Columns » Words

Native confusion

by

comment

A public-library newsletter referred to a certain writer as a "native Arkansan." As this was a person I know is not a native Arkansan, the reference reminded me that native is much misused. Residing in Arkansas does not make one a native Arkansan. Being born in Arkansas does. That's true in general usage anyway. Garner's Modern American Usage says that "in American law, the noun native has come to mean either (1) 'a person born in the country'; or (2) 'a person born outside the country of parents who are (at the time of the birth) citizens of that country and who are not permanently residing elsewhere.' " I'm fairly sure the second definition wouldn't apply to the writer in the newsletter either. Nor, for that matter, would what I believed was the definition of native when I was growing up and going to Tarzan movies on Saturday afternoon: "A half-dressed black person carrying a spear."

 

Rhoticity rocks:

I was unfamiliar with rhoticity until I read an article purporting to explain why British singers sound American when they sing. "Because that's the way everyone expects pop and rock musicians to sound," the article said. "British pop singers have been imitating American pronunciations since Cliff Richard, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones began recording in the 1960s. ... Imitating an American accent involved the adoption of American vowel sounds and rhoticity: the pronunciation of r's wherever they appear in a word. (Nonrhoticity, by contrast, is the habit of dropping r's at the end of a syllable, as most dialects of England do.)" So when Frank Broyles used to talk about the Razorbacks getting bettah and bettah, he was practicing nonrhoticity. He wouldn't have occasion to use that on the current Razorbacks.

I haven't yet worked rhoticity into a conversation. Maybe I'll use it as a compliment — "I like your rhoticity" — and see how the other person responds.

 

"Election Day is less than a week away, and with my campaign running neck-in-neck with Mitt Romney's, I fully recognize this is probably not the ideal moment to introduce a controversial new proposal widely ignored in mainstream politics." This is not President Obama talking, it's from a spoof in The Onion, but the "neck-in-neck" caught my eye. Are people actually using that in place of "neck and neck"? I wouldn't be greatly surprised. Butt naked seems to have just about caught up with buck naked.   

Add a comment

Clicky