r --> z

Lynne Murphy m.l.murphy at SUSSEX.AC.UK
Mon Jul 10 15:10:04 UTC 2006

Is it common for /r/ to change to [z]?

I'm wondering about a set of UK/Australian nicknames:

Barry --> Bazza
Sharon/Sharapova --> Shazza (also Shazzer)
Maurice --> Mozza  (and more famously, Morrissey-->Mozza)
Boris --> Bozza
Charles/Charlotte --> Chazza
Antony Worrall Thompson --> Wozza
Gary --> Gazza
Cheryl/Cherie/Sheryl --> Chezza/Shezza

(stole several of these from the Wikipedia article on 'Zza

Other famous ones involve some kind of sibilant at the start of the reduced
Heseltine --> Hezza
Prescott --> Prezza
Gascoigne --> Gazza

The only one in the Wikipedia article that doesn't follow one of these
patterns was Gavin-->Gazza, but we can assume that he's only Gazza because
he was dating a Chazza.

Any explanation for why -zza would be what the r-starting syllable would be
'weakened' to?  (I'm obviously no phonetician, though I have played one in
first-year lectures.)  I suppose the tongue is in the same neighbourhood
and  both r and z are voiced, but do similar things happen in other


Dr M Lynne Murphy
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and English Language
Arts B133
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QN

phone: +44-(0)1273-678844

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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