A new pronunciation a-borning?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 7 20:23:41 UTC 2008

It was just plain, old American in an ad for some local merchant, as
far as I could tell. However, it could very well have been the case
that the speaker was not an American and I would have noticed that,
had I been paying closer attention or had I more experience in the

An Australian friend of mine, back in the 'Seventies, told me a story
of not being able to pronounce the single word, "Boston," in such a
way as to fake out a Canadian border guard in order to go to a NELS
conference. It used to be the case that, at the Canadian border, the
border guards merely asked, "Where were you born?" and accepted any
answer offered. But this was true only for Americans. My friend, not
knowing this, didn't have her passport with her (or "with her_self_,"
as I've noticed that people are beginning to say), so she decided to
try to confidence the guard. She sounded American enough to me in her
pronunciation of that one word, but I don't have the training or the
experience of a border guard. He booted her off the bus and she had to
go through some changes before she was finally allowed to cross. She
was lucky not to have been sent back to Boston.


On 2/7/08, Damien Hall <halldj at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Damien Hall <halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      A new pronunciation a-borning?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Wilson said:
> > Heard in a local (Boston) TV-ad voice-over:
> >
> > INo-va-tive ['In@ v@ t at v]
> >
> > in place of INo-vay-tive ['In@ "vei t at v]
> What was the ad for?  I ask because the variant you heard in it is (almost) the
> standard British pronunciation of that word:  primary stress on the first
> syllable, middle syllable with a schwa.  The only slight difference is that
> most Brits would have [I], not schwa, in the final syllable.  If it was an ad
> for a British or British-related product, they may have been trying for the
> correct accent, as in a Jaguar [Jae.gju:.@] ad that I remember (cf also our
> recent discussion of that word and related phenomena here).
> I assume the whole voice-over wasn't in a British accent, or you'd have said.
> There's one smoking-cessation product ad airing at least here in Philadelphia
> where the voice-over is done by a Brit, though the product isn't British
> (specifically) as far as I know.
> Damien Hall
> University of Pennsylvania
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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.
                                              -Sam'l Clemens

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list