INDOLOGY FAQ. Re. Varanasi

Gary Tubb tubb at UCHICAGO.EDU
Wed Feb 17 14:37:50 UTC 2010

It must have been Strunk who said it first.  It's the sort of statement 
that tends to be put back on Barnum (this time apparently by me), just 
as statements of another type are attracted to the corpus of things said 
by Yogi Berra (or Amaru or Mirabai).

--Gary Tubb.

Herman Tull wrote:
> From the obscure footnote department--perhaps this principle was first 
> enunciated by P. T. Barnum, but it was popularized by the great New 
> Yorker writer, E. B. White in describing his teacher, Willaim Strunk 
> (recounted in the preface to their "Elements of Style"):
> "He felt it was worse to be irresolute than to be wrong.  I remember a 
> day in class when he leaned far forward, in his characteristic 
> pose--the pose of a man about to impart a secret--and croaked, "If you 
> don't know how to pronounce a word, say it loud!  If you don't know 
> how to pronounce a word, say it loud!"  This comical piece of advice 
> struck me as sound at the time, and I still respect it.  Why compound 
> ignorance with inaudibility.  Why run and hide?"
> Herman Tull
> --------------------------------------------------
> From: "Gary Tubb" <tubb at UCHICAGO.EDU>
> Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 9:06 AM
> To: <INDOLOGY at>
> Subject: Re: INDOLOGY FAQ. Re. Varanasi
>> Dominik, we may be dealing here with, more precisely, English word 
>> rhythm choices earmarked for attacking foreign words.  In speaking to 
>> earlier generations of students, I used to call this the "Art Fleming 
>> syndrome." Art Fleming was the host of the television quiz show 
>> "Jeopardy" throughout most of the '60's and '70's, and among his many 
>> charms was the notorious practice of pronouncing every unfamiliar 
>> foreign word as if it were Spanish (actually Spanish with an American 
>> English accent, which would have him pronounce words like Ramayana 
>> and Mahabharata with the stress on the penultimate syllable, but with 
>> a non-Spanish reduction of the preceding vowel).  Mr. Fleming did 
>> this with such confidence (following the advice of another great 
>> American showman, P.T. Barnum: "If you don't know how to pronounce a 
>> word, say it LOUD") that he probably helped millions feel reassured 
>> in indulging the same instinct.
>> What causes speakers of North Indian languages such as Hindi to make 
>> a similar shift in some English place names, such as "amriikaa" for 
>> "America"?  Has Portuguese or some other language intervened in the 
>> history of this word?
>> --G.
>> Dominik Wujastyk wrote:
>>> Some notes on English word stress rules:
>>> D

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