Pronunciation

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Mon Jan 17 16:05:03 EST 2000


On Mon, 17 Jan 2000 18:13:01 +0000, Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk wrote:

>My boss caught me reading the list today.  Ouch.

Uhoh!  How much trouble did you catch (if any)?  :)

>* Walk ends in -ork (Dogsbody)
>
>Someone said that Americans don't put the r into Walk.  Nor do we!  We British
>drop our Rs in words like Fork and Cork, so they are all pronounced -awk in
>British.  ORK is the most natural way for a Brit to write that sound, even
>though we (well, some of us) know words like Auk.

I wasn't very clear on this.  What I mean to say is that for a word like
"walk", the American pronunciation puts the vowel further back in the mouth,
sometimes all the way back depending on where you're from.  So it's an AH
sound, close to a yawn.  In general (and recognizing that there are many
different British accents) y'all put that vowel further forward.  The shape
of the mouth is different.  For me, the -awk sound (as I read it) is that
same back-of-the-mouth vowel sound.  I thought DWJ writing it "ork" was
perfect--it reminded me exactly what the sound would be.  Even though I know
the "r" sound isn't pronounced, it's sort of implied or elided...it's at
least a possibility if you were really exaggerating the British "walk".  "R"
is not even a possibility for an American speaker saying "walk."  Anyway.
The other nice thing about that scene was that she had that whole long list
of words that came close to that sound, some of which I hadn't realized
would be pronounced that way.  That's the danger of assuming a "British"
accent is one you hear from an actor on TV...I can hear a real difference
between the way actors speak and the way the average person on the street
does (like, if we get news clips where some ordinary person is talking).

>* Megan etc.
>
>I have heard both Meggan and Meegan for this; I think Meggan is more
>authentically Welsh.  I have no idea about Tegan, although I would tend towards
>Teegan; I would also tend towards Reegan for Regan, although I think I correctly
>guessed that it ought to be pronounced Raygan, or do I mean Reagan?

I really don't know much about linguistics, just one really good college
course (from an Australian man who taught us a quick-and-dirty trick to tell
a New Zealander from an Australian) but one of the things I learned was that
when you read or speak an unfamiliar word, you pronounce it based on how you
pronounce a known word that you (usually unconsciously) associate with the
new word.  So I pronounced Megan MAY-gan and Regan to rhyme with that,
because that's how I associated the two words.  Tegan ended up TEE-gan
thanks to Doctor Who...otherwise it would probably have gone the same route.
(On this same note, here in America we had Donald Regan who I think was
Secretary of State or at least some kind of government bigwig, and his last
name was pronounced REE-gan.  Helpful, since he worked for Ronald RAY-gan.)

>* Raederle
>
>Loved the McKillip anecdote, whoever posted it!  I can see that Britta might
>just see a straight German spelling there, but I will admit to saying REH-dairl

My pronunciation of that name came out to four syllables.  Pretty but
awkward.
>
>But the name with which I have most difficulty is probably Ralph.  DWJ takes
>some effort in making sure readers of Lives pronounce this as Rafe, which I
>_know_ is authentic, but _cannot_ bring myself to say...

Oh, me too!  I have the hardest time with that actor Ralph Fiennes.  Every
time I read _Lives of Christopher Chant_ I say Uncle Ralph's name correctly
maybe the first three times, then it's back to Ralph with an L.

Melissa Proffitt
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