Intergenerational rhotaicism clash

Overheard on a bus:

Small boy [worried]: “Mummy, where’s Carl?”

Slightly older sister [patient]: “He’s in the buggy” [pointing at little baby brother]

Mother [humourously]: “Who’s this ‘Carl’ anyway?”

Small boy: “Carl!”

Mother [rhotically]: “He’s called ‘Carl’, not ‘Cal”

Sister: “Carrrrrrrrl”

Small boy: “why didn’t you call him ‘Michael’?”

Black family, I guess possibly the mother had a Bajan accent but I don’t know enough to tell for sure.

The point being that the children have non-rhotic London accents (though clearly a black London accents) and so for them there is no “R” or “L” in the name “Carl”, any more than there is for me. Its all one vowel glide. So he probably hears his mother say something like “KARR-ul” but she hears him say something like “KAAUW”.

That’s not a very satisfactory way of writing that!

Does IPA work on this blog?

What I’d say is perhaps [kaəɫ]
What the mother seemed to be saying to me is more like [kærərl]

I probably didn’t do that right!

5 thoughts on “Intergenerational rhotaicism clash

  1. Australian English tends to be non-rhotic: I know a German friend was confused when I said, “I brought my CAR into the city” as she heard “CA” and had no idea what I meant.

    I use this as an excuse in French and Arabic for why I can’t say Rs. 🙂

  2. I’ve got no idea what you’re saying but I think it’s along the lines of Americans saying I-ron and Aussies saying I-en ?

  3. Yes, that’s exactly it. Comment on your comment added to the main posting any time now.

Comments are closed.