Over the past ten days letter writers to the Guardian have been entertaining us with various mishearings and misunderstandings supposedly caused by regional/social pronunciation differences.
They all depend on phonetic overlap: where a sound [x], intended by the speaker as a token of lexical set /A/, is perceived by the hearer as representing the different lexical set /B/.
It started with crux (blog, 22 July) and the joke about a northerner in a hotel asking for a double rum and being offered not a drink but a room. Then...
So English pɜːnəʊ was heard as French pryno pruneaux. A northern monophthongal GOAT vowel was heard as a southern NORTH vowel.
…Geordie NURSE as non-Geordie NORTH; provincial FACE as Cockney FLEECE; and the problem that the sequence fʊks is taboo in the north of England but not in the south.
…southern STRUT heard as northern TRAP (take courage, Spanish and Japanese learners of EFL!).
…Ulster KIT (which can be very open) heard as LOT; New Zealand raised DRESS heard as non-NZ KIT (this is different from the corresponding American southern confusion, which operates only before a nasal).
…U-RP MOUTH heard as PRICE, and back to New Zealand DRESS heard as KIT……where TRAP is evidently getting so close nowadays that it can even be heard as FLEECE (or perhaps rather just as DRESS, with an unusual pronunciation of semen).