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      06-13-2012, 06:43 AM   #1
tony20009
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Question for UK Members

This has nothing to do with our cars, but rather is a question I've meant to ask for years, but I always forget to do so when I'm in London.

Why do the following three words all sound like they have the same vowel in them, which would be the vowel sound in the word "are."

  • Clark
  • Clerk -- In English, does "jerk" share vowel sounds with clerk?
  • Derby -- In English, does the first syllable of derby rhyme with Jersey?
Is that something that's just unique to these words (and perhaps a few other similar words) or perhaps an specific English accent?

By contrast, in American:
  • Clark shares vowel sounds with Lark, but not with clerk or derby
  • Clerk shares vowel sounds with Turk but not with shark
  • Derby and curvy have the same vowel sound in the first syllable
As I said, just curious. I nearly always hear the word "clerk" when I'm there, but never in a time/place where it's appropriate to ask about it. And when I'm in an suitable situation, I don't remember to ask. Just now, however, Antiques Roadshow just came on and they are in a place called Derby, and they keep saying what to me sounds like Darby.


Thanks in advance to anyone who replies.
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      06-13-2012, 10:00 AM   #2
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I often wonder about why words are said differently in different places but generally the reasons have been lost in the mists of time, or are understood only by academic linguists. There are many odd things about the different UK dialects, often the difference are far greater than the difference between US English and BBC English.

I'm learning Italian at the moment and since I already speak fairly fluent German and some French I'm seeing odd patterns between the languages. I'd love to know more about the roots of various words and the history of their development - in fact I think it'd help me learn and understand the vocabulary - but it's not really feasible.

So, sorry I can't give you an answer, but I wish there was an easy way of answering these sorts of questions .
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      06-13-2012, 11:23 AM   #3
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I don't think anyone apart from academics can give u a definite answer, we were taught to pronounce those words that way, so it seems.
There are many words in British English where the pronounciation is wrong if u speak it as u read it.
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      06-13-2012, 01:58 PM   #4
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I searched, the WWW (which is probably what I should have done first to begin with -- sorry) and found the following:

One website (http://www.antimoon.com/forum/t7020.htm) says:
I don't know how 'clerk' and 'derby' were pronounced in Middle English, but according to 19th century British grammarian, Alfred Ayres, the traditional pronunciation of 'e' before 'r', followed by another consonant, is /a:/ as in 'dark'. Thus, words like 'merchant', 'service', and 'servant' were pronounced as if written as 'marchant' (compare with Anglo-French 'marchaunt'), 'sarvice', and 'sarvant'. Modern RP English pronunciations of 'clerk', 'derby', 'Berkeley', and 'sergeant' (also in AmE) still retain this pronuncation rule.

Stephen Booth in his book on Shakespeare's sonnets states that Renaissance writers and printers used 'ar' and 'er' interchangeably, and early editions of the Oxford English Dictionary had words like 'partain', 'pert', 'pertake', and 'pertener' listed as variants of 'pertain', 'part', 'partake', and 'partner'.
I haven't any sense of from what era "traditional pronunciations" come, but if they come from roughly the 1800s, the actual "right answer" is likely some mix of the statements above and the ones below.

Another website (http://english.stackexchange.com/que...d-derby-evolve) said the following:
It's the result of the same process (that is, erroneous pronunciation) whereby "learn" becomes "larn" in some (very) nonstandard American dialects. One feature of uneducated speech in England around the 1800's was a tendency to pronounce the "er" sound of words like "clerk" as the "ar" sound of "clark". The phenomenon was sufficiently widespread that the English novelist Henry Fielding used pronunciations like "sarvis" for "service", "sartain" for "certain", and "parson" for "person" in the speech of characters meant to seem vulgar or unintelligent. Due to the overwhelming influence of such people in England (that is, the uneducated), these previously unacceptable pronunciations eventually became standard for some words, like Derby, Berkeley, and clerk...
Source(s): J.C. Wells, Accents of English
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      06-13-2012, 02:01 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tony20009 View Post
This has nothing to do with our cars, but rather is a question I've meant to ask for years, but I always forget to do so when I'm in London.

Why do the following three words all sound like they have the same vowel in them, which would be the vowel sound in the word "are."

  • Clark
  • Clerk -- In English, does "jerk" share vowel sounds with clerk?
  • Derby -- In English, does the first syllable of derby rhyme with Jersey?
Is that something that's just unique to these words (and perhaps a few other similar words) or perhaps an specific English accent?

By contrast, in American:
  • Clark shares vowel sounds with Lark, but not with clerk or derby
  • Clerk shares vowel sounds with Turk but not with shark
  • Derby and curvy have the same vowel sound in the first syllable
As I said, just curious. I nearly always hear the word "clerk" when I'm there, but never in a time/place where it's appropriate to ask about it. And when I'm in an suitable situation, I don't remember to ask. Just now, however, Antiques Roadshow just came on and they are in a place called Derby, and they keep saying what to me sounds like Darby.


Thanks in advance to anyone who replies.
How we arrived at those vowel sounds for those words I don't know, but I can tell you that it's not accent driven.

There is a popular myth that the Americans took our language and corrupted it but in fact, the reverse is true. The current US version of the English language is actually closer to the English of the Founding Fathers than UK English is.

Judging by your very interesting question I think you would enjoy the Bill Bryson book, "Mother Tongue."

Well worth a read! I'd be interested to know what you thought of it...
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      06-13-2012, 02:14 PM   #6
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Like read, two different pronunciations,
I read a book (past tense)
I will read a book (future tense)
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      06-13-2012, 02:20 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arnsbrae View Post
Judging by your very interesting question I think you would enjoy the Bill Bryson book, "Mother Tongue."

Well worth a read! I'd be interested to know what you thought of it...
I agree with this, it's a great book that makes a fairly dry subject enjoyable.

My unfortunate cultural misstep was ordering two beers with my index and middle finger held facing the bar tender. I wondered why I was getting the stink eye until realizing the obvious and adopting the thumb and index to signify two beers.
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      06-13-2012, 03:53 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Red Bread View Post
I agree with this, it's a great book that makes a fairly dry subject enjoyable.

My unfortunate cultural misstep was ordering two beers with my index and middle finger held facing the bar tender. I wondered why I was getting the stink eye until realizing the obvious and adopting the thumb and index to signify two beers.
Lol.

On my first trip to NY in 1981, I clearly remember making frequent reference to my **** (I was a smoker then...)
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Last edited by arnsbrae; 06-13-2012 at 03:54 PM. Reason: Haha - it seems f a g s is still a no no
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      06-13-2012, 07:01 PM   #9
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Lol.

On my first trip to NY in 1981, I clearly remember making frequent reference to my **** (I was a smoker then...)

LOL

As it was your first trip to NYC, I would guess you went to Times Square, in which case you no doubt did get odd looks when asking about "****" as, back then, there were likely three for hire standing right next to you. Folks probably thought you were blind, not strange. LOL!!!

Edit:
Bimmerpost placed the four asterisks there; I did not. Whatever filters Bimmerpost have, they lack contextual sensitivity.

To Gay Folks:
Apologies to any gay folks who may have been offended by the tacit use of a certain word that I can't type here.

To Bimmerpost Monitors:
Please do not suspend my account for using that word. I assure you I didn't mean any offense. Should you require further proof of that, you need only look at the content of many of my posts to see that had I wanted to be insensitive/insulting to an entire social identity group, my deft with English is sufficient that I wouldn't have descended to puerile epithets to do so, to say nothing of having no history of doing such a thing in the first place.
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Last edited by tony20009; 06-13-2012 at 07:18 PM.
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      06-14-2012, 01:52 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Red Bread View Post
I agree with this, it's a great book that makes a fairly dry subject enjoyable.

My unfortunate cultural misstep was ordering two beers with my index and middle finger held facing the bar tender. I wondered why I was getting the stink eye until realizing the obvious and adopting the thumb and index to signify two beers.
You can use your index and middle finger, but with the inside of the fingers facing the bartender; it's with the outside of the fingers & back of your hand that the gesture becomes an insult in the UK. Why, I don't know, as apparently the legend about it originating from English longbowmen taunting the French that they still had their fingers to shoot with is unlikely to be true.
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      06-14-2012, 03:50 AM   #11
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Why, I don't know, as apparently the legend about it originating from English longbowmen taunting the French that they still had their fingers to shoot with is unlikely to be true.
I think the French had their fingertips cut off when they were caught, so they can no longer use the bow against the English.
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      06-14-2012, 05:54 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
I often wonder about why words are said differently in different places but generally the reasons have been lost in the mists of time, or are understood only by academic linguists. There are many odd things about the different UK dialects, often the difference are far greater than the difference between US English and BBC English.

I'm learning Italian at the moment and since I already speak fairly fluent German and some French I'm seeing odd patterns between the languages. I'd love to know more about the roots of various words and the history of their development - in fact I think it'd help me learn and understand the vocabulary - but it's not really feasible.

So, sorry I can't give you an answer, but I wish there was an easy way of answering these sorts of questions .
I'm probably telling you something you know already, but a lot of Anglo languages have common roots in Latin.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tony20009 View Post
LOL

As it was your first trip to NYC, I would guess you went to Times Square, in which case you no doubt did get odd looks when asking about "****" as, back then, there were likely three for hire standing right next to you. Folks probably thought you were blind, not strange. LOL!!!

Edit:
Bimmerpost placed the four asterisks there; I did not. Whatever filters Bimmerpost have, they lack contextual sensitivity.

To Gay Folks:
Apologies to any gay folks who may have been offended by the tacit use of a certain word that I can't type here.

To Bimmerpost Monitors:
Please do not suspend my account for using that word. I assure you I didn't mean any offense. Should you require further proof of that, you need only look at the content of many of my posts to see that had I wanted to be insensitive/insulting to an entire social identity group, my deft with English is sufficient that I wouldn't have descended to puerile epithets to do so, to say nothing of having no history of doing such a thing in the first place.
I sighed when I read this, and felt sorry for the fact you thought you needed to type this to clear the matter up.

People need to have a steaming hot mug of concrete and harden up

On a slight tangent, about 20 years ago you could buy candy in shape of a cigarette- it was a thin, white tube with one end a bright red colour and they were called "f@g$". The quietly disappeared off the shelves never to reappear for some reason...

Quote:
Originally Posted by clarence View Post
I think the French had their fingertips cut off when they were caught, so they can no longer use the bow against the English.
Correct
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      06-14-2012, 07:47 AM   #13
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...People need to have a steaming hot mug of concrete and harden up
...
A tinker's dam has more value than censorship. But then again, I have no say in how media outlets are managed.
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