Monday, February 16, 2015


When we were in Scotland some years ago we had dinner with a fellow from St. Andrews who explained to me that the sport is properly called "gowf" by the descendants of its inventors. OK, I thought. Whatever makes you happy. That diphthong should rhyme with "cow", by the way. It should sound like you stubbed your toe and not like your car needs a tow. Got it? There is something weird about that "lf" sound in English words anyway, don't you think? No one says the "l" in "calf" or "half", for example. And everyone says the "l" in "shelf" and "gulf". My wife says "woof" when she means "wolf" but she is unusually pronunciation-challenged. Remember "rolfing"? Never quite knew how to say that one. Never quite knew what the hell it was, either, even though I went to Berkeley and it seemed like a really Berkeley kind of thing.

Speaking of what makes people happy, what makes me happy is Matt Cain. He and Buster Posey were a big hit at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Apparently Buster got to play in the same group as the eventual champion and Matt Cain had the best tournament by an amateur. He got the Jack Lemmon Award! Now that's a hell of cool award--Lemmon was a damn genius on the silver screen and one of my favorites. Anyway, Matty had a great tournament and I think his play on the links bodes well for his 2015 season.

I'm going to write up a special Matty post here real soon, me buckos. Suffice to say we've all missed Cain being Cain these last few seasons. Let's hope the surgery and the fine gowf game mean it's OK to red-line the optimism meters.



p.s. Pitchers and catchers report Wednesday!


nomisnala said...

With Tiger Woods fading, watch out golf world, here comes Cain. He is used to low scoring.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Barry Zito signed a minor league deal with the A's.

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Didn't see that happening with Zito! Thought for sure he would sign with the Padres, since he grew up there, plus they probably could use a MLB caliber pitcher in the minors as cheap backup. Whereas the A's, been there, done that. Plus, Padres on the upswing, lots of excitement with all the changes (and perhaps that is why they didn't sign him), whereas the A's, nobody knows what Beane is doing. I don't care how cheap a franchise is, Donaldson should have been a long term thing, heck, Russell should have been a long term thing.

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Language is just weird, almost like an experiment made in an ivory tower, separated from the reality of how people really work.

Here are some other examples.

English: 'ello mate, you need some rubbers for your schoolwork? Bloody 'ell, git cher mind out of de gutter! When did "h" become invisible?

The French seems to hates to pronounce "s". And I know that there are others, but my brain don't seem to be working this morning.

It is almost like that Jim Gaffigan routine about simplification of language, where he goes "Ehhh!!!" to tell the fast food cashier which meal deal he wants.

Shankbone said...

Raise Matt Cain on up! Ya'll can do it, I have faith.

campanari said...

The words with the silent l, such as calf, half, talk, walk, and for baseball fans, balk, probably retain an older pronunciation. The name Walter used to be pronounced like water--Walter's son morphed into the name Watson; and in British English, Ralph is sometimes pronounced Rafe, as in the name of the actor Ralph Fiennes, and sometimes with the l as in American. Ralph Richardson, the equally great contemporary of Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, insisted on pronouncing the l because he thought Rafe was affectedly quaint, so the silent l is probably vanishing, as the silent l in Walter has vanished.

M.C. O'Connor said...

I've heard that "salmon" used to be spelled without the "l" but was changed to show its Latin origin ("Salmo" is the genus).

I think etymology is fascinating and love the ridiculous variety of spellings and pronunciations in English. I imagine it is hard for English learners but I really enjoy the crazy-quilt nature of the Mother Tongue!

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

I find etymology fascinating too. During my lunch hour in high school, I used to peruse the Old English Dictionary, which showed the original usage of words, quoting references in the Elizabethan era, it was crazy!

I think each language probably has features that drivel earners crazy. For example, in Chinese, depending on the intonation, a phrase could mean all different things. That is why they have a fascination for the number 8, which sounds like the same as that for fortune, and an aversion to 4, because it sounds like the word for death. That is why Asian buildings do not have the 4th floor, much like us not having 13th, and for tall buildings, nothing in the 40's.

carmot said...

Linguistics and etymology fascinate me, too. I know I'm very late coming to this post. My apologies. Good stuff posted 'ere.

I still remember my linguistics class in college, learning about dipthongs (I think that's the term?). This was well before it sounded to me like something Aubrey Huff would do in a pool. The way we "add" a "p" in the middle of something.

In Japanese, the "u" basically becomes silent in the common anglicized spelling of "desu ne?" Which means,"Really?" or "Don't you agree?" Japanese also doesn't have an "f" sound. So, their adoption of "aluminum foil" sounds kind of like "hhhoy-el" and Mt. Fuji sounds a bit like "whhho-gee," both with almost a whistling sound.

As OGC mentions, Chinese can be quite intimidating. Using the wrong intonation (like an inflection) can make one say "it is really soup today" when one means "hot." Or, "I'm tired because I just got off a chicken." When one means an airplane! Obviously, this would be different in dialects other than Mandarin.

IIRC, standard Italian only has 21 letters in its alphabet, no J, K, W, X, or Y. Also, primary stress is almost always on the penultimate syllable. Unlike English, where it can often be the first syllable. Listen to how an Italian pronounces "eee-TAL-ya" for Italia, versus an American saying "IT-uh-lee."

English can think of "bloody" as a fairly strong cuss word.

I also enjoyed much of philosopher Bertrand Russell's writings. He mentions the etymology of the word "apricot" in one of his works. How it originally derived from the Latin word for precocious (as a stone fruit that ripens early in the season). Well, supposedly, it was originally called a "pricot." But one transcriber made an error and read "a pricot" as "apricot." The rest, as they say... Is history.