Sunday, February 7, 2016


A young friend was poking fun at the way people in Louisiana speak and I asked, "And how often do they make fun of YOUR accent?  He answered, indignantly, "I don't have an accent!"  I laughed and said, "Tell me how you pronounce 
O-R-A-N-G-E!"  When he did, I laughed and said, "Definitely OHIA!"  (I deliberately mispronounced Ohio for effect.)  I continued, "Tell me how you pronounce M-A-R-Y, M-E-R-R-Y, and M-A-R-R-Y."  Each time he replied, I would screak, "OHIA!"

I like regional differences but find it irritating when people from other areas think that our pronunciations are automatically incorrect.  A woman from Massachusetts who is a member of our Lunch Bunch said that we pronounce the word "aunt" like the insect.  I said, "I'm certain that if you look in the dictionary, you will find that A-N-T in a perfectly good pronunciation." She insisted that A-U-H-N-T is the only acceptable pronunciation.  I laughed and said, "The only people I hear say it that way are from the hills."  

I repeated the same exercise of telling her to pronounce O-R-A-N-G-E, etc.,  and then I asked "How do you pronounce G-H-O-T-I?"  When she answered, I said, "No, it's pronounced FISH!"  I told her of the old conundrum usually attributed to George Bernard Shaw, but the first documented usage was by William Oiler:

GHOTI is pronounced "FISH":

The "GH" is pronounced as the "F" sound in "TOUGH"
The "O" is pronounced as the "I" sound in "WOMEN"
The "TI" is pronounced as the "SH" sound in "NATION"


Here is another example:


"GH" as the "P" sound in "HICCOUGH"
"OUGH" as the "O" sound in "THOUGH"
"PT" as the "T" sound in "PTOMAINE"
"EIGH" as the "A" sound in "NEIGH"
"BT" as the "T" sound in "DEBT"
"EAU" as the "O" sound in "BUREAU"


It's not surprising that English is difficult for speakers of other languages to learn.

Just consider these five words ending in "OUGH":

BOUGH rhymes with COW
COUGH rhymes with OFF
ROUGH rhymes with PUFF
THOUGH rhymes with GO
THROUGH rhymes with SHOE

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I notice that your Pike County folks say AUHNT! ML