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Thread: Language quirks: Wear are you going in your underwear?

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    Language quirks: Wear are you going in your underwear?

    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    Yes, I realize that I mentioned "underwear" eight times in this post, including this sentence. I really should grow up, I suppose.
    Because "underwear" kept recurring, it reminded me of the cod-Latin phrase semper ubi sub ubi which "translates" to become "alway where under where".
    I'm amused by the explanation of the joke that I recently found on Quora, which reveals the punning meaning "always wear underwear", but goes on to ruin it by saying
    One might say this to a Scotsman who is anxious about the proper accoutrements to his kilt. ;-)
    I guess you might say it, but the Scotsman would find the pun impenetrable. In Scottish English "wh" and "w" have different sounds (/hw/ and /w/).

    ETA: Hmmm. I thought I was on the "amuses" thread. Oh well.

    Grant Hutchison


    Mod note: posts moved from Trivial (or not so trivial) stuff that makes you happy to their own thread since I found the subject interesting and thought it might distract from the "happy" conversation.
    Last edited by PetersCreek; 2021-Jul-22 at 08:07 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    In Scottish English "wh" and "w" have different sounds (/hw/ and /w/).
    As they do in properly pronounced US English. Although I do revert to my native Southern vernacular from time to time, I'm very much in the where camp.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    As they do in properly pronounced US English. Although I do revert to my native Southern vernacular from time to time, I'm very much in the where camp.
    Interesting. The Phonological Atlas of North America suggests the "wine-whine merger" was pretty well established across the USA by 1997, with the Lower South states and Texas as significant hold-outs, maintaining the contrast.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Interesting. The Phonological Atlas of North America suggests the "wine-whine merger" was pretty well established across the USA by 1997, with the Lower South states and Texas as significant hold-outs, maintaining the contrast.
    That is interesting and I'm glad you posted it. While composing my last post, it came to mind that I've heard a lot of variation throughout the South. I'm originally from Jackson, Mississippi, marked prominently in the linked map as "No distinction." I've also lived in several southern locales and the pronunciation can be so distinct in some places—like parts of North Carolina—that it can sound exaggerated. I've heard a lot of people say it as "were" while others say "whir." In many areas, the degree of distinction can vary with placement within a sentence and with certain word combinations. For instance: /hw/ere y'all goin' /w/en ya get there?
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    As they do in properly pronounced US English. Although I do revert to my native Southern vernacular from time to time, I'm very much in the where camp.
    I’ve never made the distinction and people around me (northeast) did not, so I have never considered it incorrect.
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    (Family Guy is about 5% good, 95% rubbish, but this thread has me thinking "cool whip".)
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    Under where?

    And as I've said many times, I hate homophones. Eye type them awl the dam thyme.
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    Youtube-famous expert in Old Norse language & sagas & myths, Jackson Crawford (PhD), has used the "wh"/"w" thing several times as an example when making points about phonetics (geographic distribution, evolution over time, the concepts of phoneme & allophone). It's apparently stood out to him for most of his life, even before he became a linguist, because it's always made him stand out from most other people in his home area (rural Colorado & Wyoming). He had spent most of his childhood with his grandparents and picked up the unvoiced "wh" from them, whereas everybody else in his generation had gone with the more recent change from "wh" to "w". In one of his most recent videos, although he didn't talk about those sounds in particular, he put some text on the screen about them and adding that he's already heard every "Cool Whip" joke you could imagine.

    Gothic had a letter for the unvoiced "wh": Ƕ, ƕ.

    What most people who talk/write about the difference between "wh" and "w" either don't notice, or don't make it clear that they have noticed, is that there are at least two distinct versions even among those who do an unvoiced "wh". When Stewie said "Cool Whip", he put the unvoiced fricative in the velar position, the same tongue position as "k", "g", and "ng" (IPA symbol /x/). Jackson Crawford's unvoiced fricative for "wh" is not velar but bilabial, like a normal voiced "w" and also "b" and "p" (IPA symbol /ɸ/). The original position was velar, with the bilabial option coming along later under the influence of the adjacent "w", so even Jackson Crawford's old-time holdover pronunciation was already a derivative.

    Any Englisher whose dialect of English still uses the /ɸʷ/ is making a sound that's pretty unusual globally; it has a tendency to end up disappearing (as it has for most of English) or turning into something else soon after it arises. Its IPA symbol is derived from a Greek letter, but even Greek doesn't have it anymore; they just figure that was an intermediate stage the Greek letter went through during its pʰ→f transition, making it really pʰ→ɸ→f. The only other setting I've heard it in is Sami, in which it only arises as an allophone of H next to an O or U. Here's a song in Sami (lyrics here) in which /ɸ/ (with no "w" attached) shows up in the words "guhkki", "dohkko", "suhtu", and "vuhtti", but not "halida" or "rahkkis". If you're not used to thinking of that as a linguistic sound, it sounds like somebody blowing a candle out. (Sami, BTW, is very closely related to Finnish, which is the language Tolkien wanted Elvish to sound like.)
    Last edited by Delvo; 2021-Jul-23 at 05:59 AM.

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    Like many Scots, I'm in the /ɸ/ group--in fact, was taught in primary school that the sound made by "wh" was the sound of someone blowing out a candle. A bit north of my home town, in a regional accent confusingly called Doric, the /ɸ/ has evolved into /f/--which, along with a bit of a vowel shift, means that "What?" sounds like "Fit?" and "Where?" sounds like "Far?". Foreign visitors wander around with a look of anxious attention on their faces.
    But we also hear /hw/, and in the Highlands /xw/ is common, with that voiceless velar fricative that ends the word "loch". (People in these parts use /xw/ for emphasis or comic effect.) In old Scots orthography, the /xw/ sound was spelled "quh", and you can still see that in some placenames. Not far from here is a place called Cultoquhey, for instance, pronounced cull-TOE-whey.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2021-Jul-23 at 07:11 PM.
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    Here in the UK, there's a bit of a micro-spat going on between a peer of the realm and a BBC sports presenter. The peer assures us that the way the sports presenter "drops the g" from word ending in "-ing" is "wrong".
    This from a man with an RP accent that fails to distinguish between "w" and "wh", and rarely pronounces the letter "r", both of which are "wrong" in my accent. It's interesting how some speakers of Received Pronunciation (which is a johnny-come-lately, minority English accent, once associated with prestige) still haven't grasped the idea that they have an accent, just like everyone else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Here in the UK, there's a bit of a micro-spat going on between a peer of the realm and a BBC sports presenter. The peer assures us that the way the sports presenter "drops the g" from word ending in "-ing" is "wrong".
    This from a man with an RP accent that fails to distinguish between "w" and "wh", and rarely pronounces the letter "r", both of which are "wrong" in my accent. It's interesting how some speakers of Received Pronunciation (which is a johnny-come-lately, minority English accent, once associated with prestige) still haven't grasped the idea that they have an accent, just like everyone else.

    Grant Hutchison
    I always thought that “Goin ramblin, whistlin , don’t you know, “ was an affectation possibly from some impediment about saying “ ing”
    But never tracked it down to a region, was it pseudo aristocratic?
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I always thought that “Goin ramblin, whistlin , don’t you know, “ was an affectation possibly from some impediment about saying “ ing”
    But never tracked it down to a region, was it pseudo aristocratic?
    It was an affectation among dandies of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. You can see it in the early Jeeves and Wooster stories, for instance, but it fades away latter in the canon. So something done by public schoolboys who had been raised to RP, but wanted to affect a certain carelessness of manner.
    There's a story about how King Edward VII greeted Lord Harris when he attended Ascot wearing tweeds and a brown bowler hat, instead of morning dress.
    "Mornin' Harris," said the monarch. "Goin' rattin'?" Sometimes that's quoted as an example of "dandy g-dropping", but it seems more likely to me that Edward was affecting the sort of "lower class" accent he associated with people who went ratting.

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    Where is the "received" accent supposed to be received from?

    And what's the origin of calling people who aren't governors "governor"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    Where is the "received" accent supposed to be received from?
    It's not received from anywhere in particular. The usage comes from the older meaning of received, "accepted, approved", the same meaning we see in received wisdom and received text.

    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    And what's the origin of calling people who aren't governors "governor"?
    Guv'nor. It means "boss". I think it comes from the way wealthier children had live-in governors or governesses, who were effectively in charge of their education and upbringing, and therefore largely governed their lives. So by analogy people took to addressing their fathers or their bosses as governor. And then it just became a matey form of address that indicated some respect for a person older than oneself--in the UK, similar to the informal use of "boss".

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    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2021-Aug-01 at 11:06 PM. Reason: extended last sentence
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post

    And what's the origin of calling people who aren't governors "governor"?
    In addition to Grant's explanation of the specific one, I would add more generally that we often use words of endearment that have nothing to do with what the person actually is. In the US we sometimes use (or at least used to use) words like "bro" or "bubba" or "cuz" for people who are not actually relatives. I've heard that in Australia you can use the word "possum" to refer to people, and in the US we sometimes use words like "pumpkin" even though the person is obviously not a pumpkin. So I don't think you should read too much into that.
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    I worked with a couple of trainee doctors who called me guv'nor, and several more who called me boss. It was a sort of transitional phase between calling me by my title and calling me by my first name--a way of moderating what can otherwise feel like an abrupt and edgy change.
    But often it's just a cheery mode of respectful address--I noticed taxi drivers shifting from "pal" to "guv'nor" as I passed through my mid-fifties, which was simultaneously interesting and irritating.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I would add more generally that we often use words of endearment that have nothing to do with what the person actually is. In the US we sometimes use (or at least used to use) words like "bro" or "bubba" or "cuz" for people who are not actually relatives.
    Small semantic shifts (changes in meaning of a word) are easier to understand. Big ones stand out.

    BTW, I've asked about "governor" in two different places now, and in both cases, I've had my spelling incorrected. Apparently, one isn't allowed to spell this word right. (In fact, that's part of what made me curious about that word; whenever I see it used this way, it's always deliberately misspelled, even from people who weren't doing that with anything else they were writing, including other words spoken by people with the same accent they were spelling for that word. It made me suspect that there was a particular actor who was known for the ideosyncracy of saying that line in a goofy way while playing a goofy character, probably on Fawlty Towers. For another example of a similar thing, I've been known to quote, while he was still alive, Steve Irwin's line "The crayowd luoves it when Oy almowst doy", even though I don't change my spelling when quoting other Australians in other contexts; I did it in his case because of not just his accent but also his flare.)

    And back to the words in the first post: We have a company in this country that sells men's clothes, called "Men's Wearhouse". Apparently a lot of people don't independently notice that it isn't "Warehouse" and are surprised when it's pointed out to them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    BTW, I've asked about "governor" in two different places now, and in both cases, I've had my spelling incorrected. Apparently, one isn't allowed to spell this word right. (In fact, that's part of what made me curious about that word; whenever I see it used this way, it's always deliberately misspelled, even from people who weren't doing that with anything else they were writing, including other words spoken by people with the same accent they were spelling for that word. It made me suspect that there was a particular actor who was known for the ideosyncracy of saying that line in a goofy way while playing a goofy character, probably on Fawlty Towers.
    It might be akin to the way that we often misspell madam as ma’am to show that we are using the contracted word as an address to someone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    And back to the words in the first post: We have a company in this country that sells men's clothes, called "Men's Wearhouse". Apparently a lot of people don't independently notice that it isn't "Warehouse" and are surprised when it's pointed out to them.
    The same with the Beatles. I was never really clearly aware that it was “misspelled” even though when I write the name of the insect or car I would never make the mistake.


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    Or another one is yessir, where I guess we deliberately group the words together to emphasize that it’s a salute.


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    When used as an endearment in the U.S., "pumpkin" is usually spelled "pun'kin", similar to how "guv'nor" became contracted, perhaps.
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    Pedal, petal, peddle.
    Medal, metal, meddle, METTLE!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I've heard that in Australia you can use the word "possum" to refer to people, and in the US we sometimes use words like "pumpkin" even though the person is obviously not a pumpkin. So I don't think you should read too much into that.
    I will instantly be shown to be incorrect in the range of its usage, but the only time I have heard '"possum" used to describe people is by the satirical Australian comedian Barry Humphries in his guise as Dame Edna Everage - a character who started out as a caricature of a snobbish unsophisticated suburban housewife. Steve Irwin's accent was very much on the 'broad' side of Australian accents.

    In Australia guv'nor is not used much if at all and is replaced by the ubiquitous 'mate' which can range from a term of endearment to a term of abuse depending on the circumstances, and inflexion, in which it is used

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    Quote Originally Posted by ozduck View Post
    I will instantly be shown to be incorrect in the range of its usage, but the only time I have heard '"possum" used to describe people is by the satirical Australian comedian Barry Humphries in his guise as Dame Edna Everage - a character who started out as a caricature of a snobbish unsophisticated suburban housewife. Steve Irwin's accent was very much on the 'broad' side of Australian accents.

    In Australia guv'nor is not used much if at all and is replaced by the ubiquitous 'mate' which can range from a term of endearment to a term of abuse depending on the circumstances, and inflexion, in which it is used
    I have no doubt you're correct. I only mentioned "possums" because I saw it as an example in Wikipedia, a notably reliable source.

    Regarding "mate," it's the same where I come from. In New York, the word "pal" can be a very nice word, but can also be (and often is) a term of abuse. "Hey pal, watch the way you drive!"
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I have no doubt you're correct. I only mentioned "possums" because I saw it as an example in Wikipedia, a notably reliable source.

    Regarding "mate," it's the same where I come from. In New York, the word "pal" can be a very nice word, but can also be (and often is) a term of abuse. "Hey pal, watch the way you drive!"
    That is interesting about "pal". I thought it was only ever used at the least in a mildly aggrieved manner. But of course, unlike you, my sole knowledge of the speech patterns of New Yorkers is via movies or TV and they are no more reliable a source than Wikipedia - in fact probably less reliable.

    Actually, I do have another source of knowledge - the story's of Damon Runyon but those are possibly a bit too picturesque to be absolutely reliable. (Written with tongue firmly in cheek)

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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    As they do in properly pronounced US English.
    Good thing too, otherwise how could we tell “who” from “woo”?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    BTW, I've asked about "governor" in two different places now, and in both cases, I've had my spelling incorrected. Apparently, one isn't allowed to spell this word right.
    It's because it's not "governor", it's "guv'nor"--two different words, pronounced differently in British English, and meaning something different. No-one (in the UK at least) uses "governor" as an informal mode of address--to the extent I had to read your question several times before I figured out what you were asking about.

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    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2021-Aug-02 at 11:51 AM. Reason: "in British English"
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    Quote Originally Posted by ozduck View Post
    That is interesting about "pal". I thought it was only ever used at the least in a mildly aggrieved manner.
    In Scotland, "pal" can range from friendly to aggrieved. "Chum" is aggrieved. (As is "sunshine", which is only ever uttered in toweringly patronizing tones.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    It might be akin to the way that we often misspell madam as ma’am to show that we are using the contracted word as an address to someone.
    And then there's missus or missis, as ways of spelling the contracted form "Mrs" (or "Mrs." if you're in the USA). No-one would think of writing it as mistress. That one is also a mildly aggrieved form of address in Scotland: "Hoy, missus. Make your mind up!" But I've also heard "missus woman" in Glasgow, used as a way of attracting a woman's attention: "Missus woman, missus woman, you've left your umbrella on the bus!" It seems like the "woman" is dropped in there to moderate the mildly aggressive usage of "missus" on its own.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    In Scotland, "pal" can range from friendly to aggrieved. "Chum" is aggrieved. (As is "sunshine", which is only ever uttered in toweringly patronizing tones.)

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