Monday, 28 June 2010
Mo Tay For No Thing
Posted by M.H. Forsyth
Many lyricists rhyme as they pronounce, and their pronunciation is simply horrible. They can make "home" rhyme with "alone," and "saw" with "more," and go right off and look their innocent children in the eye without a touch of shame.
It pains me dreadfully to admit this, but I have always pronounced "saw" to rhyme with "more" (or versa vice). Indeed, I move in such reduced social circles that I have never heard anyone pronounce it any other way.
The OED suggests that the word used to be pronounced mo, but doesn't make clear when this stopped, or was shooed off to the ghetto where it still survives in film titles like Mo' Money.
Why will Delia thus retire,
And idly languish life away?
While the sighing crowd admire,
'This too soon for hartshorn tea.
Because in the Eighteenth Century tea was pronounced tay. Just as in Pope's Epistle to Miss Blount the lonely girl will:
... pass her time 'twixt reading and bohea,
Bohea being a kind of black tea that was pronounced bohay.
And for a woman wert thou first created
Till Nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting
And, by addition, me of thee defeated
By adding one thing, to my purpose nothing.
Here lies Ben Jonson
That was once one
Then he asked Shakespeare to finish it off. Will wrote:
Who while he lived was a slow thing,
And now, being dead, is nothing.
Now go and read this poem on pronunciation.