2 queries: 'dilemna' and Jared Diamond's accent

William Salmon william.salmon at YALE.EDU
Sat Jan 12 03:40:37 UTC 2008

The two queries below originate with Larry Horn, who, due to email
issues, is not able to query the list himself at the moment:

[This is a resend, since my earlier attempts to send it seems not to
have taken.  Apologies to anyone who gets duplicate or triplicate
messages.] --Larry Horn

Query (1), from an off-line colleague, who received this note from a
non-linguist relative:

>"How are you on dialects?  We just watched the fabulous National
>Geographic Series "Guns, Germs & Steel" (available on Netflix) which
>is the story of Jared Diamond's Pulitzer prize winning book by the
>same name. Very curious about his accent..."

There's a lecture of Diamond's on Youtube at
if anyone wants to do the field research. Sounds U.S. and non-rhotic to
me, but beyond that, I'm not sure I could guess.

Query (2):  Does anyone have a take on "dilemna"?  Will Salmon (on the
list, but punting the current assignment to me) notes that there are
300K raw google hits for this spelling of "dilemma", a variant which
seems not to be listed in usage guides or dictionaries. Some speakers
(including his wife) use the -emna spelling but pronounce it in the
usual way, while others (for all we know) may actually pronounce the
-n- that they spell it with.  It shows up in a CNN headliine,

I was speculating on whether the -emna might involve a blend with, say,
"mnemonic" (also Greek in origin), "condemn", "column", "damn",
etc., or whether some thought that the ur-dilemma involved a choice
between two lem(o)ns, but then I thought of "solemn", which
has the full "-emn", FWIW.  Then I was thinking that in French, where
"dilemne" also occurs, and is condemned by the usual
"authorities"--Will notes that the Grand Robert (2001) has a 2-line
note on the 'dilemme' entry noting that the -mn- spelling is "fautive"
(barbarisme), and pointing to a reference in the Trésor de la Langue
Française--"dilemne" and "solemne" would putatively rhyme, given the
final stress, but then I remembered that the latter does not
actually occur ('solemn' is "solennel"), so that's a false lead.  Anyone
have any thoughts on whence "dilemna" and/or "dilemne"?  (I
suppose a backward dictionary might help with the research here.)

This came up once before (see below), but I don't recall any resolution.

>Date:         Sat, 29 Oct 2005 10:29:34 -0700
>Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>From: John McChesney-Young <panis at PACBELL.NET>
>Subject:      Dilemna
>There's a new thread on Classics-l about this variant spelling of
>http://lsv.uky.edu/scripts/wa.exe?A1=ind0510e&L=classics-l (s.v.)
>which I don't recall ever seeing before and quite surprised to find
>returns 265K Google web hits. A few of those are for personal names (or
>_noms de plume_), but almost all of the first 100 are used where one
>would expect "dilemma". Google groups finds almost 35K uses, going back
>to early 1983 (i.e., not far from the beginning of their archives).

----- End forwarded message -----

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