[Ads-l] Q: M silent in MN?

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Jan 3 15:51:56 UTC 2015

At 1/3/2015 02:03 AM, W Brewer wrote:

>What homework is JB wanting us to do for him now?

OK, I'll confess.

I really couldn't think of "mn" words silencing the M last night, 
only several (contra Larry's hypothesis) silencing the N, like "condemn".

The question arises from someone asking elsewhere:
>In a British Museum print, critical of George ii, is seen a paper on 
>which is written "A Whimnam new co[me] over".
>I wonder if any colleague here can explain what is meant by the word 

One response was:
>This may be a stretch, but I immediately thought that it might be a 
>phonetic spelling of a pronunciation of the (already-phonetic) 
>"Houyhnhnm."  Given some of the other elements of the satire--not 
>only erotic but also references to eating, drinking, and anger 
>(according to the curator's note)--and the general tenor of the 
>piece, perhaps it is being used ironically to point toward the 
>yahoo-like aspects of George's character?  Setting up a kind of 
>analogy in which George II : Solomon :: Yahoos : Houyhnhnms.  Does 
>anyone know of any satires or panegyrics in which George II is the 
>"Houyhnhnm come over [from Hanover]"?
>Again this seems like a stretch, but the Faulkner edition had been 
>published in Dublin very shortly before the print was made.

I found  from Wikipedia's article "Houyhnhnm" that it can be 
pronounced  /?hw?n?m/ -- first ? I as in "lid", second ? schwa.  So 
"Houyhnhnm" can be pronounced "whinnum".  Which might have in the 
18th century by the non-native-English-speaking George II  been 
"phonetically spelled "Whimnam" -- provided I could say the "mn" had 
a silent "m".  So I was grateful for "mnemonic".

(My thought about George being associated with the Houyhnhnm is that 
to the writer of the print critical of him is that the writer took 
his speech -- either in English or German -- as sounding like a horse 
whimnaming (whinnying). "A Whimnam new co[me] over" fits George II, 
who (I believe) only came over to England some years after his father did.)


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

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