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January 21, 2013

“Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall”
Posted by Patrick at 10:37 PM * 76 comments

Here’s how the New York Daily News covered Stonewall back in the day.

Pretty good Wikipedia entry here.

As Joanna Russ said: Homophobia isn’t primarily there to keep gay people in line. It’s there to keep everybody in line.

Comments on "Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall":
#1 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 11:19 PM:

Ah, I see I may not be the only one who got the email about the evil "Jewish Communist" who we are supposed to believe ran Dr. MLK, Jr.'s life.

#2 ::: Brad Hicks (@jbradhicks) ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 11:38 PM:

And to continue the thought, here's how the local news covered Seneca Falls the next day: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/images/vc006199.jpg

#3 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 01:06 AM:

"'I don't like your paper,' Nan lisped matter-of-factly."

How can you "lisp" that?

#4 ::: Yaya ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 01:32 AM:

Dan R @ 3: IKR? Pretty sure you can only lisp "s" and "z" sounds, by replacing them with voiceless "th" and voiced "th" :)

#5 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 01:36 AM:

The last line of the Stonewall story is quite accurate: The police are sure of one thing. They haven't heard the last from the Girls of Christopher Street.

Hell, yes!

#6 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 01:36 AM:

The full sentence is
I don't like your paper," Nan lisped matter-of-factly. "It's anti-fag and pro-cop."

One can lisp "It's", should one wish to.

#7 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 02:20 AM:

I bet "Nan" didn't lisp at all.

#8 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 02:57 AM:

Xopher:

That's certainly possible -- it could easily have been a journalistic invention -- but it at least isn't inconsistent with the reported text. Personally, I haven't noticed lisping as a characteristic of drag queens, but my sample is limited and dates rather later than Stonewall.

#9 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 04:41 AM:

Unless your gaydar is turned up to 11 you wouldn't know I was gay if you met me for the first time. I am stocky, bald, bearded, and speak in bass-baritone with a touch of Yorkshire. I lisp not, neither do I mince.

I used to work in a local government office. (I may have mentioned this before.) A right-on, inclusive, non-judgemental environment.* Some of my male gay colleagues had adopted a slight lisp as a kind of shorthand gay marker. Not camp enough to be Julian Clary or Graham Norton, but enough to be a badge for others to read, identifying themselves to other work-place groups and their own. I couldn't carry this off convincingly, but felt I was somehow closetting myself by not displaying my sexuality at all times.

*That reads like sarcasm. It's not meant to be. It was a good place to work, in some ways.

#10 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 07:41 AM:

Dan R @ 3: % lisp
> (format (standard-output) "I don't like your paper, It's anti-fag and pro-cop.!")

#11 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 07:49 AM:

tykewriter #9: My understanding is that when scientists got around to investigating gaydar, they discovered that it was mostly a matter of markers (mannerisms, phrases, clothing/accessories, etc) associated with the local subculture/community, and the prominent members thereof. One aspect of that was that when gay folks moved to another city, they lost their gaydar until they learned the new local cues.

This has likely been changing since that study, with the slow development of a national (perhaps international) "gay culture" -- nowadays more and more QUILTBAGS (I like that coinage) will be getting their markers from media figures and perhaps even TV and movie characters.

#12 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 08:12 AM:

@11: Not precisely the same thing, but my mother started taking flying lessons at 40 and she could find the other pilot in the room in an astonishingly short time. ("It's not true that flying becomes your only hobby. There is also talking about flying.")

#13 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 08:37 AM:

At the time of the Stonewall riots, "lisped" was a pretty common term of contempt for what someone was saying. Children lisped. Gold-diggers lisped. Sex-goddesses lisped (see Marilyn Monroe). And gay men lisped.

You didn't actually have to lisp. Any more than President Obama is actually lazy.

#14 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 08:44 AM:

My quite heterosexual baby brother lisps. Our father was deeply angered by this and kept yelling at him throughout his childhood to stop doing it.

#15 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 09:11 AM:

Hey, that was uploaded by a college friend of mine! (Lo, these many years ago.) Neat! Small world!

#16 ::: Doug has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 09:13 AM:

Presumably a Word of Power. I suspect the one that describes how files are put onto a remote computer.

#17 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 09:21 AM:

Using Lisp?

#18 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 09:41 AM:

I am so, so, so grateful to the gay rights movement, the civil rights movement, the women's rights movement, and all the activists past and present, for my life. I'm a short-haired, trousers-wearing woman of color who works for a living and supports my white spouse. I can work to make life better for women in open source and open culture because my predecessors fought for all the prerequisite freedoms. Still working on the tedious and long-term task of decolonializing my brain, unfortunately.

Brad Hicks, thanks for the contemporaneous coverage of Seneca Falls. Can anyone help me understand a few of the phrases in there?

Do give the girls the spoons! Trade will be more brisk if bargains are not quite as sharp.

More grape!

#19 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 10:28 AM:

Wow. I'd forgotten just how vile the News could be. When I forget that progress is possible, I should re-read that.

Wonder what their coverage of Seneca Falls would have been like, had the paper been in business.

#20 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 11:07 AM:

"'I don't like your paper,' Nan lisped matter-of-factly."

'Bigoted crap', I hissed.

#21 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 01:05 PM:

"More grape!" means the same as the earlier "Here is another shot". It's short for "grapeshot".

#22 ::: David Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 01:12 PM:

I haven't read the Daily News in ages; it's almost nice to see I wasn't missing anything when I was a child either.

(I also have to confess that I had to look up the reference to Seneca Falls)

#23 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 02:44 PM:

The thing that gets me about the News article is this: I suspect that it actually was probably relatively positive and fair coverage for the time. I'm not a New Yorker, have no awareness of the history/reputation of the paper--I gather from the comments that it's pretty poor--but I'm fairly sure that the homophobic slurs in this particular article would scarcely have registered with the mainstream in 1969. The article is condescending, stereotypical, and flat-out homophobic, but it is paying attention and it isn't dismissing the riots as all the fault of the rioters. Which . . . I don't know if that depresses me or elates me more. Both in equal measure, I suspect: we really have come a long way, if we can (easily and clearly) see that this article is insulting, but good grief, what a long way have we had (and have) to go.

#24 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 03:14 PM:

Mary Frances, it also occurs to me that the article may have been written with less of the contempt and derision, and the EDITOR may have added some of it. "Wait, you forgot to make fun of them."

#25 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 04:41 PM:

Variety of thoughts:

1) What's the difference between canister and grapeshot? Seems you'd need a canister to hold the grapeshot, like a shotgun shell holds the {bird|buck}shot.

2) Melissa Harris (Lacewell) Perry lisps a little. It kinda bugs us when watching her, since Debbie had a lot of speech therapy when she was young, to eliminate a lisp.

3) Debbie jumped up & down excitedly (or as excitedly as someone with a flu can) at the mention of Seneca Falls and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

#26 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 04:46 PM:

25
Wiki says grapeshot is larger shot and in a canvas bag, with the intention that it go through wooden hulls. (The splinters would be the shrapnel.)

#27 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 06:38 PM:

Oh, so that's the context...

I didn't realise the quote was from Obama's inauguration speech on Monday.

#28 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 06:47 PM:

#26:

This is one of my hobby horses; please bear with me. "Shrapnel" is a particular kind of artillery shell, named for its inventor, designed to deliver canister shot at a greater range than ordinary canister can achieve. While some people use "shrapnel" to mean shell fragments, or indeed anything flying through the air, this is an incorrect use.

#29 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 06:51 PM:

Jim, I suspect it may be too late to call back that expansion of usage.

It sucks, I know. I've had to get used to people calling metal things xylophones, even though it makes my teeth hurt.

#30 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 07:03 PM:

On the other hand, splinters of wood, of assorted sizes, certainly act like shrapnel. (Yes, I do know the difference. I used to read Forester. And Kent.)

#31 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 07:12 PM:

Thomas @6:

That's two sentences.

#32 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 05:13 AM:

Jim @ #28:

So the wood splinters that form, after grape goes through a hull, would be spalling? Or is spalling specifically metal fragments? And if the splinters aren't spalling, are they simply splinters?

Inquiring minds wants to know what flying debris is called, when caused by impacting pieces of ammunition.

#33 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 05:56 AM:

Ingvar @32

I reckon spalling is limited to cases when the projectile itself doesn't penetrate. It's the result of a shockwave though the material, and I think it's a 20th century concept.

But concrete as well as metal. I wonder if the shockwave effects would even work in wood. The old smoothbore cannon maybe couldn't generate the effects, with relatively low velocities and no high-explosive in the projectile.

Black powder deflagrates, the reaction passing through the material at less than the speed of sound. It essentially just burns.

High explosives detonate, the reaction spreads through the explosive at several kilometres per second. That's what gives you the shockwave that produces the spalling.

#34 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 09:05 AM:

"Gaydar" is a matter of being alert to clues the uninitiated do not notice. This is one of those things I learned by not coming to grips with my sexual orientation until my mid-30s. Afterwards, I spent a fair amount of time wondering why I had not seen some obvious things before. It had never occurred to me that Elton John or Freddy Mercury might be gay . . .

#35 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 09:20 AM:

I'd call splinters "splinters."

#36 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 11:48 AM:

Shrapnel, xylophone--what's the difference, really?

#37 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 11:49 AM:

rea:

My guess is that there are all kinds of subculture cues that you learn or pick up on, more or less depending on your native talents and attentiveness, and that gaydar is one example. My mother in law, who has lived 40+ years in Utah as a non-Mormon, notices Mormons anywhere she meets them outside Utah. Part of this is probably because members of a community often adopt mannerisms common in the community (ranging from accent to dress to common turns of phrase), and part is members and nonmembers learning to notice those cues.

I do wonder whether some of the markers are burned in early, or even of biological origin somehow[1]. It's not that uncommon to know someone who seems pretty obviously gay, but isn't out and may not even be admitting it to themselves for many years.

[1] That would make sense only if there was some underlying physical difference that drove being gay vs straight, which seems like it would have been detected by now if it were anything obvious. OTOH, behavioral markers (like how you look at men vs women) do make some sense as a visible difference.

#38 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 11:49 AM:

John A. Arkansawyer @ #36: A chunk of C4?

#39 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 12:10 PM:

With the end of the Geek Wars, playing Spot the Fan at the airport is a much tougher proposition. It seems that most people under thirty that I encounter these days present as form of fan. IME, at least.

#40 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 05:54 PM:

This discussion of lisping reminds me of something I keep meaning to research somehow... I have a recollection that when I was in elementary school, this would have been in the late 50s/early 60s, I was required to attend a special class that only a few others of us in the school had to attend. I seem to remember it being called "Phonetics" or some such. I have no recollection as to why I was required to attend this class, but years later it occurred to me to wonder if I might not have had a lisp when I was a small boy. I don't have one now. I don't recall every having one. But I do recall having to attend this class and I do recall it having something to do with correcting the way I talked.

I have this theory, which may be entirely incorrect, that people who have what used to be called "speech defects" don't hear anything defective in their speech. Their way of talking sounds perfectly natural and normal to them because, well, that's the way they naturally talk. Whatever the "defect" is, they pretty much have to be coaxed away from it by some outside power.

I have no idea if it the theory works. Fortunately, I have a Voice/Speech professor staying with me next weekend whose knowledgeable brain I can pick.

#41 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 09:02 PM:

Michael Weholt @40:

I can provide some anecdata to go with that theory. As a kid, I had a strong unidentified accent (possibly related to frequent ear infections while I was learning to talk), and I could not hear any difference between how I talked and how my classmates did. It wasn't just "the way I naturally talked"; it literally sounded the same as everyone else to me - and any audio recordings were obviously made with defective equipment, because I didn't talk like that.

#42 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 09:48 PM:

Re: lisping of Nan, shrapnel

The author either attributed some stridency to a non-sibilant sound, or else mistook 'some splinters' for 'cheap shrapnel'.

Either way, a poor imitation of Hunter S.

#43 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 10:41 PM:

1
The article from the yellow press is an interesting exhibit. A lot of conservative culture war fighters are in the trenches just so that this kind of writing could once again pass as mainline and witty. The fact that some people don't see the humor in it is proof to them that something is terribly wrong with society.

2
Accents/impediments: The family next to us when I was growing up had their own way of speaking — a family idiolect. I don't know how it came about. The oldest kid was female, and she didn't talk that way. The oldest boy didn't either. The next brother in line might have had a bit of an impediment, and I'm guessing that the next four may have imitated him. They were too wild for their mom to keep track of or teach much to. "Property," for instance, was pronounced "p'ompity."

#44 ::: Kip W, begnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 10:42 PM:

I be gnomed. Sorry to trouble you.

#45 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 11:41 PM:

Chris, #41: My father was from Iowa and had the idiolect which says "warsh" and "Warshington". As far as I could tell, he literally could not hear the difference between how he said those words and how I said them.

#46 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 12:26 AM:

44
My father did that, but it was mostly noticeable when he was trying for it. (Decades in California had sanded down his Oklahoma accent.)

#47 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 10:24 AM:

People tell me that my father has a German accent. I can't hear it; he just sounds like Dad to me.

#48 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 10:49 AM:

I've been told I have an accent.
I can't hear it.

#49 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 11:49 AM:

Liberation comes slowly, but it is also a liberation for every male, man and boy, who's been kept in line by the fear and very real danger of looking queer, and for every woman and girl who's been kept in line by the threat of seeming to act "like a man".

(If I were more awake, maybe I could phrase that more eloquently.)

Re speech peculiarities:

I only discovered a few years ago that I was pronouncing "gas" (as in gasoline, etc.) 'gaz' while everyone else pronounces it 'gas'. It was very unsettling when I could finally hear it, after a number of tries, and I forced myself to change it. Apparently I must have been doing that all my life and nobody ever commented on it. I've wondered if it is a regionalism I picked up as a kid or if it was purely idiosyncratic. (Idiolectic?)

I know that from about age 10 to 13, after we moved back from Japan the second time, I had trouble with initial 'sh-' sounds, like "sure", tending to pronounce them as 's-'. (Those sounds are much closer in Japanese.) Eventually I got that back to the standard pronunciation.

#50 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 12:18 PM:

Clifton @49: Are you from Montreal? "Gaz" is common there (as a word for petrol, not just the name of a newspaper), presumably because of the influence of French.

#51 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 12:25 PM:

I have a Delaware accent, which means I pronounce 'water' as "warter'. It took a huge effort of will (I can't remember why I did it) to actually hear myself.

I think that not being able to hear that what one is saying is different from the usual is probably one source of speech defects, but there might be physical incapacity in some cases. Or at least I can hear rolled r's but have no idea how to produce them.

#52 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 05:22 PM:

In general, people don't hear their own voice the way it comes out on a recording. Speech defects can come from several different sources, ranging from physical deformities of the mouth, though hearing loss, neurological issues, or simple learning (accents).

I've got at least two stacked speech defects (hearing, autism, and maybe a family trait -- if that wasn't autism too), plus accents from at least two regions (by now I've probably picked up some of the local accent too). The fact that I can sometimes hear some of that, I attribute to the (limited) speech therapy I had as a child, and introspective habits.

#53 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 09:18 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz #51 Or at least I can hear rolled r's but have no idea how to produce them.

Not knowing how to produce rolled r's is very common for English speakers. Not being able to learn seems to be pretty rare.

The key trick for me was realising that the spelling is misleading and they are actually rolled d's, plus a lot of practice.

#54 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 09:56 PM:

Oy, rolled rrrs. I used to be able to roll an r occasionally, and now I have such trouble with it -- but at least it makes the FG laugh when I try. I seem to be the only one around here who can't roll, though, as my son, my best friends, and even their husbands all roll rrrright along. That's ok with me, as the FG can't make the guttural kh sound, as in chutzpah. We laugh together!

#55 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 10:13 PM:

Nancy, they're ballistic, not articulated; the tongue flutters in the egressing air.

I can't do them at all since my surgery.

#56 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 10:53 PM:

Growing up in South Florida, I had no trouble producing my Spanish r's. Learning to roll the French way, however, was much more difficult. I didn't try it until my twenties, and it called to action a new muscle somewhere in the vicinity of the tonsils. I have it fair to passable now, though in the midst of rapid sentences it sometimes still comes out like a Jewish 'ch'.

#57 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 11:01 PM:

DanR, it's your uvula. That's why I wouldn't let them take mine out!

#58 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 12:28 AM:

I'm one of the least linguistically gifted people you'll ever meet, but growing up in south Texas with a native-German-speaking grandmother I managed to acquire both the Spanish and German r's at an early age.

#59 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 01:06 AM:

Xopher @57, it’d behoove ya to care for your uvula!

#60 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 11:53 AM:

(What a wonderfully eclectic thread!)

On the question of perceiving one's own pronunciation variants:

My entire life I've had a miserable time trying to translate unfamiliar speech sounds into an understanding of how those sounds are pronounced. (Fortunately, by the time I was doing my linguistics field methods course in grad school, I was able to explain my acoustic perception problem in technical enough terms to be allow accommodation.) When I was first learning German in Jr High, I could tell that o-umlaut and u-umlaut were sounds I hadn't encountered before, but my stabs at how to produce them myself were woefully wrong (in retrospect). But nobody at the time ever bothered to explain the sound in terms of articulatory phonetics (which would have worked perfectly for me if I'd known such a thing existed then). So I was left being vaguely aware that my umlauted vowels weren't quite the same as other people's umlauted vowels but without any clue exactly how, why, or what to do about it.

Coming back to the point, I've sometimes wondered what proportion of childhood pronunciation variants (trying to avoid the word "defects") have a similar cause, where there's simply a brain-processing failure in converting the perceived sound into the necessary physical actions to replicate that sound.

#61 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 01:01 PM:

Ginger @54: roll rrrright along. ... the FG can't make the guttural kh sound, as in chutzpah.

What, she can't hork a loogey? ;-)

I have a friend who comes from a New York Jewish family. He can't roll an r, so what he does is kind of a rolled kh which is just—kind of disturbing, actually.

I'm fascinated by the Scottish R, which in some cases almost comes out as a "K," like in "Mordor."

Heather Rose Jones @60: o-umlaut and u-umlaut were sounds I hadn't encountered before

IME, there are two pieces to learning a new phoneme. There's being able to hear the difference, and then there's being able to see how the sound is made, and how that's different from what you're used to.

There was a Japanese exchange student in my high school one year. Her name was Kaodu, and that last vowel had me completely buffoloed, even though I was producing an "oo" that sounded the same to me as the sound she was making. It still sounded wrong to her.

I finally asked her to describe what her tongue was doing. The position she described was basically to just reel the tongue all the way back into the back of the mouth (with the teeth closed). When I did that, she said it sounded right, even though it still sounded the same to me. (But we got her back. She simply couldn't cope with my mother's name "Evelyn.")

It's been my observation that the "accent" that completely deaf people have derives from the fact that they shape their sounds based on what they can see others doing with their mouths. What this means is that all the sounds that result from internal resonances in the head come out wrong.

Evelyn Glennie blows me away, because despite being "profoundly deaf," her speach is absolutely flawless. I deduce that this is because she "hears" kinesthetically, and therefore has mastered all those "internal" phonemes by feeling.

where there's simply a brain-processing failure in converting the perceived sound into the necessary physical actions to replicate that sound.

ISTR that some years ago they found that one form of stuttering derives from a flaw in the audio feeback. Hook someone up with a microphone to record their speech, and a little in-ear speaker, and the stutter magically disappears.

#62 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 01:12 PM:

Jacque @61, I think this is the link you intended?

I learned to roll my r's from my Schweizerdeutsch step-grandmother when I was not quite 6, but I find that 4 and a half decades later, I can no longer do it nearly so fluently.

#63 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 01:58 PM:

"You talk funny Nash. Where you from?"
"Lots of different places."
- Christophe Lambert

#64 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 02:08 PM:

Back when I was learning Spanish at DLI, they taught us this one:
Erre con erre cigarro;
Erre con erre barril.
Rapido corren los carros,
Cargados de azucar al ferrocarril.

#65 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 03:02 PM:

Jeremy: Yes, right. Sorry.

#66 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 04:02 PM:

IME, there are two pieces to learning a new phoneme. There's being able to hear the difference, and then there's being able to see how the sound is made....

For me, learning how the sound is made is the way I can (somethimes) learn to hear the differences. That was particularly the case when learning the many vowels in French in the ah-uh-oo area. (As one of those is the difference between "how many" (quand) and "ass" (con) I had substantial motivation to learn to say the difference.)

#67 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 04:09 PM:

The first foreign language I learned was French. When I first started learning German years later, native German speakers tended to guess that I was French (or once, Polish!), based on how I was pronouncing my r's. All these years later, and I still can't roll r's properly, although umlauts and hard ch's aren't a problem.

This is kind of tangential, but re: detecting accents, I can tell if a non-native German speaker is American or British, but Germans usually can't, just that the speaker's mother tongue is probably English.

#68 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 07:40 PM:

Apparently (and FWIW), there is also an age-related component to the ability to pick up on new phonemes. Children apparently learn to reproduce new sounds fairly easily and quickly; at some point, varying for each individual, many people simply lose that ability. (Note: many, not all. For those that do, mid-adolescence is usually the cut-off point, if I remember correctly.) That explains why someone who becomes bilingual as an adult may never quite lose the foreign accent: for example, I had a multilingual professor, once upon a time, whose speech was indistinguishable from that of native speakers in several languages but who spoke English with a pronounced accent--and this despite having lived in an English-speaking country for the majority of his adult life.

In addition, sounds heard and learned in childhood can come back in adulthood--that actually happened to me. I studied Spanish very young, and when I started studying Italian my professor used to complain that I "talked like a Spaniard." After a considerable period of intense effort, during which I really thought I'd mastered the Italian accent, he reponded by staring at me in shock and saying: "Now you talk like a peasant!" It seems that the Southern Italian (American) phonemes of my childhood had finally started to come through--which was decidedly not acceptable to someone trying to teach me to speak Roman Italian!

#69 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 11:51 PM:

I found Spanish rr's fairly simple ... because, although I was a monoglot AmEnglish-native speaker, my great-grandmother's family's traditional calling-in-the-cows noise is a very, very loud trill that's basically a Spanish rolled r done while singing a high steady tone. Since I spent months and months in my very-young years learning to do that well, it was a piece of cake to do it much quieter and shorter in the middle of talking, for Spanish.

Similar to, but not quite the same as, the Arabic woman's sound-of-celebration that was copied (badly) in Xena.

I actually have trouble not rolling my Spanish 'r's (as opposed to 'rr's) so much as to sound like I'm verbally misspelling the word. Because Spanish basic-r's are more rolled than in English, the rolling subroutine is engaged and I have to consciously cut it short before I Go Too Far.

Oh, and I say Mordor with a not-quite-th in the d in middle of the word, which I was geeked to hear Hugo Weaving also use in the movies (so presumably some consulting linguist taught him to). Kind of like the sounds I taught myself to do by reading the pronunciation guides in the back of the Chronicles of Prydain novels, and the fronts of the Stephen Lawhead Merlin books, which were trying to teach Welsh phonemics like the not-quite-a-tl-sound-but-spelt-ll thing, and the dd thing. One or the other of those novelsets taught me to put my tongue on my top incisors like I was going to say 'th' and then blow air past it on both sides while voicing, which is a REALLY WEIRD sensation/phoneme for a native English speaker and took a lot of practice. I think that's the Welsh 'll', but it's been a long time.

#70 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 12:59 AM:

Elliott Mason: put my tongue on my top incisors like I was going to say 'th' and then blow air past it on both sides while voicing,

Yes, that's the Welsh 'll', a voiceless lateral fricative.

There's a piece of software I occasionally encounter with the acronym gllam, and I always feel it needs a Welsh ll.

#71 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2013, 02:13 PM:

Here again at my home away from home, I thought I should mention that awhile back the NYT ran an article on Stonewall with pictures unpublished until then. For decades, it was long thought that the event was not photographed. I can't find the link now, but I placed it on one of the Open Threads.

#72 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2013, 05:18 PM:

Wyman Cooke @71, are these the photos you had in mind? I couldn't find anything in your View All By (you may have used a different email address) but just knowing that they existed to be googled for turned them right up. Thank you!

#73 ::: lorax has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2013, 05:19 PM:

Usually it's for three spaces, but I did express gratitude in this particular post as well. Do the gnomes like fresh-baked bread? My loaf is cool enough to slice now.

#74 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2013, 11:56 AM:

Lorax, you speak for me. And speak it well. I may have used another e-mail; one I've dispensed with here since it might go away. That is exactly the link I was talking about. My Google-fu has been pathetic.

I'm writing this from my undisclosed location. We're not doing undisclosed things until after lunch, which I think I will head to now.

#75 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2013, 11:23 PM:

About Stonewall the "riot": I liked the person who said, "Yeah, sure, that's all it was. And Selma was just blocking traffic."

About ***dar: My favorite example was a Mack Reynolds character recognizing another as a fellow lapsed Communist because he always said "Soviet Union" and never "Russia". I was amused, since I did the same thing, and noticed it when others didn't, having absorbed it from my decades-lapsed-Communist father.

My father, raised by English-speakers, who studied German in high school, was also notable for the fact that he sang in Spanish, Italian and Arabic with a German accent....

Michael Weholt @40, in his early years, one of my kids had a severely limited and unusual collection of phonemes with which he tried to speak English. While learning to write, I noticed him sometimes writing words the way he pronounced them: "hrink" for "drink", "serthant" for "servant", &c.

About rolled r's: Forgive me, but....
"I'll just rrring this up now."
[Smiling] "I love the way you roll your r's."
[Blushing] "Ach, it's these damned high heels that do it!"

#76 ::: Adina sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 08:11 AM:

Not much else to say--it's spam.

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