Friday, December 18, 2009

Hey, your fake English is Oll Raigth

In 1972, Italian singer/actor/director/comedian/general entertainer Adriano Celentano wrote this campy rap.

Each time I hear it, I think I hear an earworm burrowing further into my head.

The "Oll Raigth" is pretty clearly an attempt to capture an English sound of all right. And I kinda doubt the 'th' is a typo on the end. It sounds like they might be pronouncing the fricative [θ], which is an interesting interpretation of a glottal stop [ʔ]. Both avoid the plosive I suppose.

What makes it sound English? Well, if it does sound English (and it kinda does to me) it's probably a few things:

the fronting of /oʊ/ to [əʊ]
the breaking of [e] to [eɪ]
the aspiration on stops [pʰ] [tʰ] [kʰ]
the retroflex [ɻ]
the velarized (or dark) [ɫ] in some places
and it seems to me a lot of the off-glides before nasals, [ɻ]s and [ɫ]s.

And scads and scores of other features on other phones and details that have to do with contour, and stress patterns.

Anything you notice?

(thanks ed)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another one bites

Quick post on Alex Trebek and an odd stress pattern from this evening's Jeopardy!.

Reading the name of Ben Stiller's movie, Reality Bites, Alex put the phrase's primary stress on reality. This would be okay if the name of the movie referred to 'bites of reality' or something like that in which 'reality bites' is a noun with 'bites' as the head noun, and 'reality' as the specifier. So you'd have computer bytes, and be covered in mosquito bites, and have all sorts of bites in addition to reality bites.

But I've always understood the title to be a sentence. The noun/subject is 'reality' and the verb/predicate is 'bites.' In that case the primary stress of the phrase should be on 'bites' unless a contrastive stress is intended. As in a correction if someone were to say that fantasy bites.

"No, fantasy doesn't bite; reality bites."

I would call Alex unhip if the movie were actually any good.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

That's not an Ugg. This is an ugg. ...or at least an ugh.

I've been asked to get the word out.* So I'll actually get out two words: whooga and ugg.

First, I like the word whooga. According to Sarah at Whoogaboots, whooga "is [an] Australian slang word which refers to joy and happiness" and she tells me it's pronounced [hugaː]. In combination with boots it would likely lose any stress from the 2nd syllable, which would then be reduced to [ə]. That creates a nice easy contour over 3 syllables: primary stress/unstressed/secondary stress. Like boomerang. Or bandicoot. Similar in contour to didgeridoo. And the repetition of the [u] vowel is playful. Hula Hoop. Loop de Loop. Toodaloo. Foofaroo. Whoop-de-doo.

Now on ugg(s)

A few years ago when I heard people talking about uggs or ugg boots, I assumed it was a brand. The boots looked familiar, and I figured some company decided to specialized in an established style, and chose the name to play with "ugg" as a shortened form of "ugly" because of the rustic look of the boots. Well there is an UGG® brand out there, and perhaps ugg is a shortened form of ugly. Tho Sarah at Whoogaboots reminds me that, as is so often the case, "the exact origin and meaning of the name is still fiercely debated."

A 1994 mention in the New York Times (by Timothy Jack Ward) refers to the boots as "ughs", explaining that it's Australian slang for the sheepskin booties that surfers use to keep their feet either warm or cool. (Hey, just like a thermos.) That's the same story you'll find in several places. That spelling could be combining a shortened form of ugly, with an onomatopoetic grunt. Now I mostly find uggs, a spelling perhaps influenced by the popularity of the Ugg brand. Which brand Ward then called "the footwear of the moment on the American West Coast."

One usage feature that's worth noting is the variation between "uggs" and "ugg boots". Those who object to "ugg boots" as a pleonastic form will claim that "boots" is unnecessary, as all uggs are boots. This is the same objection we might hear regarding a "cardigan sweater" or "Stratocaster guitar".

Others who object to the use of 'boots' might do so because they believe uggs should be contrasted with boots. By this view, there are boots, and there are uggs. They are distinct types of footwear.

Interestingly, tho the Whooga website itself alternates between "uggs" and "ugg boots"—which would seem to indicate that they believe the pleonastic use is acceptable—the site copy also apparently contrasts uggs and boots. Offering a bit of fashion advice, they write

"Black uggs tend to look much slimmer and more boot like than ’ugg’."

Now does the syntax mean that they're relying on a gap there, meaning "more boot like than 'ugg' [like]"? Or are they using 'ugg' as a complete predicate adjective as well? In other words: are they saying that black uggs don't look very ugg?

Well, the folks at Whooga are obviously proud of their product, and they're hoping to reclaim the association of the footwear with their brand. If you ask me, the boots are desirable for function more than form. And if you've seen the way I dress, you know I don't care much for style.

I'm not much of a boot wearer, but I also tend to avoid socks. And these uggs are designed to be worn without socks. Who knows, if I received a pair, I might just wear them. But only once I'm sure the fad is spent. And I'd probably go for the shorter style. Just in case, you know, you're feeling generous.

I've added to the title of the post. The fight over spelling is not merely forthcoming. It is here. A Google™ search for "ugg boots" brings up several DMCA complaints asking for search results to be excluded. Among the sites that do appear are the UGG® Australia site, an site, the Whooga site, an Authentic Ugg Boots site, and several others. Fritinancy's predicted tUGG-o-war is going on. (See comment.)

Any comment I make regarding the generic or common spelling of the style of boot is in no way an opinion regarding the legal limitations on that or any other spelling. I just report what I find and describe what I see.]

* Full disclosure, I have received a consideration for mentioning the brand in this post and for linking to the website.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

And here I thought Oscar was the crotchety one.

This NSFW caption is brought to you by the letter C.

(via might red pen on Twitter.

Image from Criggo's post.)