Monday 3 September 2012


You may have noticed that this blog is neither anonymous nor pseudonymous. It bears my true name at the top. If you are for some reason curious about me or my life, googling my name will quickly reveal to you more information about me than you could reasonably want to know. You will find links to my home page, my personal history, and my (unauthorized by me) Wikipedia entry. On my home page you will see my email address and even my home phone number. (I have never hesitated to make these contact details available on the web. It helps journalists and others who might wish to contact me to do so.)

But many of those who leave comments on this blog hide behind nicknames or pseudonyms, sometimes fantastical. We don’t know who they really are. (There are some exceptions here. I know that “Ed” is Ed Aveyard, and that ”clinicallinguistics” is Martin Ball, while “wjarek” is Jarek Weckwerth. And of course there are several commentators who, I assume, use their real names.)

I ask that from now on everyone who comments on postings on this blog should use their true name. I refer you to a recent article in the Guardian by Jonathan Myerson.

If the way your Google or other account is set up means that you have to sign in with a nickname or pseudonym, then please sign off your comments with your true name at the end.

You know who I am. I’d like to know who you are. And I’m sure I’m not alone.


  1. I guess it's a reasonable request on a blog like this, but I can imagine that on many other blogs, fora, twitter and other internet ways of expression it's a necessity to be anonymous, or face serious repercussions in one's career or personal life.

  2. Hi everybody! Sorry for being so impolitely shy. I promise to be much bolder from now on.

  3. I've been using this blogger handle for years, but my name is easily googlable from it.

    (I was just about to write a comment in the other thread basically saying it's only "Duchesse de Guermante's" and the blog owner's business whether the former should give details of his or her identity, but that seems to settle it now. It is indeed John Wells's free decision, though I practical difficulties, unless some sort of complete profile with proof of identity is demanded.

    Concerning the other matter, I find it remarkable that asking why RP has become the aim of mockery makes you a class warrior.)

    Phillip Minden

    1. To respond to your last paragraph, my comment was not in response to Duchesse de Guermante's exclaimation about the decline of Jonesian RP. I said this because I think that having a name like "Duchesse de Guermante" and posting constantly about U-RP and the speech of the Queen and duchesses, and making derogatory comments about pronunciations that a large number of people in England use just because they're not RP does make you seem like a class warrior. Perhaps my political views affect this perception (I know that they should not on a phonetic blog), but I can't deny that I got offended.

      The reason why I asked whether she was from Britain is that I know that some people have inaccurate ideas about the British class system, in much the same way that we British have silly ideas about how much the Irish drink. I am not an unreasonable person by nature, and I know that sometimes offence is caused inadvertently. I don't blame people for such mistakes.

      By the way, I am sorry if I get worked up sometimes. I appreciate the work that Professor Wells continues to put into this blog even when he has been in fragile health. I think that his work, all provided online for no charge, is extremely generous and I don't want to cause him any annoyance.

      Edward Aveyard

    2. aɪ θɪŋk, ˈgɪvən ðə ˈriːsənt tɜːn əv ɪˈvents, ðæt ðə best θɪŋ wəd biː fə miː tə liːv juː ɔːl tə jɔː ˈbɪznɪs ənd liːv ðə ˈbɪldɪŋ.

      aɪ siːm tə hæv kɔːzd sʌtʃ ˈtrʌbəl ənd kəˈmoʊʃən ðæt ə hoʊl blɒg poʊst wəz ˈrɪtən bɪˈkɒz əv miː ənd ə hoʊl blɒg ˈpɒlɪsɪ tʃeɪndʒd. fɔː ðə laɪf əv mi aɪ kɑːnt ʌndəˈstænd hwɒt dʒʌst ˈhæpənd, bət sɪns aɪ siːm tə kɔːz soʊ mʌtʃ kənˈtrɒvəsɪ, ɪts dʒʌst best tə goʊ.

      noʊ ˈʌðə ˈmembə ˈmænɪdʒd tə ɪˈlɪsɪt sʌtʃ ə θɪŋ, ən ðeər ɑː ˈsevərəl huː ˈhævənt prɪˈzentɪd ðemˈselvz, ˌgæsəˈlæskə dʒeɪp ɔː ˌbeɪəˈtrɪtʃeɪ ˌpɔːtɪˈnɑːrɪ, fɔː ɪgˈzɑːmpəl. dyʃɛs də gɛʁmɑ̃t ɪz dʒʌst ə neɪm frɒm pruːsts ˈnɒvəl ənd hæz noʊ ˌkɒnəˈteɪʃən əv klɑːs sjʊˌpɪərɪˈɒrɪtɪ ˈhwɒtsoʊˌevə.

      aɪ laɪkt ðə saʊnd ɒv ɪt, ðæt ɪz ɔːl. ˈsɪmpəl.

    3. Ed - ah, I see.

      Duchesse - that would be a pity. In case you should have a reason to go on using this handle, maybe asking John in private might do (or maybe not, of course).

      Phillip Minden

      (EDIT: rudest captcha I've seen yet, all the more now that I'm not even pseudonymous anymore: heysicco)

    4. @ Duchesse: You don't have to leave. As Professor Wells suggests, you just have to sign your name at the end of each post.

      I don't think that you are the sole reason for this policy. There have been problems in the past with other users, especially when the blog allowed anonymous comments.

      I can quite believe that you didn't mean to cause offence. That's why I was asking if you were from Britain because I thought that you might not understand how sensitive the British can be about class and its links to speech. Wherever you come from, I expect that you have learnt this lesson now. You can move on from the misunderstanding and continue to contribute if you wish. I would not mention it again.

      Edward Aveyard

    5. Lipman, how do you manage to edit your comments? I've been googling for how you manage that. I can find out how the blogmaster can edit users' comments, but not how a commenter can edit his/her own comment.

      There have been a few times when I've deleted a comment because I've made an embarrassing error. I expect that I'm not the only one.

      Edward Aveyard

    6. Depending on which browser I use, I even have difficulties to delete posts. The edited comments, exclusively about funny captchas, are edited before they're published: I write something, see the funny captcha, then copy the captcha but click on "edit" instead of "publish", then add the EDIT line and click "publish". I'm not sure it's actually possible to edit comments afterwards.

    7. Ed, help out an American who doesn't understand the British usage of "quite". When you say "I can quite believe that you didn't mean to cause offence" are you saying you can fully believe it, or somewhat believe it? (In my idiolect, and I believe in American English in general, "quite" cannot be used there; I actually initially misread it as "can't quite".)

    8. Ellen

      According to the OED, since about 1300 quite has meant something like 'completely'. The earliest quote for not quite is 1765. The meaning 'up to a point' seems to be a recent development early in the nineteenth century.

      A dictionary (COBUILD) for advanced foreign learners based on frequency analysis of contemporary texts presents some of the same facts but differently. Four broad uses are identified as essential for advanced learners. The most common is

      '1 Quite means to a fairly great extent or to a greater extent than average.'

      Next in frequency comes

      '2 Quite is used 2.1 to emphasise the complete degree or extent to which something is true or is the case EG I stood quite still ... You're quite sure you don't mind? ... You're quite right ... I saw its driver quite clearly ... I quite understand ... Oh I quite agree ... That's quite enough of that — pull yourself together ... I quite frankly am too miserable to care

      (The quotes are all 'raw data' from banks of collected text. Senses 2.2, 2.3 are of not quite.)

      The 'somewhat' meaning is pretty restricted with verbs. In BrE, and I think in AmE, it collocates easily with like and semantically related enjoy, dislike etc, but I can't think of many other verbs.

      With many verbs quite in either sense just won't collocate. You can't say *He quite arrived, *They quite know it, E quite equals mc squared

      The verbs we collocate withquite in the sense of 'fully' denote
      • ALWAYS a state or action that is capable of being complete or incomplete
      • USUALLY the result of conscious thought or action
      • MORE OFTEN THAN NO with subject I
      • OFTEN an empathic response I quite understand, I quite agree, I can quite imagine, I quite accept,
      • SOMETIMES a disclaimer I quite accept , I quite concede

      The verb appreciate has very different senses, so I quite appreciate is ambiguous between 'I rather enjoy' and 'I fully understand'.

    9. Ellen

      With many verbs quite in either sense just won't collocate. You can't say *He quite arrived, *They quite know it, *E quite equals mc squared

      I've just re-read this and spotted the flaw. All of these verbs can collocate with not quite. Thus

      He didn't quite arrive. (stylistically iffy but almost OK)
      They don't quite know it
      E doesn't quite equal mc squared
      (false but idiomatic and grammatical)

      So the difference between BrE and AmE seems to be which verbs collocate with both not quite and quite, and which verbs collocate only with not quite.

      Believe falls in the first group in BrE and the latter in AmE.

    10. An excellent response by David Crosbie. You've answered Ellen's question with more detail than I could've hoped for. Many thanks :)

      I was saying that I can fully believe that any offence was unintentional.

      Lipman: you had my hopes up for a while about editing comments after publication. It's a shame that this is infeasible. It was a funny captcha.

      Ed Aveyard

    11. No, Ed, he did not answer my question. My question still remained. He gave lots of information of the usage of "quite". But he did not tell me what you meant in that particular sentence, which is what the question was. I did not reply to him, hoping you would come on here and, even with his reply, answer my question. Disappointed that you think he answered my question, but grateful that you did answer it.

    12. Oh, wait, just saw David Crosbie's 2nd post made hours after that first one. That I think would have answered it. The first one did not at all answer the question.

      So, if I understand right, the difference in meaning between BrE and AmE is only when it modifies an adjective ("quite good"). When it modifies a verb, there's a difference in when it can be used, but not of meaning.

    13. Ellen

      So, if I understand right, the difference in meaning between BrE and AmE is only when it modifies an adjective ("quite good").

      In BrE, quite with an adjective can be either sense — not for all adjectives, of course. Among the examples chosen by COBUILD after statistical analysis were: quite still, quite sure, quite right. I suspect some of these collocations are possible in AmE.

      We can't use quite good to mean 'good in every particular' but we can use not quite good to mean 'almost good'.

      Again, I suspect the main difference between BrE and AmE is at the detailed level of what can collocate with particular adjectives.

      According to the OED there is a difference when the adjective is 'attributive' (immediately before the noun it modifies). Both BrE and AmE can say quite a good book. BrE can in addition say a quite good book. It's a less common construction, but for use it is grammatical. The OED thinks you Americans don't say it.

      One use of quite + ADJECTIVE is completely unambiguous. Although quite dark can mean 'somewhat dark' or 'completely dark', there's no such uncertainty with 'It's quite quite dark.

      In practice, the ambiguous cases are not ambiguous when spoken aloud. In the 'somewhat' sense, the adjective bears the main stress. In the 'completely' sense, both quite and the adjective are fully stressed. Similarly with the sentence that started this, I can quite believe, there is full stress on quite.

      Not surprisingly, quite seems to be avoided in most styles of writing. The conversational style of blog-posting made Ed fell comfortable using the word without the support of intonation.


      but for use it is grammatical.

      What I meant was

      but for us it is grammatical.

    15. The difference between "quite good" meaning "very good" (American meaning) and meaning "almost good" (British meaning) is a real difference in meaning, not simply a matter of what adjectives it can collocate with.

      In the U.S., "quite" does not mean "almost". It doesn't mean "completely", but it means to a high degree. So "quite good" would not mean almost good.

      And while we wouldn't say "a quite good book", "quite a good book" is fine, and "that book is quite good" is certainly something I might say, and it would be a strong compliment. No ambiguity.

      And I'm thinking this is probably best not to extend out this off topic conversation too far. Really, I just wanted to know what Ed meant, and I got my answer.

    16. 'Quite good' doesn't mean 'almost good' in the UK either. It's 'not quite good' that means that.

    17. Ellen

      Quite good means neither 'very good nor 'almost good' in BrE. The only possible meaning is 'somewhat good'.

      Where collocation comes in is that quite in the sense of 'completely' can't combine with good in BrE.

      In BrE quite never means 'to a high degree' — although in some contexts the sense of 'completely' may amount to much the same thing.

    18. Sorry, read wrong, missed a "not". Of course, it doesn't help that your giving me tons and tons of detail I didn't ask for in response to a simple question, with a short answer, that was answered long ago.

    19. I have never understood this supposed semantic difference. I find it hard to believe that any American thinks that quite dead means 'somewhat dead'. For me, at least, it must mean 'unequivocally dead'.

    20. The difference between British and American usage doesn't in any way suggest Americans would understand "quite dead" as less than fully deal.

      This dictionary has an easy to understand explantion of the difference.

      "In British English quite usually means 'fairly': The film was quite enjoyable, although some of the acting was weak. When American speakers say quite, they usually mean 'very': We've examined the figures quite thoroughly. Speakers of British English sometimes use quite to mean 'very', but only before words with an extreme meaning: The whole experience was quite amazing."

    21. Easy to understand, Ellen, but wrong. Quite does not mean 'very' in BrE.

      The examples they give:

      The organizers have achieved something quite extraordinary.
      The hotel was dirty and the food was quite disgusting.

      are simply examples of 'completely'. In BrE we can't say very extraordinary or very disgusting.

    22. Adrian Mole's grandmother actually does say "That is very disgusting", which I always thought was a wonderful expression.

  4. In 2005 the BBC made a complete overhaul of its Message Boards and existing subscribers had to resubscribe. All subscribers old and new were invited to assume nicknames. If I remember rightly were were quite strongly encouraged.

    I stayed with my real name and suffered no ill effects, though perhaps I think more carefully before expressing views that some pressure groups might react to in unpleasant ways.

  5. I was on the Internet first in 1976 and steadily since about 1983. In those days before the September that never ended, orthonymity was the norm on the net, except in cases of real necessity (spousal abuse, political persecution, etc.) People who used pseudonyms were seen as self-aggrandizing losers. Consequently, I've always used my real name.

    There are two exceptions: I used a pseudonym to publicize something I was technically bound to silence on that I thought was unconscionable, and I use the same pseudonym on a certain web site that I definitely don't want associated with what other people know about me, society being what it is (there are some things it's still safer to be in the closet about). But otherwise, I'm John Cowan, the name on my birth certificate, and will always be so.

    1. I, similarly, have used my real name online for most things, and I also trace it back to the fact that I had my first contact with the Internet back when conventions were different (and when it was, arguably, a kinder and gentler place).

      (On the other hand, the fact that I’m a male means I rarely have to worry about getting hit on or having my opinion discounted due to the gender of my name; this surely also influenced my behaviour.)

  6. I completely agree. As we say in Spanish: "el que nada hace, nada teme" which could be translated as "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear".

    I can say that I'm Carlos Leiva, 2010-2011 MA Phonetics student at UCL. We met at the SECP in 2011 and you even signed my Accents of English copy.

  7. Clinicallinguistics always comes out at the head of my posts as I use Wordpress to post as I have none of the other required profiles!

    As John says, I am really:
    Martin J Ball

  8. I'm in the unusual position of having either all of my journalism anonymous (in the print edition of The Economist) or pseudonymous (under my initials on the Johnson blog, which I edit and write the lion's share of). It does make you write very differently when you know that the product will probably be discoverable online for the rest of your life, and probably after. Anyway, I'm Robert Lane Greene, but nobody calls me Robert after the first day of school. You can call me Lane.

    I love the blog, as it's been a great introduction to phonetic terminology I don't get in other places, and the commenters are amazing.

  9. For some time I've had a policy of not making my real identity (easily) derivable from this one, so unfortunately I'll no longer be able to participate here. It's been nice knowing you all.

  10. I haven't commented here since anonymous comments were turned off, but now I've found out that a Yahoo account is sufficient to log in under OpenID, so I can comment here again. I'm not sure my name will be displayed, though, so to be on the safe side: I'm Tonio Green.

  11. aɪ wʊd ˈstrɒŋli prɪˈfɜː ɪf maɪ fʊl neɪm ˈwɒzn̩t pɪkt ʌp baɪ sɜːt͡ʃ ˈɛnd͡ʒɪnz, bət ɪf juː wɒnt tə nəʊ maɪ ˈsɜːneɪm, ɪts spɛlt aɪ ˈdʌbəlˌjuː aɪ (jɛs, d͡ʒʌst ðə θriː ˈlɛtəz). naʊ ðət juː nəʊ huː aɪ æm, aɪl fiːl friː tə d͡ʒʌst juːz maɪ fɜːst neɪm ɪf ðæts əʊ keɪ wɪð juː. ɪf ə'nʌðər ˈælən kʌmz əˈlɒŋ, ðɛn kʌn wiː krɒs ðæt brɪd͡ʒ ɪf wiː kʌm tu ɪt? θæŋks.

    1. Sorry, transcription done with my usual amateurishness. *kʌn for can and goodness knows what other mistakes. But I'm sure the content is understandable.

    2. ˈælən, haʊ ɪz jɚ ˈsɝˌneɪm prəˈnaʊnst? tə raɪm wɪθ ˈkiwi?

    3. ðæts haʊ aɪ prəˈnaʊns ɪt, ðəʊ aɪ hæv ˈkʌzn̩z huː seɪ ˈɪvi. ɪts əˈrɪd͡ʒənlɪ frəm ðɪs pleɪs neɪm. ðæts əz mʌt͡ʃ əz aɪ wɒnt̚ tə seɪ ə'baʊt maɪ ˈfæmɪli ɪn ˈpʌblɪk, bət səˈfaɪs ɪt tə seɪ ðət ði ɪmɪˈgreɪʃn̩ tu ˈɪŋglənd wəz lɒŋ ɪˈnʌf əˈgəʊ ðət ˈɛnɪθɪŋ aɪ raɪt əˈbaʊt maɪ əʊn prəˌnʌnsiˈeiʃn ɪz frəm ðə pɔɪnt ɔv vjuː əv ə ˈneɪtɪv ɑː piː ˈspiːkə.

    4. Ugh, just reread that last transcription and have spotted no fewer than five errors or inconsistencies. bʊt ðɛn, aɪ æm ɪmˈfætɪkli ˈnɒt ə ˌfɒnəˈtɪʃn̩, ɔ:r ˈiːvən ə ˈlɪŋgwɪst fə ðæʔ mætə, səʊ aɪ səˈpəʊz juː ˈʃʊdn̩t biː tuː səˈpraɪzd ət maɪ ˌkækˈhændɪdnəs

  12. In the Anglophone countries my name is 'VOYcheck ZeeLAYnyeck'. Phonologically (Polish) it's:

    labial fricative voiced consonant; mid-back rounded vowel; alveolo-palatal voiced approximant consonant; alveolo-palatal fricative voiceless consonant; mid-front unrounded vowel; fricative velar non-palatal voiceless consonant; END OF GIVEN NAME retroflex (they say, but I can't believe it) fricative voiced consonant; mid-front unrounded vowel; labiovelar voiced approximant consonant; open central unrounded vowel; alveolo-palatal nasal voiced consonant; mid-front unrounded vowel; dental affricate voiceless consonant; END OF SURNAME.

    So, given the nature of this blog, this should be enough by way of presentation.

    I think a better idea would've been for Prof. Wells to ask us our full-names or even our 'identities', passport-numbers and what not just for himself. I have some experience with commenting of this sort both ortho- and pseudonymously, and can say that all things taken into account the latter is better. I think the orthonymity is all right for people who are to such a degree "out of this world" that no-one knows them and no-one can google them out---or with people of such a towering authority and esteem as our host's. Much, much closer to the former I am alas the only bearer (to my knowledge, at least, but it is well-founded) of my full-name on Earth, and thus easily googleable, with all the unpleasant consequences thinkable and not-yet-thought-of, great many of them arising from the fact, not that I would write either indecent or stupid things here, but that the literary convention for these postings is not exactly---nor should be---anywhere close to that of a contribution to a learnèd journal or such. But people (on the average) usually don't understand about different conventions and tend to take everything seriously.

    Also, speaking for myself I am not at all curious about anyone's name or identity. On the contrary, I'll try to forget a.s.a.p. who the clinicallylinguist is, otherwise I'd be too shy to exchange opinions with him. To mention just one example. One of the advantages of such places as this 'un is that we can discuss matters in a free and democratic manner, not caring if we are not are not Doctores Oxonienses or Grantabrigenses or what have you. Prof. Wells' situation is different, because he is not just one of us: he's the 'boss', so it's all right that we know who she is (although this blog would've been interesting without that knowledge too).

    Also, imho Myerson's article is about really nasty places on 'real-life', 'serious' matters, such as politics, money, power, sex, ... you name them ... where people sometimes are really offensive, I haven't observed anything like that so far here.

    One important philosopher of the XIX century spent much thought on, and put to test, various forms of both pseudo- and orthonymity: Kierkegaard. I'd recommend him for the issue in question.

    1. I am very likely the only John Woldemar Cowan in the world, though I only use my full name like this on my books (librarians like it if authors have unique names, I'm told).

    2. which makes your situation very different from mine, John W. Cowan. You use that (full) version of your full name under which you are unequivocally recognisable only sometimes (namely, on the front-page of your books). Everywhere else, you are a John Cowan among many---or let's say, quite (in the British sense of 'quite') a few. I, by contrast, am called just (see below) in the fullest version of my full name, and can't say 'maybe it's someone else, you have left out the middle name'---coz I simply got none. You are in relatively comfortable position, I am not.

      Librarians do like it, you're right. But exactly that pushes many authors who would otherwise be known as 'John Smith', to use pseudonyms.

      One serious, Kierkegaardian, reason to use pseudonyms is that you sometimes want to say certain things so that they might have been said, as the German says 'in den Raum stellen' (these things) and not so that people might say: XY has said that (autos epha, ipse dixit, or the other way round: it HE says that then it's certainly wrong).

      labial fricative voiced consonant; mid-back rounded vowel; alveolo-palatal voiced approximant consonant; alveolo-palatal fricative voiceless consonant; mid-front unrounded vowel; fricative velar non-palatal voiceless consonant; retroflex fricative voiced consonant; mid-front unrounded vowel; labiovelar voiced approximant consonant; open central unrounded vowel; alveolo-palatal nasal voiced consonant; mid-front unrounded vowel; dental affricate voiceless consonant

    3. @Wojciech: Is the fourth sound really a fricative rather than an affricate, and the last one really a dental affricate (i.e. having a second component of [θ]) rather than an alveolar one (with a second component of [s])?

    4. Your right, Philip Newton, on both points, I am sorry.

      labial fricative voiced consonant; mid-back rounded vowel; alveolo-palatal voiced approximant consonant; alveolo-palatal affricate voiceless consonant; mid-front unrounded vowel; fricative velar non-palatal voiceless consonant; retroflex fricative voiced consonant; mid-front unrounded vowel; labiovelar voiced approximant consonant; open central unrounded vowel; alveolo-palatal nasal voiced consonant; mid-front unrounded vowel; alveolar affricate voiceless consonant

  13. You need to navigate here to learn how to write a decent term paper! Cheers!

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