Thursday, 5 July 2012

Bacchanale

Another absurd pronunciation from a Classic FM presenter.

As you know, I am in hospital without access to reference books, so what follows is just from memory.

Bacchus (English ˈbækəs) was the Roman god of revelry. Hence the Roman festival in his honour, the Bacchanalia (English ˌbækəˈneɪliə), and the common noun bacchanal ˌbækəˈnæl ‘a drunken revelry’. There is also the French equivalent, Bacchanale, (French bakanal, English ˌbækəˈnɑːl) a particular kind of musical composition.

...which the Classic FM chap called ˌbɑːxəˈnɑːl. Presumably he was thinking of Johann Sebastian Bach (German bax, English usually bɑːk or sometimes bɑːx), who has nothing to do with the case.

42 comments:

  1. The double C should give it away, surely?

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  3. Maybe he had a frog in his throat.

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  4. but does this particular error happen often on the radio station in question, or was it just a _Flüchtigkeitsfehler_, as I'd suppose? In the former case, maybe they should be told how to pronounce 'Bacchanale' correctly. It's like people saying 'bosh' for Bosch, the Dutch painter, as though it was German (Bosch, the tool trademark). In most cases, they simply don't know, someone knowledgeable and authoritative, like Mr. Wells, should tell them.

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  5. > bacchanal ˌbækəˈnæl

    ˈbækənəl, according to the NED (1885), as yet unchanged in the OED.

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  6. @Steve - Yes, ˈbækənəl would be more in line with jovial, martial, venerial, mercurial, genial etc.

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    1. I don't think this word has anything to do with any of those.

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  7. Weirdly, the OED doesn't have the word for the musical composition.

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  9. Could it be that when the Classic FM chap called it ˌbɑːxəˈnɑːl with a "x", he was aware of the Greek form of Bacchus : "Βάκχος"...? Or of the Russian form "Вакх" ?

    Jerome Poirrier
    Grenoble, France

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  10. Pete

    @Steve - Yes, ˈbækənəl would be more in line with jovial, martial, venerial, mercurial, genial etc.

    Yes, but these words are all adjective — seldom if ever nouns.

    Bacchanal as a noun just doesn't feel English. In that it's found at all, it borders on the archaic and is much more often in the plural. The usual English noun is bacchanalia.

    So the FM chap was quite entitled to guess that bacchanale was a foreign word — especially in its written form. Indeed, the OED does not have an entry for bacchanalel.

    One online 'authority' offers as pronunciation ̩bækæˈnɑ:l or
    ̩bækæˈnɑle: Italian bakkanale
    . Presumably the French is based on the Italian (in turn based on the Latin) so bakanal seems plausible — although presumably bakʃanal can't be ruled out.

    PS I've just consulted my Robert micro, a relatively small work but geared to foreign learners. It supplies the pronunciation bakanal. Like English, it has a plural (and capitalised) form for 'Bacchanalia' — Bacchanales. For the un-capitalised singular form it gives the meaning Littér. Orgie. The 'musical' meaning is not considered common enough to be included in a dictionary for learners.

    All in all the Classic FM guy made one simple mistake: he took the foreign word from French as being a foreign word from German.

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    1. Why didn't you consult one of the greatest dictionaries ever written, the Littré, which is, as you see, en ligne. Here is the entry.

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    2. Duchesse

      Why didn't you consult one of the greatest dictionaries ever written

      1. Because I didn't know about it. (Thanks for telling me!)

      2. Because I do own a copy of Robert micro.

      Yes Littré give a little more information — but it doesn't mention the musical form either. The performed dance, yes, but no mention of song or form — or even form of dance.

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    3. It mentions the danse?

      It says Danse bruyante et tumultueuse. That's what I meant by 'performed dance'. There's no indication that there's any music to it. All we're told is that there's a lot of noise.

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  11. Correction

    ... the OED does not have an entry for bacchanale.

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  12. I find the suggestion by Jerome Poirrier (Mister P.) above quite interesting.

    It would interest me, though, how they pronounce 'Bachianas brasileiras' by H. Villa Lobos. It's German filtred through Portuguese, quite a challenge to a purist of yet another mother-tongue.

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  13. Wojciech, strangely mallamb is somewhere out there and hasn't posted in a long time, he knows about 50 world languages, including Portuguese, it's been a while since he talked about it after his feud with António Emiliano.

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  15. In any case, Wojciech, I'd go with bɐkiˈɐ̃nɐs bɾaziˈɫɛjɾɐs, although I don't know if those i's are more correctly ɨ's, a vowel which is known to you as a Pole.

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  16. to the very best of my knowledge, ɨ does not occur in Portuguese. ɐ and a alternate according to complex rules which I have never quite understood. In fact, ɐ in Brasilian Port. sounds a bit like our ɨ, mid-way between our a and our ɨ.

    Sorry, I meant to say: how 'they', that is, the cute chaps at Classic FM, pronounce B.B.

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  17. The Handbook uses the symbol ɯ̽ for ɨ for the near-close near-back unrounded vowel. ɐ and a are fairly easy, but when you see mɨditɨˈʀɐniku and tɨɾituɾjɐɫiˈdadɨ, you begin to wonder...

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  18. ɨ in the above doesn't sound like the Polish ɨ (spelt 'y'). Rather like a kind of (slightly retracted) e.

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  19. Which is what I've just told you. Goodness, have you turned from jovial to cranky.

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    1. Well, I am getting old---old and full of sleep, to speak with Yeats. And maybe intimated by Br. Port. and your competence therein. Glad we are in agreement, though. However, I still don't know what the Classic FM presenters are in the habit of saying when they mean 'Bachianas brasileiras'. Ours (Pl) tend to say 'baxjanas brazilejras', which I would not quarrel with---though wrong, it reminds one of Bach.

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  20. I still don't know what the Classic FM presenters are in the habit of saying

    That's the point, Wojciech. British commercial radio stations create a profile by not doing what the BBC does. The best characterisation of Classic FM is 'not Radio Three'.

    Inconsistency is probably highly prized — along with not sounding prissily correct with foreign words and names.

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    1. Ah, I am sorry to hear that. BBC was once famous for its excellent pronunciation of foreign words and names, is it still? They don't say 'Jerome Bosh' for the Dutch painter, I hope... . We (Pl) have a private classical music radio station, called 'RFM Classic', which is 'under each and every sow' as the German says (=very bad) as far as the presentation part is concerned.

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    2. They are not. You just have to turn on the News Channel (that is different from the World News one the rest of the world sees) to realize that.

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    3. And I believe they say bɒʃ for Bosch. I'm not sure about Hieronymus.

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    4. In Poland they quite often pronounce the Dutch painter as if he was German, because it's so entrenched. Also 'brojgel' for 'Bruegel'([ˈbɾøːɣəl), for the same reason. But I remember the Polish public radio got Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Nato secretary 2004-9 right, sx-.

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    5. In a way, I kind of expected that. But now that you mention the secretary, I wonder how they used to prounce it.

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    6. Ad David

      'Inconsistency is probably highly prized — along with not sounding prissily correct with foreign words and names'

      I once had an English boss, a university professor, who claimed that to sound genuinely English one must mispronounce foreign names in a systematic way, for instance say 'l'orchestre re'volutionnaire ETT romantique'... Maybe he was just pulling my leg.

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  21. For all those lazy to use the Search button, John Wells caught the Classic FM presenters say: ˈɪɫ prəˈɡetəʊ vɪˈvældi ˈtuː, ˈɡliː ɪŋkɒɡˈniːti, ˈliːbztɒd, for the letter G, ˌiːmuˈziːtʃi.

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  22. Anybody in Britain (and known to be British) who said anything other than hɪˈrɒnɪməs bɒʃ would be an object of ridicule. The same goes for anybody outside a tiny circle of art historians who wrote Jerome Bosch.

    Leaving aside the social pressure to avoid ridicule, it would be disastrously ineffective. Bosch is a well known figure, so if we read or hear of a Jerome Bosch, we naturally assume it's a different person, perhaps a relative of the famous painter. If we hear the Dutch pronunciation we assume it's a complete stranger that we've never heard of.

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    1. yes I understand and am not too critical on wrong pronunciations of names of well known persons. Yet bɒʃ grates at my ears, I must admit, unless the German tool maker is meant. I myself say sometimes "bos, or bɒʃ as they say".

      In my province there is one called 'von Wright', pronounced 'fon vrikt', mispronounced 'rajt'. I often say 'fon vrikt or rajt, as they say'.

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  23. The British and American pronunciations of Van Gogh would give Wojciech apoplexy.

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    1. do they make a [f] out of -gh?

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    2. Brits, yes. Americans, I think, make it silent.

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    3. Many Brits have /væn gɒx/

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  24. "Van Goff" for me, having grown up in the UK, even though I know it's wrong. I hear a lot of Kiwis saying "Van Go".

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  25. In Poland, by contrast, it's [van gok].

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  26. /vænˈgoʊ/ here, which I think is typically American. My experience with dutchophones is that they have no trouble with foreigner's [g] for Dutch /ɣ/ at the beginnings of syllables, but dislike it at the ends. The whole subject of what allophony violations non-native speakers can safely make is an interesting one. For example, every native Spanish speaker will understand [b], [d], [g] perfectly in all positions for native /b/, /d/, /g/, even those are mostly fricative in native speech. Per contra, [v] for /b/ seems to come off as a heavy foreign accent, at least in these parts, so anglophones are (somewhat) better off not learning the allophony rules.

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