Good shuts

April 9th, 2015

This post is on behalf of JDL, who wants to know how widely the phrase good shuts is used. It was certainly used in Derby when we were young, but is probably not confined to that area. It doesn’t appear in the OED or in Wright’s dialect dictionary.

It is used in the same way as good riddance is used. So one might say: Good shuts to that idiot!. A word of warning to non-native speakers — it is not very polite!

Stranding

April 6th, 2015

A comment by Emilio Márquez on my post of March 26 reminded me that I need to do another EP tip on the subject of stranding. The one that is already there deals only with stranded auxiliary/modal verbs such as can and must.

Prepositions can also be stranded. When they are, they usually appear in their strong form, rather than have their vowel reduced to a weak vowel such as ə or u even though they are unstressed. This is most common with the words at from for of to.

I’ll do the tip soon, so won’t bother giving any examples here, but I can’t resist mentioning an interesting pair of sentences that popped into my mind. They illustrate the phenomenon of stranding nicely, I think.

What did you think of (=əv) yesterday?
What did you think of (=ɒv) yesterday?

Happy Easter

April 5th, 2015

And not a rabbit in sight.

More rabbits!

April 2nd, 2015

The comments to my last post have prompted a number of thoughts which are too long for a comment, so here they are in a separate post.

First, I began wondering how long “the rabbit” in Welsh has been y wningen. Philip Taylor’s mention (for which thanks!) of Cwar Y Wningen (‘Quarry of the Rabbit’), a placename in Mid Glamorgan, suggests that it is not a recent phenomenon. For the Welsh translation of the Beatrix Potter book the earliest date I could find was 1947. However, a brief Google-wander brought up a work from 1931 with the following:

Darllenais hyn drosodd a throsodd,
ac nid wyf yn deall eto sut y daeth y wningen o’r het.
‘I read this through and through and I still can’t understand how the rabbit came out of the hat.’

from Y Cymmrodor Vol. XLII.

Further Googling threw up a work from 1877 entitled Helyntion Bywyd Hen Deiliwr (‘Food problems of an old tailor’, I think), in which there are four instances of the word wningen. These are interesting because the first has no preceding definite article, the second and third have the definite article yr and the last has the definite article y. Yr is used before a vowel and y before a consonant. So the writer seems unsure what the initial w represents

If I have understood correctly, the article which michaelyus gave a link for (again, thanks!) suggests that in these cases of ‘double mutation’ speakers (or writers) have taken the mutated form as the base form and re-applied the mutation process. There is a problem with this idea, however. Back to the Beatrix Potter translation. The title has Y Wningen. The first sentence of the tale (in English Once upon a time there were four little rabbits…) reads Un tro yr oedd yna bedair cwningen fach…. The word for ‘four’ (bedair) does not trigger a soft mutation on the following noun, so we get the base form cwningen and NOT gwningen.

Puzzled? Confused? You are not the only one. So let us leave the Easter bunnies to their m(ut)ating.

Welsh rabbit

April 1st, 2015

My friend JDL has a little book entitled Hanes Pwtan Y Wningen. This is a Welsh translation of The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. The Welsh title is literally: ‘tale Peter the rabbit’

The Welsh word for rabbit is cwningen. As this is a feminine noun it undergoes what is known as a soft mutation when preceded by the definite article Y.

Soft mutation is essentially lenition. Voiceless plosives are replaced by homorganic voiced plosives. Voiced plosives are replaced by (near-)homorganic voiced fricatives, except that ɡ is deleted. mv.

This all means that ‘the rabbit’ in Welsh should be y gwningen, but in the book title it is y wningen. We are puzzled. Can anyone help?