Patio had no /ae/ way back when!

Mike Salovesh t20mxs1 at CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU
Fri Jun 16 06:37:06 UTC 2000

> Peter said:
> > I'm with Larry. "Potty-o" for patio sounds raw-ther pretentious to me (b.
> > 1943, native speaker of northern Illinois-ese).>
> Larry said:
> > > I (b. 1945) can't recall ever hearing anything OTHER than /ae/ for the
> > > stressed vowel in "patio" in New York, California, or Wisconsin.  And I'm

Natalie said:

> It appears that there's a consensus among those of us of A Certain Age.
> I (b. 1943, native speaker of Mississippi) would have assumed that
> anybody saying potty-o was making a joke.

I guess Peggy and I are of Some Uncertain Age.  (Hoobert Heaver was
still President when we were born. I'm from 1931, Peggy from 1932.) Our
basic tendencies in pronunciation come out of strong roots in the
Chicago metropolitan area.  All other things being equal, we tend toward
what Bloomfield called "SAM": Standard Average Midwestern.

Both of us wince when we hear /ae/ in "patio". It just plain sounds
wrong.  In our English, "patio" is a 3-syllable word, and for us the
stressed vowel is the same as the one in "cot" and "hot".  Pretentious?
Nuts -- that was the way we thought everybody learned to pronounce it
back in the 30s.

The way we say "patio" in English is quite different from our
pronunciation of "patio" when we're speaking Spanish.  The variety of
Spanish we find most comfortable is the regional version characteristic
of southeastern Mexico and Guatemala.  In that area, "patio" has two
syllables in ordinary speech, and the final vowel has no offglide.

Peter, maybe it's a good thing you gave your birth year when you said
you're a native speaker of northern Illinois-ese. You were a WW II baby;
Depression babies from the same area grew up speaking a dialect with
major differences from the one you learned a decade later.

-- mike salovesh                    <salovesh at>

P.S.:  Mind you, neither of us can claim to be uncontaminated speakers
of northern Illinois-ese despite having generations of ancestors from
here. The easiest way to demonstrate that is by reference to a list of
dialect markers that Henry Lee Smith had people read aloud on his old
radio show, "Where Are You From?"  Usually, Haxie could come within 50
miles of where someone was raised in
the U.S. after hearing those words pronounced. Most of the time, he
would come a lot closer than that, even pointing to the right
neighborhoods in many cities. In the mid-1950s, his show (and its brief
appearance on TV) was a fading memory, but he still carried a card with
the list in his wallet.

Neither of us could be located definitively by the Haxie's list.  He
said the best he could do with my speech was to put me somewhere between
Ohio and Kansas on the East-West dimension, and somewhere between
mid-Wisconsin and central (or even southern) Missouri going from north
to south.

FWIW, here are some of the features in our speech that were
problematic.  We both regularly distinguish "cot" from "caught", as
might be expected. But Peggy's "on" rhymes with the first syllable of
"awning". My "on" rhymes with the name of our son John. I alternate
between /s/ and /z/ in "greasy"; Peggy usually doesn't.  When we drink
root beer, my "root" rhymes with "boot", but Peggy's "root" rhymes with
"foot". When we talk about what's at the lower end of a plant, however,
"root" rhymes with "foot" for both of us.  In parallel with my "root",
"roof", for both of us, sometimes rhymes with "goof" and sometimes
rhymes with -- hmm.  Funny, I can't think of a rhyme for our alternate
pronunciation! I guess that's a good place to stop.

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