Saturday Morning OYs – March Forth, 2023

In Chicago we have not exactly Ballet Parking but rather Poetry Parking, close to the Opera House, and with special packages for Opera parking and for Joffrey Ballet. And “ironically” (as the kids like to say) it is very much not valet parking — it is self-parking and their web site brags of “full automation”. As this signage illustrates, you will be aided in remembering what level you parked on by color-coding and iconography of different poets and poems.

Andréa sends these in. Is there an accent where “Potter” sounds like more like “Putter” than it does here in the midwestern U.S.?

This is a bit of deja vu. One of your editors (not saying which one, but their first initial is “z”) accidentally posted these to last week’s OY page, after that page had been published. Proper PUNishment will be forthcoming.

How about some breakfast Grawlix?


  1. I have to admire Blazek for not adorning his artist with stereotypical beret, or a big bushy afro (the latter would also have required an oversized palette, but we wouldn’t have been able to see it, because this artist is left handed).

  2. Love the J.C. Duffy “Friend’s behind” one and the the Tom Falco swearing in the mayor one, which had me spitting out my coffee when I saw it the first time the other day.

  3. The Wife was watching some youtube thing yesterday where a speech coach was talking about another vowel shift occurring in American English and he talked about putter becoming potter (or maybe the other way around, I wasn’t paying close attention) and he mentioned Chicago being one of the epicenters for the shift.

  4. I remember long before any purported vowel shift, Anne McCaffrey was complaining that some interview she did had her pottering around in her garden, and she was adamant that she was puttering (or maybe it was vice versa), to the point of wanting a correction. (Maybe she was joking, but it didn’t sound like it.) In any event, the difference was a simple “divided by a common language” thing; I think McCaffrey was American, but living in Ireland, and the interviewer was either Irish or British. I have seen instances where someone American is quoted as saying something about their “Mum”, knowing full well they said “Mom”, and wondering if they would feel like McCaffrey in deserving of a correction…

    PS: that is a terrible rendition of a Scottish brogue! “Blimey”? What, is he cockney? And “Tell ‘er me ain’t ‘ere”? Now he’s Cookie Monster? (Biscuit Monster? Cockney Monster?)

  5. I think I remember a friend in the Pacific Northwest using “pottering about” for “arts & crafts actvities“, but there are a number of strange vowel shifts up there. For instance, when I first heard the automobile brand “Mazda” (which I only knew as “mahz-dah”) pronounced as “mäez-dah” in Portland, I was going to discount it as a personal quirk, but then I heard the same pronunciation in TV ads (they even re-recorded the company’s international jingle to fit the local pronunciation).

    P.S. @ larK – When the Harry Potter books were “translated” into American English [to keep kids from having problems such as “jumpers” (=sweaters), “lifts” (=elevators), and “lorries” (=trucks)], they also wanted to convert all the “mums” to “moms”, but Rowling objected and made the publisher change them back.

  6. I do not recall a single reference to a telephone anywhere in the Potterverse.

  7. Mr. Weasley used the “phellytone” once, to call the Dursleys before picking up Harry. I don’t remember which book that was in.

    And the entrance to the Ministry of Magic was an out-of-order public phone booth.

  8. (Repost of disappeared comment…)
    Ah, thank you Lost! How could I forget the phone box outside the MoM?!

  9. How many years has it been since a bar took a telephone call asking for a customer, and how many more before it disappears as a trope? Amanda Huginkiss will be mouldering in her grave, but at least she shaved her hairy potter.

  10. Yeah, apart from the pronunciation question, and accepting that this guy happens to be named Harry Potter, I was of divided mind whether this might be his wife actually calling, or some kids on a phone prank with no idea a real person of that name was in the pub.

  11. “The Great Vowel Shift was a series of changes in the pronunciation of the English language that took place primarily between 1400 and 1700 …” Are youse guys saying that a new vowel shift is starting now?

    Kilby, I have often heard Canadians rhyme “Mazda” with “jazz.” I don’t recall ever hearing the word at all in Portland, but perhaps that pronunciation has oozed down from Vancouver, or maybe some Canadian came to Portland and now runs a dealership there. In Boise and in various parts of California, I’ve only heard it as “Mahz-da.” (I drive one, BTW.)

    Oh, and when I saw the Harry Potter one, it never occurred to me that he might be calling the guy a putter, so I wondered what Hilburn was on about. Thanks for the hint.

  12. I was surprised when I first noticed there were some words which Americans pronounce with a “broad” A but the English use a “short” A

    / ˈpɑ stə; especially British ˈpæs tə /
    U​S/ˈmɑtʃoʊ/ UK /ˈmætʃəʊ/

    I don’t know if it’s significant that these are both loan words (from Italian and Spanish). Another Spanish loan illustrates Americans using something like the Spanish sound for the initial consonant, where the British optionally go with a spelling-pronunciation:

    US /ˈhʊntə/
    UK /ˈdʒʌntə/ UK /ˈhʊntə/
    (The dʒ means the affricated consonant heard in judge)

    I have a nice little special cooking tray for doing spaghetti in a microwave. The brand name is “Fasta Pasta” — which is just weird and clunky until you realize that it is meant to rhyme, using the “short” A in both words, in the British style.

  13. Re: “…or some kids on a phone prank with no idea a real person of that name was in the pub.”

    The Simpsons show has played with this trope once or twice.

  14. I note that the other patrons look vaguely like Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Just vaguely, though.

  15. The vowel shift I’ve been hearing has been long vowels to short. Long ‘A’ becomes short ‘E’, so “sale” is “sell” and long ‘E’ become short ‘i’, so “peel” is “pill”.

  16. I remember on the old British radio show “My Word” a panelist would occasionally refer to Lord Byron’s poem “Don Jew-an.” I guess they should know, Lord Byron being British and all.

  17. In Boston there will be signs for symphony parking and ballet parking and so on. But when I went to the Japanese theatre festival I parked in front of the No Parking sign and my car was towed.

  18. Speaking of pronunciation, one YouTube channel I follow is a young woman who talks about her vinyl record collection. She says she’s “from the Northeast” without being much more specific that I’ve heard. For the most part, her speech is unremarkable to me, a Midwesterner. However, she says “commercial” like ka-Mar-shull. Has anyone heard that sort of pronunciation?

  19. Fascinating, larK. I believe I have heard some of those (in your Norther Cities Vowel Shift link), but attributed them to regional dialects.

  20. Don’t fret over that, Ed, it’s the “same difference” (to use a regional expression). It is a regional dialect thing, a change in some phonology in certain places — the Norther Cities, of course :-)! These researchers feel like they’re catching it underway.

    It’s labeled as a vowel shift because that seems to be the major effect. There have been plenty of other vowel shifts, in the course of other dialect formation. Remember discussions of the “pin / pen merger”? None of these latter-day vowel shifts is being put on the same shelf with The Great Vowel Shift in Late Middle English that you referenced.

  21. “a panelist would occasionally refer to Lord Byron’s poem “Don Jew-an.”

    I remember being told in grad school that Byron used the Portugeuse pronunciation rather than the Spansi, for whatever reason (more rhyming possibilities, maybe?)

    I want a hero: an uncommon want,
    When every year and month sends forth a new one,
    Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
    The age discovers he is not the true one;
    Of such as these I should not care to vaunt,
    I’ll therefore take our ancient friend Don Juan,

  22. On “leaving his friend’s behind” —

    Or their Londonderry Air?

  23. Re: so “sale” is “sell”

    I’ve seen plenty of eBay listings with the phrase “for sell”, instead of “for sale”. I just thought it was confused word usage rather than pronunciation there.

  24. I remember being told in grad school that Byron used the Portuguese pronunciation rather than the Spanish, for whatever reason (more rhyming possibilities, maybe?)

    But he kept the Spanish spelling? Portuguese is “João”. The evidence from the verse has “Juan” rhyming with “new one” and “true one”, (“Don Juan” doesn’t scan right because of where the stress needs to be) so yeah, “Juan” needs two syllables; but sadly João, while being two syllables, doesn’t rhyme with “one” — “Jew-an” is not how you pronounce João…/ʒoˈɐ̃w̃/ in Brazilian, with two distinct syllables, or /ˈʒwɐ̃w̃/ in Portugal, almost all one syllable.

    It’s a conundrum…

  25. I’ve seen plenty of eBay listings with the phrase “for sell”, instead of “for sale”. I just thought it was confused word usage rather than pronunciation there.

    The examples I have noticed are spoken so I can’t say for sure that some aren’t misused words, but some of them have no semantic connection.

  26. When we are travel we usually go to Pennsylvania or Virginia (the two most common places we go) we try very hard to match local words as used in each. Not only the pronunciation, but also the phrasing to fit in more unnoticed as being from elsewhere. It is amazing how words are rearranged or pronounced from one place to another.

    Lately Robert has been learning to speak “Pennsylvania Dutch” which will extend this -between German club in junior high and what little Yiddish I have picked up over the decades I can usually figure out what he is saying.

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