Pronouncing drug names (w. note for Wilson)

Damien Hall halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Jan 30 15:19:27 UTC 2008

Then there's the question of how the same drug is named in different countries /
markets.  I don't think that plays into the examples that Barbara gave
(necessarily), but it's another factor that could lead to variability.  For
example, in both Britain and America there's a cough medicine called
<Robitussin>:  but my American girlfriend pronounces it ['rowbItuhsIn] (where
'uh' = wedge), whereas Brits pronounce it ['rObItuhsIn].  I imagine both are
based on pronunciations in ads, though I've never seen a Robitussin ad in the
States.  I further imagine that the difference may come from a difference in
syllabification:  [row.bI.tuh.sIn] for Americans, with a tense [ow]
syllable-finally in the first syllable, naturally, and [rOb.I.tuh.sIn] for
Brits, maybe, by attraction from the word 'rob', though against the example of
words like 'robot'?  That presents a phonotactic problem for Brits, with the
onsetless second syllable, but off the top of my head I can't think of another
explanation.  Nor do I know what might have caused the two communities to
pronounce it differently in the first place.

On the stress of words with /E/ before /l/:

> Lindell > LIN Dell (a Saint Louis street-name pronounced [lIndl] by
> local white speakers)

> Waddell > Wa DELL (the name of a Navy ship misspelled as "Waddle" in a
> letter from a BrE-speaking German friend)

What's the difference between these, phonotactically (seems to be my favourite
word this morning)?  That is, if /I/ and /E/ tend to fall together as [E]
before /l/ and attract stress, why isn't 'Lindell' [lIn.'dEl] for people who
have that rule?  Am I missing something obvious?

I was really writing to say that my *alma mater* has a building called the
Liddell Building, which I, a Brit, was pronouncing [lI.'dEl], that is,
following the stress-attraction rule that Wilson proposed, until I was
corrected by another Brit who said that it should be ['lIdl].  He was right,
according to the pronunciation of the name of the person after whom the
building was named.

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

The American Dialect Society -

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