English words beginning with <j> pronounced [Z]?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Jan 22 15:37:47 UTC 2008

At 10:12 AM -0500 1/22/08, David Bowie wrote:
>From:    Nadia Gabriel <nadpaz3 at GMAIL.COM>
>>Do you know of words, common word or proper names, in the English language
>>that begin with the letter <j> but that are pronounced without the [d]
>>sound, just the [Z] sound?
>>Or, to put it another way, words where the initial <j> is pronounced as in
>My wife's first name is Jeanne [dZi.ni]. A small but noticeable number
>of people we know pronounce her name [Zi.ni] at least part of the time.
>No idea if it's a hyperforeignization (hyper*re*foreignization, maybe,
>given that her name is ultimately but distantly French), but those I've
>been able to do under-the-radar lexical elicitation with don't use the
>[Z] in words like jail.

This probably also comes up with names like "Janine"/"Jeannine" or
"Jeanette".  I know a couple of women with the former name who are
usually addressed with initial [Z] but they're French- or Swiss-born
themselves; the key test would be those with the name but not the
background.  The U.S.-born linguist Jeanette Gundel is always [J],
not [Z], and ditto the singer Jeanette MacDonald.

>Well, i did run across one who talked about drinking juice [Zus], so
>maybe there's a high-vowel thing going on? Pretty flimsy evidence to try
>to make a generalization on, but it's all i've got.
Ah, that brings up another related candidate.  I've never heard
anyone who drinks [Zus], but one--in fact two--of the extant
pronunciations of "au jus", [o Zu(s)], contain an initial (well, sort
of initial) <j> pronounced as [Z].  This is confirmed by the AHD,
which however gloss the term as an adverb meaning 'served with the
natural juices or gravy', as in "roast beef au jus".  This would
still render (heh heh) "au jus" a French term, but it's been
reanalyzed in cafeteria English as a noun meaning something like
'thin gravy on the side':  Roast beef with au jus.  (Cf. "apple pie
with alamode".)  In this case, it's an instance of our holy grail--an
English word with a (sort of) initial <j> pronounced (sometimes) as
[Z].  (No doubt "with au jus" also gets pronounced as [o Jus]
although I would imagine [o Ju] might be avoided for reasons of
homonymy, if not taboo, avoidance.)


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