The Tuesday Song...And A Question

Christopher Fowler
I'm researching today so let's have a song - it's been far too long. We need a little jazz hands in our lives occasionally, especially since
there's no theatre anymore.
Don't you often think, why aren't there more film musicals set in a postwar Sovietski Soyuz workers commune? Your prayers are answered. And while I'm researching, here's a puzzler for you: Come up with a single word that has three pairs of letters next to each other.  
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Cornelia Appleyard (not verified) Tue, 21/07/2020 - 18:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I cheated, so I know the word, but I won't post it. I expected it to be an obscure one.

Peter T (not verified) Tue, 21/07/2020 - 18:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Mr Dr Bono would advise not to impose any constraint not explicitly stated in the question.

Peter T (not verified) Tue, 21/07/2020 - 20:07

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What about some words that don't exist, but ought to? Take for example the verb 'to hheeff,' which could mean to follow the practice of some Londoners of dropping most aitches while adding a few that shouldn't be there.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Tue, 21/07/2020 - 21:51

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Well that was different, I did enjoy it.

On sunflower there are Shop balloonning Designs, their words not mine. If you've ever wanted balloon dog wallpaper it's the site to go (you can even get, Prepasted Removable Smooth Wallpaper, ooohhh). With an O level in accounting I knew it too, really. The I remember the old days of double sided book-keeping, as you point it's not usually hyphenated these days. Oh how the written word changes.


Helen Martin (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 01:36

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Right, Wayne, I would have hyphenated it. Double entry book keeping was introduced to me when I became the bookkeeper in my husband's business. Fortunately the person who was introducing it to me was very patient. I am not a numbers person and really wanted it to make sense. The only way it made sense was if I thought about the books as recording the bank's view of the world. They don't have any mental flexibility, you see, so you have to give them figures in their terms.

Christopher Fowler Wed, 22/07/2020 - 06:57

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

On aitches, I'm puzzled by old pronunciation which decrees that not sounding them and stressing them too much denotes commoners in different ways, the former showing laziness and the latter a desire to be accepted by the upper classes.

Peter T (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 07:17

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Aitches and hheeffing are yet another opportunity for one group to look down on another. It's not liberal and very sad. Accountancy is also very sad. The original intent was to know how much money you had and where it came from. Now, it's merely a means of finding how much tax you have to pay. Rely on it if you want to look good right up to going bust: Thatchernomics.

John Howard (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 08:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ffaadde.... As in "fade away" in The Who song "My Generation".
Yes I know it's silly but there you go. I am a rubbish speller and can still remember bringing 10 words a day home whilst at Primary School to try and improve. I don't think it worked really as I am still rubbish. Double letters are my downfall especially... I always put some in when not needed or leave them out when needed. Thank god for these days of spell check

SteveB (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 08:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I was trying to be a smartarse and think of a German word. But I couldn't, I think because doubled up vowels are much rarer.
You get tripled consonants in German, like Schifffahrt.

Richard (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 09:47

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I'm going to plump for mississippi. Probably because I still remember the shame of not being able to spell it at primary school. I still can't.

Liz Thompson (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 09:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The film/song was a gem!

Christopher Fowler Wed, 22/07/2020 - 10:38

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The film is a gem, Liz, a huge hit in Russia about the real-life hipsters who recorded songs by cutting audio tracks into old chest X-rays.

Paul C (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 11:14

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Woollen has 3 double letters in a row if you think hard ( took me ages! )

SteveB (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 11:16

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Amazon just dispatched my copy of Oranges and Lemons!

snowy (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 11:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Aitch or Haitch if you prefer, either are valid, is a victim of fashion.

[This is coming from memory so might not be 100%.]

It was used in some dialects and not in others, when things began to be written down it would appear or not depending on how the speaker pronounced the word. When dictionaries appear, they bring standard spellings, which locks the use of the letter in certain words and not in others.

Published grammars tried to tidy up the language, bit of a forlorn hope really, given that 'English' was a mongrel language composed of at least 6 root/borrowed languages. At some point the aitch is aspirated entirely and requires a special fix in the form of 'an', eg. an hospital, an history, to avoid vowel clash.

Most people speak like their parents, who speak like their parents, Aristos speak like their university educated tutors, only the social climbers learn their manners from books which have no pronunciation guide, and show themselves up.

The next shift is probably compulsory schooling, when it formalised from dame/Sunday schools into town schools there was a demand for professional teachers with them came a standard pronunciation.

Having pronunciation imposed, causes some to react and refuse to use it, some drop letters to annoy their elders or just to be different. It goes in and out of fashion depending on time and place.

In the 20C there was a big shift when talking pictures and wireless arrived, suddenly 'Proper English' appeared, [and teachers of 'Elocution', made a bundle]. People kept fiddling about with language: 'U' and 'non-U', American terms were imported from films and music. Pronunciation keeps changing, it will always change, each generation does their own thing, if you have sharp ears and a 'igginsonian bent, you can age an unseen speaker by the words they use.

[Corrections and clarifications to these thoughts, from those more versed in the subject welcome.]

Peter Dixon (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 14:25

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The spoken language is a strange beast.
This week we've seen the funeral of football legend Jackie Charlton who was born in a town, some 15 miles north of Newcastle, called Ashington.
Or Eshington as it is pronounced locally.
The dialect of Northumberland is so remote from London-speak that it is almost incomprehensible. 'E's become elongated or 'o's become 'a's.
There's a town called Red Row which is pronounced as 'Reed Raw'. A stream called the Reed Burn eventually became The Redburn through common usage.
The 'R' sound is made at the back of the throat and tongue as a gutteral. Often vowels are transposed, so horse is pronounced 'hearse'. This means that, in a traditional funeral, the hearses pull the horse.
Dying out now is yet another sub-dialect called 'Pitmatic'. Ashington only existed because of coal mining and practically everyone was involved at one level or another - literally thousands of men working underground in horrifying conditions. Like the cotton workers in south west Yorkshire they developed their own language for use underground. Many of these men grew up unmarried, living with their parents in an isolated community (I taught at College in Ashington in the 1980's and 90's and a lot of 17 and 18 year-olds had never outside of the town because of poverty and rubbish transport links, no railway, 6 buses a day) the result was was a was hundreds of people who couldn't communicate with anyone other than their close working and family community: they spoke Pitmatic, with an accent so thick that they couldn't get a job anywhere other than another pit in Northumberland.
The language seems to have continued in order to fight against, or simply ignore, change in a world they couldn't adapt to.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 15:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

There was a nice gag about dropping H's in the Cosgrove/Hall version of The Wind in the Willows.

As you note Peter, local dialect muddies the waters too, The is abused most cruelly. Pub names show this, in the old days some of these were in walking or should that be crawling distance, Bird In The Hand, Bird In Th' Hand (pronounced Fand) and Bird In T' Hand (pronounced Tand) , and some locals even changed them to The Bird In 'And. Some had a 'the' at the beginning and this was almost always pronounced fully with the second the reduced. In Cheshire some working class accents T's were changed to S's, as in Sasurday, just to add to the confusion. Stockport is one of the few places you'll catch part of the accent but there is very little of the Cheshire working class accent around, it's pretty much a dead dialect.

I went to a grammar school and their way of aiding social mobility was to change the way you spoke, manners and so on, usually in quite subtle ways, no elocution lessons, but if you didn't toe the line you were singled out, excluded and generally bullied. When a teacher makes it known it's acceptable to bully a certain person it can be one of the cruellest things to see, especially when that person isn't resilient, but it was for their 'own good'.

Helen - In The Pendulum Hotel, (named after the Foucault pendulum there.) AKA The Days Hotel & the Manchester Conference Centre, nothing stays still in Manchester, they have a carving of Luca Pacioli sometimes called the Father of Accounting, he was one of the 1st people to write about double entry book-keeping, he also collaborated with Da Vinci so we can claim links to the Divina Proportione. The wood statue is bloody creepy, it used to be in a dark corner and was really fitting when going to see some of the more horrific films at the Festival of Fantastic Film.


Brooke (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 16:12

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@SteveB: You lucky thing! Another 5 month wait here. Meanwhile teased by Mr. Fowler with occasional Arthur quoting tweet. Is there a German swear word for this?

Wayne Mook (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 20:15

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Heiliger Strohsack is Holy Smoke (lit: holy Straw sack.) I quite like this one Brooke.


Helen Martin (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 21:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Always something to learn. Let's see:

If you aspirate the H in hospital and history you don't need an "an". I am probably betraying my low class roots but there we go.

That statue gives me the creeps just thinking about it but I rather like the connection with Da Vinci - puts everything into balance.

My Oranges and Lemons is also on its way - whooppee (there's three pairs, but I think the pps are a spelling error. Could do it by spelling it woopee on Paul's system, but no, the p comes in between.

Then there is the pronunciation of "the" which becomes "thee" before a vowel and "thu" before a consonant.
Listening to commentators on the tv and radio is always participatory for me as I hear all sorts of peculiar (to me) versions, especially as to which syllable receives the stress. I tried to explain that concept to a ten year old one day and discovered that she had no idea what I meant by either stress or syllable. I thought she would have an interesting time doing high school poetry.

Richard Nordquist (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 22:01

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

According to the AmazonUK site for Oranges and Lemons, "This item cannot be shipped to your selected delivery location [in the US]. Please choose a different delivery location." However, like SteveB, I've just been notified that the book is on its way. Life is good.

snowy (not verified) Thu, 23/07/2020 - 02:40

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Gosh, I did dash that off in haste, some slight amendments:

At some point the aitch is <b>un-</b>aspirated entirely and require<b>d</b> a special fix in the form of 'an', eg. an hospital, an history, to avoid vowel clash.

Most people <b>spoke</b> like their parents, who <b>spoke</b> like their parents, Aristos <b>spoke</b> like their university educated tutors....


The 'a' vs 'an' fix has left a slightly strange legacy:

An 'ospital is thought correct, but An Hospital is thought wrong.

A Hospital is thought correct, but A 'ospital is thought wrong.

But it becomes much more complicated, with the 'narcissism of small differences' and 'class signifiers', all of which are completely made up and shift with time and place.

Helen Martin (not verified) Thu, 23/07/2020 - 03:19

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Snowy, it would seem logical that whatever pronunciation facilitates comprehension and ease of speech would inevitably become the accepted one - emphasis on inevitably.
I would like to know what oddities (to me) trigger my brain to question the speaker. That's probably a difficult and extensive bit of research. I do know that my mother, raised in small town Sask. in the 20s and 30s, was determined that we should not sound like "country hicks". I have been unable to determine what her criteria were other than not saying yeah or yup and nope and not using ain't (although in some places that was a perfectly acceptable usage)
Pronunciation of foreign words is problematic because there is accepted English usage - Nagoy'a, Vienna - and local - Wien and I just this moment heard Na'goya on the tv. To be sure you want to hear a local speaker, but is the person speaking with a "received" accent or a regional one?
A lady has offered to teach German at our seniors' college (if we can ever go back) and when I said, "Of course we would expect a lovely clear Berlin accent" and she said, "In my village they speak all mushy," so I had to apologize and admit that I was joking. Mind you, I would hope that she would "clean up" the accent to an international level so we would be understandable.
It's dangerous to take a beginning course in linguistics because you spend the rest of your life not accepting anything as "good".

Helen Martin (not verified) Thu, 23/07/2020 - 03:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

In para 1 I meant eventually not inevitably. There is nothing inevitable about language.

Dawn Andrews (not verified) Thu, 23/07/2020 - 05:24

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Snowy, when I lived in Hereford that 'narcissism of small differences' often got me smirked at by headscarf touting ladies. I'm dead common, me.

Jo W (not verified) Thu, 23/07/2020 - 07:03

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Your mention of your Mother's carefully correcting the way you used language, reminded me of my Mum. She would always say, " just because you were born in a stable, doesn't mean you have to neigh like a horse!"

Dawn Andrews (not verified) Thu, 23/07/2020 - 07:26

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Forgot the say loved the film clip. It should be shown on all American television networks.

Liz Thompson (not verified) Thu, 23/07/2020 - 08:44

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I was puzzled the first time I came across 'an herb' in an American paperback. Then I realised that my American friend uses 'an' in front of a whole lot of words where she doesn't pronounce the initial letter 'h'. As in hospital, hostel, hotel etc. She's from California.

Paul C (not verified) Thu, 23/07/2020 - 09:39

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Further to Peter's post on Eshington, I knew an old miner from nearby who said he lived in 'Cupn'. Years later I realised he was saying Cowpen. His main vice was betting a few quid on 'the cuddies' (horses). Dialects are a
great study.

snowy (not verified) Thu, 23/07/2020 - 10:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Helen, your mother might have been using the output of CBC radio as her measure of 'correctness' if the effect it had on 'modes of speech' exactly parallels that of the effect of the BBC on British English.

Dawn, headscarves in Hereford suggests, officers' wives, the expensively educated daughters of the nouveau riche that decided to climb the social ladder by jumping on a bit of 'Posh', [both figuratively and literally]. All faking it and terrified somebody will find out their Grandad was a Turf Accountant].

Imaginary Woman in headscarf

<i>"Horses have been in our family for four generations now".</i>

Imaginary Dawn

<i>"Did your Great-Grandfather own his own shovel, or did he pick it up with his hands?"</i>

Helen Martin (not verified) Thu, 23/07/2020 - 17:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

CBC was never as classed as the BBC but it did come close, especially in news broadcasts and the word best would have been featured in their mission statement if they'd had one. What eased it into the nation was that the network was put together from local stations across the nation so there was always an element of local sensibility. What also moderated things was a strong dislike for anything "overly" English, a feeling that "they" always think they know everything. These days it's all different and I've been enjoying a Yorkshire archaeologist explaining ancient Egypt. I wonder what her Arabic sounds like to a native speaker.

Ed DesCamp (not verified) Fri, 24/07/2020 - 01:32

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Liz - we're just up the West coast of the US (closer to Helen than to your California friend), and, while we would say "an 'erb", we'd also say "a hospital, a hostel, a hospice, a hotel". English gets "moidilized" here, as my deep New York friend might say. I think he's saying "murdelize", as a neighborhood replacement for murder. It's all fun.

Dawn Andrews (not verified) Fri, 24/07/2020 - 06:30

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Horses definitely play a large part in the genetic 'County' game plan Snowy, usually the rear end of one! You nailed 'em!

snowy (not verified) Fri, 24/07/2020 - 13:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The battle over what is 'right' and 'wrong' has been running for years:

Propriety of Speech.

1. You must be quite as anxious to talk with propriety as you are to think, work, sing, paint or write according to the most correct rules.

2. Always select words calculated to convey an exact impression of your meaning.

3. Let your articulation be easy, clear, correct in accent, and suited in tone and emphasis to your discourse.

4. Avoid a muttering, stuttering, guttural, or lisping pronunciation.

5. Let your speech be neither too loud nor too low, but adjusted to the ear of your companion. Endevour to prevent the necessity of the person you are speaking to crying "What do you say!"

6. Avoid a loquacious propensity; you should never occupy more than your share of conversation, or more than is agreeable to others.

7. Beware of such vulgar interpolations as "You know," "You see," "I'll tell you what."

<b>8. Learn when to use and when to omit the aspirate h. This is an indispensable mark of a lady's education.</b>

9. Pay a strict regard to the rules of grammar even in private conversation. If you do not understand those rules learn them, whatever be your age or station.

10. Though you should always converse pleasantly, do not mix loud bursts of laughter with it.

12. Above all, let your conversation be intellectual, graceful, chaste, discreet, edifying and profitable.


From the 'The Lady's Every-Day Book of Elegant Arts and Domestic Economy' [1875]


[Note. Reproduced directly from the original, with emphasis added.

The typesetters seemed to have taken an extreme objection to whatever advice was contained in Rule 11. and omitted it entirely.]

Helen Martin (not verified) Fri, 24/07/2020 - 22:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Snowy, that set of advice, with or without #11, would still hold good for any "polite" society. There are very few negatives, assuming that if the reader takes the positives to heart there will be no need to warn of the undesirable items except for braying laughter and repetitive interpolations. You have to go somewhere else for the things you're lacking, though, grammar, "correct" rules, and when to use that aspirated H.

Ian Luck (not verified) Sat, 25/07/2020 - 06:06

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

You might want to seek out Mitchell &amp; Webb's 'Grammar Pedant' sketch, which takes things to a funny, and ridiculous level. Some of his gripes I agree with, too...

Dawn Andrews (not verified) Sat, 25/07/2020 - 06:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

An idea for a horror story in which a young person is tortured to death by having books of etiquette read to them in a darkened room with electrocutes delivering high voltage charges whenever they make a sound.........

Dawn Andrews (not verified) Sat, 25/07/2020 - 06:39

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

That should have been 'electrodes' also the speaking voice would have the kind of jolly, patronising tone old style newsreel commentators delighted in.

Helen Martin (not verified) Sat, 25/07/2020 - 18:16

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Dawn, I shudder to think.

Dawn Andrews (not verified) Sun, 26/07/2020 - 08:14

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I scared myself too Helen! My idea of hell is a finishing school.