Monthly Archives: May 2012

Stating the Obvious About Standard English

Like many language enthusiasts, I was dismayed by two recent New Yorker pieces implicitly criticizing the field of modern linguistics. The first was a negative review of Henry Hitching’s The Language Wars: A History of Proper English, the second a … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

The Brooklyn Accent (And the City it Stands For)

Like almost any theatre student in New York, I spent my share of time during college at the Drama Book Shop. Naturally, I always gravitated toward the voice and speech section of the shelf. I remember browsing through a book … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Sean Connery’s /s/

Reader Jason Reid wrote me recently with a thoughtful question about a notorious celebrity quirk of pronunciation: Comedians often imitate Sean Connery by pronouncing /s/ like /?/ (as in she). Does Sean Connery really not make a distinction between those … Continue reading

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Posted in English Phonetics | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Place Names

Do place names offer us any insight into the formation of dialects? In a convenient alternate universe, one would be able to make a map of the etymology of place names in America, label which nations or regions these etymologies … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged | 10 Comments

Impolite ‘Please’

‘Don’t forget your please and thank you!’ was perhaps your grandmother’s way of saying ‘try to be polite.’ Yet while ‘thank you‘ is still important to civilized discourse, I find that ‘please‘ has almost the opposite effect in American English. … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged | 18 Comments

How Dirty was ‘Bloody?’

When I was in elementary school, a teacher informed me that “in England, ‘bloody‘ is a dirty word.” Even at eight years old, this sounded like an exaggeration, the linguistic equivalent of those stuffy Victorians who were shocked by ankles. … Continue reading

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Posted in British English | Tagged | 21 Comments

Bowling or Boeing?

I’ve spent the past few days in Pennsylvania. Accents in the Southern half (or so) of the state tend to feature l-vocalization, the process by which /l/ at the end of a word or syllable becomes a vowel (usually some … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged | 14 Comments