Monday, June 04, 2007

My Oh Nezzz...

We've been musing on the mother-tongue. Let's muse on the great-grandmother-tongue:

Time was, a lot of people around here spoke French, Creole French which is its own beast full of archaisms and corruptions (any newcomer who's tried to master the idiosyncratic pronunciations of our local street names will know exactly what I'm talking about), but French nonetheless. In time French declined and English ascended,* but curious traces of our linguistic past linger. These traces fall into two distinct categories: extra-Frenchy and extra-un-Frenchy.
Extra Frenchy: Scraps of French still float around at family gatherings: it's still common to hear "cher" as an affectionate diminutive. And certain typically anglicized French words are given the original French pronunciation: "mayonnaise" is pronounced "MY-oh-NEZ".

Extra Un-Frenchy: Certain typically French-icized French words are given a bastard English pronunciation: "armoire" is pronounced "armor", like the stuff knights wear. (This one comes up a lot. Our family is lousy with armoires.)
Don't ask me why, it's a complicated business. I assume it has something to do with the curious convections of our local linguistic gumbo. Though maybe it's far simpler.

Help, is there a linguist in the house?

* By my grandparents' generation English had achieved dominance, but most people had at least some conversational French fluency. (And the shelves of their house were full of old books in French. I currently have a garbage bag full of the water-swollen, moldy old things waiting to be picked through.) By my father's generation, it had further waned. (Supposedly the maw-maws would gossip in French and didn't want the children to understand.) And today, alas, I'm left with nothing but my poorly remembered scraps from high school.

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