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I got tons of great insights and nuance from my UK friends on my "a historical" vs "an historical" pronunciation question, and now I have another: Isaiah, as in the Bible.

I-zay-uh or I-zigh-uh? Or something else?

Again, we're assuming an educated upper-middle-class speaker (in fact, a clergyman). My old choir director, American but very British in his musical education, said I-zigh-uh. Perhaps it was just a strange affectation of his (he had many) or something that is sung one way and said another.

Any thoughts, O Britannic pals o' mine?

ETA since it's the middle of the night in Europe and I can squeeze this in: neether or nyether? And is "waistcoat" generally pronounced as it's spelled? Or even spelt?

Oh! and pastels--as in the artistic medium. Accent on first or second syllable?




( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 3rd, 2009 05:48 am (UTC)
Isaiah: eye-ZYE-uh
neither: NYEthuh
waistcoat: WAISTcoat
pastel: PASTuhl
May. 3rd, 2009 05:51 am (UTC)
So my old choir director wasn't just being affected. I'll be damned. Well, thank you! Great pronunciation guides, too!
May. 3rd, 2009 09:06 am (UTC)
I say Isaiah and Pastel like lamentables, but the others I would say Neetha and Wayscut FWIW, and we only live about ten miles away from each other!
May. 3rd, 2009 03:29 pm (UTC)
That's interesting. I've known people who grew up just on the other side of the mountains from here, and though I think it would take a serious linguist to hear differences in most of our pronunciations, there were whole swaths of expressions from over the mountains that I'd never heard in my life. The one that I remember best is "slicker 'n snot" to describe an icy road.

Your pronunciation of waistcoat makes me realize that yes, I probably really have heard it pronounced "weskit" (in fact, I think I've seen it written that way!), and wasn't just making that up in my head.
May. 3rd, 2009 05:45 pm (UTC)
I was talking to H about your question and we decided that we say Neetha sometimes and Nyetha sometimes. Also, he remembers his grandad said 'weskit' like that, but we say it more drawn out: waayskut. Interesting to examine your own practice, what you normally do without thinking.
May. 3rd, 2009 10:24 am (UTC)
The Aussie version (which undoubtedly varies enormously)


'Neether' a borrower nor a lender be, but also 'I have nyther'. No idea what triggers the shift. The same thing happens with 'either' - 'I don't have eether of those', 'I'll take eyether one'.


May. 3rd, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
I've never run across a completely satisfying theory as to how the North American "mainstream" dialect came to vary so widely from those of the rest of the English speaking world. Some of the variance probably reflects the 1th-century divergence point, and some (so I've heard) is accounted for by the dialect of Southwestern England spoken by almost all the early settlers.

Here, it's I-ZAY-uh and pasELs. And waistcoat isn't said at all, though I've heard it pronounced "weskit".

Your eether/eyether neether/neither distinctions remind me a little of further/farther. I've heard that "eether/neether" were correct until the Hanovers showed up and applied a German pronunciation to the spelling.

Anyway, thank you! I love this bizarre and massive language of ours!
(Deleted comment)
May. 3rd, 2009 11:48 pm (UTC)
I'm gathering from your response and the other comments that it might sound a little off to pronounce waistcoat exactly as spelled. Hm...

So now I'm wondering about breeches. I mean the pronunciation thereof. I believe it falls roughly into the same category that sometimes makes victuals "vittles" and creatures "critters" (that is, breeches are britches).

Most of this inquiry is in service of a podfic that may never be, but the authority of my British friends has given me a greater sense of authenticity as I read my stuff aloud for editing purposes. And it's been interesting! Thank you!

Edited at 2009-05-04 12:18 am (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
May. 5th, 2009 05:55 pm (UTC)
Oh "critters" is totally American--but I'm pretty sure it dates back to almost Elizabethan times, when settlers from England wandered off up into the hills and kept talking that way long after the language of folks closer to the seaports evolved. If an American uses either "victuals" or "breeches" at all today, s/he is likely to pronunce them as spelled, just as s/he is likely to say "creatures".

Linguistically, the vittles/britches/critters pronunciation must be related. Wonder why they fragmented...?
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )



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