Southerly by David Haywood

Read Post

Southerly: Overheard on a Bus

140 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 Newer→ Last

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I recall being taught at primary school that words groups like hear, hair, and hare were homophones. Spelt differently - like to, two and two - but pronounced the same.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3205 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    How old are you, Graeme?

    I'm 38, and I think I'm among the last people who grew up distinguishing those sounds. My daughter doesn't, and she can't even hear the difference.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Judi Lapsley Miller,

    Oh I feel truly ancient now - I'm quickly exiting my 30s and I distinguish those dipthongs just fine. I just hadn't noticed that the young ones were speaking differently - I guess I don't hang round with many yoofs these days. What was weird though was before I listened to the example, I assumed that the dipthong now in use was like the one in "square" rather than the one in "near" - so David's story wasn't making a lot of sense initially...

    Just an old fart,

    Judi

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 106 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    she can't even hear the difference

    You mean she can't hare it. Or here or hair it. Or even, god forbid, heir it.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    27. I do try to get them right, however. Just not 'cos I was taught them properly at school ... punctuation wasn't a big thing, either :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3205 posts Report Reply

  • uroskin,

    If the All Blacks had applied more fear play than fair play they night have been world champs.
    Honestly, as a non-native English (or Nuzild-ish) speaker I cringe how English is mangled on these shaky isles. No wonder immigrant shopkeepers get confused and stabbed when addressed by yoofs wanting "chuppies", "suggies" or "mulk"

    Waiheke Island • Since Feb 2007 • 178 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    One of the nice things about all the homophones is that it gives you a fabulous opportunity to be a pedant in speech as well as in prose.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Back in the day when I was doing speech lessons (you know, reciting poetry and all that), my teacher taught me the vowel scale.

    Say just the vowel sounds in these words.

    Do Put Whole Thought On Art Thus Turn Sad Men Gay With Zeal.

    I think the "ea" in "near" is the sound in Zeal, but I'm not quite sure where the sound in square falls. Somewhere between Men and Gay? A semitone, perhaps.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    But if you don't believe that it can be done, then listen to this speaker pronouncing the words 'fear', 'fair', and 'fare'.

    That clip is brilliant. Even though it's just Glennis from Foxton reciting a list of words, by the time she gets to the final word, there's a certain tone to her voice, as if to say, "These crazy academics. Why are they getting me to say all these words that sound the same? Doesn't everyone talk like this?"

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Thomson,

    I'm pretty sure I heard some teenagers discussing these homo phones on a bus just the other day...

    I'm in my twenties and find it's a mixed bag, some make the distinction and others don't - I've had quite a few arguments about the BEER-BEAR pairing, which many people insist should rhyme.

    Chch • Since Jun 2007 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    I don't think this shift is all that new: when I came to NZ from the UK over 30 years ago, I was already having to spell my last name for them, to distinguish it from "Baird". Since then, I've been fortunate enough to grow a mnemonic device on my face to remind people of the correct spelling.

    And certain English classes have their own vowel shift in the opposite direction: if I'd have been born in a slightly different part of the southeast, I would have said "over 30 yairs ago". It reminds me of the upper-class greeting: "air hair lair there".

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • Josh Addison,

    I'm 32, and I've never pronounced those two sounds differently, nor do I recall being taught to. If I try, I end up affecting an exaggerated English accent for "share" and "air" (in the manner of the famous Bill T James "air hair lair" sketch...)

    Onehunga, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 298 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Billy T James? I heard it from Kenny Everett.

    Tom: are those the same people who rhyme house with mice?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Finn Higgins,

    I recently met a woman in her late thirties, who introduced herself as "Clear".

    I was five when my family first moved to New Zealand from the UK, and I didn't really have much concept of there being a different accent here. The first friend I made was a girl at the motel we were staying at, who I thought was exotically-named "Seerah" or something similar... Similar confusion resulted.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2007 • 209 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    I suspect age, class and region all play a part. I was beaten at school for being able to distinguish my vowel sounds, so I do it, but it wasn't normal for that time and place.

    When I was pregnant with my second child, it was suggested that if the baby was a girl, I should call her Sharon. Because I already had a son called Kieran, and then they would be Kieran and Sharon, see? Caring and sharing. I still run across a lot of people who, despite my cut-glass vowels, think I'm saying 'Karen' when I pronounce his name. Oh, the hilarity.

    Fortunately, being from Timaru, I was perfectly aware of the dangers of calling your child Sharon.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    Tom: are those the same people who rhyme house with mice?

    Quite possibly. Certainly, those who have a hice worth more than faive hundred thiesand piends.

    I was beaten at school for being able to distinguish my vowel sounds, so I do it,

    I hear you! I wasn't exactly made welcome by rool koiwois when I moved here (a common phrase in the playgrounds of the day was "bash a pom a day"), so I didn't feel any need to fit in, and in fact I emphasised my differences.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    I'm 48, I recall my std 2 teacher 40 years ago assuring me that mare & mayor were homophones. Only I with my weird foreign accent disagreed.

    BTW, you'll all be familiar with the unofficial kiwi anthem, Near Whizzy Air?

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    (i) The NEAR-SQUARE merger has long been a standard ingredient of trans-Tasman jokes. For example, there's the one where a Kiwi finds an Aussie farmer busy with a sheep:
    "Er, in NZ we shear our sheep."
    "Well, we don't here; bugger off and find your own."

    Complete merger of the two vowels has been widespread for at least 30 years, though there has been considerable variation in exactly how both vowels end up being pronounced.

    (ii) Less frequently commented on, though, is the fact that this merger of the two front centring diphthongs is part of a larger pattern. Younger NZers also merge two vowels that may be regarded as back centring diphthongs: thus "sure" and "shore" are also homophones.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1921 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    I recall being taught at primary school that words groups like hear, hair, and hare were homophones. Spelt differently - like to, two and two - but pronounced the same.

    Hmm... I remember being taught homophones.... but not those three

    I have no problem with hair and hare sounding identical.... and they rhyme with air.

    But hear rhymes with beer. (to my not-quite-40-year-old ears).

    Also.... fear/fair/fare..... I know that young people say them all identically.... as an 'older' person I distinguish fear as rhyming with beer, while I do say the other two identically (rhyming with air)...... My question is, does another (older?) generation separate them more than that? Are they supposed to be three different sounds?

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 888 posts Report Reply

  • samuel walker,

    I'm 32, and I've never pronounced those two sounds differently, nor do I recall being taught to. If I try, I end up affecting an exaggerated English accent for "share" and "air" (in the manner of the famous Bill T James "air hair lair" sketch...)

    pretty much ditto, dammit, i want to feel cultured. does this mean i am scruffy too?

    Deborahs Vowel exercise makes sense though...putting it in practice is tricky. How can i reprogram my diction? should I just call in the CIA and do it properly?

    I blame the internets and txt speak. I should be getting an ACC subsidy due to it. Or should I just sue the Government?

    Since Nov 2006 • 203 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    My question is, does another (older?) generation separate them more than that? Are they supposed to be three different sounds?

    Probably, I remember we were taught in Old & Middle English classes to pronounce every syllable & vowel, so that Fare & Fair would sound quite different.

    Of course, I wondered at the time how anyone today knows exactly how those written words were pronounced between 1000 & 1500 years ago.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I am 33 and have never pronounced 'fear' and 'square' or 'hear' and 'hair' the same... am I the last of a dying breed?

    I cringe how English is mangled on these shaky isles

    I don't think RP is coming back any time soon. Thank god.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Robyn Gallagher wrote:

    That clip is brilliant. Even though it's just Glennis from Foxton reciting a list of words, by the time she gets to the final word, there's a certain tone to her voice, as if to say, "These crazy academics. Why are they getting me to say all these words that sound the same? Doesn't everyone talk like this?"

    Dude, I had exactly the same thought. I listened to all the words, and by the end of the list I was laughing to the point where I was having difficulty breathing. She has this increasingly incredulous tone in her voice as the list progresses. Priceless.

    I don't think this shift is all that new: when I came to NZ from the UK over 30 years ago, I was already having to spell my last name for them, to distinguish it from "Baird".

    The NEAR-SQUARE merger certainly isn't new. But what is comparatively recent is its place as the standard pronunciation for people under, say, 30. Nearly no-one over 60 would have the merger, and 30s-60s would fall somewhere in between.

    Incidentally, other English dialects also have comparable vowel mergers. In many US dialects they have a LOT-THOUGHT merger, i.e. they pronounce the words 'cot' and 'caught' as if they were homophones. And some US-speakers also pronounce the words 'Mary' and 'Marry' the same.

    Some mergers are already part of Standard English, of course. Almost all varieties of English treat 'toe' and 'tow' as homophones -- but in Norfolk they have kept the original distinction between the two.

    Those who have an interest in NZ English will be pleased (or possibly horrified) to hear that a similar change to standard NZ pronunciation is also widely anticipated for 'TH fronting" (pronouncing the 'th' sound as either a 'v' of an 'f', i.e. "this and thing" becomes "vis an' fing"). It's already very widespread among NZ teenage girls -- and even some speakers in their 30s have it.

    uroskin wrote:

    Honestly, as a non-native English (or Nuzild-ish) speaker I cringe how English is mangled on these shaky isles.

    On the one hand, I feel compelled to point out that there's nothing wrong with having a dialect. I hardly think that Irish people feel embarrassed about speaking like Irish people.

    On the other hand, when I listened to Glennis on the University of Alberta's website, and reached the point where she attempted the word 'nuclear', my very first reaction was: "This is so embarrassing -- now everyone will think that all New Zealanders speak like this idiot".

    A deeply unworthy thought -- and at an intellectual level I know that it's indefensible -- but that was, I'm afraid, my very first reaction.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Fletch Goldsworthy,

    I'm SO glad Graeme you mentioned the hair/hare/here teaching from school, I thought I'd dreamed it.

    I got mocked no end in England for explaining how the teacher told us they were pronounced exactly the same way but spelt differently.. homophones is it.

    Mind you the people mocking me drove VW Poul-lows and drank diet Couca-coula.. (bit difficult to spell middle-class English phonetically!)

    Although I can't seem to shake saying 'may I borrow your pan' instead of 'chuck us your pEEn'

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Stevens,

    There is a significant class aspect to this - kids from the wealthier suburbs do tend to make some distinction I'd say. There is a definitely a lower class pronunciation, and also an Island a Maori one of NZ English, as well as an upper class one.

    But English is a glorious soup of a language, always on the go, and always upsetting someone (often me, I admit) with its changes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 230 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.