Trivial note on pronunciation: forehead (and 'weskit')

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Aug 6 14:33:00 UTC 2009

At 10:30 AM +0100 8/6/09, Damien Hall wrote:
>I (a speaker of SSBE) learnt this nursery-rhyme, too, as a child. I see the
>point that in order for it to be literal 'rhyme', _forehead_ must be
>'forrid', but it never bothered me at the time! My family were and are
>'4head'-speakers, and so I unflinchingly said:
>There was a little girl
>Who had a little curl
>Right in the middle of her 4head;
>And when she was good
>She was very, very good,
>But when she was bad she was horrid!
>I suppose, if I'd ever thought about why this was called a 'rhyme' when, in
>fact, the words in two metrically-prominent positions in the verse _didn't_
>have the same rime (for me), I'd have appealed to the broader sense of its
>being part of the genre of such poems for children, known, of course, as
>'nursery rhymes'. They have other qualities apart from having rhyming words
>in metrically-prominent positions, notably the rhythm, and that might have
>been what qualified this as a 'rhyme' for me. Maybe that, and the other
>actual rhymes in ll. 1 and 2 and ll. 4 and 5.
>As for 'weskit', I only learned that pronunciation from my American
>now-wife when we met, and I remember momentary confusion about what garment
>this was before context made it clear. I still have a spelling
>pronunciation of it in my own lexicon.
>NB the variation in my preterite of _learn_, in the first lines of
>paragraphs 1 and 4 above, which I wrote, noticed, considered changing, and
>finally left for your delectation.
Yes, "learnt" is more clearly marked [+ British] for me than
"dreamt", which I think is in free variation for me with "dreamed".
As for "forehead", I'm another in the ranks of [fOrhEd] (or, in my
case, [farhEd]) speakers who only knew other people rhymed it with
"horrid" because of the rhyme.  "Weskit" was more of a case of having
two separate items in my lexicon, one for this garment, so
pronounced, that was some sort of a vest, the other, spelled
"waistcoat" and pronounced like a transparent compound, was something
I read about.  I may even have imagined this looked different from
the "weskit", hard to remember.  And of course neither spoken
[wEsk at t] nor written "waistcoat" was all that frequent anyway.  So
this was a bit like hearing folks talk about being [mAyzld] and
reading about folks being "misled".


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