Wednesday, October 14, 2015

American a

The pronunciation of a :

In the years before the Civil War the plain people converted the a of care into the a of car in bear , dare , hair , and where , into a short i in the verb can , into a short e in catch , and into a long e in care , scarce and chair, thus producing bar , dar , har , whar , kin , ketch , keer , skeerce and cheer.

H. L. Mencken, The American Language: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States, 4th ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1936).
Rachel and Ben, do you remember “Bounce, ketch?” (And the Galápagos?)

Also from The American Language
The American v. the Englishman : “Are you a speed-cop? : B.V.D. : English American English : “[N]o faculty so weak as the English faculty” : On professor : Playing policy : “There are words enough already” : The -thon , dancing and walking : The verb to contact

[“Bounce, ketch” rang a distant bell for Rachel and Ben. It and the Galápagos are from an old VHS tape for kids.]

comments: 4

Pete said...

I've noticed that Obama uses the long a pronunciation in his speeches and public statements. Once you hear it for the first time, it really stands out.

Michael Leddy said...

In what word(s)? Nothing rings a bell for me.

Daughter Number Three said...

Among all of those examples, the only one I say is ketch for catch. Not sure whether I use it all the time or not, though. It seems more right to my ear, but I think I may have some correcting habit that goes back a few decades.

Michael Leddy said...

I don’t think I say any of these, but coming from NY and NJ, I don’t think I’m a likely user. (I have my own idiosyncrasies of diction.) Mencken’s list appealed to me esp. because it has so many of the bits of diction I notice and love in old-timey recordings.