"Diphthong" in the mouth of the South
hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 10 21:22:00 UTC 2008
I was chatting with Carol, a white linguistics prof (phonetics) of
about my age (32) at UC Davis in the late 'Sixties, at a party. In the
course of the conversation, it came out that Carol and I, despite our
respective standard-sounding accents, were natives of the same part of
the country, she from Shreveport, LA, a mere hoot and a holler
(ca.35mi.) from my natal town of Marshall, TX.
Laughing, she pointed out that, despite being a professor of
phonetics, she had only recently come to realize that she had been
mispronouncing a very important term in that field.
C, Yes. After all this time, come to find out that I've been mispronouncing it!
W. Really? Which one?
W. And how were you mispronouncing it?
C. Well, I've always been saying "di[p]thong."
W. [confused] Ah, how should it be pronounced?
W. [his head bugging] Oh, of course! Uh, you're saying that it should
be "di[p]thong," right? And not "di[p]thong"?
W. Oh, wow! I'm glad that you brought that up! Because I've been using
that same mispronunciation! So, it ought to be "di[p]thong" and not
W. [wondering, a la Richard Pryor: "Is the gull crayzih?"] Good. I
think I've got it. Well, I'm going to get another beer.
It was some five or so years later, while I was at M.I.T., that I
*finally* flashed on the fact that the pronunciation is "di[f]thong."
Have any other Southrons had a similar problem?
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.
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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