. The third was Dansk udtale (Danish pronunciation.) On the endpapers, it has a conversion chart from the phonetic transcription system used in the book to actual IPA. (Of course, there are some unusual enough sounds in Danish that I was either never taught the IPA symbols and diacritics for them in any of my classes — and I haven’t been able to find my Dictionary of Phonetic Symbols from college for some time –, or the symbols and diacritics are are combined in such a way as to make them close to incomprehensible. How, for instance, should I be expected to pronounce a [d] with the diacritics for devoicing and aspiration added? The example word given in the conversion chart is “tak” (thank you). That is a word that I uttered many dozens of times every day that I was in Denmark. (Sili, am I really exaggerating much about many dozen times a day? We English speakers used to joke a little about the rate of use of that word compared with our native language.) I always thought that I was just pronouncing a highly aspirated [t]. Now I am highly confused. If someone can enlighten me about this devoiced [d] buisiness, please do, else I shall go off to search the internet and search for my old textbooks. It isn’t just the /t/. It would appear that — according to this transcription, at least — all Danish stop consonants are voiced stops that are devoiced. There is an aspirated and unaspirated series. I found something in the Wikipedia article on Danish Phonology on this, but it is still not really coming together for me.)
    But to get back on track, Sili, this pronunciation dictionary gives final /e/ as [ə] and /er/ as [ʌ]. For what it’s worth. In truth, I (and all my college classmates) always had significant difficulty in understanding the difference between schwa and carat, probably because they are both central vowels. Before I graduated I could finally distinguish between carat, schwa, and barred i. Since you don’t feel that final /e/ is really a schwa, what is your feeling about /er/ being a carat?
    I really appreciate all the links. Most of them I would never have come across on my own and the one on stød is something that I might have eventually come across someday, but only if I had been reading the Wikipedia entry on Creaky Voice.
    And for reference, what dialect do you speak? I lived in various places near Copenhagen. Roskilde was the only place I lived that was beyond the S-tog service range. This was 20 years ago, too. I also was not able to stay for more than I year, which is less than ideal for language learning, even though I did get to take 8 credit hours of Danish in college (and that was after being entirely excused from the first 10 credit hours after going and having a short interview in Danish with the professor.) So I have a lot less exposure to Danish than I could wish.
    And thanks for the info on to/tog/tog. I got misunderstood once early on while asking for directions. Someone thought I was saying “train” instead of “two” (I was near a train station) and I could never figure out afterwards whether I had mispronounced “to” or whether the two words were identical in pronunciation.
    As far as the different allophones of /d/…the first time I heard mad/glad/and Tyrkiet, I really thought that I was hearing some sort of /l/ on the end of the word. Honestly. I have no idea how Danes actually position their articulators to pronounce /d/ in various positions, but I know what I do. When I learned to do this, I just kept repositioning my tongue until I got something that sounded more and more like what I was hearing. That was before I had studied linguistics, and so it was only later that I had learned the body awareness and vocabulary to describe how those soft Danish /d/’s are different. I pronounce my /d/’s in Danish (probably in all positions) laminally. I stick the tip of my tongue down against the back side of my lower teeth and then use the blade of my tongue on or near the alveolar ridge. It might not be the *right* way of doing it, but it produces a set of sounds that seems to pass muster, as far as I have ever been able to tell.
    I’m sure it must have taken me many months to really master those sounds, but I know that I had a passable pronunciation in place by the time I had been in the country for 6-8 weeks. One of my classmates did the utterly obvious. He wanted to have a little fun at my expense and asked, “Can du sige ‘rød grød med fløde’?” So I looked at him and said, “Rød grød med fløde.” No one ever bothered to ask me again. (For non-Danish speakers, rød grød med fløde – lit. “red porridge with cream” – is stewed strawberries served with cream. It is at least as difficult to pronounce as it is delicious.) The thing is, that my first host family had served me rød grød med fløde and I had spent some time with them practicing the pronunciation of the phrase since I had been warned long since that I would be challenged to say it and expected to fail. I think that the practice I put in early on learning to say that particular phrase so that I wouldn’t be embarrassed really paid off in terms of improving my overall pronunciation. It wasn’t until at least half a year later that one of my American friends in Denmark told me that she would say “rød grød med fløde” for them and then counter-challenge them to say the English sentence, “There are thirty-six vegetables in the refrigerator.”

  74. emerson III says:

    It’s always amused me that announcers on the BBC always pronounce the American state of Maryland as ‘Mary ‘Land (rhymes with Fairy Land), which I’ve never heard in the US. This California native has never heard other than ‘Mer-u-lund.
    Also, on the topic of spelling-pronounciation, just a few hours ago I heard a report on the BBC about the Chinese celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Revolution which brought Mao to power. The news-reader talked in passing about the overthrow of the “Kwing” dynasty.
    Ouch!!
    He seemed to have a standard Oxbridge-y accent too, as far as I could tell.
    How the mighty have fallen!
    OR, “Qing, Kwing, Ch’ing, Kwing; let’s call the whole thing off…”

  75. mollymooly says:

    The first six letters of “Londonderry” are often silent.
    The pronunciation of “Shrewsbury” is apparently also shibbolethic rather than free-variation; although the ability to separate the two subpopulations by qualities other than their pronunciation of “Shrewsbury” is itself a shibboleth.

  76. mollymooly says:

    Back in Ireland, county Mayo and the city of Belfast can take stress on either syllable, AFAIK in free variation.

  77. The “Kwing Dynasty”? [suppressed tittering from this corner of the room]
    The reader seems to have failed to have noticed the lack of a “u” following the “q”. I wonder how he pronounces the name of the terrorist organization. Al Kweeda, perhaps?
    I shouldn’t be so snarky though, because I know for a fact that I had long since graduated from college before I finally figured out how to pronounce “Qing.” (And I *still* haven’t made the time to finish learning pinyin, even though my son started learning Mandarin six weeks ago. He’s in middle school, so I am thrilled that they are even requiring foreign language, much less offering Chinese at his school.)

  78. The verb ‘to present’ is pronounced with different emphasis than the noun ‘present’. No big deal.

  79. The verb ‘to present’ is pronounced with different emphasis than the noun ‘present’. No big deal.

  80. I think marie-lucie is right about the stress location in two-syllable words indicating which part of speech they are.
    That is, nouns are usually stressed on the first syllable and verbs on the second.
    Here’s a mnemonic device: “The INcline inCLINEs upward.” Probably everyone can think of better ways to remember this simple pattern.
    (I don’t say rule, language hat.)
    -
    “The DEsert makes the thirsty deSERT.”
    In fact, “deSSERT” isn’t a counterexample, because, while being a noun homonymous with the verb meaning ‘to abandon’, it’s formed from a different root (L. de + serere: to un-join together, as opposed to MFr. des + servir: to serve ‘down’ [?]). That is, it has a different etymology and is only accidentally a homonym. Likewise, the noun deSERT (OFr. deservir: to deserve), as in ‘just deserts’.
    “My just deSERTs are just deSSERTs.” I’m guessing that, though servir looks ‘involved’ in the words for both heaps of sweets, those words evolved separately, and are related at the Latin root level, rather than later in their French development. ??

  81. Isidora, do many natives of the capital of western Kaintuckeh say “Louie-vil”, as opposed to “Luh-vl”?

  82. … Sorry, m-l, I hadn’t seen your post about that.
    Clod, I know there is a joke in there somewhere. At the moment I know quite a lot about Uttlesford in Essex without knowing why I should know it.

  83. … Sorry, m-l, I hadn’t seen your post about that.
    Clod, I know there is a joke in there somewhere. At the moment I know quite a lot about Uttlesford in Essex without knowing why I should know it.

  84. God, you may be interested in this blog post.

  85. God, you may be interested in this blog post.

  86. Come to think of it, how about
    1) Carlisle: – CARlyle vs c’rLYLE
    2) Penrith:- PENr’th vs p’nRITH?
    I think Scots prefer the second, Southern English the first. But what do Cumbrians prefer?

  87. Seriously, though, I don’t know of many place names that locals pronounce two different ways.
    Topsham, where there’s a split between “Top-shəm” and “Top-səm”. Magazine articles tend to repeat the factoid that “Top-səm” is definitively correct (mainly because it’s an elite pronunciation favoured by the middle-class experts who get consulted by article writers) but among locals you hear both versions.

  88. If I’m any indication, southerners prefer the second.

  89. If I’m any indication, southerners prefer the second.

  90. 2) Penrith:- PENr’th vs p’nRITH
    The Sydney suburb is pronounced the first way.

  91. marie-lucie says:

    I think marie-lucie is right about the stress location in two-syllable words indicating which part of speech they are.
    This is not an original observation: you will find it in any textbook in linguistics.
    big deal
    It may be obvious to you as a native speaker, but if you were teaching English to others it would become important. As an example (which I may have mentioned before):
    When I first came to Canada, ads placed in newspapers by persons wishing to meet members of the opposite sex were required to include Object matrimony, meaning that their OBject or goal was to get married. One linguistics prof, married to a Yugoslav woman, told us that once his wife was reading some of these ads aloud to him for fun, but she was pronouncing ObJECT matrimony which was not what the newspaper had in mind.

  92. Hey, Hat, how about the town down the road? Do all locals pronounce it AM Herst, or do some now say AM erst?

  93. marie-lucie says:

    In fact, “deSSERT” isn’t a counterexample, because, while being a noun homonymous with the verb meaning ‘to abandon’, it’s formed from a different root (L. de + serere: to un-join together, as opposed to MFr. des + servir: to serve ‘down’ [?]).
    Where do you get your information? perhaps the “it” in “it’s formed” is ambiguous as to whether you mean dessert or desert? a word derived from de-serere would have just -s- in French (eg désert ‘arid, uninhabited (place)’, and déserter ‘to desert [from the army]‘, both apparently from the past participle of this verb).
    The dessert is what is served as the end of the meal, while servants are clearing the table (verb desservir, literally ‘to unserve’) of whatever was served earlier (I am talking about the medieval custom – trestle tables were also dismantled at that point). Dishes, etc taken off the table are placed on une desserte (sideboard): dishes were not placed on this before the meal but brought directly from the kitchen, so it was only used while “unserving”.
    Both desert (noun and verb) and dessert were borrowed from French, not from Latin.
    Likewise, the noun deSERT (OFr. deservir: to deserve), as in ‘just deserts’.
    Yes, this one is different. Note the single -s- in French (which has lost those words, perhaps because of the homonymy).

  94. I may have mentioned before
    I didn’t see it if you have. That’s a good one, m-l.

  95. I may have mentioned before
    I didn’t see it if you have. That’s a good one, m-l.

  96. j. del col says:

    In reports of this week’s tsunami in Samoa, announcers on the Beeb say SAM-o-uh, while American newsreaders say Suh-MO-uh.

  97. The new SOED lists “desert” four times. The third one appears to have some bearing on Hat’s original question.
    desert n.¹ ME. [OFr., f. deservir DESERVE] 1 Deserving, being worthy of reward or punishment…get…one’s deserts
    desert n.² ME [(O)Fr. désert f. late L. (Vulgate) desertum use as n. of neut. of desertus left waste, pa. pple of deserere leave, forsake.] An uncultivated, sparsely inhabited tract of land…
    desert a. ME. [(O)Fr. désert f. L desertus pa.pple: see prec. Now treated as attrib. use DESERT n.² 1 Uninhabited, desolate, lonely. ME b Of the nature of a desert; uncultivated, barren. LME. 2 Deserted, forsaken, abandoned. arch. LME.
    ¶Orig., & archaically in 18 & 19, stressed on 2nd syll.
    desertness n. barron desolation LME.
    desert v.LME. [Fr. déserter f. late L desertare, f. L desertus: see DESERT n²] 1 v.t. Give up, relinquish, leave. LME….

  98. American newsreaders say Suh-MO-uh.
    Of course they do. That is the only correct pronunciation in English.
    announcers on the Beeb say SAM-o-uh
    That’s shocking, I glad I don’t pay the licence fee.* I say ‘some ower’, as do all sane English men, women, dogs & cats.
    *(Not that I ever did.)

  99. American newsreaders say Suh-MO-uh.
    Of course they do. That is the only correct pronunciation in English.
    announcers on the Beeb say SAM-o-uh
    That’s shocking, I glad I don’t pay the licence fee.* I say ‘some ower’, as do all sane English men, women, dogs & cats.
    *(Not that I ever did.)

  100. Unlike most broadcasting organizations, the BBC has a Pronunciation Unit to advise its broadcasters. For the rest of us, there’s the OUP-published BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names (out of print, but copies turn up on Amazon and Abebooks), and the more recent Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation which includes a lot of place names. The first pronunciation given is the one recommended to broadcasters (that doesn’t mean it’s the only correct one!)

  101. deadgod inquired:
    Isidora, do many natives of the capital of western Kaintuckeh say “Louie-vil”, as opposed to “Luh-vl”?
    I have a friend who moved to Louiville a year ago, and I just called her. She reports never having heard [ˈlu i ˌvɪl] from anyone who wasn’t obviously from out of town. She reports two native pronunciations: [ˈlu ə ˌvl] and [ˈluʊː vl].

  102. Graham, if they’re going to start saying SAM-ower don’t you think they owe us an explanation (that should be repeated every time they say it)? It’s just so… pointless and subversive and weird of them otherwise. If I suddenly start talking about the Moo-on instead of the Moon people will, understandably, move slowly away from me and call a doctor (hopefully). I think we ought to do the same, metaphorically, for the BBC.

  103. Graham, if they’re going to start saying SAM-ower don’t you think they owe us an explanation (that should be repeated every time they say it)? It’s just so… pointless and subversive and weird of them otherwise. If I suddenly start talking about the Moo-on instead of the Moon people will, understandably, move slowly away from me and call a doctor (hopefully). I think we ought to do the same, metaphorically, for the BBC.

  104. clodhopper says:

    AJP
    guess you fly into mount fitchet once in a while when you miss the train, please do not step on me.
    see the wind sock
    http://www.stanstedmountfitchetwindmill.co.uk/

  105. John Emerson says:

    My friend from Lexington KY says [ˈlu ə ˌvl]. I was very struck the first time I heard him say it.

  106. marie-lucie says:

    DESERT: Thanks for the precisions, Nijma. All the Desert forms are from French, with Desert 2, 3 and 4 ultimately from the same Latin “root” but deriving from different forms of the same Latin verb. Desert 1 is a different root (as pointed out earlier).

  107. As for beacons-field vs. beckons-field, beacon and beckon are doublets anyhow: the root means ‘sign’. So say what you like and have a fair chance of being historically correct.
    marie-lucie: What, no Newf jokes in your neck of the woods? My favorites in brief: “Well, I had to call 911, didn’t I?” “If their mouths is open, they’s Canadian fish, and we throws them back” (a reverse Newf joke).
    Probably all those places with Classical names in upstate N.Y. have from-here/come-here splits, like Athens [EI] vs. [æ].

  108. marie-lucie says:

    Newf jokes: I am sure there are quite a few, but I guess I move in restricted circles. Perhaps I should go to bars more, just as a sociolinguistic exercise, of course.

  109. see the wind sock
    Is that where you live, Clod? It’s a beautiful structure. I’ve been thinking about knitting a pair of wind socks myself.

  110. see the wind sock
    Is that where you live, Clod? It’s a beautiful structure. I’ve been thinking about knitting a pair of wind socks myself.

  111. marie-lucie says:

    Where is that wind sock? I see only a windmill with “sails”. There are windsocks around airports, not on windmills.

  112. clodhopper says:

    “wot do I know” ML; I’ll put a sock “init”

  113. Hey, Hat, how about the town down the road? Do all locals pronounce it AM Herst, or do some now say AM erst?
    I think you’ve got it backwards: the locals omit the -h-, it’s the outsiders who pronounce it. And no, I don’t think I’ve heard the -h- from a local. (Northampton, across the river, pronounces the -h-: north-HAMP-ton.)

  114. In reports of this week’s tsunami in Samoa, announcers on the Beeb say SAM-o-uh, while American newsreaders say Suh-MO-uh.
    That’s hideous! As is true of most Pacific Island nations, there are more Samoans in NZ than there are in Samoa, and if anybody here tried saying SAM-o-uh, they would be rightly mocked.

  115. I don’t suppose that these Beeb boobs are somehow being influenced by the knowledge that Genoa is JEN-o-uh rather than (as I have heard from some local ignorami*) juh-NO-uh?
    *yeah, I know

  116. marie-lucie says:

    Am(h)erst: There is an Amherst [amerst] in Nova Scotia too, and nobody here pronounces the h.

  117. marie-lucie, I got the information I reported from Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary.
    By “it’s”, I referred to the subject of the previous finite clause (“‘deSSERT’”). In the epexegetical parentheses, I referred first to the compared term mentioned second in that paragraph (“the verb [deSERT]“), because I’d already mentioned that term in an earlier paragraph; that is, the order inside the parentheses of the etymologies of the verb deSERT and the noun deSSERT reflects the order of their separate mentions in the post as a whole.
    I was guessing at the meaning of the des part of desservir, which my dictionary separates: “fr. des- de- + servir to serve”. I thought, perhaps the de(s) is derived from the directional Latin de-: ‘downwards’, and not the privative Latin de-: ‘un-’. I indicated my guesswork with question marks (“[?]“).
    [Note that the des of 'deSSERT' seems, from the dictionary's history, to have been added by Middle French speakers for the Middle French word desservir. The Old French word deservir, which was 'borrowed into' the English verb 'to deserve' and thence to 'deSERT' (Nijma: n. 'deserving, worthy of reward or punishment'), is etymologized (at "deserve"): "fr. L deservire to serve zealously, fr. de + servire". That is, as I've italicized, the de- in the English 'to deserve' is neither 'un-' nor 'down-' (privative nor directional), but rather an intensifying prefix. 'deserve' and 'deSSERT' have different meanings of the Latin inheritance de- ('zealously' and 'un-', respectively), as well as spellings, and (I'm guessing), different entries into Old and Middle French (respectively).]
    When I say that a word was “formed from a different root” or “related at the Latin root level”, and when I offer a Latin form from one word’s history next to a French form of another word’s history, I don’t mean to suggest which language English borrowed any of the words directly from.
    Specifically, when I compared “L. de + serere [to] MFr. des + servir“, I meant not to neglect or deny that both “deSERT” and “deSSERT” have Latin roots and were borrowed from French. I meant rather to make clear that the homonyms don’t come from the same word and so, as a pair, aren’t “a counterexample” to the “pattern” of ‘noun gets stress former’ / ‘verb gets stress latter’– the point of that paragraph.
    Webster’s offers the same four meanings of “desert” as does SOED, as reported by Nijma, but with the order slightly shuffled (SOED’s first definition is Webster’s’ third)(meanings not comprehensive):
    1. ‘des-ert: n uncultivated tract
    2. ‘des-ert: adj forsaken; desolate
    3. de-’sert: n quality of deserving reward or punishment
    4. de-’sert: v withdraw from or leave
    So, from Webster’s, 1., 2., and 4. come from the Latin de + serere, ‘to un-join together’. 3. comes from the Latin de + servire, ‘to serve zealously’. “dessert” comes from the Middle French des + servir, ‘to un-serve’. (“From Latin” and through French, borrowed “from” French.)
    -
    marie-lucie, I don’t think the earlier post was inaccurate (except the de[s]- in “dessert”, which was marked as a guess) or unintelligible. I hope this one has been more so of both.

  118. marie-lucie, I didn’t know that the location of the stress in two-syllable words indicating their different parts of speech was a linguistics commonplace.
    I taught English for a decade in Europe, and I always told the kids that this pattern was a kind of ‘rule’, me thinking it was a new idear.
    I also brought in thin cylinders that I’d invented and rolled them on the floor, me telling the kids that, someday, this rolling flat-edged disc would be nearly ubiquitous in mechanical technology.

  119. Isidora, my Louisville friend slurred the first two syllables together, but, come to think of it more carefully, I think your friend is right: most of the people there said “Lou uh vl”.
    I preferred: “Louietown, a screwy town, a lot-o’-hooeytown, soon to go kablooietown”, and didn’t stay long.

  120. marie-lucie says:

    deadgod, you just stated, in a slightly different way, what I wrote in answer to your earlier post, and you repeated the examples found by Nijma in another source: there is no harm in repetition, since it reinforces the point. So we all agree, except perhaps for the details of the wording.
    I was puzzled by this sentence in your earlier post: In fact, “deSSERT” isn’t a counterexample, because, while being a noun homonymous with the verb meaning ‘to abandon’, it’s formed from a different root (L. de + serere: to un-join together, as opposed to MFr. des + servir: to serve ‘down’ [?]).
    My puzzlement arose because this sentence seemed to me to mean that “deSSERT” came from Lat de-serere and not from (Middle) French des-servir.
    The various deserts, and the word dessert, were borrowed into English from French, and they had come into French by a natural evolution from Latin. So it is wrong to say of the English words that they “come from Latin” as do for instance borrowed words which are minimally adapted into English, such as “ulna” or “nocturnal” or “tinnitus”, and so many others.
    English words which change stress: it is indeed a “rule” of the language, but not one which needs to be drilled into native English speakers as it is natural in the language and therefore learned largely unconsciously, unlike the unnatural “grammar” rules which generations of teachers have tried to inculcate into young people, and which hardly anyone observes in their own use of the language (“not splitting infinitives” and the like).

  121. The point I was trying to make was not so much about French, but about the third English definition (and pronunciation) of desert:

    desert a. ME. [(O)Fr. désert f. L desertus pa.pple: see prec. Now treated as attrib. use DESERT n.² 1 Uninhabited, desolate, lonely. ME b Of the nature of a desert; uncultivated, barren. LME. 2 Deserted, forsaken, abandoned. arch. LME.
    ¶Orig., & archaically in 18 & 19, stressed on 2nd syll.
    desertness n. barron desolation LME.

    If I am reading this entry correctly, it’s saying the pronunciation with the accent on the second syllable is an archaic English pronunciation used in the 18th and 19th centuries.
    If the English-speaking settlements in the area began around 1760, that means the pronunciation that is “archaic” now was current at that time. So putting the stress on the second syllable (de-ZERT)may not be “in the French fashion” (even though the original name of the island came from a French explorer) as much as in the archaic English that was in fashion at the time the English speaking settlement was established.

  122. deadgod, you invented the wheel? Awesome.

  123. Yes, Nijma, I just got a royalty check from Saturn Corp.
    -
    Looking again at your “third definition”, I think your surmise sounds ok; so, you’re suggesting that it was a coincidence that the French and English pronunciations were then similar, and that what (today) sounds more like a French adjective was actually (then) an English adjective used, from the get-go, by the English, and that that word sounded then like the French adjective still sounds.
    But Champlain did give the place the name he’s supposed to have, right? I mean, somebody whom the English knew was already calling the island “deSERT”. Which, even today, sounds almost like, and is accented on the same syllable as, ‘deSERTed’.
    I wonder, Nijma, if the Razor isn’t called for here.

  124. I wonder, Nijma, if the Razor isn’t called for here.
    Look at all the places in the U.S. named by non-English speaking explorers. How many of them do not have an English pronunciation? Let’s see, in South Dakota, there’s Pierre, pronounced “peer”. There’s Mission, pronounced Mission. There’s Pedro, pronounced “PEEdro”. I suppose it’s possible all those nice British settlers on Mount Desert might have gone to the trouble to find out what the island was named by someone who discovered it 150 years earlier, and how to pronounce it in some foreign language (did they all love France and French back then?), but then why wouldn’t they call it “Monts Desert” instead of “Mount Desert”? Why only half a foreign name? Especially when deSERT used to be a perfectly good English word.

  125. Yes, marie-lucie, we do “all agree”– what I’d hoped to show- but not so laboriously- was that nothing you wrote while indicating your “puzzlement” ‘disagreed’ with what you’d already read (except your correction of the guessed-at des- in “dessert”).
    Sometimes confusion is willed rather than compelled, is what I was trying to show by explicating that sentence.

    As an untaught teacher, I’ve re-’invented’ enough wheels to roll a regiment. It’s a pleasure to learn that the ‘noun 1st syl. – verb 2nd syl.’ pattern is actual.

    I will insist that a great percent of the hoard of English words “borrowed” from Old and Middle French after 1066 “come from Latin”– in the same way that most of your and my genes ‘come from recently erect hominids’- indeed, some of our genes ‘come from single-celled creatures’.
    “Come from” designates, not the most recent, or even a recent, link in a chain, but rather some genealogical connection between some particular link and its past. That is, the phrase “come from” does not necessarily indicate immediacy, just a history of causality.
    So when someone says ‘”sesquipedalian” comes from Latin’, they don’t need to mean that ‘”sesquipedalian” is not borrowed from sesquipe’dale‘.
    Perhaps philology big shots never use “come from” in this way?, but I think I’m correct here in discriminating between nit-picking and depilation.

  126. clodhopper says:

    deserving desert had once upon a time an upscale persona not unlike dread and awful.
    Now thee get your just deserts, meaning to the effect, 3 quick strikes on the breech for being a dreaded awful boy.

  127. John Emerson says:

    When I was young I always envied the villains who received their just desserts, especially if it was cherry pie. And look how I turned out.

  128. Sharply riposted, Nijma, but also hastily.
    You make the point that many non-English-origin place names in the US have anglicized pronunciations; that’s been well-attested on this thread. For example, Spanish place-names pronounced in an anglophone way, such as Tek-sas and New Mek-sico, introduced to the conversation by . . . oh, I mentioned them. And French place names, like Lou-uh-vl, which Isidora brought up and . . . oh, I wondered about how natives and visitors say the word.
    But with Mt. Desert, the point seems to be that at least some anglophone speakers still say the word in a francophone-ish way (at least with respect to which syllable is stressed).
    Now, you could say that, for three hundred years or so, English speakers haven’t been preserving a French pronunciation (which hasn’t changed) so much as they’ve been persistent in using an English pronunciation that was already “archaic” three hundred years ago– in fact, I think that’s the possibility you are raising.
    Well, English settlers after the 1759 conclusion of the French and Indian Wars wouldn’t have had to go to any “trouble to find out what the island [had been] named by someone who [had] discovered it 150 years earlier”. The territory hadn’t reverted to incognita, terres inconnues, or parts unknown status!
    To the contrary, though it was mostly unsettled, it was fought over by colonists, used by sailors, and remembered by geographers- including French as well as English. Indeed, after the American War for Independence, half of Mt. Desert was deeded to Marie Therese de Gregoire (pronounce Gre-goy-ree). There were and remain French descendants all over New England- perhaps you’ve heard of Jack Kerouac, or the Francoeur novels of David Plante?- and there are today enclaves in New England where elderly locals never learned much English (quite rare in the sixty years since tv became a family member, I’m guessing).
    Your idea is at least a viable possibility, if not the most likely- and maybe it’s that, too. But looking again at the dictionary definition you reproduce, I’d emphasize that it’s saying that deSERT, which you call a “perfectly good English” pronunciation, was already archaic in the 18th century, albeit still in some use (?).
    The other possibility is that, in this one place, where French people had some presence, the English speakers absorbed a French syllable stress in a place name.
    Nijma, your sarcasm implies that you think that a persistent archaism is, while unusual, nevertheless likely, but a pronunciation migration being ethnographically unusual would, by virtue of its rarity, have been impossible– indeed, a delicate use of Occam’s broad-axe.

  129. I became aware of the “Los Anguhlus” pronunciation through the Coen brothers’ movies, because they seem to have a fondness for it. The Stranger uses this pronunciation in The Big Lebowski, and multiple characters use it in Barton Fink.

  130. marie-lucie says:

    deadgod: As an untaught teacher, I’ve re-’invented’ enough wheels to roll a regiment. It’s a pleasure to learn that the ‘noun 1st syl. – verb 2nd syl.’ pattern is actual.
    This means you have the instincts of a linguist. Alternately, that you have retained the pattern-discovery abilities of a young child: children are constantly “discovering” things about everything, including language, when they figure out how they work. That’s also how linguists (both professional and amateur) are about language.
    I will insist that a great percent of the hoard of English words “borrowed” from Old and Middle French after 1066 “come from Latin”– in the same way that most of your and my genes ‘come from recently erect hominids’- indeed, some of our genes ‘come from single-celled creatures’.
    Do people working with DNA or the genome try to go all the way back to single-celled creatures? if they do, is such an approach useful in any practical terms? In terms of language, according to you we might as well say that the words in question (and many others) come from Proto-Into-European: true in a way, but not in a very useful way.
    As an example, would you say that “the English words capital and head both come from Proto-Indo-Europoean” and leave it at that? They actually do, but “head” has gone through many more intermediate forms than “capital”, which was borrowed from Latin (perhaps with a little help from French, but basically from Latin). A description of English ignoring the role of those intermediate forms is of very little utility in understanding the history of the language. Similarly, to say that English “desert” (as in the Sahara or the Gobi) comes from Latin, skipping the role of French in the transmission of the word, gives a very misleading impression of the history of the English language. As an other example, saying that a word like “parking” used in French comes from Proto-Germanic (a relatively recent ancestor of English) would not be very useful in understanding the history of the French language.

  131. deadgod, my remarks weren’t meant to be sharp, they were based on the information in the linked Wiki article.
    Of course there are places in the U.S. where the French presence is still remembered, for instance the Fulton County Historical Society festival in Indiana where you can see voyageurs, historic encampments, and a priest saying mass on an overturned canoe–the real historical priests were said to have proclaimed that for the purposes of Lenten fasting, “ze muskrat she is a fish.” Also at Prairie du Rocher near Fort de Chartres they still run the Guiannee–and sing it in French. But these are places mostly along rivers, where the French liked to build forts, and where there was once an actual French speaking population.
    There is no indication in the Wiki piece that there was ever any actual French speaking settlement on Mount Desert Island. The reason given for this is that it was in contested territory between the French in the north and the English in Massachusetts and points south and no one wanted to settle there–there were no settlers for 150 years until a British military victory in 1759 opened it up for British settlements.

  132. Sorry, Hat. What do you call it when you think one thing and write another? Of course locals say Am erst.

  133. Middle age.

  134. Middle age.

  135. marie-lucie, I should say that, by “untaught teacher”, I mean that I was ‘never taught to teach English‘. I studied ‘Classics’ at university, and emphasized the languages (instead of the historical or archaeological emphases). I meant to indicate that I ‘learned’ some of the many tiny, and not-so-tiny, features of English, as a native speaker, only when I was teaching it– a common enough experience to be a cliche.
    -
    I’m not a biologist, but even laymen’s scientific literature reveals that, yes, geneticists are quite interested in tracing genetic lineage as far back as they can. And not just to slake otherwise idle curiosity; who knows but that a protein-based similarity between us and a micro-organism won’t yield a pathway to a medical treatment or cure.
    -
    Similarly, in pointing out the Latin inheritance of English, something practical is indicated. You explain well why the particularly French intermediation is worth noting, both as a gist to investigate and in more casual conversation; it’d be pretty destructive if people got the idea that Latin migrated / was borrowed ‘into’ / invaded English directly.
    But, as I think and said, that’s not the only thing “come into” need mean. The phrasal verb can also be used to point at earlier, roughly coterminous, roots- the earliest written and/or literary links in a larger, eh, family braid of chains (?).
    ‘English will become a Germanic language with a large, successfully-intrusive-though-somewhat-redundant French vocabulary.’ Ok, that sounds like a 1000 AD perspective, looking forward. But: ‘English is a Teutonic language with a large inheritance of Latinate vocabulary.’– That, to me, sounds like a contemporary perspective, looking back usefully at most of the current language’s earliest roots.
    How, “usefully”? Well, reading Homer or Kalidasa, for two examples, I notice cognates of English words, eh, sometimes. But reading Virgil, lots of words ‘look’ English-like.
    An impressionistic philological sensitivity? Sure, and a sensitivity, clear to oneself or not, of the French intermediacy that you would emphasize. But would it be that difficult to show, with methodological rigor, the Latinacy as opposed to the Hellenicism or Sanskritness (or, yikes, the proto-Indo-European-ness) of modern English vocabulary, given the persistence of the Latin literatures, alphabet, and so on, as well as the French-transmitted Latin vocabulary, in 21st century English?

  136. David Marjanović says:

    (For non-speakers who might be reading this, Danish /r/ is a voiced uvular approximate.)

    Does that vary? The one Dane I’ve heard used something that sounded like a uvular trill that was a bit off; probably a voiced pharyngeal fricative with a lot of friction. (That sound of course explains why my grandfather calls Danish a disease of the throat.)

    How, for instance, should I be expected to pronounce a [d] with the diacritics for devoicing and aspiration added? The example word given in the conversion chart is “tak” (thank you). That is a word that I uttered many dozens of times every day that I was in Denmark. [...] I always thought that I was just pronouncing a highly aspirated [t]. Now I am highly confused. If someone can enlighten me about this devoiced [d] buisiness, please do, else I shall go off to search the internet and search for my old textbooks. It isn’t just the /t/. It would appear that — according to this transcription, at least — all Danish stop consonants are voiced stops that are devoiced. There is an aspirated and unaspirated series. I found something in the Wikipedia article on Danish Phonology on this, but it is still not really coming together for me.)

    Argh. That’s a stupid collision of phonetic precision and phonology. Here goes:
    1) The Danish /d/ (like /b/ and /g/) is voiceless. However, it still doesn’t sound like the /t/ of French, Russian or Japanese; it’s a voiceless lenis (its release is less loud, I would say). Assuming sufficient phonetic pedantry, writing it as [d̥] is therefore justified.
    2) However, the important difference between /d/ and /t/ in Danish is aspiration. So, assuming sufficient phonological pedantry, it is justified to write /t/ as whatever /d/ is + aspiration.
    3) The result is the physically impronounceable “[d̥ʰ]“.
    A topic near and dear to my heart, because Austrian Standard German (and many dialects, such as mine) really does distinguish /d/ and /t/ as [d̥] vs [t], something that is apparently so rare on a global scale that the IPA doesn’t have a standardized way of expressing it.
    BTW, the Icelandic /d/ can go all the way to [t].

  137. marie-lucie says:

    the real historical priests were said to have proclaimed that for the purposes of Lenten fasting, “ze muskrat she is a fish.”
    No French priest would have said such a thing. Even if the content of the sentence is true (but it sounds apocryphal to me), a French speaker would not have used “she” to refer to a muskrat: le rat musqué is masculine, and in any case the pronoun would have been the demonstrative ce, which is neutral as to gender, not a personal pronoun, so c’est un poisson “it is a fish”.

  138. marie-lucie says:

    deadgod: I should say that, by “untaught teacher”, I mean that I was ‘never taught to teach English’.
    That is how I understood you.

    geneticists are quite interested in tracing genetic lineage as far back as they can.

    Similarly, historical linguists are interested in tracing the genetic lineage of a language (or of words) as far back as they can.

    ‘English is a Teutonic language with a large inheritance of Latinate vocabulary.’

    To an historical linguist, “inheritance” refers not to words that were borrowed (regardless of when) but to words (and grammatical forms) which can be shown to have been part of the language since as far as can be determined. For instance, the verb “to be” is one of these. So I would use “admixture” rather than “inheritance” in this case.
    Also, “Latinate” refers to the part of the vocabulary which was taken directly from Latin with minimal adaptation if any, not to words such as “journey” or “choice” which were adopted from Old or Middle French: such French words were not themselves “borrowed” from Latin, they were (or were built on) words or roots which had been in continuous use, going through sound changes which they shared with other Latin words. A word like “desert” was borrowed from the French of a certain period, as a French word, not as a Latin word.

    …. would it be that difficult to show, with methodological rigor, the Latinacy as opposed to the Hellenicism or Sanskritness (or, yikes, the proto-Indo-European-ness) of modern English vocabulary, given the persistence of the Latin literatures, alphabet, and so on, as well as the French-transmitted Latin vocabulary, in 21st century English?

    Many books have been written on the history of English and the mixed origins of its vocabulary. Nobody denies that English has many more words of ultimately Latin origin than words adopted from any other language (or inherited from the Proto-Germanic ancestor), but it is misleading to lump together words (and affixes) borrowed from Latin itself and words borrowed from its Romance descendants: would you say that words like crescendo and armadillo are from Latin rather than from Italian and Spanish respectively?

  139. No French priest would have said such a thing.
    This was quoted to me and others by my undergraduate mentor–I have heard all of his jokes numerous times as well as this tidbit, but I never heard the source. After all these years I still don’t know if he really speaks French, but he can sing the Guiannee, sober or not, used to teach a course in the history of the French in Illinois, and is a practicing Roman Catholic who observes the fasts, so he should know about the approved foods for fasting.
    A similar story about eating muskrat during Lent is given here along with a similar use of “she” in something that looks like it’s supposed to represent someone talking in a French accent:

    Wen you take off de skin of dat leetle mushrat,
    An scrape off de musk an forget about dat,
    Wat a beautifule fur, mon Dieu! dat is fine,
    She sell for two dollar at any ole time.

    Maybe “she” is supposed to refer to the fur, or maybe in Michigan this is regarded as a common thing someone who hasn’t quite mastered English personal pronouns would say.

  140. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma, I think your old teacher was repeating a stereotype.
    sing the Guiannee
    ????
    she sell for two dollar: The rhyme is supposed to be spoken by a French Canadian (“de” for “the” is a giveaway). The “she” must refer to the fur. In my opinion this is not interference from the French language, but from non-standard English, where “she” is often used for inanimate objects which are of interest to the speaker, for instance in the speech of a carpenter talking about a wooden object he is working on.

  141. sing the Guiannee
    ????
    La Guiannee, sometimes spelled La Gui-Annee, always sung in French, a custom of caroling on New Year’s Eve in Prairie du Rocher, Illinois. This description is pretty much accurate except it’s not open to the public anymore, there’s an event at the fort instead. A snippet of the song can be heard here track 16. I used to have the French lyrics but I have no idea where they went.

  142. “she” is often used for inanimate objects which are of interest to the speaker
    I would imagine this would apply to a male speaker; my cars and computers are always “he”.

  143. marie-lucie says:

    La Guiannee
    After writing my comment it occurred to me to consult Wikipedia, which links to the background (as does your link, thank you Nijma) and the song in English. I suppose the custom was from a specific region of France, now obsolete there, as I had never heard of it. According to French Wikipedia there is a similar custom in Québec, called La Guignolée, where people go door to door on New Year’s Eve to gather donations for the needy. This is probably an adaptation from an older French custom, which some people think comes from a Druidic background (but the explanation given for the name does not hold water). (This would link the custom with the Scottish Hogmanay).
    The song ends with repetitions of the French words la guenille, an expression which I suppose is the original of the later “La Guiannee”, which looks like an anglicized version of the sounds of the words (in my experience, English speakers find it very difficult to pronounce the ille at the end of such words, they usually say just ee as in English). The other version La Gui-Année looks like an attempt to see French words (gui “mistletoe”, année “year”) in the purely English phonetic adaptation of la guenille: French words just are not formed in this way. For me, the word guenille refers to a really old and ratty piece of clothing, and in some places it means just a rag, but it may have had a more dignified meaning in the past. According to the words of the song, la guenille is the name of a dance, so the dance may originally have involved passing a piece of cloth or clothing from one person to another.

  144. The professor pronounces it Gee-yah-NAY.

  145. marie-lucie says:

    “Gee-yah-NAY” (also quoted as “geyoney”) is probably the French-like rewording Gui-Année – so arises a pyramid of errors, each building on the previous one.

  146. marie-lucie says:

    (geyoney) sorry, I saw it as “geoney”.

  147. Yes, marie-lucie, the Latin-evolved-into-French (Latin ebonics?) vocabulary was admixed into English, as opposed to having been inherited by English.
    -
    Thanks for correcting “Latinate”. I can’t find the word in the paper OED; the Compact OED online (at AskOxford) has ‘adjective (of language) having the character of Latin’. Webster’s says ‘of, relating to, resembling, or derived from Latin’ (of which I meant the last). I’m guessing that your definition is a professional comparative philologist’s discrimination.
    -
    I think I would still say that “desert” ‘comes from’ French proximately and ‘from’ Latin more distantly, and likewise of “crescendo” and “armadillo” and their proximate Italian and Spanish and more distant Latin genealogies. I do think it’s not impractical to use “come from” equivocally in this way, with so many other lexical and contextual indicators of the closeness of connection at hand.

  148. marie-lucie says:

    a professional comparative philologist
    I am a comparative linguist. In my view, for language study the cultural, historical, etc arguments should supplement the linguistic ones, not the other way around. A language does not lie (although one may use it to lie): it carries within itself a record of its ancestry as well as of the history of the people that speak it.
    it’s not impractical to use “come from” equivocally
    It may be practical, but equivocal use of anything is likely to mislead people unfamiliar with a topic. This may be OK if your intent is to play a joke on them, but not in a serious context. If you say that “desert” comes from Latin, even if you use “ultimately”, people ignorant of Latin will assume that it is a Latin word. To use another analogy, suppose that “John” was born in New York but his parents came from Italy where his great-grandparents immigrated from Egypt. Would it be correct to say “John comes from Egypt”? His ancestors did, but he himself didn’t.

  149. A number of different pronunciations of ‘Marylebone’ are used by Londoners (apologies for lack of IPA here): MAH-lee-b’n; MAH-lee-bone; MA-ra-la-bone etc.

  150. marie-lucie, your example of an ethnic “come from” is interestingly equivocal, and is used in non-dissembling conversations all the time. (I don’t mean to imply, by “equivocation”, dishonesty, but rather the common occurrence of multiple meanings of, for example, phrasal verbs.)
    John comes from New York: it’s where he was born (say). But John might not call himself a ‘New Yorker’ if he grew up in California and has no memory of or strong emotive connection with New York; he might say that he ‘really’ comes from southern California, indicating his long-time residence, lifestyle, attachment to ‘place’, sense of ‘home’, and so on.
    And he might elaborate that his parents still speak Italian at home- that’s why he knows a bit of it- because they and their parents were Roman, and they only came to New York as adolescents. To him, his parents might ‘really’ be Italian, though they’ve lived in the US for his entire life and then some.
    He might then say that, of course, his family comes originally from Egypt; in this way, he’s ‘really’ an Egyptian. Being named “John”, he might not be Muslim– he might claim a 2000-year attachment to “Greece” and say that, ‘really’, he’s Greek.
    So John would laugh and say that, ‘really’, he’s a Greek-Egyptian-Italian-New Yorker surfer/movie star dude.
    Similarly, a word like “desert” could be said, without any intention to deceive or obfuscate, to come from an English vocabulary that comes by way of admixture from French and by way of admixed inheritance from Latin.
    Or, a person could say, without conforming to professional comparative-linguistic standards, but with perfect conversational ease and mutual understanding, that “desert” is an English word that comes from Latin as opposed to coming from the Germanic languages. A listener who then thought that, oh, English comes right from Latin, like Latin comes right from Greek . . . Well, how responsible can the speaker be held in a practical way for ‘misleading’ this listener?

  151. So, deadgod, where are you from?

  152. Being named “John”, he might not be Muslim
    Not quite sure where this is coming from. “Muslim” isn’t really a language like Arabic or a nationality like Egyptian, and Egypt does have quite a few Coptic Christians. John the Baptist is recognized by Islam. I was told by a Moslem from the village where Herod (the one who beheaded John) had his palace that the Baptist’s Arabic name was Yohanna.

  153. Well, Nijma, first, “might” is a modal verb that indicates possibility, so the first thing in coming to understand the quoted participial and finite clauses is to recognize that they point to something on a spectrum of likelihood between, but not including, certainty and impossibility.
    -
    ‘Hana/Hanna/Hannah’ is a common Christian Arabic given name for boys, with the same Semitic etymology as the Christian “John” (and the variants thereof). (Now, many English-speaking atheists might name their kids ‘John’ without any religious meaning, just as many Christian parents might; by “Christian” here I mean the historical connection of the name, with, for example, John the Baptist, and not the spiritual commitment of the parental child-namers.)
    But forms of ‘John’ are quite rare among Muslim Arabs, right? So a “he” named “John” who belongs to a family of Egyptian heritage is, I think, unlikely to be of a Muslim family, though he might be- as I said. The relative infrequency of ‘John’ or cognates of ‘John’ among Muslim Arabs in no way precludes, prevents, or indicates the prevention of Muslims from ‘recognizing’- indeed, from venerating John the Baptist.
    Look at a parallel case: Muslims regard Jesus as being an important, venerable Jewish ‘prophet’, but, for whatever reasons of historical antagonism, rarely (but perhaps not actually never, right?) do Muslim families name their kids some form of “Jesus”. Similarly, the ‘recognition’ of John the Baptist by Muslims has nothing to do with Muslim families naming their kids this or that.
    The presences of Coptic and Greek Orthodox Church members in Egypt a hundred years ago or so (marie-lucie’s parameter) don’t preclude each other; one Church could be named hypothetically without, for example, denying the presence or importance of the other. But, to illustrate the variety of ethnic and geographical ‘places’ where my “John” could come from, I put his family in Egypt 2000 years ago as Greek-speaking immigrants- almost certain then still pagans.

    So, “where this is coming from” is an off-the-cuff genealogy of the “John” that marie-lucie hypothesized– meant, by me- I’m convinced, obviously meant- to disclose a natural, uncontroversial diversity of ‘where one “comes from”‘, and not to promote or even display any ethnographic assumptions, especially assumptions in contradiction of well-known truisms.

  154. Nijma, thanks for giving the Arabic/Islamic forms of the names John and Jesus and the information that Muslims parents do name their children after John the Baptist. (You’ll often hear him called John the Forerunner by Orthodox Christians.) You didn’t say whether they also name their children Issa. (I’ll hazard a guess that they do, since I know that Mohamed – however I should be spelling the name – is a very common name and not in any way considered too holy a name to give a child.)
    I know that Muslims have very great reverence for Mary, the mother of Jesus. Does some of this reverence also extend to her parents Joachim and Anna and to the parents of John the Baptist, the Priest Zacheriah and his wife Elizabeth? And if it does, do they name children after them?
    Among Eastern Christians it varies somewhat according to ethnicity whether or not it is acceptable to name a child after either the Lord or his Mother. I only really know about the Greek and Russian customs in this area.
    Greeks will name both girls and boys after Jesus’ mother. Girls can be named Maria (but there are a lot Saints Mary, so you can’t know which Mary an Eastern Christian is named after without asking.) My daughter has a friend named Despina. It’s the Greek for “mistress” and the feminine of despota, so far as I know. (It’s referring to Mary as the “Mistress of Heaven.” If this doesn’t make a lot of sense, then think of it in terms of Mary being the Queen-Mother since her Son is king. That may have been clear as mud. I apologize.) So, a Greek boy named after Mary is not given a male form of her name. But there a lot of Greek men out there named Panagiotes. The name means “all-holy.” Panagia “the All-Holy One” is one of Mary’s titles.
    If you ever meet an Orthodox Christian who has a name that is the equivalent of “Jesus” in whatever language they (or their ethnic commuity) speak, then they are named for Jesus, Son of Navi, better known to the English-speaking world as Joshua, Son of Nun. To the best of my knowledge we don’t name boys after the Lord using his personal name. (Can anyone tell me who Spanish-speaking males named Jesus are named after?) I’m pretty sure (if someone knows otherwise, I’d really welcome the correction) that Russians never name children after the Lord. Greeks, however, will name boys Christos, with the accent on the first syllable as opposed to Jesus’ title of Christos (Messiah, Annointed) pronounced with the accent on the second syllable.
    Traditionally — and I really don’t know how strictly this is or is not followed today, but I do know that it is the traditional practice among Russian Christians not to name a girl child after the Mother of God, unless she happens to have been born on one of the many feasts of the Mother of God. So when you meet a Russian Orthodox woman named Maria, it is fairly unlikely that she is named after Jesus’ mother. (Of course, I don’t know at all how different the practice of the Russian Diaspora might be from current practices in the Russian homeland.)

  155. Arabic does have a native form of John (Yahya) which is used as a personal name by Muslims.

  156. The Greek “CHRIStos” is a short form of “ChrisTOphoros”, the ‘bearer of Christ [ChrisTOS]‘; the name alludes to Jesus, but the stress accents on the two identically spelled names are, as said, unmistakably distinct.
    Nijma does not offer the information that Muslim parents name their children “John/Hana”, but caffeind does. I’ve been told by Christian Arabic friends from Jordan (one of whom was a ‘John’, being an eldest son and named after his father’s father) that “John” is almost definitively a ‘schibboleth’ in modern Jordan, marking a Christian as opposed to a Muslim. For example, in the Jordanian military (I’m told), telling someone your name is an Arabic version of ‘John’ guarantees that the other person will know that you’re a Christian.
    Perhaps they were exaggerating, and I’d guess that these customs vary at least somewhat over the large, cumulatively populous area of Arabic Islam, so maybe there are many Islamic ‘John/Yahya’s in Egypt.

  157. marie-lucie says:

    “John”: I did not realize that my use of “John”, the most common male name in English (and therefore almost a generic), would inspire so much speculation about his religion. I was just trying for a plausible though somewhat unusual story of multiple immigration. But assuming that the name “John” did reflect his religion, having some forebears in Egypt would most likely make him either Coptic or Jewish. In any case, he would probably say “I am from New York”, because that is where he was born and raised.
    Which Jesus are Spanish children of that name named after?
    Most likely “the” Jesus. In Catholic countries there is a cult not just of the adult founder of Christianity, known as Jesus Christ, but of “the Child Jesus”, Jesus as a child. Catholic names are those of saints, and giving a child the name of a saint was thought to place the child under the protection of that saint, who would be able to intercede in Heaven in the child’s favour. Jesus is not a saint, but a most sacred person nevertheless, and the closest to God. (Please do not start to explain the further intricacies of Catholic theology).

  158. If you ever meet an Orthodox Christian who has a name that is the equivalent of “Jesus” in whatever language they (or their ethnic commuity) speak, then they are named for Jesus, Son of Navi, better known to the English-speaking world as Joshua, Son of Nun.
    Arabic has two names for “Jesus”; which one you use is a shibboleth for your religion. Moslems say “Issa” and Christians use “Yasua”. (Arabic forms and Bible/Koran links in my URL.) I can’t remember if either name ever appeared on one of my class rosters, but every class would have one or two Mohammeds, not to mention the Fatimas. The Arabic translation of Joshua (son of Nun and aide to Moses) is “Yashua”.
    Mary in Arabic (Bible and Koran both) is Mariyam, a very common Jordanian name.
    In Spanish, Jesus is Jesús; Joshua is Josué.
    John also has two Arabic forms, Yohanna in the Bible and Yahya in the Koran. Why my Moslem acquaintance taught me the name “Yohanna” is not clear, unless he decided I was Christian and should use the Christian form. This kind of care in determining someone’s religion and taking the trouble to remember which holidays to greet them on is not an unusual courtesy in Jordan.
    In Arabic, Christ (“anointed”) is translated as messeeyah. “Christian” (in colloquial, at least)(feminine form) is “messaheeya” .

  159. marie-lucie says:

    In Spanish, Jesus is Jesús; Joshua is Josué.
    Same in French, except that Jesus is Jésus (the final s is silent).
    In Arabic, Christ (“anointed”) is translated as messeeyah
    That must be the same as Hebrew Messiah (the i being pronounced “ee” in the language, not as the pronoun “I”).

  160. m-l
    Christ الْمَسِيحَ
    Maybe I should have written the transliteration as ma-SEE-Ha, in this case with the definite article al- at the beginning of the word, al-mehseeHa.
    The diacritical mark is under the س is a kasra, a vowel sign, and has the sound of a short i. The vowels signs (above or below letters) are pronounced after the consonants they mark. The letter ي following is a ya, but when it is connected to letters on both sides it is written as just a tooth with two dots under it. The two dots are often truncated to a line, especially in handwriting, as opposed to one dot or a small inverted v above the letter representing three dots. The ya ي is a lot like an English y. Sometimes it sounds like y and sometimes like long e. So representing the word الْمَسِيحَ letter by letter (the small o above the laam لْ is just a sukoon, a place holder in very formal or sacred fully-voweled text that says there is no vowel following the consonant) it would be almasiyHa. Now that I think of it, there are probably plenty of people who will read this who can explain Modern Standard Arabic a lot better than I can.
    The Hebrew for “messiah” appears to be מָשִׁ֫יחַ, transliteration: mashiach, phonetic spelling: (maw-shee’-akh).

  161. Jesús in Spanish is pronounced hay-SOOS.

  162. The Greek “CHRIStos” is a short form of “ChrisTOphoros”, the ‘bearer of Christ [ChrisTOS]‘; the name alludes to Jesus, but the stress accents on the two identically spelled names are, as said, unmistakably distinct.
    deadgod, thank you so much for the correction on this. I was simply repeating what someone had told me years ago about the two Greek names. It seems that he was mistaken. I’m glad to know where the name really comes from. I had always thought that it was rather odd that the two were distinguished only by stress, but I accepted it since I don’t actually know Greek, but it makes sense now if the one is actually short for Chistophoros. Obviously, the problem here is that I wouldn’t recognize a Greek diminutive if it hit me in the face.

  163. marie-lucie and Nijma, thank you for taking the time to reply. Between marie-lucie’s information that there is a Roman Catholic cult of the Child Jesus — which, never having been Roman Catholic, is not something that I was aware of or was likely to have become aware of on my own since it is a foreign and fairly counter-intuitive concept to me — and Nijma’s information that there are indeed two different names used in Spanish for Jesus and Joshua, I think the matter is pretty well clear to me now. Many thanks. I’ve been wondering about that particular issue for years.
    Nijma — I found the things you had to say about the different forms of certain names in Arabic and about Jordanian customs quite fascinating, and, frankly, would like to ask you a few more questions (which you may or may not know the answers to) about the things you said. But I’m thinking that I should not do so here, since I have the distinct impression that I have upset or offended marie-lucie by talking about Christian naming customs in certain parts of the world. So perhaps I could contact you over on your own blog?
    (I was afraid to even write this reply thanking the two of you for the information for fear that marie-lucie might be angry with me for mentioning the topic again, but it seemed rude to me not to say thank-you. I’m sorry that you were offended, marie-lucie, but I can’t promise not to do it again, because I don’t know exactly what I did wrong. I’m thinking the best solution will if I simply stop posting comments on LanguageHat any longer.)

  164. marie-lucie says:

    Isidora: I have the distinct impression that I have upset or offended marie-lucie by talking about Christian naming customs in certain parts of the world…. marie-lucie might be angry with me… I’m sorry that you were offended, marie-lucie
    Not at all, Isidora! I am puzzled by your reaction. Is it because I said (to no one in particular) not to bring up the finer points of Catholic theology? I just did not want people to get picky about my simplified explanation. Please don’t stop writing on my account!
    a cult of the child Jesus I don’t mean a formal cult like that of the Virgin Mary, but children especially are encouraged to pray to the Child Jesus. In some devout families, at Christmas small children are (or were) told that the person sending the presents was the Child Jesus, not Santa Claus.
    Jesus and Joshua: in French too, there is Jésus and Josué, almost as in Spanish. In Italian, the names are Gesù and Giosuè. No doubt there are many more versions of these names in various languages.

  165. Isadora, I have put more information about the John and Jesus names in my URL in the above comments–the Arabic and the biblical translation links–but I will put my contact info in the signature for this comment as well. You must also drop by AJP’s blog and see his charming goats.

  166. marie-lucie says:

    Great find, Nijma!

  167. Not at all, Isidora! I am puzzled by your reaction. Is it because I said (to no one in particular) not to bring up the finer points of Catholic theology? I just did not want people to get picky about my simplified explanation. Please don’t stop writing on my account!
    I’m so sorry, marie-lucie! I think it was probably late at night when I read your reply, and I was tired and not thinking or feeling clearly. I really did think that you were aiming the remark at me personally instead of no-one at particular. Rather than understanding it as a request that no-one pick nits with your simplified explanation, I thought you were telling me not to talk about Catholic theology.
    In retrospect, that was pretty silly of me. I think that what happened first of all is that I must have reverted towards childhood/youth in my tired state. (For the first half of my life, a rather large number of people worked to conditioning me to believe that if anyone said or did anything hurtful to me, it was my fault that they did it – because the bullies would stop doing it if I just ignored them. Unfortunately, my young mind generalized this to mean something along the lines of, “If anyone is unhappy about anything, I should believe that this is my fault.” Pretty great logic on my part, I know, but, as a parent, I know that kids don’t always learn the lessons we thought we were teaching them. I’ve spent the last half of my life trying to unlearn these ways of thinking, but they come back at times, causing me to do stupid things, as you have just witnessed.) So once I had made the mistake of deciding that I was at fault, I tried to figure out how. I didn’t know whether you knew that I was not Roman Catholic. Here in America, Eastern Orthodox Christians are a small minority. My statistics are out of date, but I don’t think that we are more than 2% of the American population. If you don’t (and I never have) live in one of the big cities that have a larger concentration of Orthodox, people have often never heard of it and very often confuse it with Roman Catholicism due to some of the outward similarities. There is also a certain amount of prejudice in this country against religion in general from the atheists and against Roman Catholicism in particular from certain subset of Protestants. In its polite form, this prejudice often expresses itself as extreme discomfort when confronted with the religion in question. I knew that you were French rather than American, and as I let the days pass without replying, my reasoning made less and less sense, to the point that I finally admitted that I had no idea why you might have been offended. However, I did’t consider rethinking my assumption that I had offended you.
    And this is where I really owe you an apology. You were never offended, and I should have given you more credit than to have been. I let my own personal and cultural baggage lead me to make some assumptions that caused me to think poorly of you. Please forgive me. (And please forgive the long explanation of how the mistake was made on my part. I didn’t want you to have to remain puzzled as to why I had reacted so extremely to your innocent request.)

  168. marie-lucie says:

    Consider the matter closed, Isidora. i am sorry that my comment (which was not for you or anyone specially) made you feel so bad. You did mention earlier that you were Eastern Orthodox. In the city where I live there are at least two churches of that faith, and I know two persons (one a former Anglican priest, the other one a former Catholic monk) who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy.

  169. Please don’t leave, Isidora! I’ve been greatly enjoying your presence here.

  170. That is a great article about the muskrats. It cracked me up that “The majority of women can’t get past the ‘rat’ thing,” but my favorite bit is the last paragraph. ‘For the record, Bishop Povish didn’t much care for muskrat as a meal. He wrote that “anyone who could eat muskrat was doing penance worthy of the greatest of the saints.”‘
    I’ve been told that the Russian missionaries to Alaska gave the native converts some pretty extensive dispensations regarding fasting due to the limited nature of the food resources available in Alaska.

  171. Don’t worry, I won’t leave. I’ve really been enjoying it here, too. I’ve just been running on far too little sleep for some time now and let myself get overly sensitive. I’m sorry that got inflicted on everyone.
    My husband and I are also converts. It’s been about 16 years. It’s an interesting thing to observe in oneself, because, in converting, we chose to accept not only a new religion, but to a great degree a new culture also. It doesn’t have much to do with any particular ethnicity, although we have spent a lot of time around Russians and Russo-Americans. It was necessary to change thought patterns and approach lots of issues from an entirely different philosophical perspective than we grew up doing. Then there’s the issue of the very structured litugical year, which I think would not be much of an issue for Catholics or for some Anglicans, but it was a huge change for us. The natural consequence is a certain degree of separation from mainstream American culture. Our children were all born into the Orthodox Church, and there are so many things that they have grown up always knowing that cost us considerable effort to wrap our minds around in the beginning. Conversely, there are plenty of things that their father and I understand instinctively that they really don’t get. I think it’s the same sort of thing that I’ve observed in some immigrant families we’ve known where there is an obvious difference between the cultures of each generation such that parents, children, and grandparents do not all share exactly the same culture. But we got a similar effect without ever emigrating.
    I’m off to get some sleep so that I will be less prone to imagine that someone is upset with me. My husband will also greatly appreciate it if I wake up from my nap more sane.

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