Trivial note on pronunciation: forehead

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 6 04:57:28 UTC 2009

On Wed, Aug 5, 2009 at 10:59 PM, James Harbeck<jharbeck at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       James Harbeck <jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA>
> Subject:      Re: Trivial note on pronunciation: forehead
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>I once discussed this with a 4head-speaker. She argued that "4head'
>>has always been the proper pronunciation. The pronunciation "forrid"
>>is merely a distortion necessary to make "forehead" rhyme with
>>Well, that's a reanalysis of the history of the pronunciations that's
>>impossible to refute in a casual conversation.
> Aside from the considerable unlikeliness of someone coming up with a
> rhyme that required such a distortion in pronunciation to work, and
> the further unlikeliness of the persistent success of a rhyme that
> did so. It would be like rhyming "fritter" with "mixture" or "Mathis"
> with "bath house."
> FWIW, I only ever knew that it was sometime and someplace pronounced
> "forrid" because of that rhyme. Everyone I ever knew growing up (at
> least of those I heard saying "forehead" and noted it) went with the
> spelling version.
> And it was from MAD Magazine that I learned that waistcoat is
> "weskit." But I hadn't heard of it before then, so I learned it right
> the first time.
> James Harbeck.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The argument noted was presented by a college senior as we were going
home on the subway after a bridge party featuring much beer and pizza.
With sobriety and maturity, she might not have essayed an argument of
that form.

Besides, IAC, Mother Goose and other works for children are filled
with nonsensical language having nothing to do with "real" English.

FWIW, in my family when I was a child, we actually used "forrid,"
among other old pronunciations, obsolescent words, and
hypercorrections, within the local BE.

My grandparents called T-shirts "waists." A certain kind of blouse was
also called a "waist." My grandfather used "childring." Bicycles were
called "wheels." As a toddler, I wore panty-waists.

Once, my mother sent me to the drugstore for a bottle of [bej@]
aspirin. I'd never heard the word [bej@] before. Thinking that she may
have meant to say "Bell" [bej at l] - brand-name - Aspirin, I attempted
to question her. However, she being the kind of woman nowadays (and
possibly in those days, too, out of earshot of the "chirren," because
"little pitchers have big ears," a common saying when I was a child)
known as a "bitch," answered only,"What did I say? I'm not going to
tell you again! Get out of my face!"

So, I went to the drugstore, asked the man for a bottle of "Bell
[bej at l] Aspirin," and, in exchange for some money, he gave me a bottle
of something (I hadn't yet learned to read), no questions asked. I
gave it to my mother and that was that.

Of course, what I'd been sent to get was *Bayer* Aspirin.

It goes without saying that it coincidentally happens to be the case
that /l/, as well as /r/, is used as an intrusive sonorant in BE. We
didn't use intrusive sonorants in *our* family idiolect. But they
occurred in the speech of other local sub-dialects of BE. Hence, the
druggist was not at all confused by my attempt to order "_Bell_

I don't remember, but I, too, very likely learned the proper
pronunciation of "waistcoat" from MAD.
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

The American Dialect Society -

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