pirates in the Gulf of X

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat Dec 6 23:53:28 UTC 2008

Oh, bother these non-rhotic speakers  and their clumsy attempts at
eye-dialect! I once met an Aussie named Ken Fawstuh. For reasons that
I'll spare you, I assumed that this was Ken Forster. I later was told
by a close Aussie friend, who was familiar with my speech pattern,
that his name was in fact Ken _Forester_, IIRC WRT the spelling.

Interestingly, my informant was herself unable to produce the rhotic
pronunciation and gave me to understand wherein lay my
misunderstanding primarily by means of gestures. Amazing, given that
we were both some random number of sheets into the the wind at a
going-away party. The simpler solution of spelling out his name
occurred to neither of us. The  Aussie non-rhotic pronunciation of /r/
as /a/, though not as clear as the Southern "ah-ruh," would have
sufficed and would certainly have been easier than trying to produce
"You need 'nother syllable" by MacGyvering a language of gesture and
hoping to have it correctly understood by a drunk at a party.


All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

On Sat, Dec 6, 2008 at 11:22 AM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at stanford.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject:      pirates in the Gulf of X
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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
> on-line).
> 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?
> arnold
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