Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Is THAT How You Say" 6

I'm still listening to the same audio-book as when I last commented on this thread, and already I have more examples of words whose pronunciation I am forced, by the example of literary British actors, to reconsider.

Today I heard Wanda McCaddon pronounce maraschino with an "sh" sound, "ma-ra-SHEE-no," the way I always thought it was supposed to be spoken until I saw Some Like It Hot, with Jack Lemmon giving it an extra consonant sound: "ma-ra-SKEE-no." I figure the Italian language is probably on Lemmon's side.

Later I heard McCaddon say the word contumely, which I believe was the first time I had ever heard it spoken aloud. I learned the word by reading lots of Dickens, and I always imagined it had four syllables, owing to the fact that the "e" gets a lot of emphasis in the adjective form "contumelious," though in my mind's ear "contumely" is stressed on the second syllable. McCaddon, however, gave it a three-syllable rendition, with a silent "e" and accent on the first syllable. Who knew?

I am fascinated by the British stage dialect's approach to the letters "ng." I have only noticed lately that it pronounces words like congregate and distinguish with no hard "g," but only a simple nasal "ng." It's so subtle you might not notice it, but it's really quite different from the American pronunciation.

Then there's cantonment, another word that until lately I only knew by sight and not by sound. My guess as to its pronunciation was near the mark, but where I put a schwa in the second syllable, McCaddon places a very decided "o," almost as in "can-tone-ment," though perhaps nearer to "can't-on-ment."

And finally, there's the type of smoking apparatus that I first encountered in Alice in Wonderland, where we find a caterpillar using it. I would have expected hookah to rhyme with "palooka." But in McCaddon's British enunciation, it comes across almost as a homophone of "hooker," in an accent that drops final Rs.

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