Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Say Whaaaaat?!

Being a linguist (I feel totally pretentious every time I say that) I am constantly realizing weird little things about language that I and only I (well, maybe Danielle too, I hope) find interesting. In hopes that others might share my interest, I’ve created this little subsection of my blog: “Say Whaaaaat?!” for all my linguistic inquiries.

I’ll start with the Brazilian word-intial “R”. Oh Brazilian “R”, how you have provided me with hours of entertainment at my Namo’s expense. I do not know how many times I have heard Brazilians refer to “rats” as “hats” and “rap” as “happy” (gotta love that strong accent on the word-final stops). “Hippy-hoppie”, “picky-nicky”, “flippy-floppy” (okay I made up that last one).

In attempting to drill the correct pronunciation of the American word-initial “R” into my Namo’s head, I seem to have gone over board. Now, words that start will “H” are being pronounced with “R”s. Like some sort of crazy overcompensation. So now not only do I have to decipher rat vs. hat, and rap vs. happy, but roneymoon vs. honeymoon and rouses vs. houses.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not meaning to bash on Brazilians. Learning a new language is hard and it is kicking my ass as well. I can’t even tell you how many times I have flubbed up the infamous pão vs. pau. And I have decided to just pretend ver & vir are the same verb because I don’t want to (read: can’t) figure out the difference in conjugations.

I came here with the intention of being a teacher, but other opportunities arose and I put teaching on the back burner. I know a lot of you are teachers, do your students do this? Pronounce words starting with "R" with an "H" sound and vice versa?


  1. For me the funny thing is in conversations they say the words correctly, only when they are reading do they make the Rs and Hs mistake. So we are constantly going over things like that!

  2. My husband does that too! personal favorite is when he pronounces TH, with a D sound like this becomes DIS.....LOL......but I shouldn't laugh too hard anymore. Now that I am in the same boat, learning a new language I definately have to commend him on how quickly he learned to speak English.

  3. My boyfriend is determined to learn the words "world" and "whirl" (possibly the two hardest words for brazilians). After a while, it ends up sounding like an injured dog, "whoooooouuuulll".
    I would have to say the hardest part about dating a Brazilian is learning how to control your laugher when things like "flippy floppy" come out of your mouth. I guess just remembering that they are doing the exact same thing with you makes it easier


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