On names, changing them, and pronunciation

Charles Butler hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk
Wed Mar 5 09:07:41 EST 2003

Otta - sorry, Otter, wrote:
> I'm assuming you mean the USofA by 'the States'?  It's just that Mexico is
> a United States as well.

Gulp - I didn't even know that...

>One of the most amusing things about pronunciatian in the UK is that
> tendency to add 'r's where there are none.  So here in the USofA, e.g.,
> we say 'law' not 'lore', and 'ma-RI-ahs' not 'ma-RI-ars'.

I think it's more the other way round, isn't it? Not that British English
adds 'r's where there aren't any, so much as that it leaves them out where
there are. That's the reason Marias rhymes with liars, because the 'r' in
'liars' just doesn't get pronounced.

But I should add two caveats. First, I'm speaking here of 'standard' British
English, otherwise known as BBC English or Received Pronunciation. Here in
Bristol of course Marias and liars _wouldn't_ rhyme because we do indeed
pronounce the 'r' in the latter. (We also stick in 'l's at the ends of words
ending in vowel sounds - see Fire and Hemlock - so Maria would actually be
pronounced more like 'Marial' by a true Bristolian.). Secondly, there is
indeed a tendency (and I've no idea if it's peculiarly British) to add an
'r' between two words if the first ends and the second begins with a vowel
sound, so that 'law and order' sounds like 'Laura Norder'. Or perhaps 'Laura
Nawder', if it's RP.

By the way, since my earlier email I looked up Black Maria in Brewer's
Phrase and Fable and it claims that it's actually an American (United States
of) expression anyway, originating in Boston (Mass, not Lincs). So
presumably it would be well known there.


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