Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Thu Jul 22 02:42:44 UTC 2004

On Jul 21, 2004, at 5:53 PM, Dennis R. Preston wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Dennis R. Preston" <preston at MSU.EDU>
> Subject:      farty
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> Close but no cigar. Yes, forty (with open o) falls together with
> farty (with short o), but four (with long o) is actually preserved in
> St Louis, as it is in my dialect (Louisville) ,one of the few which
> keeps the hoarse-horse distinction. (Alas, used to keep the
> hoarse-horse distinction, I should say.) Therefore, the
> representation of FARRist versus FOURist is not a good pair to
> illustrate homophony since the two are distinct. As usual, folk facts
> are not up to this level of sophistication, and even locals use
> fourty-four as a joke phrase (farty-far) which,in local performance,
> does not in fact happen.

My pseudo-phonetic representations were clearly less than transparent
(no pun intended). I agree entirely with your every observation wrt the
Saint Louis dialect. There is no conflict between us. The puerile joke
referred to has to do with precisely the fact that "forty-four" is
pronounced very much as though spelled "farty-four," leaving open the
possibility that "44" might be misconstrued as "farty four." Hence, a
sharp-witted listener might say something like, "Only four were farty?
Didn't the rest of them eat beans, too?" Such sparkling repartee was
considered to be thigh-slappingly funny in the fourth grade.

"'FARR-ist' v. 'FOUR-ist'" is not intended to illustrate homophony, but
heterophony. The high-school teacher from Omaha was making the claim
that the St. Louis dialect was non-standard, using as his exemplar the
local pronunciation of "forest." Said local pronunciation sounded, to
his ear, something like "FARR-ist," whereas the "correct" pronunciation
was far better exemplified by the pronunciation used in his hometown, a
noise that sounded to the ears of us St. Louisans like "FOUR-ist," i.e.
"4-ist." Needless to say, only his authority as teacher kept us from
laughing in his face. What in the world could "4-ist" possibly mean? It
certainly couldn't mean "forest"!

> Luckily, Jill Goodheart at MSU (goodhear at msu.edu)has just finished an
> important study of St. Louis vowels (confirming, by the way, Labov's
> observation of the presence of the Northern Cities Shift there) so we
> have up-to-date acoustic information of these facts.

By the time that I reached high school in 1950, I was already aware
that there were then at least four subdialects spoken in St. Louis, two
among blacks and two among whites. Blacks from one part of town sounded
far less Southern than those from the other part of town. Most whites
said "bad," "mad," etc., but some few said - unfortunately, IMO -
"be-ad," "me-ad," etc. There were, no doubt, many other distinctions
both between and among these subdialects, but these were the ones that
I happened to find most salient at the age of 13.

-Wilson Gray
> dInIs
>> On Jul 21, 2004, at 1:30 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>> -----------------------
>>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>> Subject:      Re: A nursery rhyme
>>> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
>>> --
>>> --------
>>>> Now that's a first for me!
>>> I also (NYC, born 1945) grew up saying [ar at gan], with primary on the
>>> first and secondary on the last syllable.  I too was ridiculed out of
>>> it, along with my [a] vowel in "forest", "corridor", "moral", etc.
>>> (when I was an undergraduate in Rochester, NY).  And I also natively
>>> rhymed "forehead" and "horrid" as C[ar at d] in that particular rhyme
>>> (which my mother was quite fond of), but I later spelling-corrected
>>> "forehead" to the compound stress version (as in "car-head"), before
>>> all those [a]s mutated into open o's.  So now I'm a
>>> forehead-as-in-whorehead speaker, even though I know it's "supposed
>>> to be" [for at d] as in "horrid" (with an open-o).  And I've switched to
>>> [or at g@n]--still can't get that [i] for the middle vowel ("Orygun").
>>> larry
>> Larry, the description of your former pronunciation of "forest," etc.
>> sounds like a description of one of the features of St. Louis English.
>> As a child, did you consider it hilarious if you could con someone
>> into
>> saying a number between 39 and 50, because "fort(y)" had fallen
>> together with "fart(y)"? I remember a teacher who was a native of
>> Omaha
>> specifically using "forest" - our FARRist v. his FOURist - as his
>> example in a fruitless attempt to demonstrate ("What? YOU're the one
>> who talks funny!) that we St. Louisans spoke with a distinctive local
>> "accent."
>> -Wilson
>>>> The classic pronunciation of those who don't hail from the state is
>>>> [origa:n], and I've also heard [ar at g@n] (both in contrast to the
>>>> native
>>>> [orig at n]).  But this is the first I've heard of the variant you
>>>> report
>>>> using, which sounds like a blend of the two "furriner"
>>>> pronunciations
>>>> cited
>>>> above.
>>>> Peter Mc.
>>>> --On Tuesday, July 20, 2004 2:32 PM -0700 Jonathan Lighter
>>>> <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM> wrote:
>>>>> Exactly.  And I used to say /a/ reg /a/ n  {Oregon) too till I was
>>>>> ridiculed out of it.
>>>> *****************************************************************
>>>> Peter A. McGraw       Linfield College        McMinnville, Oregon
>>>> ******************* pmcgraw at linfield.edu ************************
> --
> Dennis R. Preston
> University Distinguished Professor
> Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic,
>         Asian and African Languages
> Wells Hall A-740
> Michigan State University
> East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
> Office: (517) 353-0740
> Fax: (517) 432-2736

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