Heard on The Judges: multi [m^ltai] = "a (whole) lot of"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 14 14:50:21 UTC 2008

Forty-ish, white, male speaker:

"I heard _multi_ [m^ltai] people running up and down the stairs."

This is the first time that I've heard "multi" both pronounced and
used this way since the 'Fifties in Saint Louis. In those days,
pronunciations like multi = "mul tie" semi = "sem eye," etc. were
unheard of. In fact, "multi" couldn't be used as an independent word.
("Semi" was already being used independently as a name for the
eighteen-wheeled tractor-trailer combo, but with [sEmi / sImI] as its
pronunciation.) Nowadays, only "hemi" is not pronounced "hem eye / him
eye," it seems like to me. IAC, "mul tie" was just a joking
pronunciation used as slang only by me and and a few close friends. It
was hip for perhaps six months. Hearing it used again with that slang
meaning a half-century later by someone who hadn't even been born in
those days was startling. Of course, nowadays, the pronunciation "mul
tie" is no longer a joke. If anything, it's standard. So, that aspect
of it wasn't surprising.

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