The hambone redux

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Tue Apr 15 12:41:28 UTC 2008

At least one (white) female student of mine shares with at least one moderately-prominent (white) television actress the name "Elisha."

Both of those individuals pronounce the name with [-i-] as the middle vowel, unlike the [-aI-] pronounciation of the Old Testament prophet's name, which I have always assumed to be standard. However, in recent years, in the Catholic church that my wife belongs to, the [-i-] pronounciation is regularly heard for the prophet's name--perhaps the influence of misapplied Latin?


---- Original message ----
>Date: Mon, 14 Apr 2008 15:18:53 -0400
>From: Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
>On Mon, Apr 14, 2008 at 3:12 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at> wrote:
>> You have to remember that very few country colored folk had access to the kind of education that would have taught them anything about Classical Latin and grammatical gender. I'm sure that both sets of parents invented "Delecta" and "Davidica" off the tops of their heads, without the foggiest notion that    "-a" had anything to do with women or (historically) with the Feminine gender. There are Biblical male names like "Noah," "Joshua" (Josh away"), "Elija," "Jonah," etc. ending in [-@] to provide examples.
>Conversely, I know of a girl with the (Biblical male) name "Nehemiah", or "Miah" for short.
>--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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