"Ballroom brawl"

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Mon Dec 18 14:54:14 UTC 2006

Yes, all that is certainly true!  Just two quick points, though:

1. We don't know what Marcus McNeill SAID; we know only what the reporter HEARD.

2. A pun, to be "esthetically" functional, doesn't have to be based on perfect homophony.  Still, the closer the better.  I was merely suggesting that an r-less "barroom" and an l-less "ballroom" make for a better pun than their more consonantal counterparts--as well as a more probable source of confusion to a listener who speaks a different dialect!


---- Original message ----
>Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2006 08:44:19 -0500
>From: "Dennis R. Preston" <preston at MSU.EDU>
>Subject: Re: "Ballroom brawl"
>---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       "Dennis R. Preston" <preston at MSU.EDU>
>Subject:      Re: "Ballroom brawl"
>This may not be the full story (and the full story may not be known).
>1) In at least most Southern r-less and l-less
>dialects, /r/ and /l/ 'deletion' leaves traces -
>compensatory lengthening of the preceding vowel
>and/or dipthongization (to schwa usually in /r/
>cases and to a higher and backer and usually
>rounded position for /l/).
>2) The COT/CAUGHT merger is spreading in the
>South but is far from complete, especially among
>older generation speakers.
>3) Post-vocalic /l/ most always results in a
>backing (lower F2) of a preceding vowel. If /l/
>is vocalized, is that push still there?
>4) In southern speech, post vocalic /r/ imposes a
>backing and raising on low vowels, leading to
>northerners hearing a southern CAR as high and
>back as CORE.
>5) Since the southern HOUSE vowel is considerably
>fronted in its onset, many southern varieties
>diphthongize the CAUGHT vowel (we're always
>looking for phonetic space for our phonemes) to
>almost the same territory as the HOUSE vowel in a
>non-fronted variety.
>These are all obviously related facts in Charles'
>characterization  of the BALLROOM/BARROOM
>confusion (pun?). If BARROOM has its vowel backed
>and raised, BARROOM would sound like BAUGHROOM
>(sorry John) or even BOREROOM. (Remember, many of
>us old-timey guys don't conflate the CAUGHT/COAT
>pair before /r/. But I digress.)
>But if the usual postvocalic /l/ influence on
>BALL is there, the vowel should stay mid and back
>(putting aside the COT/CAUGHT conflation problem
>for a moment). Does this preclude any fronting
>and diphthongizing influence on the CAUGHT vowel?
>That is, are there southern BALLS that sound like
>BOWELS? (Sorry!)
>What about another scenario. Since southern /l/
>is vocalized; then BALLROOM has its
>first-syllable vocalic elements (however
>realized) directly before the onset /r/ of ROOM.
>Couldn't that /r/ (almost never deleted or
>vocalized) have an influence on the preceding
>Luckily, I have other projects today.
>>---------------------- Information from the mail
>>header -----------------------
>>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>Poster:       Charles Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU>
>>Subject:      Re: "Ballroom brawl"
>>In postvocallic "r-less" (and "l-less")
>>dialects, as well as in those dialects with
>>"cot"/"caught" homophony, the
>>"barroom"/"ballroom" distinction would diminish.
>>Such a diminution could facilitate (and
>>filicitate) the deliberately punning uses of the
>>phrase "ballroom brawl" in many of Google's 900
>>---- Original message ----
>>>Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2006 05:54:20 -0600
>>>From: Jim Parish <jparish at SIUE.EDU>
>>>Subject: "Ballroom brawl"
>>>>From this morning's San Diego Union-Tribune:
>>>'Said rookie tackle Marcus McNeill: ’ÄúWe would
>>>be the first finesse team with an All-Pro
>>>running back. It's a double slap to the
>>>offensive line. We already don't get a lot of
>>>the credit. You're asking for a ballroom brawl.
>>>That's what you saw out there.’Äù'
>>>(For what it's worth, the first time I saw
>>>"barroom brawl" - in a James Thurber story - I
>>>interpreted "barroom" as a sound effect.)
>>>Jim Parish
>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>Dennis R. Preston
>University Distinguished Professor
>Department of English
>15C Morrill Hall
>Michigan State University
>East Lansing, MI 48824
>preston at msu.edu
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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