Saturday, February 28, 2009

Misspoken Language

I’m always fascinated by how much information is communicated by spoken words or phrases. This is because tone of voice imparts an emotional component that colors and amplifies the expression. In fact, there are expressions that do not consist of words at all, but communicate information nonetheless. For example, “ugh,” “sheesh,” “hi,” and “uh-huh.”

Equally popular are one-word statements such as “dude” and “whatever.” These can take on a vast array of meanings depending on the way they are spoken.

Multiple-word statements that have become compounded into single-word statements seem to be gaining ground, such as “fuggetaboudit,” and “sup.”

But what really impresses me is when a statement is made that through laziness or regional accents has lost its correct pronunciation, but is no less intelligible. I once overheard a conversation between two men, in which one of them said, “yon yohn.” It took a second, but I realized he was saying “you’re on your own.”

A couple of days ago I watched a horrible movie called “The Holiday” with the English actor, Jude Law. In one scene, he uses the common expression “at all.” I don’t remember the exact line, but it was something like “I don’t understand this at all.” Because of his accent, he dropped the “t” and pronounced the “ll” as “w.” So it came out “a’ ohw.” Taken out of context, it’s almost impossible for an American to decipher. The sad part is that this line was the highlight of the film for me.

1 comment:

michael said...

I recently had a girlfriend that used the word "honh" a lot and depending on inflection and context it imparted anything from surprise, disdain or approval. It took me some time to decipher...I also have a best friend (female again) that does the exact same thing except the word is pronounced "huh" but again, context and inflection changes it from surprise to agreement and a million things between.