"foiemageddon", WOTY for the lily-livered set

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jun 7 19:49:12 UTC 2012

On Jun 7, 2012, at 3:27 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:

> At 6/7/2012 02:55 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>> On Jun 7, 2012, at 12:41 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>> > I'll vote for it!  But how do these non-rhotic
>> > Californians pronounce "foie" to make it a
>> > minimal pair with "Ar" (pronounced I presume
>> > "ah")?  "Fwa" (as I pronounce "foie") or "fa" (or both?) vs. "ah"?
>> >
>> > For me, "fwa" is not "fa".  Are there minimal pairs for these two?
>> >
>> > Thanks,
>> > Joel
>> Good point, Joel.  I guess I must have been
>> thinking of /fw/ as a phoneme, contrasting
>> minimally with zero.  Anyway, the contrast is
>> *more* minimal for those (possibly non-existent)
>> Californians who happen to be non-rhotic (or
>> can't pronounce their /r/s because of the foie
>> gras stuck on the roof of their mouth).
> Thanks, Larry.  But surely there must still exist
> some upper-crust foie-gras-eating (a good
> combination, crust and liver) Californians who
> emigrated from Boston, where they went to and
> said "Hahvahd".  (San Francisco was once the West
> Coast Cambridge.  Or is it still?)

Unfortunately, as my daughter is now discovering (having just opted for grad school at UCSF over MIT or Harvard), the West Coast one has much higher rents, and Cambridge isn't cheap.
> And can anyone provide minimal pairs for "fwa"
> and "fa"?  (Even French would suffice.)

Well, that does make it easier.  A "crise de foie" is a liver crisis (usually for humans who have imbibed not wisely but too well) and a "crise de foi" is a crisis of faith, while a "crise de fa" is an affliction of singers who can't make it to F.  (Even if "fa" isn't also 'a long long way to go' in French.)

A "foire" /fwar/ is a fair, while "fard" /far/ is paint, although they differ in gender. 

"J'ai faim" (/faeN/, if that's how you do a nasalized low front vowel in ascii) is of course 'I'm hungry', while "j'ai foin" /fwaeN/ is more like 'I have hay', except that you can't say it with just a bare noun in French.  If "mourir de foin" can be to die of hay, it forms a minimal pair with "mourir de faim" = 'die of hunger'.   
> P.S.  Is chopped liver off the menu
> too?  

Naah.  They don't force feed those chickens, after all, they just take voluntary contributions.  And calves' liver is still on the menu too.  Only those geese have an effective lobby.


> Wikipedia's first sentence on the subject
> is "Chopped liver is a spread popular in Jewish
> cousine"  Are California's Jews packing up and
> moving out?  Would Woody Allen say instead, "How
> close is it to chopped liver?"?
> Joel

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

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