Graham.

I just heard a radio announcer pronounce Martha Graham’s surname as /græm/ (like “gram”); the only pronunciation given in the BBC Pronouncing Dictionary, and the only one I remember hearing, is /ˈgrɛɪəm/ (“GRAY-um”). Is this a dialectal thing or his own idiosyncrasy? Also, looking it up I discovered that the surname is “derived from Grantham in Lincolnshire, England.” That’s some serious consonant reduction there.

Comments

  1. I wouldn’t have known to pronounce any Graham any other way than /græm/, whether surname, given name, or cracker. Is this Martha-specific? Surname-specific? Or do you pronounce every instance of the word /ˈgrɛɪəm/?

  2. Somewhere over here in Utah and Arizona, I have a cousin named Graham, and grew up eating graham crackers, and they both always rhymed with ham and clam. My environment also includes the standard pronunciation, but I think there must be a dialect about it.

  3. I have always interpreted pronouncing Graham as “Gram” as a US thing? I’ve heard that for all uses of Graham – the Graham cracker, and also people’s names (a person in a workplace who all of us called “GRAY-um” was called “Gram” by the sole American)

  4. January First-of-May says

    I wouldn’t have known to pronounce any Graham any other way than /græm/

    I’d probably have guessed a spelling pronunciation (not sure of the exact IPA equivalence), if I didn’t happen to remember that “Graham’s number” is translated as “число Грэма”, which corresponds to /græm/.

    (On further consideration I remembered that Alexander Graham Bell is Александр Грейам Белл, where “Грейам” presumably corresponds to /ˈgrɛɪəm/ or something similar.)

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    /ˈgrɛɪəm/ is the only pronunciation I’ve ever come across.

    I’ve always supposed it to be Scots; the clan name is (or might be) apparently from Gregham, wherever that may have been.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clan_Graham

    I wondered about Gram Parsons, but I see that he was actually Ingram Cecil Connor III.

  6. I wouldn’t have known to pronounce any Graham any other way than /græm/, whether surname, given name, or cracker. Is this Martha-specific? Surname-specific? Or do you pronounce every instance of the word /ˈgrɛɪəm/?

    Every single one.

    Somewhere over here in Utah and Arizona, I have a cousin named Graham, and grew up eating graham crackers, and they both always rhymed with ham and clam. My environment also includes the standard pronunciation, but I think there must be a dialect about it.

    Apparently so! Once again I’ve learned something about my native language; now I’m wondering where the isoglosses are.

  7. Born in Texas, lived in the South for 40+ years (now in the PNW) and it’s always been /græm/ and I don’t think I’ve ever heard it differently. My friend, a former professional dancer (ballet, modern, etc) specifically pronounced the “Graham” in “Martha Graham” as /græm/ so I would have felt like she would know.

    Having said all that, it’s possible that I add a little extra after the /æ/ but I doubt most people would hear it.

  8. The early 19th c Lord Chancellor Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, said his name Broom, and the light carriage named after him was a broom.

  9. Jen in Edinburgh says

    An American in my office always said Graeme in a way that sounded like ‘gram’ to me, but I would have guessed that it would have sounded like ‘Gray(u)m’ to you.

    (There is a word for differences that don’t make a difference. Phonemic?)

    A boy from NZ who worked for a while in my old office was always going to London to meet up with his cousin Bin.

  10. Off the top of my head, the most famous public pronunciation of “Graham” that I can think of is Robin Williams in Birdcage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55Pnw-tEVek&t=1m05s

  11. John Emerson says

    I only use gray-um for the name, never the cracker. In a hurry I might use Gram for the name

  12. J.W. Brewer says

    Wiktionary claims that /ˈɡɹeɪ.əm/ and /ɡɹæm/ both exist on both sides of the Atlantic, but other sources suggest that /ɡɹæm/ is Normal American (which accords with my idiolect) and the other one is Normal Foreign plus maybe a regional variant in the U.S. hat, do you pronounce “damn” in the regional-variant way suggested by the eye-dialect spelling “dayum”?

  13. J.W. Brewer says

    Separately, the “from Grantham” etymology would seem to be subject to the objection that No True Scotsman is from Lincolnshire?

  14. hat, do you pronounce “damn” in the regional-variant way suggested by the eye-dialect spelling “dayum”?

    Only when imitating a speaker of such a dialect. And the two-syllable Graham is certainly as Normal as the one-syllable one.

  15. I learned the “gram” pronunciation growing up in California, but later somehow acquired the notion that “grayum” was the Only Correct Pronunciation, with the result that I’m now in a state of nervous cluelessness and do my best to avoid all people named Graham.

  16. I say [gɹæːm] with a long vowel, perhaps as a token nod at the spelling.

  17. @Jen: “Bin”? How’s that spelled?
    @Bloix: So that’s what the car stickers mean, “My other car is a broom”!…

  18. @Jen: “Bin”? How’s that spelled?

    “Bin” is Ben with a Kiwi accent.

  19. Thanks! I looked too far. I was imagining some long name, wildly reduced.

    (When British English speakers hear “bin”, do they first think “rubbish bin”?)

  20. John Emerson says

    Just to kill time, the weirdest dialect forms I remember from my childhood are “venchtables” = vegetables and “sanggwitches” = sandwiches. Not local, one kid only and I don’t know where from.

  21. My fourth grade teacher had danced in Martha’s troupe when she was younger, and took us to see Martha Graham at the Kennedy Center in DC. She definitely pronounced the “Graham” in “Martha Graham” as /græm/. That is also how I pronounce the Graham in Graham Cracker.

    The “/ˈgrɛɪəm/” pronunciation sounds Appalachian to me.

  22. Kiwi joke: Q. What’s a Hindu? A. It lays iggs.

  23. This would seem to be definitive for Graham:
    https://www.youtube.com/marthagrahamdancecompany
    Start at second 00:45.

    But see this at 00:56.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH5fjgrXlzs

  24. John Emerson says

    Didn’t Vanya just win the internet on this? The only thing more we could have more would be a notarized letter from Graham herself.

  25. David Marjanović says

    It never occurred to me that the h might be a lie before Stephen Colbert had to talk about Lindsey /ˈɡɹeɪ̯əm/.

    The Grahamweckerl is named after an American, but gets a fully nativized spelling-pronunciation with /ˈɡraːham/. That makes it one of about four words with non-initial /h/.

    Edit: And now I want one. *Homeric drool*

  26. Frank Gibbons says

    Never came across “venchtables” but “sangwich” would be pretty common in Ireland (where I grew up). Sometimes self mockingly in the phrase “hang sangwich” (for “ham sandwich”).

  27. Sánguche is Spanish for ‘sandwich’ in southern South America, but that probably has to do with [gw] as the pronunciation of /w/ in loanwords.

  28. @DM: And now I want one. A word with non-initial h?

  29. Australian. Graeme and Graham are always the same, basically /ˈgrɛɪəm/ (or /ˈɡɹeɪ̯əm/). I wasn’t even aware that Americans or anyone else pronounced them as /græm/. The only ones I know who didn’t pronounce ‘Graham’ as /ˈgrɛɪəm/ were the Japanese, who said ‘gurahamu’.

    Not ‘sangwich’ (/sæŋwɪtʃ/ for me. The pronunciation is ‘samwij’ /sæmwɪdʒ/.

  30. John Emerson says

    Frank Gibbons: “sanggwitch” as I remember it from a mere 60 years ago had an “ng” sound followed by a hard “g” sound — sang+gwitch. is that the Irish?

    Family name Craig, Catholic, could be not-too-distantly Irish.

  31. John Emerson-
    At 16:03 of this video, a former Graham dancer named Priscilla Birch, in an interview, clearly says Gray-em, two syllables. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH5fjgrXlzs
    and at 17:06, the actress Ann Jackson says it in two syllables as well.
    You can also hear the New York Times dance critic say it with two syllables.

  32. Jen, I’m an old person from Texas (always). “Graham” for me has always been closest to “ham” or “clam,” except that I remember learning Bell’s name as “Alexander Gra-am” (I don’t think it ever got as far as “gray-em.”) I also kind of hiccup on Lindsay’s last name, but the As are still the same as in “ham.”

    But in Texas, “pin” and “pen” sound the same except when “pen” and “pan” sound the same. I’ve never gotten a handle on that. So Ben and Bin are the same unless there are 2 people under discussion and 1 of them is spelled Bin and folks want to differentiate. (The Ben gets more of the E sound. I can’t do fancy stuff with pronunciation.)

  33. When British English speakers hear “bin”, do they first think “rubbish bin”?

    The wheelie bin joke.

    Kiwi joke: Q. What’s a Hindu? A. It lays iggs.

    Substituting “eggs” for “iggs”, that works in the Southern U.S. too (minus New Orleans, plus Bakersfield, California, plus African American).

    sangwich

    A friend of mine, a native Floridian, says that, but I always say “samwich”.

  34. @John Cowan

    How did you manage to dig up a joke from 2008? !!!

    (Actually, I’m wondering about this pronunciation. I think I always pronounced “been” as “bean”, never as “bin”, which sounds American to me. But I’m not AT ALL sure about this.)

  35. OK, so some English dude from Grantham, Lincolnshire invaded Scotland and founded Clan Graham?

  36. The American Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives the pronunciation as \ˈgrā-əm, ˈgra(-ə)m\ (/ˈɡreɪ.əm, ˈɡræ(.ə)m/ in IPA).

    The Oxford English Dictionary and the Routledge Dictionary of Pronunciation both list /ˈɡræm/ as a possible US pronunciation in addition to /ˈɡreɪ.əm/ which is the only UK pronunciation and the primary US pronunciation. The Longman Pronunciation Dictionary and the Cambridge Pronouncing Dictionary, both British but covering both UK and US pronunciations, only have /ˈɡreɪ.əm/ even for the US.

    So the /ˈɡræm/ variant looks specific to the US. I wonder if it has to do with the sequence /eɪ.ə/ sounding a lot like raised /æ/ in American pronunciations with /æ/ raising (cf. eye-dialect “dayum” for “damn”) with the result that it was reanalyzed as /æ/ in Graham.

  37. Compare crayon in American English, as here in Bert Vaux’s survey from 20 years ago:

    http://dialect.redlog.net/staticmaps/q_9.html

    I’m not sure whether Bert did one for Graham.

  38. Not quite on topic, but some vaguely similar sounds are involved: Cambridgeshire was once called Grantabridgeshire – a fact that was recently brought to my attention by Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, a very high budget video game with a lot of things of linguistic interest going on, including background characters running around screaming snippets of Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Latin, sometimes all in the same monastery mid-pillage…

    quick research informs me that “Granta” and “Cam” were names for two different parts of the same river… I wonder if there’s any chance they were actually two versions of the same word?

  39. Oh, and I meant to say – raised in California, I only knew the pronunciation “gram” for everything. If I were trying to sound fancy maybe I would say it with a slight pause in the middle, more like “gra-um”. The way British people say “Graham” sounds perversely drawn out to my ears, not unlike the Australian “no” which to me seems to sometimes have four or five syllables.

  40. Alexander Graham Bell is Александр Грейам Белл

    Alongside Грэм Грин (Henry Graham Greene).

  41. The artistic director of the Martha Graham Dance Company (starting at about 0:48) certainly seems to be saying /græm/: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6friKSsHqs&feature=emb_logo

  42. If you ask me the word’s pronunciation you might hear my full /ˈɡræ.əm/ effort, but ordinarily it rhymes with “clam”. The British given name I have in a different bucket, and I hadn’t realized that the U.S. surname can go the same way.

  43. PlasticPaddy says

    @ag
    https://epns.nottingham.ac.uk/browse/id/53287310b47fc40c4f000001-Cambridge
    “Initial Gr – became Cr – and the r was lost through distant dissimilation in the combination r –n –r in Crantebrigge . Cf. IPN 114. The only serious criticism of Skeat’s etymology, as originally put forward, was the absence of such forms as Crantebr ‘ and the invariable initial Gr – in Grantchester. The former, though still illustrated only by a solitary example, is now supported by Cantrebrigg and Cantelbrigg and by certain forms for Grantchester showing a similar development, Crantesete , Crauncestre , Cantesete and Gantesete and by Graudene for Croydon, Cret (t )on and Crytton for Girton, Crethowe for Grethowe (infra 177) and Crendon for Grendon (infra 87) and also Camelinga , etc. for Gamlingay infra 160.”
    The link also gives a lot of written variants with dates attested.

  44. Thanks, Paddy – now that I think of it, “Cantabrigian” is a Latin-ish adjective I’ve seen on signs in Cambridge, Mass., so some of the interim steps were kind of out there in the open already.

  45. “Sandwich”–
    I’ve heard both “sammitch” and “sammidj”, among others.

    Neither of which I use myself.

    “Graham”–
    I’m with Bathrobe here. My cousin Graeme spent some years working in Japan. I must ask him what they called him.

  46. I grew up in Delaware, and I pronounce the cracker, the inventor, and the choreographer all as /græm/. A family down the street from me here in Connecticut have a son, Graham, whose name is pronounced the same.

    I’m aware of the other pronunciation but I don’t use it.

  47. quick research informs me that “Granta” and “Cam” were names for two different parts of the same river… I wonder if there’s any chance they were actually two versions of the same word?

    A quick look at the map should tell you the river through Grantham can’t be the same river through Cambridge. All the rivers in the Fens drain eastwards towards The Wash. To get from Grantham to Cambridge (roughly North to South) would require traversing oodles of them. (Oodling/oozing is chiefly what they do.)

    Yes it seems the river through Cambridge has two names. Seems the town Grantham is not named for any river: “To the south of the town [of Grantham, (alleged) origin of the name Grahame], between Little Ponton and Saltersford, the River Witham flows through marshes and water meadows” [wikipedia].

    There’s another River Witham much further South in Essex, near Wivenhoe/University of Essex.

    Can’t believe the thread has got this far without mentioning Grantham is birthplace of Margaret Thatcher.

  48. “hang sanger” has taken over from “hang sangwitch”; for non-ham sandwiches the usual abbreviation is “sambo”. Racial sensitivities may be chipping away at that, but O’Briens still sells its Shambo (sham = ‘shamrock’, not ‘fake’).

    When British English speakers hear “bin”, do they first think “rubbish bin”?

    Absolutely. As a verb, “bin” means “put in the rubbish bin” or figuratively “discard, cancel plans for”. When I thought a Brazilian friend in Ireland had compared shiny black puffer jackets to “bean bags”, it turned out she meant “bin bags”.

  49. The only thing I know about Grantham is that Sir Isaac Newton went to the King’s School there.

  50. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I pronounce it with a lengthened [ɛ]– more [grɛ:m] than [‘grɛɪəm]. My first (Californian) wife pronounced it [græm]. My present (Chilean) wife pronounces it with a definite [h]: [‘grɑhɑm].

  51. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    The only thing I know about Grantham is that Sir Isaac Newton went to the King’s School there.

    In addition, Mrs Thatcher’s father had his grocery there.

  52. Late to this: As a boy I always said “Grayum Bell” but “Gram crackers.” The latter may have been influenced by advertising.

  53. Kate Bunting says

    @Bathrobe – I (UK) certainly pronounced ‘been’ as ‘bin’ when speaking quickly. I’m sure I’ve seen it spelled that way in some 17th century poetry, but can’t lay my hands on an example with the original spelling.

  54. J.W. Brewer says

    A seemingly-British 20th century example of the eye-dialect spelling “bin” for “been” is the title of Donovan’s first LP (released May 1965): “What’s Bin Did and What’s Bin Hid.”

    I’m however somewhat doubtful that the assumed pronunciation of “been” or the non-standard participles are supposed to represent the singer’s own natural idiolect versus some imagined Authentick-Rustick-Folkie register of English, and I’m unsure whether the latter was supposed to be identifiably British versus identifiably American (“Dylanesque,” one might say) versus strategically vague. The “bin” pronunciation is unremarkable in the US, but sometimes eye-dialect skips over that, as e.g. when “was” gets spelled “wuz” to indicate something colloquial or non-posh about the speaker even though formal/posh AmEng speakers standardly use the “wuz” pronunciation.

  55. David Eddyshaw says

    I certainly say /bɪn/ for unstressed “been” myself, and I am inauthentic, urban and unfolkie.

    My vowel system is not altogether RP (though most people don’t notice), but in this respect I’m pretty sure it matches RP.

  56. In this 1960 Nabisco commercial for Graham crackers, “Graham” has two syllables.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CizId2a0JE

    But in this 1991 Nabisco commercial, it has one.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpQmsR1YmPc

    My personal anecdote: until this thread, I was never even conscious of the two-syllable pronunciation — and on many occasions the topic of Graham crackers has indeed come up in my classes. Educational tip: if you want to talk about the cultural climate in which Whitman wrote Leaves of Grass, a fun way is to mention the health lecturer after whom the cracker is named, Sylvester Graham (1794-1851). Graham taught that thinking is bad for women because it draws blood away from the uterus, while sex is bad for men because it draws blood away from the brain.

    And speaking of the American nineteenth century, I get the impression that I’m the last living American who pronounces “forehead” to rhyme with “horrid,” as in the Longfellow poem. All the rest of you whippersnappers pronounce the word as spelled.

  57. In this 1960 Nabisco commercial for Graham crackers, “Graham” has two syllables.

    Aha, that’s from my formative period. So this is not just a geographical thing, it’s a generational one as well.

    *shakes cane*

  58. PlasticPaddy says

    Re early spellings of bin for been, Bin seems to be a minority spelling for been in Donne’s prose (but you would really have to check various editions). Here are two examples from sermons.

    From Sermon “Preached upon the Penitentiall Psalmes”

    Some have bin so beaten out of all confidences in this world…

    From Sermon “Preached upon Christmas day, at S. Pauls. 1625”

    In that soul that acknowledgeth it self to have bin a sink of uncleannesse, a Tabernacle, a Synagogue of Satan…

  59. David Marjanović says

    Compare crayon in American English, as here in Bert Vaux’s survey from 20 years ago:

    …1.46% pronounced it the same as crown? How?!?!?

    *lightbulb moment* Total monophthongization to [aː] is my guess.

    ‘been’ as ‘bin’ […] I’m sure I’ve seen it spelled that way in some 17th century poetry

    That far back the value of i isn’t reliable. Fresh out of the Great Vowel Shift, Elizabeth I spelled deeds as dides.

  60. David Eddyshaw says

    I rhyme “forehead” with “horrid.” However, I cannot claim to be an American whippersnapper (nor indeed any kind of whippersnapper, nowadays. Eheu fugaces …)

    There was a little girl,
    And she had a little curl
    Right in the middle of her forehead.
    When she was good
    She was very, very good,
    And when she was bad she was horrid.

    It’s Longfellow! Who knew? (Well, Jonathan Morse did, obviously.)
    Better than Hiawatha

  61. My introduction to Kiwi vowels was at the airport in Fiji where passengers on my flight were instructed to “please board the earcraft” after spending time in the dutyfree shop, where I bought a shortwave radio cassette recorder for my fieldwork in Papua New Guinea. My linguistics department had furnished me an ancient reel-to-reel recorder, which I was happy to return unused a year later.

  62. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I get the impression that I’m the last living American who pronounces “forehead” to rhyme with “horrid,” as in the Longfellow poem.

    Like David Eddyshaw, I rhyme “forehead” with “horrid”, but then, neither of us is American. I think the spelling pronunciation has become very common in British English.

  63. jack morava says

    I know about the girl with the curl from childhood; I also saw she saw Esau kissing Kate. Everyone in my maternal line aspirates their whiches. Re dialect variations, I like (the political writer) Charles Pierce’s apparently New Orleans inflected `Presnit’ for our recenly ex head of government.

  64. Does anyone pronounce Aaron with the first vowel any longer than its stress would warrant? In other words, does it exactly rhyme with Sharon?

  65. I wish I’d gone to college in Gruntbridge. I think the history of American anti-intellectualism would be completely different.

  66. J.W. Brewer says

    @Y. I may (obviously self-consciousness always gets in the way of reliable data collection here) pronounce the first vowel in Aaron a little longer than I do the first vowel in Sharon. But if I do, I also pronounce the vowel in “air” a little longer than I do the vowel in “share” So I’m not sure that “longer than its stress would warrant” is the right way to phrase it because maybe there’s another variable in play here.

  67. Ah! That’s a good point.
    (What about care?)

  68. Aaron and Sharon don’t rhyme at all for me, probably because of residual Britishness. Aaron has the ‘air’ vowel but Sharon has ‘pat,’ so it rhymes with Karen.

    On the other hand, there was a young couple living near me a few years ago whose names were Aaron and Erin. They used to joke about how their names sounded exactly the same.

    (Luckily for them, there has never been a law against homophonic marriage).

  69. J.W. Brewer says

    @Y: vowel length in “care” exactly the same for me as “square.” Same for “pair” and “tear” etc., which suggests that maybe it’s the lack of an initial consonant that gives the stressed vowel a little more room to stretch out?

  70. IME everyone pronounces every Graham or Graeme [‘greiəm], whether that be Greene, Norton, Chapman or Garden. I’d never come across [græm] before reading this thread.

    Aaron is generally [‘ɛərən] (or with ɛ: — the SQUARE vowel, anyway), though I once knew an Aaron (born in the late 90s, I’d guess) who pronounced his name [‘ærən], so, yes, to rhyme with Sharon.

    No collection of perversions of sandwich would be complete without sarnie. This is the version I prefer as it’s the easiest to type.

    I (English) still remember how to pronounce “forehead”. It might get reduced as far as [‘fɒrɪd] if I’m taking less care than usual, but normally it’s [‘fɒrɛd]. So it has an example of that rarity, an unreduced short vowel in an unstressed syllable. Like [‘kreiɒn].

  71. In Hebrew, אַהֲרֹן ‘Aharon’ is, in careful pronunciation, /ahaˈron/. In casual pronunciation it’s /ˈaron/, with no lengthening of the /a/. In contrast, אָרוֹן /aˈron/ is ‘cupboard’. My mother, returning to her German-speaking household from the first day of kindergarten, was excited to report that there was a boy there called Schrank.

  72. David Marjanović says

    That makes it one of about four words with non-initial /h/.

    …where the /h/, moreover, precedes an unstressed vowel.

    Just a few seconds ago I happened to hear Kohorte, where the second syllable is stressed, with a /h/ that lacked the aspiration, leaving the “voiced glottal approximant” thing you can hear here.

    Aaron and Erin

    Yup, homophones given the rabbit-abbot and probably the merry-Mary merger, so in any case for most Americans and Canadians.

    I’m surprised to learn that Karen is on the marry side of those without the marry-Mary merger, BTW.

  73. Erin has Mary, not merry, since it’s from Irish Éirinn.

  74. The “traditional” prescriptive pronunciation of forehead rhymes it with horrid. However, I don’t think it is clear that the pronunciation that is more common in America today is actually a innovated spelling pronunciation, rather than a survival. Saying it forrid was an innovation itself at one point, and I don’t think there is any evidence that the fore head pronunciation has not coexisted (among the lower social strata, perhaps) with the reduced version all along.

    The same may also be true for the unreduced pronunciations of waistcoat and forecastle, among other words that English-speakers have supposedly “forgotten” how to pronounce.

  75. David Eddyshaw says

    Rowlocks!

    Surely nobody who actually uses the word “forecastle” says it any other way than “fo’csle”?
    Same with “boatswain” and “gunwale.”

    “Waistcoat” I’ll concede.

  76. David Eddyshaw says

    The evidently-common US pronunciation of “Graham” as [græm] goes some way towards explaining the peculiar orthography of the name of the lamentable racist Laura Ingraham.

    On a happier note, I intend to work in as many casual conversational references to Martha [græm] as possible going forward, in the hope that people will attempt to correct me and I can demonstrate my linguistic superiority and all-round greater cultural sensitivity by confuting them.

  77. @David Eddyshaw: You can actually find the spelling “fore-castle” only a couple hundred years ago, I think. That doesn’t necessarily mean the unreduced pronunciation is actually a survival, but it does raise the possibility. You are almost certainly right about gunwales and boatswain though; their reduced pronunciations are older and probably really were universal (except, obviously, among the continuously renewed crop of unacquainted readers).

  78. Breeches. Victuals.

  79. Victuals is like island, with an intrusive consonant (modeled after the Latin) inserted into the “preferred” spelling of a word that had, at the time, never been pronounced with that consonant in English. (Maybe the intrusion is ever-so-slightly less bad in the case of vittles, since that word does ultimately come to English from Romance; whereas iland is old-fashioned common Germanic.)

  80. I’ve always imagined that catsup gained its popularity over ketchup by those who thought it somehow more refined.

  81. i’m a cantabrigian by birth (the massachusetts kind), though my family ‘lect is newyorkish. nothing but [græm] in my world (okay, maybe with a touch of the FUN vowel before the closing consonant sometimes)…

    for me, the aarons, sharons, karens, erins, et al (and the ariel(le)s, too) are a case of the “listen carefully for where the person puts themself in the merry/marry/mary triangle, and follow suit”. they all seem to come in all varieties, which is convenient for telling them apart (at least for unmerged types like me)…

    and i do spend time on boats, so i can attest to gunls and foksls (in YIVO transliteration, of course), though i’ve never been on anything large enough to have a bosun).

  82. How do the US Mary/merry/marry-non-mergerers among you pronounce Cary (Grant)? I always thought he belonged with the Marys, but I seem to hear Americans pronounce it like Carrie (Fisher).

    The last couple of generations of Irish Aarons (and there have really only been a couple of generations of them at most) seem to be pronounced like Aran (Islands) (TRAP). My secondary-school-age daughter has never heard anyone but me say it with the SQUARE vowel.

  83. “fo’csle”

    When I first noticed apostrophes in names of extraterrestrials, my first idea was that authors imitate words (transcriptions) from human foreign langauages, where those mean glottal stops…

    If their inspiration is eye dialect, do they too feel an instinctive urge to say /foʔksl/, /foʔkʔsl/ and /foʔkʔsʔl/?

  84. Burchfield’s Fowler has an entry spelt fo’c’sle, but under apostrophe spells the same word fo’c’s’le. How does one mark the place in a word where one has omitted an apostrophe?

  85. That’s too few apostrophes; why not fo’c’s’l’?

  86. Looks especially good in single quotes: “I said ‘fo’c’s’l’.’”

  87. Graham Asher says

    Thanks for taking some notice of me! The name’s Graham, pronounced /ˈgrɛɪəm/. Or at least that’s how it’s always pronounced here in the UK, with the usual regional variations, as for example /ˈgre:əm/ in Scotland. Abroad I have been called /ˈgrɛxam/, /ˈgrɛɪham/, /ˈgra:ham/, and many other things, but that’s another matter.

    The pronunciation of the spelling variant Graeme is exactly the same.

  88. Stu Clayton says

    How does one mark the place in a word where one has omitted an apostrophe?

    By including the omitted apostrophe in square brackets, and adding an attribution, like so: [‘, ed.]

  89. In Russian such words are simply Dutch or Low German.

    -sl, just with palatalized s and l and front reduced vowel in between means “sail”.

    fok-machta is foremast, and fok is foresail.

    *foksl could mean the foresail in Russian, from Dutch fokkenzeil (whcih does not mean fucking sail).

  90. The genitive plural of ‘fo’c’s’l'’ would be ‘fo’c’s’l’s’’.

  91. P.S. it is written -sel, of course, as in стаксель. I just meant, it is a reduced vowel there, like in focsl.

  92. The genitive plural of ‘fo’c’s’l” would be ‘fo’c’s’l’s”.

    As a copyeditor, I’m afraid I must correct you: the genitive plural of ‘fo’c’s’l’ would be ‘fo’c’s’ls’.’

  93. Then maybe fo’c’s’l’s is a name for a bar.

  94. “Raise foksel-moksel!” shouted Captain Wrongel.
    “Aye, aye, Captain” responded first mate Lom.

  95. Then maybe fo’c’s’l’s is a name for a bar.

    And a great one it would be — I’d happily drink there.

  96. Stu: as in “Hawai‘ [i.e. ’] i”, or more concisely, “Hawai‘[“‘”]i”.

  97. I meant: “Hawai’ [i.e. ‘] i”, or more concisely, “Hawai‘[“’”]i”

  98. Y said “I meant: ‘Hawai’ [i.e. ‘] i’, or more concisely, ‘Hawai‘[‘’’]i’.”

  99. Y said ‘[“’”]’, not “[‘’’]”
    P.S. sigh
    P.P.S. «[“’”]»

  100. John Emerson says

    Space shuttles have blown up on smaller mistakes, guys.

  101. Don’t forget the New Yorker cartoon of a sailor with a diary asking another sailor, “How many apostrophes in ‘fo’c’sle’?”

    Things could be worse, and around 1900 they became so when some major American publishers decided that contractions like “don’t” should be spaced out as “do n’t.” That was approximately when George Bernard Shaw pointed out that “shan’t” ought logically to be “sha ‘ ‘ n ‘ t.”

  102. Christ, what an asshole.

  103. David Eddyshaw says

    “don’t” should be spaced out as “do n’t”

    Not merely pedantry, but incorrect pedantry …

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/244421136_Cliticization_vs_Inflection_English_N'T

  104. David Marjanović says

    and I can demonstrate my linguistic superiority and all-round greater cultural sensitivity by confuting them.

    Refudiating even.

    The pronunciation of the spelling variant Graeme is exactly the same.

    All parents of Graemes, and all parents of Jaimes who are actually Jamies, ought to be tarred & feathered.

    Discuss.

    The genitive plural of ‘fo’c’s’l’’ would be ‘fo’c’s’l’s’’.

    Who’d’a’ thunk it.

  105. No, you missed my correction — that’s the genitive singular. You can’t believe everything you read on the internet.

  106. Jonathan D says

    Graeme and Graham have two syllables. The former is correct, according to our side of the family. This was the sort of thing that would regularly be argued over with an uncle-by-marriage, until one of the last times it came up, when he’d had to dig out his birth certificate and found out that he’d been a Graeme all along.

    My siblings and I also liked to laugh at my father’s weird pronunciation of Aaron (air-), but he’s had to shift since one of us didn’t think of that issue when naming one of his grandsons…

  107. Speaking of pedantry (as you were, David Eddyshaw), I see that the rules for spacing out contractions in e.g. Scribners’ house style were more complicated than I thought. At

    https://archive.org/details/houseofmirth1908whar/page/11/mode/1up

    you’ll find a page from a 1908 printing of The House of Mirth which spaces “it ‘s” and “that ‘s” and “have n’t” but actually not “don’t.”

    But Brett, you weren’t overlooking a George Bernard Shaw irony, were you? Look at all the missing apostrophes in e.g. Pygmalion and read what Shaw had to say about that unfortunate punctuation mark. He was on your side! Executive summary of his position: except (at a charitable maximum) for some trivial pronoun ambiguities like I’ll/ill and we’ll/well, the apostrophe is almost always unnecessary. Pedantry continued: online, Shaw’s preface (where some of this is spelled out) is to the first, 1916, edition of the play. But for the 1941 Penguin edition he revised and improved.

    Two more anecdotes about apostrophes: Emily Dickinson generally omitted them except as a phonetic marker in polysyllables like “is’nt.” And Lewis Carroll, who of course was a professional logician, used to apostrophize “ca’n’t” to its logical extreme.

  108. David Eddyshaw says

    my father’s weird pronunciation of Aaron (air-)

    Same as mine, and therefore correct. In fact, by the same token, the only correct pronunciation …

    I suspect that the dividing line here is in reality between the dwindling band of those familiar with the names of Moses’ siblings, and everyone else, for whom the name has no particular extraneous associations and is basically Modern, Hip and Happening.

  109. David Eddyshaw says

    Ca’n’t and sha’n’t are certainly logical. I’ve a feeling I’ve seen them elsewhere than in Carroll.

    The true monstrosity is the l in could. I can see no excuse for it at all.

  110. “that’s the genitive singular” — no, it’s not.

    n.s. fo’c’s’l’ — g.s. fo’c’s’l’’s — n.pl. fo’c’s’l’s — g. pl. fo’c’s’l’s’

    using single-quotes instead of double-quotes or italics for mention was My Little Joke, like the double apostrophe in the g.s. just now.

  111. To answer drasvi’s question: No, I doubt that anyone who learns to read with sentences like “Mary’s isn’t” is tempted to pronounce “fo’c’s’le” with glottal stops.

  112. using single-quotes instead of double-quotes or italics for mention was My Little Joke, like the double apostrophe in the g.s. just now.

    Argh, out-pedanted! I shall pierce myself with an apostrophe.

  113. I always thought he belonged with the Marys, but I seem to hear Americans pronounce it like Carrie (Fisher).

    Speaking as a non-merger American, yes Cary is pronounced like Carrie (the “marry” vowel). My sister-in-law is Keri and I pronounce that with the “merry” vowel.

    Not sure she herself does though, she is a merger.

  114. Forehead is a word I learned early on when I first started learning English in the US around age 8. It appeared in a story I was reading for school, and as I was not familiar with it my father taught me the word, using the pronunciation from the dictionary.

    I distinctly remember being confused by his pronunciation because the story had a character mishearing forehead as four heads, which didn’t seem likely the way my father said it. I had an inkling that some people might say forehead more like it’s spelled.

    To this day, I pronounce it [ˈfɔːrɪd], even though I’ve come to be familiar with the spelling pronunciation since then. I say fore- the same way as when it stands on its own and only reduce the -head. As a result, it doesn’t rhyme with horrid for me in my natural pronunciation, as I use the LOT vowel for the latter.

  115. J.W. Brewer says

    Here’s one subtlety about the Mary/marry/merry split-or-merger and how it may not map onto words like Aaron/Sharon – it seems to assume, at least for the minority of AmEng speakers who do not have a full merger, an analysis of Mary/marry/merry in which the /r/ is the initial consonant of the second syllable rather than the final consonant of the first syllable. That’s a fine and perhaps sometimes blurry-in-practice distinction, but still a coherent one. By contrast, for me at least the /r/ is definitely part of the first syllable not the second one in names like Aaron and Sharon. The standard Wells lexical sets give the SQUARE vowel in GenAm as the GenAm DRESS vowel + /r/, and don’t have either the TRAP vowel or the FACE vowel as combinable (in GenAm) with /r/ for the vowel in an /r/-final syllable.

  116. ə de vivre says

    for me at least the /r/ is definitely part of the first syllable not the second one in names like Aaron and Sharon

    Interesting, what are you basing that on? (I don’t mean that as a rhetorical question, in case internet communication makes that ambiguous)

  117. My sense is that non-rhotic accents and their kindred pronounce these words that way. They’re dropping the end-of-syllable r and pronouncing it at the beginning of the next.

  118. the name of the lamentable racist Laura Ingraham

    Here in Washington, DC, there’s an Ingraham Street in an alphabetical run of streets with three-syllable names, so there’s some question about how to pronounce it.

  119. A boy from NZ who worked for a while in my old office was always going to London to meet up with his cousin Bin.

    Bret in “Flight of the Conchords” had a similar problem.

  120. Jonathan D says

    I suspect that the dividing line here is in reality between the dwindling band of those familiar with the names of Moses’ siblings,

    I can’t agree with that – the conversations where we laughed about Dad’s pronunciation were definitely about Moses’ brother, and I specifically remember being surprised that it didn’t match what I remembered from other people on the same topic. You suspicion sounds very plausible in terms of how the newer version came about, but I think it must have crossed that line pretty quickly in my circles.

  121. J.W. Brewer says

    @ə de vivre: I’m basing that on introspection about my own idiolect (always a hazardous endeavor!) combined with reference sources such as this one, https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Aaron, which assigns the /r/ to the first syllable in both pronunciations listed under GenAm, but rather interestingly offers one RP option where the /r/ finishes the first syllable and another where it begins the second syllable.

  122. Merriam-Webster syllabifies it, ˈer-ən. OED has British /ˈɛːrən/ or /ˈɛːrn̩/, U.S. /ˈɛrən/, and doesn’t show syllabification. It does have another meaning, ‘The wild arum or cuckoo pint, Arum maculatum‘ (by folk etymology, historical and rare).

    (The plant has a great variety of English names, some suggesting reproductive organs, q.v. the thread next door.)

  123. I prefer to say that “forehead” rhymes with “torrid”.

    I thought “forrid” was still pretty standard in Australia until I watched a video on a Qantas flight where the narrator said “fore head” (don’t remember the context).

  124. Forehead rhymes with torrid but not with horrid for me. The base layer of my English was laid in northern New Jersey, where horrible has the LOT vowel, so I also apply that to horrid. But torrid is a word I picked up later in life; I’m not sure how it is pronounced in North Jersey. I probably would rhyme torrid and horrid if I was drifting into a more British accent though and merging the CLOTH set with LOT.

    As for Aaron, the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary says that it is traditionally ˈeər ən in BrE and still usually so for the biblical character, but the personal name may nowadays be either ˈeər ən or ˈær ən.

  125. Since the syllabification of Aaron is being discusses, the first of the “Mr. Garvey” sketches by Key and Peele (or really just Key, in this case) seems relevant.

  126. I’m too late to this post for comments about the pronunciation of “Graham” to still be relevant, but I always pronounced it /græm/ until, quite a few years ago, when I moved to a part of Brooklyn near the intersection of Graham & Grand and I lived on a street with Graham as one of its cross streets. I quickly learned, when ordering food, to call it /ˈgrɛɪəm/ (or even /ˈgrɛɪhæm/), or else who knows where my food would have ended up. It didn’t help that I lived on Meserole St, & that there’s a nearby Meserole Ave which almost intersects with Graham. But I don’t live there anymore, so I’m back to /græm/ now.

  127. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I wonder if the use of Arran as a name pushes Aaron towards the air- pronunciation.

    (random musings)

    You can be called Lewis, Harris, Skye, Iona, Coll or Arran, but probably not Uist, Benbecula, Mull, Tiree, Rhum, Muck, Eigg or Gigha.

    Barra seems plausible, although I don’t think I’ve come across it, but Canna is probably ruled out on semantic grounds. I’ve come across Jura for dogs, but not for people. I’m not sure if Isla is for the island or the glen or something else, although the island is often pronounced that way.

    I know someone called Ross whose brother is called Kyle, but he assured me their mother wasn’t a geographer…

  128. David Eddyshaw says

    Merriam-Webster syllabifies it, ˈer-ən.

    Really? That seems an extremely odd syllabification for English, or indeed any familiar language – apart from Arrernte.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrernte_language#Phonotactics

  129. David Eddyshaw says
  130. PlasticPaddy says

    @Jen
    Some of the names you dismiss are well established among the lesser nobility, e.g. Lord Muck, Mull of Kintyre.
    More seriously, Barra is used as a given name in Ireland, but would have a different origin. There is also de Barra = (de/du) Barry.

  131. From DE’s Arrernte link: “Peter Sculthorpe’s music theatre work Rites of Passage (1972–73) is written partly in Arrernte and partly in Latin.” How has that never come up here before??

  132. David Marjanović says

    Huh, so even in Arrernte there’s a need for Ominous Latin Chanting.

    It has more recently been argued that it’s much simpler to analyze Arrernte in terms of boring old CV syllables. The “rabbit talk” language game simply shouldn’t be interpreted as moving syllables around, but as moving rhymes around.

    Syllabification in English is much more complex and multilayered in any case, but I recommend starting here.

    he’d had to dig out his birth certificate and found out that he’d been a Graeme all along

    …are you telling us he didn’t know his legal name?

  133. PlasticPaddy says

    @dm
    Re not knowing one’s own name, you know of course that the UK does not have a personal ID or residency registration system. I am not sure if a person would be obliged to provide a birth certificate in order to obtain a legal document like a passport, driving or marriage license in a particular name. Of course in circumstances where these documents do not match one another, name on tax form or birth cert, etc., a person may be suspected of fraud. So some care is required.

  134. In Ireland (and perhaps in England Wales and Northern Ireland) under common law your legal name is the name you are generally known by, not necessarily the name on your birth cert, drivers licence or passport. However, such official documents are prima facie evidence of your legal name. If you want a new passport to have a different name from the one on your old passport the authorities may ask you for proof of change of name. A deed poll is one such proof, but I imagine a statement sworn by your parish priest stamped by a Peace Commissioner would work just as well. Alternative you can add your new name as an aka in the passport’s “remarks” section.

    It is still the custom for State Ceremonials, Irish Republicans and the Gaelic Athletic Association to Gaelicise/de-Anglicise personal names in Irish-language texts. There have been some questions about allowing people to have both English and Irish versions of their name on official documents, e.g.
    https://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2009-02-10.1502.0
    https://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2010-01-19.2679.0
    https://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2014-02-18a.1922

    Some people have English on some documents and Irish on others, which is may strictly speaking be illegal if common law assumes you are “generally known by” only one name. The practice may in some cases be used fraudulently e.g. to claim two welfare payments, but OTOH clamping down on it would be politically unfeasible.

  135. @Jen: ben becula is definitely a minor figure who shows up somewhere in the palestinian talmud.

  136. Ow!
    I was thinking of someone like Ben Gazzara, but this is better. In fact he, too, could be an obscure Talmudic figure, too.

  137. David Marjanović says

    under common law your legal name is the name you are generally known by

    Ah.

  138. January First-of-May says

    I’d probably have thought of Benbecula as something you’d expect to see in the Monster Manual. “Oh no, it’s a Venomous Benbecula!”

    The Talmudic option is neat, though.

    but Canna is probably ruled out on semantic grounds

    I don’t see why not. It’s listed on several baby name websites, and there’s even a saint.

    I agree about Muck, Eigg, and Gigha, though. Mull, Tiree and Rhum have a good fantasy-hero feel, but I’m not sure if they would work in a 20th or 21st century setting. I can’t think of a way to pronounce “Uist” without utterly breaking English phonotactics.

    I can’t recall having ever heard of anyone named Coll; for me it’s another candidate for the fantasy-hero category. (To a lesser extent so is Barra. Jura is either a German forest or a weird respelling of Yura. Arran, at least, sounds realistically modern.)

  139. @January First-of-May: Coll is a major character in Lloyd Alexander’s children’s fantasy series The Chronicles of Prydain. The teenaged protagonist, Taran, initially has a hard time comprehending that bald, middle-aged farmer Coll is actually one of the greatest heroes of the realm.

    Rhun is also a lesser, albeit important, character. He shows first how a callow, vainglorious youth can grow to be a man when it matters, and shortly thereafter that even heroes can die.

  140. mollymooly: There have been some questions about allowing people to have both English and Irish versions of their name on official documents

    During WWII my mother worked in intelligence. I never found out most of what she did, but she did tell me about The Case of the Missing Internee. This was in an internment camp for people of questionable citizenship. A number of the internees were of Chinese background. (I suppose they may have been from places that were under Japanese control, such as Taiwan or Manchuria.)

    The problem was that every time they called the roll, everyone was there, but when they did a headcount, there was always one person missing.

    My mother asked “Do you think that one of them has both a Cantonese and a Mandarin name?” Consternation ensued, and the problem was eventually cleared up. Maybe not that particular combination of languages, but that was the concept.

  141. Kenneth Grahame is /ˈɡreɪ.əm/.

  142. Jonathan D says

    …are you telling us he didn’t know his legal name?

    I am a bit confused about how he had managed to get things like a passport with a spelling different to his birth certificate, but I guess once the change has happened on one form of identification, it can fairly easily be propogated.

  143. @maidhc: there is an apocryphal story that when Pádraic Ó Conaire worked for the English Board of Education he entered a promotion competition and requested Irish as his language exam; the examiners asked Douglas Hyde to set the paper but he declined and recommended one Patrick Conroy instead. So Patrick Conroy set the exam and Pádraic Ó Conaire passed with flying colours.

  144. David Eddyshaw says

    I had a friend working in a somewhat esoteric field who had to pass a professional examination in circumstances in which it was fairly clear to all parties that he knew more about the subject than any of the examiners did.

    I can only be thankful that I have never been placed in such an awkward position myself.

  145. Graham commercial: if your nerve forces need to be vitalized or you’re a man perilously engaged to a woman or a horse, visit Glasgow and

    https://jonathanmorse.blog/2021/01/27/you-republicans-and-your-underwear/

    Non-US readers, Dr. Alcott would be Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May and head-in-the-clouds Transcendentalist. About the goings-on at his Fruitlands commune, the LH news is

    http://www.alcott.net/cgi-bin/home/champions/Larned.html

  146. John Emerson says

    Has Graham Central Station been mentioned?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ck4AlFfu5pM

  147. @J1M: “uist”, like the card game, no?

  148. John Cowan says

    once the change has happened on one form of identification, it can fairly easily be propogated

    My friend Ronald Joseph H― aka Joseph Ronald H―..

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