Clerk / clark etc

Damien Hall halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sun Feb 29 17:57:47 UTC 2004

Someone posted:

'6 years ago in Harrod's it was a pound to use the loo. Coin operated doors
to a luxury men's room with attendant.  If you were a shopper, rather than a
tourist, the clerk (clark?) would give you a token.'

The British term, for me anyway, would actually be 'attendant'.  'Clerk' is
marked as American and definitely non-British usage, not only for semantic
reasons (what we would call a 'clerk', someone who sits behind a desk and sells
tickets of some type, isn't that far semantically from the wider semantics that
I think the term has in America), but also because we spell the word 'clerk'
but pronounce it /klArk/, where /A/ = low back 'a', not using a rhoticised
schwa as I think most Americans do.  It's especially the phonetics that make
the American usage marked.

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

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