Tuesday, 17 December 2013

GoCo and chocolate teapots

With eery foresight, and at an age when infants might be expected to have no interest in government arms contracts, a baby-word of my own invention got there first. It is meaningless to discuss how it was written, because I couldn't write; it was pronounced /gɒkǝʊ/.   People writing about it to probably bored friends spelt it 'gocco'. The affricate /ʧ/ is one of the last to be acquired by the budding native speaker of British English. M. Aldridge, writing in English Today in 1991, put it like this:

To master English phonology the child must acquire many different [phonemes], and one salient characteristic of child phonology is that different phonemes are acquired at different rates. By the age of three children tend to have mastered the vowels, and certain consonants such as plosives (e.g. /p,b/) and nasals (e.g. /m,n/) but they may be in their seventh year before a few troublesome consonants such as the 'th' (/θ/) in 'thing' and 'ch' (/ʧ/) 'church' are acquired.
I've taken this quote from a secondary source that brought Aldridge's transcription into line with that used by a particular OU course. They don't say precisely how they changed it.
For me, the chief stumbling [ahem!] block was chocolate rather than church; hence gocco.

But GoCo is the latest sexy acronym for a new way of 'saving' money, which, like 'PSI' and the other kinds of fiscal snake-oil peddled by chancellors of the exchequer since time immoral [sic], probably won't work. In fact, the word 'Federal' in that document suggests to me that, in common with several other Tory policies, it was 'born in the USA'.

'Shouldn't' the first 'Go' be pronounced /gʌ/ though, as it's derived from 'government'? This is the main argument against my /gɒkǝʊ/ as a valid (and not entirely fanciful) digression; it's not /gǝʊkǝʊ/. By that standard a 'RO/RO' ferry sounds as though it should stand for the rather macabre 'Roll On/Roll Over' (rather than 'Roll-on/Roll-off').

In acronyms, vowels rarely have the sounds they had in the original words; often their new vowel sound suggests a political spin: the Go  in 'GoCo' sounds vibrant and active. Vibrancy and activeness are necessary qualities for vendors of snake-oil and for salespeople of all kinds. The Vauxhall Nova. it is said, had to be renamed for the Spanish market because no vá means 'It doesn't go'.

I'm not sure I buy this one. Stress matters more than people realize, and a stressed o in the development of Spanish became 'ue'; hence the word for new – nuevo. So the marketing story smacks of Urban Myth in this case. In the case of the Pajero I'm less inclined to be sceptical. Hacerse la paja is a taboo subject (though, in the words of  'Hair', it 'can be fun').
But this isn't getting the #WVGTbook proofs any nearer submission. Byee.


Update: 2013.12.20.09.:40 – Added this PS

PS The guest on today's Desert Island Discs has just given an example of toddler-speech that neatly confirms Aldridge's 'vowels, and certain consonants such as plosives (e.g. /p,b/) and nasals (e.g. /m,n/)'. The word was 'pandemonium' – impressively long and apparently complex, but nothing but vowels, stops, and nasals. I bet she didn't at that age appreciate the full Miltonic meaning of the word: the noise made by all demons

Update: 2013.12.28.22.:40 – Added this PPS

PPS It was more than a century after Donne's death that the word acquired the cacophonous meaning that the guest's father had meant when he said it loudly enough and often enough to impress itself on her memory.

Update: 2014.12.14.18.:10 – Added this P³S

PPPS Another example has occurred to me  –  but this time the word in question was not apparently complex, but simplified. I'm sure the speaker, my daughter, was much younger than that guest on Desert Island Discs. When she was a very young toddler, needing to hang on to adults' legs to move around (and of course often being stymied by inconsiderate obstacles) my daughter – mimicking the rhythm of 'scuse me but avoiding the as yet unlearnt speech sounds /sk/ and /z/ – coined the word mimi. (afterthought: 'mimicking' was strangely apt. )

 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  
nearly 48,600 views  and nearly 6,550 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,400 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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