pirates in the Gulf of X

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Sat Dec 6 16:22:21 UTC 2008

noticed in an op-ed piece "Grand Theft Nautical" by John S. Burnett in
the 5 December NYT: a reference to piracy in the "Gulf of Arden".  at
first i took this to be a simple typo (possibly a cupertino) for "Gulf
of Aden", but it seems to have been intended (and has been preserved

googled references to this body of water (raw webhits):
   Gulf of Adan  149
   Gulf of Arden  1,040
   Gulf of Eden  4,280
   Gulf of Aden  880,000

reference works in English seem to have the spelling ADEN (for both
the gulf and the Yemeni port city for which the gulf is named),
pronounced (in English) [ed at n] ([e] as in "hay").  EDEN might be an
attempt to represent this English pronunciation (or there might be
people who think it's [id at n], as in the Garden of Eden).  ADAN might
be an attempt to approximate the Arabic pronunciation (with a low
vowel in both syllables), or might represent a compromise between the
Arabic and the English pronunciations.  ARDEN might have originated
with non-rhotic English speakers, with AR representing [a:].

the AR spelling is used by speakers (like Burnett himself) who would
appear to be rhotic; presumably they got it (ultimately) from non-
rhotic speakers.  but how do they pronounce ARDEN?

anyone have actual knowledge of the spellings and pronunciations?


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

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