[Ads-l] Awe-dropping revisited?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Mar 16 22:18:05 EDT 2017

As y’all will recall, we’ve discussed the inevitability and/or (for at least one of our subscribers) the tragedy of speakers coming to conflate open-o with /a/, whence “awe-dropping”.  As an old east-coaster, I keep my own “cot"s distinct from my “caught”s, but I recognize that most other U.S. English speakers don’t.  

In any case, I was listening to an album on one of Delta’s audio channels on which a woman performs a Broadway show tunes medley.  I didn’t record who the singer was, but one of her selections was the Gershwins’ “’S Wonderful” from “Funny Face”. The intro, I now see on the web, was not Ira Gershwin’s but does appear in the same form in Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition, which you can here her perform here:


The transcription, at http://www.metrolyrics.com/s-wonderful-lyrics-ella-fitzgerald.html, reads as follows (complete with the indicated truncaysh' of each line in the quatrain).  It’s the couplet that’s crucial, though. 

Don't mind telling you, in my humble fash
That you thrill me through, with a tender pash
When you said you care 'magine my emoshe
I swore then and there, permanent devoshe

You made all other men seem blah
Just you alone filled me with ah

In both Ella’s version and the one I heard on the plane, the couplet rhymes “blah” not with “ah” (which makes no sense at all—filled me with “ah”? Really?) but with “awe”.  Pronounced, however, /a:/ to rhyme with /bla:/.  (More like script /a/, technically.).  So, awe-dropping in action?  

As a true New Yawka, I assume Ira Gershwin would not have rhymed “blah” with “awe”, but then neither appears in *his* intro verse, as you can see at 



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

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