HEARD AT THE WORLD CUP.

Things announcers have said while I’ve been trying to watch soccer/football:
1) “A bit of a row has broken out between employers and employees…”
Unexceptionable, you say? Ah, but row was pronounced as in “Row, row, row your boat.” Had the fellow never heard it spoken, or was he simply having a brain spasm?
2) “My hero as a childhood boy was Beckenbauer.” That one’s definitely a brain spasm.
Incidentally, I trust today’s 6-0 thrashing of Serbia-Montenegro has convinced everyone of what I’ve been saying since the beginning: Argentina is going to win this thing. Oíd, mortales, el grito sagrado: “libertad, libertad, libertad!”

Comments

  1. Well, things are sure looking good for Argentina, but Russia trashed Cameroon 6-1 (’94) and Spain Bulgaria 6-1 (’98) and yet neither team even got to the round of sixteen.
    //JJ

  2. Yeah, but we’re talking Argentina. Mano de Dios, baby!

  3. I’ve only heard it said the way it’s said in the song…

  4. In this case how is row supposed to be said?

  5. Anna Marie says:

    ¡Vamos Argentina!
    (actually, I always thought the “other” pronounciation was just one of those weird British things. hmm.)

  6. Like “how” is how row should be said. Ciao.

  7. Nah, England beat Argentina in their last clash. Go England!
    Personally, I found it amusing when one commentator noted in the Arg-Serb half-time chat that “S and M are probably going to get a bit of a whipping”.
    Also, heard on the Tube tannoy yesterday: “Sorry ladies and gentleman; we’re being held at the station, so we’re going to sit here for a couple of minutes, but we’ll be off in the meantime.” Did that make any sense?

  8. Let’s me fair here: Seria and Montenegro just broke up. You can’t expect a team to be at its best when their nation is going through a divorce!

  9. Noetica says:

    Here in Australia people are enormously excited about our win against Japan the other day. Apparently it was our first ever, since (I am reliably informed) we play other styles of football, generally, and soccer is not really our business at all. As one of the six or seven Australians who don’t understand these things, I can say no more than that.

  10. Is it the fact that these announcers have to fill up nearly two hours of air-time that leads to puzzling remarks like (2)? There’s a famously inept sports announcer in China whose mistakes during football broadcasts were excerpted into a “Sayings of Han Qiaosheng” that got posted all over the net a few years ago. Things like “the ball has struck the rear leg of the goalie,” and “Fans of the two sides have entered the field and are starting their warm-ups.” When Han discovered that people were watching for this sort of commentary, he apparently made a conscious effort to introduce funny slip-ups. But he ended up repeating earlier, classic mistakes, and listeners were no longer as enthusiastic.

  11. Siganus Sutor says:

    Even those who don’t have a clue (and don’t give a damn) about what this thing called Fußball really is can predict that Argentina will be second, thus winning the *silver* medal.

  12. David Coleman was the most famous confused sports commentator in Britain. Private Eye collects his and similar sayings as Colemanballs:
    http://www.compsoc.man.ac.uk/~heth/funnies/coleman.html

  13. “Childhood boy” … maybe his gender would have been ambiguous otherwise?

  14. You don’t win the World Cup by playing beautiful football in the group stages. They looked marvellous yesterday, but… we’ll see.
    My low point in the commentary so far was the commentator sniggering (more than once during the game!) over the fact that one of the Japanese players was called ‘Fukunishi’. I mean even by the standards of schoolboy humour and foreigners having funny names, that’s just really feeble.

  15. Siganus Sutor says:

    “A bit of a row has broken out between employers and employees…”
    This kind of row does seem to happen in rowing as well… ► True Blue: Oxford Boat Race Mutiny
    By the way, many years ago I was told this story about a race won by a seven-oared boat from either Oxbridge or Camford — cannae remember which — against a normal eight-oared opponent. I haven’t been able to find anything about it on the internet. Was I half asleep then, dreaming about panting rows of chesty students? Has someone ever heard something about that?

  16. Had the fellow never heard it spoken, or was he simply having a brain spasm?
    Probably never heard it spoken. It’s not very common in the US. I’ve also spent time in Britain, watched more British television than is good for me, and I don’t recall ever hearing it said aloud, although I must have done. I would have rhymed it with “blow” as well.

  17. Huh. I guess the dictionary pronunciation is on the way out.
    *retreats further into codgerhood*

  18. Nonsense!
    *Drags languagehat out of said codgerhood*
    (I’m SICK of football. Already. They’re making too much of the Pampered Pets that form the England squad. So what’s new?)

  19. Vanya, it is not uncommon to hear it on BBC World (radio).
    Nearly as common as hearing “Doh Jones” on France Inter — mostly when Wall Street is in turmoil, of course.

  20. michael farris says:

    I’m confused, do some people pronounce ‘row’ (meaning dispute, argument, disagreement) so that it rhymes with no, know, tow, toe?
    I thought the only pronunciation by those who use it (a group I don’t belong to) rhymed with how, now, cow.
    I’ve heard on Sky News and BBC News and I’m pretty sure that if it had been pronounced like roe, I’d have noticed.

  21. Michael,
    I think it is more the case that most Americans only come across the word “row” in the sense of “dispute, argument, etc.” in written texts, and thus have no idea the word should be pronounced differently from “row your boat” when used that way.

  22. Cryptic Ned says:

    As an American, I had no idea that “row” meaning dispute rhymed with “how” until it was used on an episode of the Simpsons five or six years ago. Have still never heard it said out loud by anyone except Bart Simpson.
    Huh. I guess the dictionary pronunciation is on the way out.
    It’s not on the way out, it’s just only in the British dictionary.
    My low point in the commentary so far was the commentator sniggering (more than once during the game!) over the fact that one of the Japanese players was called ‘Fukunishi’.
    You should have seen the Internet commentary during the World Baseball Classic about the Japanese player “Fukudome”.

  23. Cryptic Ned says:

    Vanya’s comment is accurate. When I finally realized that Bart Simpson’s pronunciation was accurate, I was about as surprised to hear that as I would have been to hear that the British word “bonnet” for the hood of a car was pronounced “bonet”. It was very disorienting. Why have two pronunciations?

  24. it’s just only in the British dictionary.
    That’s simply not true; it’s the only pronunciation given in Merriam-Webster and the New Oxford American (and I imagine in American Heritage as well, though I’m too lazy to look at the moment). If it’s becoming obsolete, the dictionaries are even further behind the curve than I am.

  25. John Emerson says:

    Hat: A codger less stodgy than the lexicographers.

  26. John Emerson says:

    “A codger a little less stodgy than the lexicographers”.

  27. John Emerson says:

    “A codger a smidgen less stodgy than the lexicographers”.

  28. UK:
    We pronounce the front part of a car as bon-net, not bone-et or anything else. The emphasis is on the first syllable. Row meaning dispute rhymes with cow. Row as in boats rhymes with woe. Anyone (including dictionaries) who says different is wrong. Period.

  29. “We pronounce the front part of a car as bon-net, not bone-et or anything else.”
    In my part of the UK we say bone-AY, which is more accurate because it’s a French word.

  30. No, I’m only teasing.

  31. Siganus Sutor says:

    “No, I’m only teasing.”
    Yes, very much, as “bonnet” in French also refers to the cup of a bra…

  32. In The Phantom Tollbooth, Dr Dischord’s assistant or minion the awful DYNNE had a grandfather called the dreadful RAUW. (He is mentioned under that spelling in the line after the Humbug mentions the dreadful row.) Clearly, Norton Juster called him [rau].

  33. Tatyana says:

    It’s Argentina, baby?
    Thank god, you’re not pronouncing this unfortunate and rush statement in some Lisbonian pastelaria…we still need you alive…

  34. Had the fellow never heard it spoken, or was he simply having a brain spasm?
    Wasn’t there this sort of discussion with quay already? Is there something wrong with saying ‘row’ in terms of the boat motion, anyway? I’d say that; though I’m from the U.S., where we don’t actually use it so much.

  35. Is there something wrong with saying ‘row’ in terms of the boat motion, anyway?
    Not sure what you mean. If you mean is there anything wrong with the verb “to row,” no, there’s not. If you’re talking about pronouncing row ‘a quarrel’ like the boating verb, there’s nothing “wrong” with it in a scientific sense, but it’s not standard and isn’t in any of the dictionaries, which all say to rhyme it with now.

  36. Wimbrel says:

    Well, that’s just the crux of linguistics. If a group of speakers will reliably give [roʊ] and not [raʊ], even as a result of ignorance, who’s to say it’s not a feature of their dialect? For instance, I think it’s silly when people put pronouns in the nominative in adjunct phrases (“He was better prepared than I.”), but they nonetheless do it reliably and predictably as part of formal speech.

  37. Well, yeah, but the question is how large a group it is and to what extent the word is actually part of their vocabulary. If a bunch of people produce the same spelling pronunciation for a word they don’t actually use in speech, is it a “real” pronunciation? Should it be in the dictionary?

  38. bathrobe says:

    A propos: “If you’re talking about pronouncing row ‘a quarrel’ like the boating verb, there’s nothing “wrong” with it in a scientific sense, but it’s not standard and isn’t in any of the dictionaries”
    Despite my strong inclinations to descriptivism and a general belief in the role of dictionaries as recorders of usage, I’m afraid I have to say I feel slightly uncomfortable with the above statement.
    The word ‘row’ is quite commonly used in Australia, pronounced as in ‘bough’. I can remember my father speaking of people’s marital disputes by saying (for instance) “they had a row and she left him”. It is one of those colloquial words where the pronunciation is learnt well before the spelling.
    So when I heard an American say ‘ro’ a few years ago, I was rather surprised. In fact, the person who used it did so as a gesture to my Britishness (Australian is the same as British, I guess!) and admitted that he didn’t know how it should be pronounced since Americans never use the word.
    So somehow a perverse prescriptive streak leaps into play when I encounter this pronunciation: dammit, ‘row’ is supposed to rhyme with ‘bough’ and if you pronounce it any differently you are simply wrong! This is nothing more than a spelling pronunciation that has arisen out of unfamiliarity with the spoken word. Perhaps in a few years’ time it will be up there with other spelling pronunciations (like ‘fore-head’ for ‘forrid’) and we will have to recognise it in our dictionaries (groan), but for the moment the pronunciation ‘ro’ seems to me just plain incorrect.

  39. bathrobe says:

    Languagehat made the same point just before me, and much more succinctly! Thank you!

  40. Bathrobe,
    Are you just trying to mess with the Yanks? I assume you are aware that “bough” is also a word Americans regularly mispronounce to rhyme with “sew” and “blow”.
    I found this on a website dedicated to improving spelling:
    And then with words that have the same letters, but sound differently, we could just group the words that are similar. For example;
    cough
    rough
    (the two above have “f” sounds for the “gh”)
    bough
    (“bough” sounds like “boh”)

  41. I assume you are aware that “bough” is also a word Americans regularly mispronounce to rhyme with “sew” and “blow”.
    I’m afraid I wasn’t aware of that. Now I am, curse you!

  42. “Sough”.
    Discuss.

  43. AHD gives the same pronunciation as the other dictionaries for “row” as in “quarrel”–ie, like “cow.” Having only read the word (I’m American, and we don’t really use it in that sense), I would have pronounced it to rhyme with “grow,” but I readily admit that it wouldn’t have been correct of me to do so, since I would have just been guessing based on the spelling.
    As for “bough,” though, I’m less ready to cede the high ground. Looking in the AHD again, I see that it gives only the pronunciation that rhymes with “cow,” but I know I’ve heard it pronounced to rhyme with “slow” since I was a child–after all, that lullaby about the baby in the treetop is about the only time you hear that word used–meaning that it’s been around for a good long time and probably qualifies as a legitimate variant in American English pronunciation. (Also, AHD’s etymology gives the Old English “boh,” meaning maybe it’s just come around to its original pronunciation after all these years.)

  44. Wimbrel says:

    Dear Mr. Hat,
    I don’t know what criteria must be fulfilled before a pronunciation becomes “real.” I find your use of the word a little absurd. Many changes in language were brought about by re-analysis (which you may consider to be a form of ignorance).

  45. “Sough”.
    Discuss.
    Apposite, John Emerson. I would add:
    “Slough”.
    Discuss.

  46. Wimbrel: I’m quite sure you’ve spent enough time here to know that I’m the last person to take a prescriptivist point of view and consider any deviation from the rules “a form of ignorance.” I’m talking very specifically about people who don’t have a word as part of their vocabulary and thus invent a pronunciation on the spur of the moment when they see it in print. If you consider such pronunciations as valid as any others when it comes to describing a language (and in particular deciding what to put in a dictionary)… well, that’s an interesting point of view, but not one I can share.
    John, Noetica:
    Ugh.

  47. Tatyana says:

    What is there to discuss?
    [Note to self: “…with those to whom the sense is familiar” is an excellent disclaimer for just about any non-canonical offshoot.]

  48. Wimbrel says:

    Mr. Hat,
    I’m sure you understand that I’m not specifically interested in being a thorn in your side. However, I can’t for the life of me imagine why you find regularization “interesting” (and those are scare quotes). Speakers quite often think about language by analogy, especially where the orthography-phonology interface is concerned. For instance, the OED gives /ni:S/ as the British pronunciation of “niche,” and /nItS/ as the US version. “Niche” may be more common than “row” here in the US, but it’s hardly a word one hears often, and it’s certainly not part of anyone’s childhood vocabulary. It’s a spelling-based, innovative pronunciation of a seldom-occurring word. What’s the difference?

  49. To me, there’s a clear difference between a rare word that is a genuine part of one’s vocabulary and a word one knows only from seeing it in books. But reasonable people can differ about where the line is drawn. I certainly don’t consider you a thorn in my side; I find differences of opinion stimulating!

  50. We will see who is going to World Cup, but at least our team managed to keep Argentina on a draw. Congratulations to Phillip Cocu who played his 100th match for the national team. His surname is always funny for French people.

  51. Yes, congratulations to the Dutch team, and I too found “Cocu” hilarious.

  52. Noetica says:

    What is there to discuss?

    Ah, Tat. Both sough and slough are interesting for their pronunciations. Sough has at least two; slough has at least three, and it has a surprising variety of meanings.

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