Archive for the ‘Language & Linguistics’ Category

Jusht to shee you shmile

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

[HFBD, huashan">!]

Here’s a new way to measure the length of my commute — today’s was:
So Alive - Ryan Adams
Where Is The Love - Black Eyed Peas
I Hope You Dance - Lee Ann Womack
Just To See You Smile - Tim McGraw
You’ll Think Of Me - Keith Urban

The Tim McGraw song reminds me to ask: is there a name for the linguistic phenomenon where a lot of men with Southern accents pronounce /s/ as almost /sh/? (You know, voiceless alveolar fricative, postalveolar fricative, whatever.) I checked all over the web and couldn’t find any reference to it. The Wikipedia entry on the Southern American English dialect touches on a lot of pretty subtle dynamics of US Southern speech but doesn’t mention that. I just asked two of my coworkers on the way back from lunch and the name one of them improvised was “tobacco jaw.” The theory is that these men don’t move their mouths very much when they speak. Could that really be all it is?

And talking about that reminds me to say: living in Nashville has certainly exposed me to lots of accent variations I’d been unaware of previously. I knew that Southerners could tell the difference between someone with a Nashville (sounds something like “NASH-full”) accent and someone with, say, a south Georgia (sounds something like “JOE-ja”) accent, but before I lived here, they sounded to my ear like more or less the same accent. Now I hear completely different accents everywhere I turn. The guy doing the carpentry on our front steps sounds exactly like Chris Cooper to me — voice, accent, everything — but Chris Cooper is from Kansas City, Missouri and the carpenter dude is from Memphis. That’s 500 miles apart. I bet folks in those areas would easily be able to hear a difference between their respective accents. (Either way, their voices still sound incredibly alike.)

Paging Dr. Jae…

Monday, May 14th, 2007

Would you be more inclined to translate “little disaster” as “kleine Katastophe” or “Katastrophchen,” since our intent is to use it as an affectionate term (as in “Unsere kleine Katastrophe” oder “Unser Katastrophchen”)? Or is there a better translation altogether? I wouldn’t want to miss out on getting the best humor value out of it.

Coming out to my cat

Saturday, December 13th, 2003

I just woke up from a dream in which I was coming out to my cat, Blackberry.

Halfway through telling Blackberry I’m bi (”so that means I sleep with both men and women” — I dream of not-very-good definitions of bisexuality) he turned into my coworker who’s Indian (as in, from India).

I think this dream is trying to tell me something. I think Blackberry may be Indian, too. Or at least, he has an Indian accent. We’ve always said Blackberry has a “funny”-sounding meow. Now I feel horribly monocultural. Maybe he was just meowing with an accent.