Painting the porsche

Yerkes, Susan SYerkes at EXPRESS-NEWS.NET
Wed May 26 00:02:49 UTC 2004

To all --
I hope (somewhat in hindsight) that you don't mind posts from a non-academician. If that is not kosher on this list, please let me know and I'll go back to just enjoying the lively interchange.

Meantime, here's my amateur two cents worth re: Damien's observations on the AmEng pronunciation of Porsche.

Damien's AmEng vs. British English nativization theory certainly may be correct.
However, in the case of Porsche, my impression is that the predominant American pronunciation is actually NOT the more faithful German (Por-shuh), but "Porsh," as it is in England.
I suggest this because of the old joke about the blonde (or whatever) house-painter who, upon being told to paint the "Porch" reports back that he is finished painting the car.
If we all said "por-shuh" it wouldn't be a joke.

Perhaps it's just that we Texans tend to Anglicize more than folks in other states, but I believe I have heard that joke from people in various parts of the U.S.

Susan Yerkes
San Antonio Express-News
San Antonio, Texas
-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Damien Hall
Sent: Tuesday, May 25, 2004 12:50 PM
Subject: Coup de grace

I'm responding to these comments.  See below for the response.


In a message dated 5/24/04 10:54:05 AM, juengling_fritz at SALKEIZ.K12.OR.US

> How about the name of the German car Porsche being pronounced 'Porsh'?
> BTW, I have never heard *coup de grâce* pronounced as anything other
> than [ku duh gra]. Fritz

Not exactly the same phenomenon, but the other day I heard Louis Armstrong's recording of "On the Sunny Side of the Street." He quite distinctly renders a line, "If you never had a cent, you'd be rich as Rocker-fellow."

Steve Boatti
sjb72 at


The [porsh] pronunciation of 'Porsche' isn't the same phenomenon as the [ku duh gra] pronunciation of 'coup de grâce', in my opinion (sorry if this was what you meant too, Steve).  I think that:

- [ku duh gra] is a hypercorrection arising from the feeling that no identifiably French word should have a consonant pronounced at the end of it (and thanks to others for the other examples, like *verdigris*)/`.

- [porsh] is due to a nativisation strategy.  In British English, [porsh] is the standard native pronunciation of 'Porsche', with [porshuh] restricted to specialists, I think (I am British, but not an engineer).  It's not the same as [ku duh gra] because, pronounced according to the rules of English, I think it's arguable that 'Porsche' does indeed yield [porsh]:  English doesn't usually pronounce final <-e> as the nucleus of a distinct syllable (its effect is on the quality of the preceding vowel instead).

Perhaps there's also an interesting point in the difference between British and American English with regard to a) whether nativisation strategies are used and
b) if they are, what strategies are used.  From some work I've recently done on the nativisation of stress-patterns in loanwords from French (which had as its starting-point in the literature Zwicky (1978) 'Across the Channel and across the Atlantic', in *Linguistic Inquiry* - thanks Arnold!), I'd tentatively argue that Americans often tend not to nativise as much as Brits anyway.  I draw this conclusion from the fact that <café> becomes AmEng [kae'fej] (preserving at least the French stress) but BrEng ['kafej] or even ['kaefi] (Northern dialects).  If it's true that Americans do nativise less than Brits, that might explain why the 'native' American pronunciation of <Porsche> is in fact [porshuh], so the same as the German original.  I don't speak German, so I don't know whether there are any residual factors that would allow you to distinguish between the German and the American pronunciations of <Porsche>, given that the number of syllables is the same.

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

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