While watching "Shall We Dance?" (1937) last
evening, I noticed that the character played by
Fred Astaire (who in turn was played by Frederic
Austerlitz, Jr of Omaha, Nebraska) pronounced
"Denise" with an "s" sound, while his friend,
played by Edward Everett Horton, played by Ed
Horton of Brooklyn, pronounced "Denise" with a
"z" sound. They were talking about the same
person.
Another odd thing was the way the character
played by Ginger Rogers, who was played by
Virginia Katherine McMath of Independence,
Missouri ("Jinja" being a child's pronunciation
of "Virginia"), pronounced "secretive" with
the second syllable stressed. AHD sanctions this
pronunciation, but it sounds like something to
do with secretions rather than secrets.
Also, as terrific as George Gershwin and His
Lovely Wife Ira are as a songwriting team, I
think they really let the side down in "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." Nobody, and I mean
no-BAHD-y, says "po-TAH-toe" or "ersters", do
they? Certainly nobody in this movie does.

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
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Also, as terrific as George Gershwin and His Lovely Wife Ira are as a songwriting team,

Wife? You jest, I assume...
Also, as terrific as George Gershwin and His Lovely Wife Ira are as a songwriting team,

Wife? You jest, I assume...

More than just assume, methinks: it's a fairly well-known joke (hence Michael's capitalising).

Cheers, Harvey
Ottawa/Toronto/Edmonton for 30 years;
Southern England for the past 21 years.
(for e-mail, change harvey to whhvs)
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Also, as terrific as George Gershwin and His Lovely Wife Ira are as a songwriting team, I think they really ... Whole Thing Off." Nobody, and I mean no-BAHD-y, says "po-TAH-toe" or "ersters", do they? Certainly nobody in this movie does.

I think there were people who said "ersters", or something similar. For one thing, it might approximate a then-still-existing dialectal pronunciation of 'oyster' by some New York City speakers. For two thing, I've read that "erster" is also a feature of the Baltimore, Md. dialect, or was. Maybe Joe Manfre knows more from that. Don't some Texans say "erl" for "oil", reputedly?
Ed Norton (NTBCW Ed Horton), played by Art Carney, pronounced "Oyster Bay" (which calls to mind another Tin Pan Alley songwriter, Cole Porter from Coop's native Indiana) as "Erster Bay" on at least one episode of The Honeymooners .
Since the exaggeratedly (?) comical rendition of a New York accent was then in vogue, and since the Gershwin Bros. themselves had grown up in Brooklyn (Fourth Largest City in America) (then Third?), my guess is that "ersters" in "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" is specifically a tip of the hat to New York (LCIA).
Also, as terrific as George Gershwin and His Lovely Wife ... or "ersters", do they? Certainly nobody in this movie does.

I think there were people who said "ersters", or something similar. For one thing, it might approximate a then-still-existing dialectal ... Baltimore, Md. dialect, or was. Maybe Joe Manfre knows more from that. Don't some Texans say "erl" for "oil", reputedly?

The thing to remember in all those oi/er discussions is that it's not a rhotic R*. It's like that way of saying "world" that comes out a lot like "weld." Or something like the short "oo" in "book," or something. Think how the Brits say "First things first." "Fust things fust," sort of, but not really. I'm not saying I know what the sound *is*, but I know what it *isn't.
Didn't we just see this R the other day, the UK crew discussing whether "bodega" was bodeeger or boddegger or something, and us US types were shouting, "Lose the R!" Non-rhotic people just shouldn't use Rs in representing vowel sounds, but somehow it's the best they can do at the time.

Best Donna Richoux
Nobody, and I mean no-BAHD-y, says "po-TAH-toe" or "ersters"

If somebody wanted to say "noBAHDy" or "poTAHtoe", how should they pronounce them?
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Also, as terrific as George Gershwin and His Lovely Wife Ira are as a songwriting team,

Wife? You jest, I assume...

It's a very old musician's gag, and, being
a very old musician, I'm entitled.

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
I think there were people who said "ersters", or something ... from that. Don't some Texans say "erl" for "oil", reputedly?

The thing to remember in all those oi/er discussions is that it's not a rhotic R.

"Ersters" is definitely rhoticized in the Fred and Ginger version.

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
(in a discussion in which the famous "oi"-"er" relationship was mentioned)
The thing to remember in all those oi/er discussions is that it's not a rhotic R.

This (not that) has been said more than once before, but it needs repeating now and then:
The pop linguistics literature reminds us that it's a fallacy to think anyone says "foist" for "first" and "first" for "foist". Actually, they tell us, the people about whom that is thought say "foist" and "first" with the same sound, but it sounds different to us in the two words because of the different-than-expected effect. The sound is neither of the ones many people use for "oi" and "er".

For what it's worth, it's not unusual among chess players to hear one-time World Chess Champion Euwe's name pronounced ('@[email protected]) ("Erva"). In Russian chess literature, with Russian orthography being pretty much phonetic, Euwe's name is spelled to suggest the pronunciation ('[email protected]) ("Ayva").

Euwe was from The Netherlands. Maybe someone with a knowledge of Dutch could tell us how he would have pronounced his name.
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