All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Babel



I haven't thought of a theme for this post yet, but reckoned this 20-second miracle of pronunciative skill would help. Listen:


Liam Dutton pronouncing "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgoggogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch"

If we consult the Bible, Genesis 11: 1-9, we find the whole world had a common language which moved eastward with Earthlings to the plains of Shinar, where they settled. They built a tall tower to celebrate, but used materials --brick instead of stone and tar instead of mortar-- which offended the Almighty and other investors who accused humans of hubris and inferior materials then responded by collapsing the tower and confounding the languages of the planet. The Welsh were suddenly overwhelmed with consonants while the Hawaiians got stuck with all the vowels. It was around this historical calamity that vowels became a fungible medium of exchange.  

My own ancestors came from Portugal in the 1800s with family names that had scads of vowels, like Azevedo, and were encouraged to sell them in exchange for prosperity in the new world --they became the Browns. 

But all the brave abbreviations various families made  fade faster into history when we run across a weather report like Liam Dutton's. He ran through the 60(+or-) letters of a Welsh town with accuracy and nonchalance. He is my hero.

18 comments:

  1. I know next to nothing about consonants or vowels, but I'm positive that the most incomprehensible dialects at Babel were the Texas and Tennessee southern accents....
    ....and the most offensive were the dirty words used by irate Hungarians.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I must say that was an incredible feat. The flat intonations of Nebraska enable me to hear and understand most languages and dialects. Welsh is simply beyond my ken.

      Delete
    2. Jon, if I remember right from childhood, the most frequent Portuguese expletives I heard were (Phonetically --I was preliterate) "Ah, cu diabo" or "bunda do diabo", to which the standard reply was "You're sitting on it". I believe they thought profanity would burn the plaque off the back of their teeth and was just part of good dentition.

      Delete
    3. Emma, I was amazed by Mr. Dutton's mastery of that word. My wife's people are Welsh and when one of my sons (Californian is a fairly neutral accent too) went to visit he had to listen very carefully.

      Delete
  2. Haven't seen that weather forecaster around for a while. Maybe he just became tongue-tied!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tongue-tied or promoted to Elocution Coach for the whole BBC.

      Delete
  3. The announcer was a brave man to take on saying the name of that town on live TV.

    My paternal grandfather took off a vowel of his name to get a job. My mom, being first generation Irish, put it back on. My dad only used the O’ when he joined the Ancient Order of Hibernians, but professionally went without. It all got confusing because my parents legally, on all papers, had a different name than us children. Their tombstone, though, had the vowel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds typical of name-modifications in the old days. My father's family came from the Azores, where it was customary to drop superfluous vowels at the ends of words. That, combined with immigrating to California in in 1850, shortened our name from 7 letters to 4, where it has remained.

      Delete
  4. Can't you see them all standing arond their fallen tower and saying "I can't understand a word you are saying" in a dozen dialects, waving their arms and shouting and finally marching off in different directions. I wonder how long that young chap practiced before he felt confident enough to rattle off that name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Delores, I can imagine that scene all too easily --in today's world, even though we have interpreters. And yes, that young chap has a true and practiced gift.

      Delete
  5. Brave and glib man! I wonder how long he had to practice that one?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed, practiced and brave. I think I could do maybe a quarter of that name he rattled off, but then I'd have to go lie down.

      Delete
  6. Liam's efforts were indeed historic and commendable! I play tennis with a guy who grew up in Wales. I'm eager to hear his take on the video and I plan to ask him to say the town's name slowly enough that I might even try to say it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish you success on your idea, Tom. But take care: Norma just told me that Dylan Thomas would go nuts in bars and bite people --could've been the language.

      Delete
  7. Geo, are you sure he pronounced it correctly?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Bruce, until counseled by a qualified Welshperson, I cannot be sure, but he rattled it off with such precision that I am satisfied he did. I will admit that, in my research of its proper spelling, the letter-count varied from 58 to 62. So I would award Mr. Dutton with a score of 90% to 100% --an A grade by global standards.

      Delete
  8. This is just delightful, Geo! Mr. Dutton is lovely to listen to. I just watched a TED talk about languages where it was said there are about 7,000 languages in the world, although we are losing them quickly. I wonder what our Earth's languages will sound like in a hundred years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If my guess is correct, Jenny, our planet's languages will merge in ways unheard of since the colonization of this and other continents 2 or 3 hundred years ago --and before that, the language of commerce among coastal and river valley cities. Philology is an ongoing study, which computers and mass media will doubtless continue to accelerate.

      Delete

I value your comments. Say hello. Reach out a bit. I do.