Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 22 02:00:43 UTC 2013

On Wed, May 15, 2013 at 2:52 PM, Jim Parish <jparish at> wrote:

> A discussion on another list has raised a question in my mind. Are there
> English dialects that do not make the /N/ - /Ng/ distinction, as in
> "singer" vs. "finger"?

The distinction wasn't made in the BE of my childhood in East Texas. Both
"singer" and "finger" had only [N]. Everywhere else, black speakers *used
to* make the standard distinction: si[N]er vs. fi[Ng]er But, that's
definitely not true, anymore. Where I live now, in Northeast Pennsylvania,
the major HMO is Geisinger, Inc. In one of the local TV ads, a white
spokesmodel pronounces the name of the firm as "Gei[s]i[N]er." In the other
TV ad, a black spokesmodel pronounces the name of the firm as
"Gei[s]i[Ng]er." This is the only difference in dialect between the two

Of course, the correct pronunciation is "Gei[z]i[N]er." ;-)

I'm 76. So, this wholesale replacement of [N} by [Ng] in BE is a phenomenon
that seems to have come out of nowhere for no reason. The Academy should
have banned this annoyance from the literary form of the dialect back in
the '70's, long before it became common enough to annoy me, {Yes. I now
understand my grandparents' absolute refusal ever to use any word other
than "wheel" for the kind of velocipede that had come to be commonly
referred to as a "bicycle" in my childhood.] Perhaps - and, at best, this
rises only to the level of a WAG - the driving force behind this change is
rap and hip-hop. Nearly every rapper from anywhere in the country, using my
laughingly-meager collection of about twenty hip-hop/rap sides on my iTunes
as my source, has replaced [N] with {Ng]. But this tiny collection does
include speakers from Saint Louis, Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Oakland,
Washington, DC, Baltimore, New York, Norfolk, and Philadelphia.

Before rap became hip, I'd heard only a single black speaker, an Army buddy
from Wake County, NC, fail to use [N] in "singer."

Wonder whether Marshall, Texas, has switched from "si[N]er, fi[N]er" to
"si[Ng]er, fi[Ng]er."

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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