NPC name generation

9 views
Skip to first unread message

Brian Smith

unread,
Sep 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/14/98
to
This is actually for a MUD I'm working on, but I'm building it around many
IF concepts so I figured I'd give this group a shot for this question...

Does anyone around here know, or can point me in the right direction to
find, a good algorithm for generating names for NPCs (with little or no
human intervention) for a medieval fantasy setting? I need one good
enough that if I have 100 names generated, 1/4 of them aren't named Ender
Wiggin or something similar. The name generation could, and probably
would best, depend on the race of the NPC that the name is being generated
for... that is if I decide to go with multiple races in this game.

The reason for the need of this thing is that I'm wanting to place as much
responsibility for maintaining the game world into the hands of the code.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm a decent programmer (I've earned that
one, according to my peers) but quite a lazy world builder. Besides, I'm
looking to have things so that if some jerk kills the town shopkeeper,
another one will come and take the job in a little while (not too soon
though) and have a different name than the one before.

Thanks for any help in this matter. I'm far from the point of being able
to make use of a name generator, but having one handy that works well will
make me much more comfortable about it when I get to that point.

--

--------------------------------------------------------------
Brian Smith The earth is like a tiny
aval...@earthling.net grain of sand, only much,
http://home.dreamhaven.org/~morph/ much heavier.
--------------------------------------------------------------

Biking Bill

unread,
Sep 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/14/98
to

Brian Smith wrote in message <5n8kt6...@hobbes.ddns.org>...

>This is actually for a MUD I'm working on, but I'm building it around many
>IF concepts so I figured I'd give this group a shot for this question...
>
>Does anyone around here know, or can point me in the right direction to
>find, a good algorithm for generating names for NPCs (with little or no
>human intervention) for a medieval fantasy setting? I need one good
>enough that if I have 100 names generated, 1/4 of them aren't named Ender
>Wiggin or something similar. The name generation could, and probably
>would best, depend on the race of the NPC that the name is being generated
>for... that is if I decide to go with multiple races in this game.

Set it in Australia and call them all Bruce.

Bill

ne...@norwich.edu

unread,
Sep 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/15/98
to
In article <5n8kt6...@hobbes.ddns.org>,

Brian Smith <aval...@hobbes.nospam.ddns.org> wrote:
> This is actually for a MUD I'm working on, but I'm building it around many
> IF concepts so I figured I'd give this group a shot for this question...
>
> Does anyone around here know, or can point me in the right direction to
> find, a good algorithm for generating names for NPCs (with little or no
> human intervention) for a medieval fantasy setting? I need one good
> enough that if I have 100 names generated, 1/4 of them aren't named Ender
> Wiggin or something similar. The name generation could, and probably
> would best, depend on the race of the NPC that the name is being generated
> for... that is if I decide to go with multiple races in this game.
>
> The reason for the need of this thing is that I'm wanting to place as much
> responsibility for maintaining the game world into the hands of the code.
> I'll be the first to admit that I'm a decent programmer (I've earned that
> one, according to my peers) but quite a lazy world builder. Besides, I'm
> looking to have things so that if some jerk kills the town shopkeeper,
> another one will come and take the job in a little while (not too soon
> though) and have a different name than the one before.
>
> Thanks for any help in this matter. I'm far from the point of being able
> to make use of a name generator, but having one handy that works well will
> make me much more comfortable about it when I get to that point.

The best one I ever saw was used in MicroProse's DarkLands. It generated
random German names convincingly.

All you need for a generic fantasy-land is a list of apposite syllables that
your program randomly slaps together. I haven't written such a thing since C64
and Applesoft BASIC in middle school, so it should be no trouble. By careful
selection of syllables, you could make it even better.

...as long as you think names like Codar Malredungen are good enough. I
played one commercial game that used a simplistic naming system like
this...the incredibly buggy and unplayable, but still fun (when it worked)
Daggerfall from Bethesda Softworks. They almost did a fair job of creating a
semi-completely non-linear world to explore.

--
Neil Cerutti
ne...@norwich.edu

-----== Posted via Deja News, The Leader in Internet Discussion ==-----
http://www.dejanews.com/rg_mkgrp.xp Create Your Own Free Member Forum

Larry Smith

unread,
Sep 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/15/98
to
Biking Bill wrote:

> Brian Smith wrote in message <5n8kt6...@hobbes.ddns.org>...

> >Does anyone around here know, or can point me in the right direction to


> >find, a good algorithm for generating names for NPCs

> Set it in Australia and call them all Bruce.

It would certainly save code, but it does get a little
repetitious for non-Aussies.

There are a number of different methods. I recall a program
I ran across on the web that could take in a list of words in
any language (even fantasy languages) and then spit back more
words that sounded like they were from the same language. It
worked by analyzing the probability of various 2, 3 and 4-letter
combinations occuring given a randomly-selected first character.
Something like that would work.

Conversely, you could simply define a syntax and work up from
there. Suppose you defined a name as a two or three syllable
combination, where the first syllable was CV and the second
was CVC and the last was CVC for three syllable names and C
for KVC for two-syllable names. Now you can define the lists
C="b,d,f,g,j,k,l,m,n,p", V="a,e,i,o,u" and K="q,r,s,t,v,z".
Now just select at random. Gesaz. Boj. Mern, and so on. Vary
the algorithm for different languages, change the length and
number of syllables or the choices of letters. Add non-English
sounds - stops like ', glottals like ! (pronounced in the back
of the throat, sort of a voices swallow). Add combinations like
C="b,ch,dz" and come up with appropriate sound combinations for
them.

Define similar rules for place names: CV, CV, E, where C="b,
d,g,ch,gr", v="a,e,y", e="ton,burg,let,ford"" would give you
names like Grachyburg, Dadeton, Chychaford, and so on.

In a fantasy game, come up with a large list of sobriquets -
Gesaj the One-Eyed. Boj Goblin Slasher. Mern the Merciless.
make up foreign-sounding words for things like "castle", "town",
"ford" and so on and substitute those for the E endings above
to get consistant-sounding foreign names.

--
.-. .-. .---. .---. .-..-. |Politics is the art of looking for
| |__ / | \| |-< | |-< > / |trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing
`----'`-^-'`-'`-'`-'`-' `-' |it and then misapplying the wrong
My opinions only. |remedies. Groucho Marx

Darin Johnson

unread,
Sep 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/15/98
to
"Biking Bill" <what...@somewhere.net> writes:

> Set it in Australia and call them all Bruce.

My friends and I all call each other Bob. But we'll often use
adjectives to distinguish when necessary (ie, "Apple Bob" for the Bob
that works at Apple, etc). When South Park had the Terrance And
Phillip special, there was a character that wore a bag over his head
called Ugly Bob. So you could have Castle Guard Bob, Seneschal Bob,
Moat Monster Bob, Princes Bob (don't ask), and Floyd Bob.

--
Darin Johnson
da...@usa.net.delete_me

Stark

unread,
Sep 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/15/98
to
If you only need it to come up with a limited number of names (100 or so),
why don't you just come up with a list of 50 first names and 50 last names,
and let it pick a name from each list at random?

That would certainly be easier than writing a name generating program which
pasted together syllables.

Stark

Brian Smith <aval...@hobbes.nospam.ddns.org> wrote in article

>
> Does anyone around here know, or can point me in the right direction to

Adam Spragg

unread,
Sep 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/15/98
to
: Does anyone around here know, or can point me in the right direction to
: find, a good algorithm for generating names for NPCs (with little or no
: human intervention) for a medieval fantasy setting? I need one good

I've never heard of anyone doing anything like this, but here's my best
guess...

Have a list of syllables... First, Middle, and Last:

First Middle Last
----- ------ ----
Sto bel er
Phen nok ette
Gru fis e
...

Then, mix and match... Stonoker, Phenbelette, Grufise, Grubeler, etc.

Obviously, those are just things off the top of my head. But I think
pretty easily, with a list of 10 or 20 each, you get quite a few good
permutations.

Goddamn, that's actually a pretty damn good idea... :) tell me what you
think...

Adam

Aris Katsaris

unread,
Sep 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/16/98
to

Stark wrote in message <01bde0f3$d495be20$16d4...@Stark.foxinternet.net>...

>If you only need it to come up with a limited number of names (100 or so),
>why don't you just come up with a list of 50 first names and 50 last names,
>and let it pick a name from each list at random?
>
>That would certainly be easier than writing a name generating program which
>pasted together syllables.
>
>Stark


That's something very subjective. Hearing the ideas of some of the others, I
think I
could easily write such a name-generating program. However writing all of
these names.... it's more boring than practicing my computer skills.

Anyway Brian said that he's good in programming but not world-building. That
means
he most probably doesn't want to write the names himself.

Aris

Brian Smith

unread,
Sep 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/16/98
to
Larry Smith <l...@zk3.dec.com> wrote:
: Conversely, you could simply define a syntax and work up from

: there. Suppose you defined a name as a two or three syllable
: combination, where the first syllable was CV and the second
: was CVC and the last was CVC for three syllable names and C
: for KVC for two-syllable names. Now you can define the lists
: C="b,d,f,g,j,k,l,m,n,p", V="a,e,i,o,u" and K="q,r,s,t,v,z".
: Now just select at random. Gesaz. Boj. Mern, and so on. Vary
: the algorithm for different languages, change the length and
: number of syllables or the choices of letters. Add non-English
: sounds - stops like ', glottals like ! (pronounced in the back
: of the throat, sort of a voices swallow). Add combinations like
: C="b,ch,dz" and come up with appropriate sound combinations for
: them.

I've just implemented a version of what you described and it seems like
with a little tuning I should be able to get something workable for what I
need to do.

Thanks to everyone for your help.

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
Sep 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/17/98
to
Barbara Robson <rob...@octarine.itsc.adfa.edu.aus> wrote in article


> You wouldn't need to write them all out, though -- just cut and
paste
> from one of the baby-name lists on the Web. Writing out a program
to
> do it could be fun, though -- especially if you are looking for
names
> that aren't Earth names.

Oooh, yes.

Then each race can have it's own set of syllables, and it's own
minimum and maximum number of syllables per name.

I think it'd be cool to have at least one race with one-character
"syllables" and about 10-25 "syllables" per name, so you
could get unpronounceable stuff like ciekmcw'ntq!rvdbk.

And it'd also be cool to have a race with no consonants in
their names...

--
All my usenet posts are General Public License.

Dyslexic email address: ten.thgirb@badanoj

TenthStone

unread,
Sep 18, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/18/98
to
"Jonadab the Unsightly One" <jon...@zerospam.com> caused this to appear
in our collective minds on 17 Sep 1998 10:13:42 GMT:

>Then each race can have it's own set of syllables, and it's own
>minimum and maximum number of syllables per name.
>
>I think it'd be cool to have at least one race with one-character
>"syllables" and about 10-25 "syllables" per name, so you
>could get unpronounceable stuff like ciekmcw'ntq!rvdbk.

The problem, of course, is that an alien race would use a different
character set, and typically when people romanise foreign languages
they approximate the sounds as well; e.g. "karate". In the Japanese
this is written with three characters (or two, if you know the language
better than I or happen to have a dictionary nearby, Sly):
"ka" "ra" "te"
The last syllable rhymes with "day," by the way. You wouldn't believe
how many people say "tea" instead.

So while this is an interesting idea, it's moot. Unless your alien race
uses the Roman alphabet (yes, I know the Romans didn't use quite the
same thing).

>And it'd also be cool to have a race with no consonants in
>their names...

Aie. Ieuo.
You might need to allow the "transational" constants, such as y and w;
otherwise you'll be limited to either impossibly difficult names or all
one-syllable.

Oe, for example, is two-syllable; I'd pronounce it similarly to the first
three letters of Owen. Iaue: Yahweh? (apologies to those offended)

-----------

The imperturbable TenthStone
tenth...@hotmail.com mcc...@erols.com mcc...@gsgis.k12.va.us

David Wildstrom

unread,
Sep 18, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/18/98
to
In article <01bde172$cb597200$3b118fd1@jonadab>,

Jonadab the Unsightly One <jon...@zerospam.com> wrote:
>And it'd also be cool to have a race with no consonants in
>their names...

You don't mean Hawaiians by any chance, do you? ;-)

+--First Church of Briantology--Order of the Holy Quaternion--+
| More than just fun-loving surfer guys... watch the VH1 |
| special "Endless Harmony" and discover the Beach Boys. |
+-------------------------------------------------------------+
| David Wildstrom |
+-------------------------------------------------------------+

Darin Johnson

unread,
Sep 18, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/18/98
to
mcc...@erols.com (TenthStone) writes:

> "ka" "ra" "te"
> The last syllable rhymes with "day," by the way. You wouldn't believe
> how many people say "tea" instead.

It's pronounced neither, at least not the way I say "day" and the way
the Tokyo dialect says "karate". "Day" ends in a dipthong, and "te"
is not. It's more like the "e" in "bet" (the way I say "bet" anyway,
and assuming Tokyo dialect).

--
Darin Johnson
da...@usa.net.delete_me

TenthStone

unread,
Sep 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/19/98
to
Darin Johnson <da...@usa.net.removethis> caused this to appear in our
collective minds on 18 Sep 1998 14:15:26 -0700:

Try to simplify, and sheesh. The "r" sound is different, too, and the k
is more of a kh, but I didn't think people especially cared.

Yes, you're right. The actual ending sound of 'day' is a diphthong,
while the 'te' is a short /e/, although held longer than that of 'bet':
'ten' may be closer.

The "r" is formed by bringing the tongue down from the central palette
to the bases of the lower teeth.

TenthStone

unread,
Sep 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/19/98
to
spr...@table.jps.net (Adam Spragg) caused this to appear in our collective
minds on 15 Sep 98 19:51:25 GMT:

It is, but don't forget empty syllables. Phenbel is as satisfactory as
Stofisette.

Darin Johnson

unread,
Sep 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/19/98
to
mcc...@erols.com (TenthStone) writes:

> Try to simplify, and sheesh. The "r" sound is different, too, and the k
> is more of a kh, but I didn't think people especially cared.

I was just assuming sounds common to native English speakers. Sheesh :-)
It does seem odd that foreign words are changed more than they need to
be. Even if the "r" sound is different, why is "hara-kiri" pronounced
"harry-carry" in the US instead of "hah-rah-kee-ree"? Both are wrong,
but one is much less wrong.

(I never heard of "kh", don't hear it on any tapes, don't hear it in
any videos, never saw it mentioned in a textbook, etc.)

--
Darin Johnson
da...@usa.net.delete_me

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
Sep 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/19/98
to

> >And it'd also be cool to have a race with no consonants in
> >their names...
>
> You don't mean Hawaiians by any chance, do you? ;-)

Oh, now, Lilouiokolani (or however that's spelled) has at
least two consonants in it.

Five if you count the "l"s.

--

Dyslexic email address: ten.thgirb@badanoj

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
Sep 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/20/98
to

Darin Johnson <da...@usa.net.removethis> wrote in article

> (I never heard of "kh", don't hear it on any tapes, don't hear it
in
> any videos, never saw it mentioned in a textbook, etc.)

It probably indicates an aspirated unvoiced vellar stop of some
kind.

Darin Johnson

unread,
Sep 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/20/98
to
"Jonadab the Unsightly One" <jon...@zerospam.com> writes:

> > (I never heard of "kh", don't hear it on any tapes, don't hear it
> in
> > any videos, never saw it mentioned in a textbook, etc.)
>
> It probably indicates an aspirated unvoiced vellar stop of some
> kind.

Yes, which is exactly what I don't hear in spoken Japanese "ka".
(Well, at least not in feminine talk, though some of the male
guttural speach may have it.)

--
Darin Johnson
da...@usa.net.delete_me

Laurel Halbany

unread,
Sep 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/20/98
to
On 20 Sep 1998 17:33:25 GMT, "Jonadab the Unsightly One"
<jon...@zerospam.com> wrote:

>
>Darin Johnson <da...@usa.net.removethis> wrote in article
>

>> (I never heard of "kh", don't hear it on any tapes, don't hear it
>in
>> any videos, never saw it mentioned in a textbook, etc.)
>
>It probably indicates an aspirated unvoiced vellar stop of some
>kind.

And is sometimes used to indicate the het sound in Hebrew; there's no
English equivalent (it's like the "ch" in German "ach"), so is often
written "ch" or "kh".

Erik Hetzner

unread,
Sep 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/21/98
to
In article <tvyemt9...@cn1.connectnet.com> you wrote:
> It's pronounced neither, at least not the way I say "day" and the way
> the Tokyo dialect says "karate". "Day" ends in a dipthong, and "te"
> is not. It's more like the "e" in "bet" (the way I say "bet" anyway,
> and assuming Tokyo dialect).

I don't know how you pronounce /day/, but here in California it's
pronounced [de], with the same vowel as /great/, /mate/, etc.
There is certainly no dipthong in it. That vowel is a (let
me check my IPA chart) close-mid front unrounded vowel. The
vowel in /bet/ is an open-mid front unrounded vowel, an
entirely different vowel from the /e/ in /bet/.

--
Erik Hetzner <e...@uclink4.berkeley.edu>

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
Sep 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/21/98
to

Erik Hetzner <e...@uclink4.berkeley.edu> wrote in article

> I don't know how you pronounce /day/, but here in California it's
> pronounced [de], with the same vowel as /great/, /mate/, etc.
> There is certainly no dipthong in it. That vowel is a (let

That vowell is considered to be a dipthong by some experts.
It isn't treated as a dipthong in English, but I guess it is in
some other languages or something.

But in some parts of the U.S. (I think mostly southern parts,
but I'm not sure) they don't pronounce *any* of those
remotely normally, and it most definitely comes out as a
dipthong. Two syllables, almost.

Darin Johnson

unread,
Sep 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/21/98
to
Erik Hetzner <e...@uclink4.berkeley.edu> writes:

> I don't know how you pronounce /day/, but here in California it's
> pronounced [de], with the same vowel as /great/, /mate/, etc.
> There is certainly no dipthong in it.

Here in California, it has a dipthong :-) It is similar to "ei" in
Japanese (though in Tokyo then tend to use "ee" instead). It's a more
subtle dipthong than "oi" or "ai" though. I think you can pronounce
it without the dipthong, but it will be noticeable in English and
sound somewhat foriegn. English (at least western US English) has a
tendency to elongate and slide vowels, where Japanese has short
clipped vowels.

But it's irrelevant for fictitious NPC names, pronounce them how you
want.

--
Darin Johnson
da...@usa.net.delete_me

ne...@norwich.edu

unread,
Sep 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/22/98
to
In article <tvy4su1...@cn1.connectnet.com>,

Darin Johnson <da...@usa.net.removethis> wrote:
> Here in California, it has a dipthong :-) It is similar to "ei" in
> Japanese (though in Tokyo then tend to use "ee" instead). It's a more
> subtle dipthong than "oi" or "ai" though. I think you can pronounce
> it without the dipthong, but it will be noticeable in English and
> sound somewhat foriegn. English (at least western US English) has a
> tendency to elongate and slide vowels, where Japanese has short
> clipped vowels.
>
> But it's irrelevant for fictitious NPC names, pronounce them how you
> want.

I don't know about that. My boyhood friends and I nearly came to blows over
the correct pronunciation of "Caramon" and "Raistlin". That is why I
appreciate that Robert Jordan includes a pronunciation guide in the appendix
of his unendable Wheel of Time series. Even though I strongly disagree with
all his suggestions, it is nice to have an urtext.

Iain Merrick

unread,
Sep 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/22/98
to
ne...@norwich.edu wrote:

> In article <tvy4su1...@cn1.connectnet.com>,

[...]


> > But it's irrelevant for fictitious NPC names, pronounce them how you
> > want.
>
> I don't know about that. My boyhood friends and I nearly came to blows over
> the correct pronunciation of "Caramon" and "Raistlin".

Oooh, Dragonlance. I used to like those books as well.

> That is why I
> appreciate that Robert Jordan includes a pronunciation guide in the appendix
> of his unendable Wheel of Time series. Even though I strongly disagree with
> all his suggestions, it is nice to have an urtext.

Yes, the astonishing appendices to _Lord of the Rings_ have a similar
effect... you read the entire book pronouncing, say, 'Isildur' as
'IZ-ill-door' (ryhming with 'poor', not 'door'), only to discover that
the correct pronunciation is 'iss-ILL-dur'.

--
Iain Merrick

The Wildman

unread,
Sep 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/22/98
to
On Tue, 22 Sep 1998 13:33:11 +0100, Iain Merrick <i...@cs.york.ac.uk> wrote:
>Yes, the astonishing appendices to _Lord of the Rings_ have a similar
>effect... you read the entire book pronouncing, say, 'Isildur' as
>'IZ-ill-door' (ryhming with 'poor', not 'door'), only to discover that
>the correct pronunciation is 'iss-ILL-dur'.

Erm... Maybe I'm weird, but I always read it as "iss-ILL-dur". The only name
that ever messed me up was Gandalf. (And I can only remember that it ends
with a "v" sound.)

--
The Wildman
PLEASE do NOT reply to this post! If you MUST email me, please use wildman at
microserve dot net, but a followup is preferred. If you DO reply to the
wrong address, I'll still read it but don't expect a reply. Unless you are a
spammer, in which case I will reply to your ISP.
Fight spam - http://www.cauce.org/
-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
Version: 3.12
GCS/MU d- s: a- C++ UL+ P+ L+++ !E W-- N+++ o !K w--- !O !M V-- PS PE Y+ PGP?
t+ 5+ X R tv b++ DI+ D++ G e h---- r++++ y++++
------END GEEK CODE BLOCK------

J. Robinson Wheeler

unread,
Sep 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/22/98
to
Iain Merrick wrote:
>
>
> Yes, the astonishing appendices to _Lord of the Rings_ have a similar
> effect... you read the entire book pronouncing, say, 'Isildur' as
> 'IZ-ill-door' (ryhming with 'poor', not 'door'), only to discover that
> the correct pronunciation is 'iss-ILL-dur'.

Hah, here we go again with American pronunciation tricks. I had to
do a double-take before I realized that I've grown up with one of
those accents which pronouces 'poor' and 'door' exactly the same,
instead of using a more distinct u-sound in 'poor.'

I recall a seminar I once took concerning regional dialects and
accents in the U.S. The lecturer took a quick poll, saying, "Here
are three words: Mary, merry, and marry. Raise your hands if
you pronounce them in three distinct ways. Hands up for two
different ways? Hands up if you pronounce them all the same?"

I was one of the all-the-same crowd. Sigh.


--
J. Robinson Wheeler
whe...@jump.net http://www.jump.net/~wheeler/jrw/home.html

Darin Johnson

unread,
Sep 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/22/98
to
"J. Robinson Wheeler" <whe...@jump.net> writes:

> I was one of the all-the-same crowd. Sigh.

I'm in that crowd too. I do notice some words I have trouble with
(such as "horror"), but otherwise don't think of myself as having a
regional accent (well, I say crick instead of creek, but that's on
purpose). However, I once had a roommate answer the phone when my
mother was calling; afterwords he remarked that she must have grown up
in the mountains because of her accent. I was 30 years old and had
never noticed an accent, and still can't hear one when she speaks.
(I can remember my grandmother's speech, and she had an accent, but I
hadn't ever realized it at the time)

--
Darin Johnson
da...@usa.net.delete_me

Phase

unread,
Sep 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/22/98
to
"J. Robinson Wheeler" <whe...@jump.net> writes:
>I was one of the all-the-same crowd. Sigh.

Same here, dude.

--
PHASEFX @ VM.SC.EDU - http://www.cs.sc.edu/~jason-e
"Character is much easier kept than recovered" - Thomas Paine

Arcum Dagsson

unread,
Sep 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/22/98
to
In article <17FD910933S...@VM.SC.EDU>, lo...@my.sig (Phase) wrote:

> "J. Robinson Wheeler" <whe...@jump.net> writes:
> >I was one of the all-the-same crowd. Sigh.
>
> Same here, dude.
>

And another...

--Arcum Dagsson

"Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than curse
the darkness."
--Terry Pratchett
"Men At Arms"

Doeadeer3

unread,
Sep 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/23/98
to
In article <36081C1E...@jump.net>, "J. Robinson Wheeler"
<whe...@jump.net> writes:

>I was one of the all-the-same crowd. Sigh.

Just tried it. I can't tell if they are the same or not. So they probably are.

Raising hand, another one here, dude.

Doe :-)


Doe doea...@aol.com (formerly known as FemaleDeer)
****************************************************************************
"In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane." Mark Twain

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
Sep 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/23/98
to
Phase <lo...@my.sig> wrote in article
<17FD910933S...@VM.SC.EDU>...

> "J. Robinson Wheeler" <whe...@jump.net> writes:
> >I was one of the all-the-same crowd. Sigh.
>
> Same here, dude.

I suppose it is theoretically possible to pronounce *all* vowells
the same, just by converting them all into the "schwa".

However, I can't imagine trying to communicate with somebody
who pronounced short "e" and short "a" the same ("merry",
"marry"). They're so radically different. I can understand
merging "pin" and "pen", although even that requires a lack
of attention to detail.

Then again, I'm one of those people who pronounces
kappa and chi differently, too, as well as omega and
omicron and alpha (all three distinct, and alpha is *still*
different from the English short a).

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
Sep 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/23/98
to
Barbara Robson <rob...@octarine.itsc.adfa.edu.aus> wrote in article


> I pronounce all three differently (the vowel in "Mary" sounds like
the
> vowel in "pair", in "merry", it's like "jet", in "marry", it's
like
> "cat"). "Poor" and "door" sound the same, though (they both rhyme
with
> "flaw", and "naught" without the "t").

I never noticed the difference between "Mary" and "marry" before,
but in fact I have been pronouncing them differently without
realising it. But rather similar. I pronounce the "a" in "marry"
a bit longer than you do.

As for "door", "poor", and "flaw", I'm trying to figure out which
of the three pronunciations you use. Also, any vowell sounds
very different to me when followed by "r", which carries a
vowell with it that makes a dipthong out of whatever preceeds it.

But I prounouce "door" like "pore", which is different from
either "pour" or "poor", and none of them are *remotely*
like "flaw", although "floor" is like "door".

> Out of curiosity, do you have the nursery rhyme, "Mary, Mary quite
> contrary" in the US? Does "contrary" still rhyme properly?
>
> Barbara

Yes on both accounts.

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Sep 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/23/98
to
Barbara Robson (rob...@octarine.itsc.adfa.edu.aus) wrote:
> lo...@my.sig (Phase) writes:

> >"J. Robinson Wheeler" <whe...@jump.net> writes:
> >>I was one of the all-the-same crowd. Sigh.
> >
> >Same here, dude.

> I pronounce all three differently (the vowel in "Mary" sounds like the


> vowel in "pair", in "merry", it's like "jet", in "marry", it's like
> "cat"). "Poor" and "door" sound the same, though (they both rhyme with
> "flaw", and "naught" without the "t").

> Out of curiosity, do you have the nursery rhyme, "Mary, Mary quite


> contrary" in the US? Does "contrary" still rhyme properly?

Yes (and I give merry/marry/mary three different vowels.) It's not usual
for "contrary" to be accented in the middle syllable, but when I do, it
rhymes with "Mary".

--Z

--

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Frank Filz

unread,
Sep 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/23/98
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>
> Barbara Robson (rob...@octarine.itsc.adfa.edu.aus) wrote:
> > lo...@my.sig (Phase) writes:
>
> > >"J. Robinson Wheeler" <whe...@jump.net> writes:
> > >>I was one of the all-the-same crowd. Sigh.
> > >
> > >Same here, dude.
>
> > I pronounce all three differently (the vowel in "Mary" sounds like the
> > vowel in "pair", in "merry", it's like "jet", in "marry", it's like
> > "cat"). "Poor" and "door" sound the same, though (they both rhyme with
> > "flaw", and "naught" without the "t").
>
> > Out of curiosity, do you have the nursery rhyme, "Mary, Mary quite
> > contrary" in the US? Does "contrary" still rhyme properly?
>
> Yes (and I give merry/marry/mary three different vowels.) It's not usual
> for "contrary" to be accented in the middle syllable, but when I do, it
> rhymes with "Mary".

Interesting... I think I pronounce several words multiple ways. I do
prounounce Mary, merry, and marry three different ways. I will
pronounce contrary either to rhyme with Mary or marry, depending on
where its used in the sentence. When I say the nursery rhyme, or say
something like "Fred is being contrary" I prounounce it like Mary. When
I say something like "Contrary to popular belief" I prounounce it like
marry. I pronounce oor with both a u and an o sound (for the same
word).

Alot comes from growing up in New England, but picking up a mixture of
pronounciations (I even have a Concord MA accent, there Concord rhymes
with the curd that a cow chews, not with discord), where an aunt doesn't
sound like an ant, but when I take a bath, it doesn't sound like a sheep
with a lisp. My going to college with a lot of New Yorkers, and now
living in the South has colored my pronounciation further. My mother
and younger sister have noticeable Boston accents.

--
Frank Filz

-----------------------------
Work: mailto:ff...@us.ibm.com
Home: mailto:ff...@mindspring.com

Stephen Granade

unread,
Sep 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/23/98
to
On 23 Sep 1998, Jonadab the Unsightly One wrote:

> However, I can't imagine trying to communicate with somebody
> who pronounced short "e" and short "a" the same ("merry",
> "marry"). They're so radically different. I can understand
> merging "pin" and "pen", although even that requires a lack
> of attention to detail.

Goodness. I can only imagine the trouble you're having communicating with
lazy ol' me, then.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade | Interested in adventure games?
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | Visit Mining Co.'s IF Page
Duke University, Physics Dept | http://interactfiction.miningco.com


Joe Mason

unread,
Sep 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/23/98
to
In article <36081C1E...@jump.net>,

J. Robinson Wheeler <whe...@jump.net> wrote:
>
>I recall a seminar I once took concerning regional dialects and
>accents in the U.S. The lecturer took a quick poll, saying, "Here
>are three words: Mary, merry, and marry. Raise your hands if
>you pronounce them in three distinct ways. Hands up for two
>different ways? Hands up if you pronounce them all the same?"
>
>I was one of the all-the-same crowd. Sigh.

Wow. Must be a killer for you to sing Mary Mac.

Altogether now - as fast as you can!

"Mary Mac's mother's making Mary Mac marry me,
My mother's making me marry Mary Mac
Yes I'm gonna marry Mary so that Mary's taking care of me
It's gonna be merry when I marry Mary Mac!"

Now sing it again. Faster.

Joe
--
I think OO is great... It's no coincidence that "woohoo" contains "oo" twice.
-- GLYPH

Phase

unread,
Sep 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/23/98
to
"Jonadab the Unsightly One" <jon...@zerospam.com> writes:
>However, I can't imagine trying to communicate with somebody
>who pronounced short "e" and short "a" the same ("merry",
>"marry"). They're so radically different.

I remember going to a ren fair where the girls were asking
"Are you merry?" I would purposely answer, "No, I'm Jason."
I'm a little less cheesy now. :-)

I'm vaguely aware of my accent, but it is nothing compared
to the older people in my region. But when I start thinking
I sound just like the people on television, I can always count
on my northern friends to tell me otherwise. Of course I'm
aware of _their_ accents.

Joyce Haslam

unread,
Sep 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/23/98
to
In article <01bde6e5$b1c021e0$0f118fd1@jonadab>,

Jonadab the Unsightly One <jon...@zerospam.com> wrote:
> However, I can't imagine trying to communicate with somebody
> who pronounced short "e" and short "a" the same ("merry",
> "marry"). They're so radically different. I can understand
> merging "pin" and "pen", although even that requires a lack
> of attention to detail.

After 35 years of marriage, my husband still insists that I do not
give sufficient difference in pronunciation to "pin" and "pen" for
him to understand me. He can't hear the difference when I say "oil"
and "all" either, although any Texan would be able to.

Joyce.

--
Joyce Haslam
http://argonet.co.uk/users/dljhaslam/ for Gateway to Karos [INFORM]
Powerbase is for RiscOs only
q u e r c u s @ a r g o n e t . c o . u k

Drone

unread,
Sep 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/24/98
to
In article <36087...@news.adfa.oz.au>, Barbara Robson
<rob...@octarine.itsc.adfa.edu.aus> wrote:

> Out of curiosity, do you have the nursery rhyme, "Mary, Mary quite
> contrary" in the US? Does "contrary" still rhyme properly?
>

Yes, but it doesn't scan properly. It demands an odd (to my ears) emphasis
on the middle syllable of 'contary'.

Drone.

Drone

unread,
Sep 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/24/98
to
In article <01bde6e5$b1c021e0$0f118fd1@jonadab>, "Jonadab the Unsightly
One" <jon...@zerospam.com> wrote:

> Phase <lo...@my.sig> wrote in article
> <17FD910933S...@VM.SC.EDU>...

> > "J. Robinson Wheeler" <whe...@jump.net> writes:

> > >I was one of the all-the-same crowd. Sigh.
> >

> > Same here, dude.
>
> I suppose it is theoretically possible to pronounce *all* vowells
> the same, just by converting them all into the "schwa".
>

> However, I can't imagine trying to communicate with somebody
> who pronounced short "e" and short "a" the same ("merry",
> "marry"). They're so radically different. I can understand
> merging "pin" and "pen", although even that requires a lack
> of attention to detail.
>

These are the pronunciations that people grew up learning as correct. It
has nothing to do with attention to detail or lack of same. Dialects have
nothing to do with laziness.

Drone.

Arcum Dagsson

unread,
Sep 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/24/98
to
In article <01bde6e7$d471bee0$0f118fd1@jonadab>, "Jonadab the Unsightly
One" <jon...@zerospam.com> wrote:

> Barbara Robson <rob...@octarine.itsc.adfa.edu.aus> wrote in article
>
>

> > I pronounce all three differently (the vowel in "Mary" sounds like
> the
> > vowel in "pair", in "merry", it's like "jet", in "marry", it's
> like
> > "cat"). "Poor" and "door" sound the same, though (they both rhyme
> with
> > "flaw", and "naught" without the "t").
>

> I never noticed the difference between "Mary" and "marry" before,
> but in fact I have been pronouncing them differently without
> realising it. But rather similar. I pronounce the "a" in "marry"
> a bit longer than you do.
>
> As for "door", "poor", and "flaw", I'm trying to figure out which
> of the three pronunciations you use. Also, any vowell sounds
> very different to me when followed by "r", which carries a
> vowell with it that makes a dipthong out of whatever preceeds it.
>
> But I prounouce "door" like "pore", which is different from
> either "pour" or "poor", and none of them are *remotely*
> like "flaw", although "floor" is like "door".
>

> > Out of curiosity, do you have the nursery rhyme, "Mary, Mary quite
> > contrary" in the US? Does "contrary" still rhyme properly?
> >

> > Barbara
>
> Yes on both accounts.
>

As long as we're talking about pronounciation, check out the first piece
on this site...
http://www.lifesmith.com/english.html#anchor17447254
Try reading the whole thing out loud... Its meant to help determine if you
have an accent... It starts out:

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.

I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

and continues in that vein for quite some time...

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
Sep 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/24/98
to

> > Yes (and I give merry/marry/mary three different vowels.) It's
not usual
> > for "contrary" to be accented in the middle syllable, but when I
do, it
> > rhymes with "Mary".
>
> Interesting... I think I pronounce several words multiple ways.
I do
> prounounce Mary, merry, and marry three different ways. I will
> pronounce contrary either to rhyme with Mary or marry, depending
on
> where its used in the sentence. When I say the nursery rhyme, or
say
> something like "Fred is being contrary" I prounounce it like Mary.
When
> I say something like "Contrary to popular belief" I prounounce it
like
> marry. I pronounce oor with both a u and an o sound (for the same
> word).

In that last case ("Contrary to ...") I pronounce it CONTrary.
The second vowell is essentially the same, but the emphasis
is on the first syllable. I expect this is the same thing zarf
does, as I doubt if he puts the emphasis on the final Y,
although I don't actually *know*.

> Alot comes from growing up in New England, but picking up a
mixture of
> pronounciations (I even have a Concord MA accent, there Concord
rhymes
> with the curd that a cow chews, not with discord), where an aunt
doesn't
> sound like an ant, but when I take a bath, it doesn't sound like a
sheep
> with a lisp. My going to college with a lot of New Yorkers, and
now
> living in the South has colored my pronounciation further. My
mother
> and younger sister have noticeable Boston accents.

When I went to college in Indiana (to the west from here) I picked
up
the ability at will to ask questions the way they're done in
Pennsylvania (to the east), because there were a fair number
of students from there. They alter the tone on questions rather
differently than we normally do. I can't describe either, though.

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
Sep 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/24/98
to

Stephen Granade <sgra...@bohr.phy.duke.edu> wrote in article

> > However, I can't imagine trying to communicate with somebody
> > who pronounced short "e" and short "a" the same ("merry",
> > "marry"). They're so radically different. I can understand
> > merging "pin" and "pen", although even that requires a lack
> > of attention to detail.
>

> Goodness. I can only imagine the trouble you're having
communicating with
> lazy ol' me, then.

Um, I obviously neglected an adverb there. Only oral communication
was meant.

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
Sep 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/24/98
to
Joyce Haslam <que...@argonet.co.uk> wrote in article

> After 35 years of marriage, my husband still insists that I do not
> give sufficient difference in pronunciation to "pin" and "pen" for
> him to understand me. He can't hear the difference when I say
"oil"
> and "all" either, although any Texan would be able to.

Don't even get me started on the Texan accent. Those people may
as well be speaking Sudanese with a horrible lisp for all the better
I can understand them.

Allen Garvin

unread,
Sep 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/24/98
to
Jonadab the Unsightly One <jon...@zerospam.com> wrote:

Don't even get me started on the Texan accent. Those people may as
well be speaking Sudanese with a horrible lisp for all the better
I can understand them.

And there are regional differences in Texas... there's the famous Texas drawl
that everyone thinks of when they think of Texas, then there's the country
accent of us East Texans that's really difficult for others to follow
(we don't get much from the rest of the state, but, heck, who cares?
We can out-gun them by far! *8-) [71% of us own guns]). East Texas has a
lot more links to the old South.

--
Allen Garvin I think I'll
--------------------------------------------- Let the mystery be
eare...@faeryland.tamu-commerce.edu
http://faeryland.tamu-commerce.edu/~earendil Iris Dement

Ethan Dicks

unread,
Sep 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/24/98
to
In article <Ezqvy...@undergrad.math.uwaterloo.ca>,

Joe Mason <jcm...@undergrad.math.uwaterloo.ca> wrote:
>In article <36081C1E...@jump.net>,
>J. Robinson Wheeler <whe...@jump.net> wrote:
>>
>>I recall a seminar I once took concerning regional dialects and
>>accents in the U.S. The lecturer took a quick poll, saying, "Here
>>are three words: Mary, merry, and marry. Raise your hands if
>>you pronounce them in three distinct ways. Hands up for two
>>different ways? Hands up if you pronounce them all the same?"
>>
>>I was one of the all-the-same crowd. Sigh.
>
>Wow. Must be a killer for you to sing Mary Mac.
>
>Altogether now - as fast as you can!
>
>"Mary Mac's mother's making Mary Mac marry me,
> My mother's making me marry Mary Mac
> Yes I'm gonna marry Mary so that Mary's taking care of me
> It's gonna be merry when I marry Mary Mac!"

I've heard the song. I, too, prounounce all three words the same (I
have a pretty good ear for accents and can't detect one whit of difference
when I say them, nor when I sing the song). My background is born in
Kentucky, raised in Ohio with as flat an American accent as could be
possible in such an environment. I speak your basic Chicago broadcaster's
accent without all those annoying Ohio regionalism (feeesh for fish,
meaaasure for measure, and yes, they warsh their deeeshes here - lots of
grotesquely elongated vowels and elided syllables (Klumbus for COlumbus
and P'lece for police; Newark, Ohio becomes Nerk Ahaia)).

On the side, I do speak a fairly unaccented Greek and don't bung up
Japanese too badly. I have been mistaken for a Greek native, but I
will probably never be mistaken for Japanese. It is like fingernails
on a chalkboard to me to hear Greek pronounced with an English accent.

-ethan

--
Ethan Dicks http://www.infinet.com/~erd/
(dicks) at (math) . (ohio-state) . (edu) sellto: postmaster@[127.0.0.1]

harvestbot fodder: pres...@whitehouse.gov fcc...@fcc.gov root@[127.0.0.1]

J. Robinson Wheeler

unread,
Sep 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/24/98
to
Jonadab the Unsightly One wrote:

> I suppose it is theoretically possible to pronounce *all* vowells
> the same, just by converting them all into the "schwa".
>

> However, I can't imagine trying to communicate with somebody
> who pronounced short "e" and short "a" the same ("merry",
> "marry"). They're so radically different. I can understand
> merging "pin" and "pen", although even that requires a lack
> of attention to detail.

You're jumping to a strange assumption here. I have the same
ability to pronounce short "e" and short "a" differently; "jet"
and "cat" (as someone else mentioned) don't sound alike.

With the Mary, merry, marry example, it works like this:

All 3 the same = All three words are pronounced "Mary."
2 are the same = (IIRC) "marry" is pronounced like "Mary," but
"merry" retains its short-e sound.
All 3 different = <already noted>


The "Mary, Mary, quite contrary" nursery rhyme does exist, and
the words do rhyme. However, as was mentioned, normally one
doesn't pronounce "contrary" as kn-TRARy, but as KON-trary.
Rhymes with Mary either way, but not with merry or marry,
necessarily.

As for the "pin" and "pen" problem, there is a (Texas) dialect
that doesn't just make them indistinguishable, but actually
reverses the i and e sounds. So, a writing tool is pronounced
'pin' but spelled "pen", and vice-versa.


Drone wrote:

> These are the pronunciations that people grew up learning as correct.
> It has nothing to do with attention to detail or lack of same. Dialects
> have nothing to do with laziness.

Well said. Worth quoting.

Greg Ewing

unread,
Sep 25, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/25/98
to
Drone wrote:
>
> In article <36087...@news.adfa.oz.au>, Barbara Robson
> <rob...@octarine.itsc.adfa.edu.aus> wrote:
>
> > Out of curiosity, do you have the nursery rhyme, "Mary, Mary quite
> > contrary" in the US? Does "contrary" still rhyme properly?
> >
>
> Yes, but it doesn't scan properly. It demands an odd (to my ears) emphasis
> on the middle syllable of 'contary'.

That's odd, I always thought it was the Americans
who said things like "temporARily", where the
British would say "TEMPor'lly".

To my brain, now that I come to think about it,
there are two different words spelled "contrary",
as in "CONTrary to popular belief, Mary's behaviour
wasn't that contRARy."

--
Greg Ewing, Computer Science Dept, | The address below is not spam-
University of Canterbury, | protected, so as not to waste
Christchurch, New Zealand | the time of Guido van Rossum.
gr...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz

Den of Iniquity

unread,
Sep 25, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/25/98
to
On Fri, 25 Sep 1998, Greg Ewing wrote:

>the British would say "TEMPor'lly".

We say WHAT?


Joyce Haslam

unread,
Sep 25, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/25/98
to
In article <360556aa...@hermes.rdrop.com>,
Laurel Halbany <myt...@twisty-little-maze.com> wrote:
> On 20 Sep 1998 17:33:25 GMT, "Jonadab the Unsightly One"
> <jon...@zerospam.com> wrote:
> >Darin Johnson <da...@usa.net.removethis> wrote in article
> >> (I never heard of "kh", don't hear it on any tapes, don't hear
> >> it in any videos, never saw it mentioned in a textbook, etc.)
> >
> >It probably indicates an aspirated unvoiced vellar stop of some
> >kind.

> And is sometimes used to indicate the het sound in Hebrew; there's
> no English equivalent (it's like the "ch" in German "ach"), so is
> often written "ch" or "kh".

Thank you! I knew I had seen "kh" but couldn't remember where. You
are quite correct.

Joyce.

--
Joyce Haslam
http://argonet.co.uk/users/dljhaslam/ for Gateway to Karos [INFORM]
Powerbase is for RiscOs only

c o m u s @ a r g o n e t . c o . u k

Phase

unread,
Sep 25, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/25/98
to
"J. Robinson Wheeler" <whe...@jump.net> writes:
>Drone wrote:
>> These are the pronunciations that people grew up learning as correct.
>> It has nothing to do with attention to detail or lack of same. Dialects
>> have nothing to do with laziness.
>Well said. Worth quoting.

I remember asking my English teacher in middle school,
"How do you spell druther?"

Paul F. Snively

unread,
Sep 25, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/25/98
to
In article <17FDC8E59S...@VM.SC.EDU>, lo...@my.sig (Phase) wrote:

>"J. Robinson Wheeler" <whe...@jump.net> writes:
>>Drone wrote:
>>> These are the pronunciations that people grew up learning as correct.
>>> It has nothing to do with attention to detail or lack of same. Dialects
>>> have nothing to do with laziness.
>>Well said. Worth quoting.
>
>I remember asking my English teacher in middle school,
>"How do you spell druther?"

It's great fun living in Los Angeles and having grown up in southern
Indiana, the son of two teachers. Just yesterday, my native Los Angelena
wife asked me "How do you pronounce 'handkerchief?'" I realized that if I
thought about it too much I'd screw it up, so I spoke immediately and, to
my great surprise, what came out was roughly "haynkerchiff!" I couldn't
decide if I sounded like I came from the deep south or "down east," like
Stephen King's Maine or something. But it occurred to me that no one will
ever mistake me for a native of Los Angeles. (Also that there were some
limits to my parents' sense of "proper pronunciation," despite teaching the
subject professionally for over 30 years.)

>--
>PHASEFX @ VM.SC.EDU - http://www.cs.sc.edu/~jason-e
>"Character is much easier kept than recovered" - Thomas Paine
>

--
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Paul Snively
<mailto:ch...@mcione.com>

"I had the sense, too, of the illicit side of the casbah, of a kind of
trade in human (or, in this case, executive) flesh." -- Michael Wolff,
"Burn Rate"

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Sep 25, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/25/98
to
Darin says...
>...I once had a roommate answer the phone when my
>mother was calling; afterwords he remarked that she must have grown up
>in the mountains because of her accent. I was 30 years old and had
>never noticed an accent, and still can't hear one when she speaks.
>(I can remember my grandmother's speech, and she had an accent, but I
>hadn't ever realized it at the time)

*Everyone* has an accent. Just not the *same* accent.

Daryl McCullough
CoGenTex, Inc.
Ithaca, NY

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Sep 25, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/25/98
to
Barbara says...
>...(the vowel in "Mary" sounds like the

>vowel in "pair", in "merry", it's like
>"jet", in "marry", it's like "cat").

That doesn't help me much, because I pronounce
"pair" with the same vowel sound as "jet". Of
the three, I pronounce Mary and merry the same,
but Marry different.

>"Poor" and "door" sound the same, though (they
>both rhyme with "flaw", and "naught" without the "t").

I pronounce "poor" as if it were "Pooh-er" (Winnie the
Pooh), and I pronounce "door" as if it were "Doe-er"
(as in our friend, Doeadeer (a female deer)).
I pronounce "flaw" with the same vowel sound as "naught",
but nothing like the vowel sound in "door" or "poor".

Isn't it amazing that English-speaking people can communicate
at all?

>Out of curiosity, do you have the nursery rhyme, "Mary, Mary quite
>contrary" in the US? Does "contrary" still rhyme properly?

On odd days, I pronounce "contrary" so that it rhymes with "marry"
and on even days I pronounce it so that it rhymes with "merry".

Doeadeer3

unread,
Sep 26, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/26/98
to

In article <6ugsgq$s...@edrn.newsguy.com>, da...@cogentex.com (Daryl McCullough)
writes:

>Isn't it amazing that English-speaking people can communicate
>at all?

Well, just communicating by writing helps (as in raif).

I went on a trip once where I was around a lot of Australians (I am a
Californian for anyone one who doesn't know) and it took me about 1-2 days to
understand them. Vowels and inflections were different. But the slang is what
really did me in.

I had to listen VERY, VERY hard before I started getting it.

Doe :-) It was strange not understanding people who were also speaking English
(or some variety thereof.)

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
Sep 26, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/26/98
to

> As for the "pin" and "pen" problem, there is a (Texas) dialect
> that doesn't just make them indistinguishable, but actually
> reverses the i and e sounds. So, a writing tool is pronounced
> 'pin' but spelled "pen", and vice-versa.

As I indicated before, you might as well have a mouth full of
marshmallows as a Texan accent for all the better I'll be
able to understand you.

> Drone wrote:
>
> > These are the pronunciations that people grew up learning as
correct.
> > It has nothing to do with attention to detail or lack of same.
Dialects
> > have nothing to do with laziness.
>
> Well said. Worth quoting.

This may be true on an individual scale, but on a societal,
dialectical scale, *somebody*, sometime was too lazy
to bother to pronounce a distinction, which is how the
distinction was lost. Their progeny are left with a
dialect that doesn't enunciate well.

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
Sep 26, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/26/98
to

Ethan Dicks <di...@math.ohio-state.NO.SPAM.edu> wrote in article

> I've heard the song. I, too, prounounce all three words the same
(I
> have a pretty good ear for accents and can't detect one whit of
difference
> when I say them, nor when I sing the song). My background is born
in
> Kentucky, raised in Ohio with as flat an American accent as could
be
> possible in such an environment. I speak your basic Chicago
broadcaster's
> accent without all those annoying Ohio regionalism (feeesh for
fish,
> meaaasure for measure, and yes, they warsh their deeeshes here -
lots of
> grotesquely elongated vowels and elided syllables (Klumbus for
COlumbus
> and P'lece for police; Newark, Ohio becomes Nerk Ahaia)).

Oh, yes, Southern Ohioan. Some of that (Ahaia for Ohio, warsh)
creeps
as far north as Ashland, even. The locals pronounce Bucyrus as one
syllable (Bsarz). Do you also eat peanut butter and jelly
sammiches?

Michael S Gentry

unread,
Sep 26, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/26/98
to

Jonadab the Unsightly One wrote in message
<01bde941$379b1ba0$05118fd1@jonadab>...

>This may be true on an individual scale, but on a societal,
>dialectical scale, *somebody*, sometime was too lazy
>to bother to pronounce a distinction, which is how the
>distinction was lost. Their progeny are left with a
>dialect that doesn't enunciate well.


It's not laziness -- it is a cultural imprint on the language. Many dialects
evolve from geographical proximity to other languages, or from a cultural
inheritance. There are people deep in the upper midwest U.S. who seriously
sound like they're speaking Swedish, even though they've been American for
many generations back. It's because that area was originally settled by a
large concentration of German and Scandanavian immigrants.

And people speaking those dialects enunciate perfectly well -- to each
other. Normally, I don't like relativist arguments, and as a writer I am
very pro-King 's English, so I can sympathize with your point of view. But
you can't go around saying that everyone with an accent is lazy or learned
from a lazy person.

Well, okay, you CAN, but if you do I'm gonna argue with you.

I'm a native Texan (don't worry, no offense taken), and last spring when my
wife and I were drinking with a bunch of Australians in Munich, they could
all understand me perfectly. But when I told them I was from Texas, one of
them turned to me and said:

"AhyeBAYTfumdeah?"

"What?" I said, suddenly feeling very provincial.

"I said, ahyeBAYTfumdeah?"

After about three tries, it finally dawned on me that he was asking, "Are
you BOTH from there?" meaning was my wife also from Texas.

What goes around comes around. Doesn't mean either one of us is lazy.

--M.

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Sep 26, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/26/98
to
Michael S Gentry (edr...@sprynet.com) wrote:

> Jonadab the Unsightly One wrote in message
> <01bde941$379b1ba0$05118fd1@jonadab>...

> >This may be true on an individual scale, but on a societal,
> >dialectical scale, *somebody*, sometime was too lazy
> >to bother to pronounce a distinction, which is how the
> >distinction was lost. Their progeny are left with a
> >dialect that doesn't enunciate well.

> It's not laziness -- it is a cultural imprint on the language.

Right.

There are dialects (I'm told) where "pin" and "pen" are indistinguishable.
There are *other* dialects where they're distinguishable -- but *swapped*
compared to the more-or-less-average American accent. It's not an entropic
decay of distinctions; it's a continuous turbulent process of
transformation. Sideways, y'know.

One of you people who pronounce merry/mary/marry the same, please come up
with an example of words that you pronounce differently, but I pronounce
the same. :)

--Z

--

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Irene Callaci

unread,
Sep 26, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/26/98
to
On Sat, 26 Sep 1998 14:46:37 GMT, erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin)
wrote:

>
>One of you people who pronounce merry/mary/marry the same, please come up
>with an example of words that you pronounce differently, but I pronounce
>the same. :)
>
>--Z
>
Ummm... I don't know if any of these fit the bill, but I'm one of
those people who pronounce merry/mary/marry the same. Here are
some words I do pronounce differently:

door/poor (dore/poohr)

stirrup/syrup (stir-up/sear-up)

err/air/heir (er/ayr/ehr)

My father is from Texas, and he always pronounces "quiet" as
"quite" which drives me crazy.

And my mother-in-law (from Boston) pronounces "drawer" and
"draw" the same.

irene

Paul F. Snively

unread,
Sep 26, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/26/98