"nayger" [WAS: Re: Rastus (was: "Jazz Means Happy and Loose Like" (1917))]

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Mon Dec 10 17:10:01 UTC 2007

On Dec 10, 2007 9:40 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> At 9:16 AM -0500 12/10/07, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
> >I think 'renege' came into English in the 16th Cent., and it might
> >have been subject to the sporadic raising of /e/ (BET) to /I/ (BIT)
> >that was common in Late Middle English (and has, in fact, continued).
> >Such pronunciations as /yIs/ (yes) and /yist at rdI/ were common
> >(standard) in older varieties of Brit. Eng. and certainly not unknown
> >on this side of the pond
> Besides the vowel height issue, I suspect Charlie was also puzzled,
> as I always have been, about why /nEg/ or /nIg/ would have been
> represented by <-ege> with that final vowel, which is usually (but
> not here) symptomatic of velar softening.  Are there other cases of
> <-ege> with a velar stop?

I don't know of any, but I think "renege" is a special case because it
was originally spelled "renegue" (or "reneague") and lost the "u"
along the way. Other alternate spellings like "reneg" or "renig" make
a bit more sense orthotactically speaking.

--Ben Zimmer

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

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