Sunday, March 28, 2021

Writers’ Pantry #63: I Say and You Say…

Hello again, dear wordsmiths.  I hope you are enjoying your Spring or our Autumn, according to wherever you are. I love both the 'tween seasons, though Autumn is my absolute favourite. Well, usually.

This time it came in with a LOT of rain, day after day after day, in the east of Australia, particularly the State of New South Wales where I live. There's been serious flooding in many places, some only a little south of here. Even in my area, several roads were rendered impassable. I'm glad I didn't have to evacuate (as many did). 
Some people have suffered enormous losses of property and livelihood. Now we are seeing the sun again, and in many places a huge clean-up has begun.

For those of us who were merely inconvenienced, it was a very good time to stay indoors and write! 

Our geography is not the only difference variation between us. That in itself can give rise to others. 

As some of you saw, a little while ago I posted on facebook: 

In various books I’ve been reading lately, the past tense of ‘shine’ is given as ‘shined’.  Whatever happened to that lovely word, ‘shone’?

Well! That led to a huge discussion. As well as several subsidiary discussions.

(And don’t let’s even get into why I think the past tense of ‘lead’ is spelt ‘led’ ... or the difference, if any, between 'spelt' and 'spelled'.)

It was finally established that ‘shined’ is correct when there’s an object: ‘He shined his shoes’; ‘shone’ when there isn’t: ‘The moon shone brightly.’ But then one of my UK friends said she prefers ‘shined’ in an audiobook even when incorrect, rather than hearing ‘shone’ pronounced to rhyme with ‘known’. (She actually said 'shown' but that was a whole other can of worms.)

Many of us non-Americans went into teeth-on-edge horror at the mere thought of such a mispronunciation – whereas Americans tended to say, ‘But how else would it be pronounced?’

‘To rhyme with “gone”,’ we replied.

‘Oh,’ they said, ‘like “dawn”.’

‘Er, no! Like “on”.’

Then it transpired that, in some parts of America at least, ‘dawn’ IS pronounced like ‘on’. 

By the time we'd been through all the permutations, it got to be like, ‘I say tom-ah-to and you say tom-ay-to’. (Er, that's 'tom-ay-toe' / 'tom-ah-toe'.)

Which is fine. We can all stick to what we were brought up with, and do our best to be understood by copying the locals when in other ‘English-speaking’ countries. 

(You could think that England must have the correct English – but then there’s the whole matter of regional dialects!  Which make some British movies incomprehensible to me without subtitles; a problem I also have with some American movies.)

Be that as it may, the differences could cause unexpected problems when reading poetry (though perhaps not so much when hearing it ... well, so long as it's read by the author, or someone of the same background). Pronunciation can influence such things as rhyme and metre, and even in some cases syllable count. It’s fairly easy to work out – if a little startling at first glance – when it’s a case of rhyme, but not so much when the tongue trips on what is apparently an out-of-place stressed (or unstressed) syllable in a strict metre. It might be a problem in some prose pieces too, in dialogue for instance, or where the rhythm of a sentence underpins the narrative.

I found this out a while back when called on to pass judgment on international attempts at writing the dizain, one of my favourite kinds of formal verse. I needed to be fairly strict,  yet I found I was left uncertain in many cases because I realised that what seemed to me a metrical or syllabic misstep might just be a matter of different pronunciation. For instance, a word given two syllables in one country might be pronounced with only one syllable in another. (I grew up saying the name Alicia as A-lee-see-a, whereas the American A-lee-sha, which surprised me when I first heard it, has even spread to Australia now.) And of course we all pronounce things in the way we have grown up thinking ‘correct’. In fact it never occurs to us there might be a different way. (‘What, “shone” ISN’T pronounced like “known”?’)

Where does that leave us? Continuing to write according to our own version of English, I guess. What else, after all, can we do? But we can also widen our awareness to encompass other possibilities, rather than thinking everything different must be ‘wrong’.

So, dear wordsmiths, let’s get to it now! You know the drill – give us your poetry or prose, old or new, written with whatever pronunciation seems right to you. One link per person, please, on Mister Linky below, to your chosen piece on your blog. Prose pieces need to be 369 words or fewer. The link stays open all week.

Do encourage others by reading and commenting, and don’t forget to pop back in case of late linkers. I always do, because – you know – I’m labelled the Coordinator; I've taken it on as part of my role. I often find treasures then, to my great delight, but they can remain unseen by most of us.

One tip to late linkers: Go and leave comments on other people’s posts, in the hope they’ll return the favour. We’re a polite and caring lot here, so they usually do.

Next Wednesday, Rommy tells me, the theme will be trees.

 Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash


  1. Brings me back to the time i first heard "thunk" voiced on a TV soap opera. I only knew "think, thought"
    Happy Sunday to all. Here in T&T we are enjoying some rainy days in our Dry Season

    much love

    1. Ha ha, I think 'thunk' is almost one of those coined words, and crosses nationalities – but it was certainly 'wrong' when it began being used.

  2. I learnt something new here (sometimes I can't help myself, Rosemary). You are also an educator, my dear.


  3. Good day, poets!
    You should come to Singapore. We have Singlish. 😁

    1. I'd love to come to Singapore! My older son went there a lot for his work before COVID, and enjoyed being there. But I'm afraid my travelling days are over.

  4. Rosemary, thank you for this informative--and fun to read--post. I don't only love all the messes of pronunciation we get up to, but how cleverly you illustrate that sort of encounter.

    Happy readings, everyone!

    1. The American 'shone' was an absolute revelation to me!

  5. This is hilarious! I remember being 13, in a school in Spain, run my people from England. Oh, how we Americans had it drilled into us that we were not pronouncing "fuel" correctly, in the Christmas song, Good King Wenceslas. We say a sloppy one syllable fuel as in mule, not a two syllable "few-el." We were going to RUIN the concert!

    1. LOL. But for that song, one adds an extra (third) syllable anyway! And leaves out one from 'gathering'. I well remember bellowing out, 'Gath'ring winter few - ew - el.'

  6. Love your post Ms. Rosemary ... tah-mate-oh, toe-mah-toe, laughing out loud now.

    1. Plus a bit of PG rated poetry today .....

    2. Oh, how intriguing! I'll be over for a look in a little while.

  7. I'm sure you'd hate the way I mutilate--er--pronounce words. My accent is a twangy, nasally, hybrid mish-mash that I was teased mercilessly for when I was growing up. The seemingly innocuous question "where are you from?" makes me cringe. My answer is usually "Mars," because that's how I always felt.

    1. In my case, when I say I'm originally from Tasmania, some online American friends are amazed to find out Tasmania is a real place, not fictional!!! (Some TV show you have about a Tasmania Devil? With, I gather, about as much relation to real Tassie Devils as Wile E Coyote has to real coyotes.)

    2. The rules and non-rules of the English language are endless. I bristle at the mis-use of they're, there and their, your and you're .... and "me and you" drives me bonkers as well. I must say "shined" to me implies the polishing of silverware or shoes; however last night the moon shone brightly. When I was in Toastmasters, I once did a humorous speech on the use of the word "up" and the difficulty of explaining its use to someone learning English. Try explaining to someone if they don't shut up their idea may be shot down! This was fun diversion, Magaly. I enjoyed every minute.

    3. I'm glad you enjoyed it, dear Bev. (And is the slip of calling me Magaly an intentional joke, or a lovely piece of serendipity – given the topic?)

    4. And I confess I'm another driven bonkers by the misuses you cite above.

  8. A lot about a little (word) or two.
    'Shown' belongs to the verb "Show".
    'Shone' belongs to the adjective "Shine"
    'Shined' belongs to the shoe shine boy, shiner of shoes.
    'Shoed' belongs to the horseman putting shoes on his horse,
    'Showed' belongs to the real estate lady showing houses.
    How dat? Nice meddler today, Rosemary.


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