Friday 13 May 2011


Sorry today’s posting is so late. The Blogger site has been unavailable (except as read-only) for well over 24 hours, and has only just become available again.
_ _ _

The manufacturers of Scrabble™ have decided to allow players to use various new words when playing the game. Among them are pharm, wiki, badware, Facebook and also, bizarrely, catflap, heatwave and pushbike, which for some reason weren’t already in the Collins Official Scrabble Words dictionary.

As far as the British popular press is concerned, the most sensational addition was innit, our Multicultural London English universal tag question (as in “He’s right, innit?”).

I’m relieved to find that I’ve already got innit in LPD. Likewise keema, pushbike, wiki and thang, not to mention Myspace and Facebook (including its non-standard -buːk variant). I've also got pharma (as in "big pharma"), but not pharm.

For the next edition, do I really need to add catflap and heatwave? I've got pushbike. I suppose I’d better get round to adding tik, gak and non-proper-name tina. But first I’ll have to find out how people actually pronounce them. One assumes they’re just tɪk, ɡæk, ˈtiːnə.

Can anyone help me with aloo gobi? It’s an Indian dish which is widely on sale in our UK supermarkets, so I ought to know. Wikipedia tells us that it’s Hindi आलू गोभी, Urdu آلو گوبی ɑːluː goːbh, so my guess is ˌæluː ˈɡəʊbi.

Then there’s grrl: is this just a spelling variant of girl, or do people give it a special pronunciation? If so, what?

I feel like a dad (or perhaps rather a granddad) at the youth club disco.


  1. Grrrl - pronunciation of the R is required... Like the beginning of Tony the Tiger's catchprase.

    With an L on the end.

  2. Even in nonrhotic speech? Grrr!

  3. And in rhotic speech, how would it differ from girl?

  4. On आलू गोभी: the anglicisation guess looks good to me, but the Hindi/Urdu pronunciation should be with a long ɑ:. ([ɑ:lu:], not [əluː]).

  5. Thanks - silly of me. I'm supposed to be able to read both Devanagari and Arabic (Urdu) script. Now corrected.

  6. ˌæluː ˈɡəʊbi, yes, but I have also heard ˌæluː ˈɡɒbi.

  7. Never heard ˌæluː ˈɡɒbi, but have heard ˌɑːluː ˈɡəʊbi ever since I actually "rʊmd" above the Taj Mahal restaurant in Oxford as a postgrad.

    John, your blog for yesterday still not restored, and ditto the comment feed for all but today.

  8. I am sure ˌɑːluː ˈɡəʊbi is to be found in, above or on the pavement outside of the Taj Mahal, Oxford. At the Curry 'ouse, Wycombe tho, ˌæluː ˈɡɒbi is preferred.

  9. I think that the rule against hyphenated words prevented catflap, heatwave and pushbike from being in the dictionary. I've tried "lightbulb" on PC Magazine's Checker and that's allowed, even though Google Chrome has just underlined it in red as a spelling mistake.

    I noticed that "spoon-full" is not accepted. I think that this should count as a word. You'd sound very formal to say, "Add two full teaspoons."

  10. Ed: it's spoonful.

    John: In rhotic speech grrrl is /gɚːl/, or even add another length mark if you want. There is also a very strong sentential stress.

    In my own speech, this /ɚ/ is realized as a centering diphthong, in accordance with the rules I mentioned a few postings ago: /ɚ/ is [+tense], so it is realized as [ɚə] before /l/.

  11. आलू गोभी ought to be Anglicized to /ˌɑːluː ˈgoʊbiː/, but in fact I've only ever heard it pronounced in England with initial TRAP.

  12. @mallamb:

    I've been to the Taj Mahal in Oxford quite a few times, but I don't think I've ever heard /ˌɑːluː ˈɡəʊbi/ there (except perhaps from the staff).

    Of course, the fact that Taj Mahal is usually Anglicized as /ˌtɑːʒ məˈhɑːl/ rather than /ˌtɑːdʒ 'mɛhəl/ tells us that Anglicizations of Hindi/Urdu words are often unfaithful to the original pronunciations.

    PS I've been fortunate enough never to have heard /ˈɡɒbi/ for गोभी. I rather hope this state of affairs continues :)

  13. Of course, the fact that Taj Mahal is usually Anglicized as /ˌtɑːʒ məˈhɑːl/ rather than /ˌtɑːdʒ 'mɛhəl/ tells us that Anglicizations of Hindi/Urdu words are often unfaithful to the original pronunciations.

    They are very faithful to the rules of making foreign words sound truly foreign, though. Word-final stress, /ɑː/, /ʒ/, voilà.

  14. ‹Grrl› suggests /ˈɡɜːr əl/ to me.

  15. The Hindi (Devanagari) and Urdu versions of aloo gobi on Wikipedia as quoted here do not coincide. The Urdu has a simple b while the Devanagari has an aspirated b. Of course, as most users of Urdu in the UK are actually native speakers of Punjabi (or a similar idiom like Mirpuri Pahari) this "dropping of the h" can be explained.

  16. Simon, I regret to have to confirm that one's going out and coming in was not necessarily preserved from the pavement alternative.

    vp, the tɑːʒ affectation was unheard-of in those days. So of course was ˈmɛhəl, but we always called it the tɑːdʒ. Our landlady's family only ever gave houseroom to a nice class of tenant. It was a better education than living in College. Did you ever check out their art gallery in the basement?

  17. Anglicising works differently when a substantial number of people have heard the original pronunciation — either because they've learned the language or because they've visited the country and heard the words.

    The vast majority of people in Britain who know the name aloo gobi do so because they have read it on a menu. In an 'Indian' restaurant we may modify our pronunciation based on what fellow diners say, but (with the possible exception of professional phoneticians) we don't notice and copy what the waiters say.

    By all means include an authentic pronunciation in a dictionary for information, but surely that should be secondary to the actual norm. What you ask a British friend to order for you is ˈæluː ˈgəʊbi.

  18. It would be great if Longman made LPD available online, a subscription website just like the OED or Webster's Third New International Dictionary Unabridged. It could be updated regularly and could be customizable as far as the basics go (for example, picking a font between Lucida Sans Unicode or Charis SIL). Then we could have 'words' like these added immediately. I wonder what would the appropriate fee be.

  19. P. S. The first entry in the LPD for Taj Mahal is obviously ˌtɑːdʒ məˈhɑːl.

  20. Just so, Dinora, and that is exactly as it should be, and we just have to take melancholy note of the fact that ˈtɑːʒ- is given for the second, and also in the US soundfile.

    So David, I take it you would not argue of Taj Mahal that "the vast majority of people in Britain and the US who know the name do so because they have read it on a menu" (in a restaurant of that name or on its shingle or in restaurant or monument guides or any other printed matter). Seeing that nobody says ˈtædʒ məˈhæl,ˈmɑːhəl or ˈmæhəl. Pity, because if they did, Brits would probably be more likely to have [a] for æ and say [ˈtadʒ ˈmahəl] (the Irish would be especially likely to say ˈmahəl), and less likely to say tæʒ/taʒ, and N Americans quite likely to say ˈtɑdʒ ˈmɑhəl, and quite a few of these would actually bring them closer to Hindi/Urdu.

    I don't get out much these days, but I don't think you're speaking for me when you say "What you ask a British friend to order for you is ˈæluː ˈgəʊbi." I think what I would still ask a British friend to order for me is ˈɑːluː ˈgəʊbi. But I did only say I'd _heard_ ˌɑːluː ˈɡəʊbi most of my life, not that it would rank in a pronouncing dictionary. Of course there are any number of aloo dishes and I share your impression that these days they are mostly pronounced with ˈæluː.

  21. Dinora,
    In our last exchange of comments you asked

    May I ask you how exactly does one pronounce your username? mæl læm, məˈlæm, mɔːl æm, ˈmælæm?

    And Blogger's promised restoration of comments is obviously never going to happen, so here is what I answered:

    How touching that you care how my username is pronounced. It doesn't have a pronunciation, but that doesn't seem to make it unpronounceable on the rare occasions when people have cause to attempt the feat. It's three initials and a surname, so logically your first suggestion was a direct hit, and it will still do for when three initials are not enough and I have to be malllamb. You may say mæɬ læm if you wish, but the ll is for Llewellyn pronounced luˈelɪn. I had never thought of məˈlæm, but I like it. It offers a choice as to whether we think of it as 'my lamb' or MᶜLamb/M‘Lamb in celebration of my multifaceted British ancestry. Even mɔːl æm is not an unprecedented attempt: you are in august company – a former Editor-in-Chief of Collins Dictionary, no less. Now if he had consulted his dictionary, he would have found ˈmælæm as a Hausa pundit. I must confess that that's how I tend to think of it, because it's the way most people pronounce it if they pronounce it at all. The name I'm known by in real life is Michael.

    At this point in the Blogger out(r)age, they weren't letting me use my Google account to post on Firefox without setting up my own blog, and I expected soon to be having the same trouble on IE. We have seen Google have been getting above themselves recently, and I thought it them trying to manipulate me, rather than Blogger trying to manipulate themselves. But I had already been sent on various runarounds recently by both Google and LiveJournal. If I have to give up on them, who knows what I shall finish up as? I do hope we can all meet up again when I have crost the bar.

  22. Mallamb

    So David, I take it you would not argue of Taj Mahal that "the vast majority of people in Britain and the US who know the name do so because they have read it on a menu" (in a restaurant of that name or on its shingle or in restaurant or monument guides or any other printed matter).

    I wouldn't.

    Seeing that nobody says ˈtædʒ məˈhæl,ˈmɑːhəl or ˈmæhəl.

    I believe many people do say
    tædʒ məˈhæl. They hear
    ta:dʒ məˈha:l and substitute their own BATH vowel.

    But yes, we don't say ˈmɑːhəl or ˈmæhəl. This is probably, I believe, because people have been hearing the final stress for so long and so often — either as a restaurant name or as the eponymous building.

  23. David,

    I believe many people do say tædʒ məˈhæl. They hear ta:dʒ məˈha:l and substitute their own BATH vowel.

    I thought I had catered for them and covered BATH by saying Brits would probably be more likely to have [a] for æ. But you're right of course. BATHs can be æ. Shockingly RP-centric of me to say that nobody says ˈtædʒ məˈhæl. But you will have to subtract these people who do say tædʒ məˈhæl with their own BATH vowel from this vast majority of people in Britain who would _choose_ to say ˈæluː ˈgəʊbi rather than ˈɑːluː ˈgəʊbi because they have a choice in the matter of TRAP and BATH. Neither of us can claim those who don't have this opposition for our camp.

  24. Even in non-rhotic, John. RRRRRRRR all the way. It seems to be one of those words that you can only say in the accent from which you first heard it: similar to the way I've met no-one in the last two weeks who is able to say Birmingham or Dudley in their own accents (brought up by discussing the actor playing Duncan Edwards in 'United' on the BBC the other week). And I've just heard a channel 4 announcer do it for 'Come Dine with Me'.

    The comments about aloo gobi remind me of my father, a Manxman, who when he did his National Service in the late 40's got lots of stick from his barrack mates for calling the small blue Australian parakeets [bʊ.ʤə.ˈɾiː.ɡəz].

  25. Thank you, mallamb, for writing that comment again! I was just about to read it and when – wham! It was gone. It was great to read it and I'm pleased you found some of those amusing.

  26. Wow, mary, it took me a while to realize you were talking about budgerigars. Which I pronounce ˈbʌdʒərɪgɑːz.

  27. Mallamb: The offer to set up a blog for you is in effect just an ad. What's actually necessary (I just had this happen) is to sign in again.

  28. Thank you, John. I did realize it was just an ad, but it wouldn't let me sign in at all unless I consented to sign up. Presumably this was just one of the multiple malfunctions then current. Now that we are encouraged to hope Blogger has got itself sorted out I hope that the next time it happens I will be able to follow your advice.

  29. You were so right. I guess it's now working the way it was supposed to.

  30. Coming in late here, but this American says 'ælu 'goʊbi (the final vowels are as in "soon" and "seen" but no obvious lengthening) and 'tɑː(d)ʒ mə'hɔːl, i.e. "muh-HALL", rhyming with (Lauren) Bacall.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.