flay / flea (and other "ea" words)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Jun 20 00:51:49 UTC 2009

At 6:06 PM -0400 6/19/09, Charles Doyle wrote:
>No, proper names don't "count"--unless we wish to remember that
>Ronald Reagan, before he aspired to national office, went by the
>name of [rigIn].  I wonder why [regIn] was deemed

More likely to win the Irish vote?


>---- Original message ----
>>Date: Fri, 19 Jun 2009 16:51:30 -0400
>>From: Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>Subject: Re: flay / flea (and other "ea" words)
>>At 12:36 AM +0800 6/20/09, Randy Alexander wrote:
>>>On Fri, Jun 19, 2009 at 11:43 PM, Charles Doyle <cdoyle at uga.edu> wrote:
>>>>   In my Shakespeare class this morning, discussing _King Lear_, I
>>>>got to  wondering out loud why the _Riverside Shakespeare_ ,
>>>>which professes to show modernized spellings, gives the verb
>>>>"flay" as "flea"--thereby ensuring that most students will
>>>>mispronounce and therefore misunderstand the word: "With her
>>>>nails / She'll flea thy wolvish visage" (1.4.307-08).
>>>>   I took the occasion (a "teachable moment," in the current
>>>>cliche) to ask the old favorite history-of-the-language "trivia"
>>>>question:  What four common current English words have that "ea"
>>>>vowel spelling and preserve the pronunciation /e/?
>>>I've also never heard of shea butter
>>There's also Shea Stadium, although it's now defunct and I suppose
>>proper names may not count as words.
>>>, but up here in the near-Siberian
>>>wastelands there are several classes of elementary school aged
>>>Chinesestudents (mine) who would instantly rattle off "break steak
>>>great yea", aswell as their rhoticized companions "bear pear tear
>>>wear swear".
>>>Randy Alexander
>>>Jilin City, China
>>>My Manchu studies blog:
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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