22 November 2007

the peroles of "whore"

i was watching the pregame coverage of the Packers - Lions football game today and noticed the continuation of a somewhat disturbing trend: strange pronunciations in the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner. now you should know that i'm certainly no prescriptivist, so this has to be offending some other sensibility of mine. my one peeve is certainly more legitimate than the other.

prior to today's game, the singer (whose name i unfortunately missed) pronounced the word perilous rather strangely, with a definite [o] as the nucleus of the middle syllable. i know that singing coaches often fiddle with vowel quantities, but i wonder what motivated the distinction to change [ɨ] or [ə] to [o]. it certainly wasn't by analogy to the stem which perilous is formed from, namely peril, in which the corresponding syllable is pronounced with [ɪ], which is perfectly acceptable in most voice coaching systems, to the extent that i'm familiar with them. based on some standard assumptions about back-formation and english orthography, you would guess that the stem is perole. but as i said, this is a bit more of a peeve than anything else—it doesn't really detract from the song.

what does detract from a national anthem, designed to honor our country, is the gratuitous aspiration of vowel-initial words when singing. sometimes it's even more pronounced than some sort of aspiration, and is an actual addition of [h] to the beginning of the word. this is dangerous within the context of the phrasing of our national anthem. i have heard several performers turn "o'er the land of the free..." into what very distinctly sounds like "whore the land of the free..." this sounds like an imperative verb with the interpretation "sell out the land of the free for sexual favors." now i think the whole ho ho ho debacle with the Australian Santa Clauses is absurd, but clearly pronouncing the word whore in the middle of the national anthem—even unintentionally—is really a bad idea, regardless of who it's offending. so please, respect our country, and watch your pronunciation, at least when you're singing on national TV.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

How does it make you feel that you've received more comments on the "Benny Lava" blog than any of the other useless material you've written?

Ed said...

wait, are you saying the rest of the blog is useless? (i don't think that's what you meant.)

but hey, i thought Benny Lava was interesting, and if it gets people reading something about linguistics, i'm happy.

Annie Lau said...

i personally think that the rest of this blog is far from useless. not to me at least.

Anonymous said...

I (anonymous), being an English major, actually found this particular blog very interesting. I just wanted to see how to author of the blog would respond to my animosity. I said it purely for kicks.

Ed said...

i'm glad you like it...most English majors break out in hives around linguists

shreevatsa said...

watch you're pronunciation
Is that baiting for comments? :)

[FWIW, I discovered this blog because of the Benny Lava post, and find all the posts interesting. :)]

Ed Cormany said...

nope, just a typo. and fixed now.