I continue to be astonished by the variety of my own language. All my life I’ve enjoyed (though probably never used) the rather jocular cliché “tickling the ivories” for playing the piano, and now I learn, via David Crystal’s DCblog, that lots of people use the similar but (to me) odd-sounding “tinkling the ivories”:
A Northern Irish correspondent writes to say that he had recently been to the USA to visit a friend from his home country, and heard him use the phrase tickle the ivories [i.e. informally play the piano]; my correspondent had only ever heard tinkle the ivories. They found both on the Internet but no explanation of why there is a difference. Is there a British / American factor here, for instance?
Crystal writes “there’s no suggestion of any transatlantic difference in the citations. On the contrary, both usages have solid histories in the UK,” but I think he’s expressing himself carelessly; both usages may coexist in the UK, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard the “tinkle” version from an American. I may, however, be wrong, so I’ll ask the Varied Reader: do you use the “tinkle” variant, and if so, where are you from?