Joel vs Jo-El

Damien Hall halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue Mar 4 15:15:03 UTC 2008

When I arrived in Philly from London five years ago, I had trouble pronouncing
my American classmate Joel's name as he did, too.  My native (and, I think, the
usual British) pronunciation of that name is /'Jow. at l/, whereas he (and everyone
else in the class) pronounces his name /Jowl/.  That phonotactic combination
(/ow/ + /l/ with nothing intervening) in that name seemed so strange to me that
I caught myself thinking I didn't even have it in my inventory, until someone
pointed out that of course I did, in words like 'dole' etc.  From that point on
I had no trouble pronouncing Joel's name in the way he did.

I can't really account for the pronunciation of (Billy) Joel as /Jow.'El/,
though (I assume that there was main stress on the second syllable, from the
perceived hyphenation).  I had certainly heard the piano man's name pronounced
before I came here.  Maybe it was a calque on the French pronunciation

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

The American Dialect Society -

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