1 of 2
1
Odd pronunciation of ‘parent’
Posted: 18 May 2017 08:20 AM   [ Ignore ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2857
Joined  2007-01-30

I was watching earlier today a 1931 movie with John Gilbert and Louis Wolheim (what a fantastic team they make), Gentleman’s Fate. Gilbert plays a society swell who finds he has a bootlegger brother, Wolheim, but to get to the point in one scene Gilbert talks about his parent and pronounces the word pah-rənt. I’ve never before heard such a strange pronunciation.  I don’t know whether this was peculiar to him, affected for the movie (in his first few sound films, especially in Redemption, filmed in 1929, Gilbert’s speech is positively bizarre) or whether this has some US regional grounding. Anyone else heard a similar pronunciation?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2017 11:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2571
Joined  2007-02-19

I’ve always understood that quite a few silent film stars had serious trouble switching to talkies, because of imperfections in early sound systems, which made them sound “bizarre”. As regards Gilbert, I’ve read more than once a suggestion that L.B.Mayer (who certainly wasn’t the kind of person one would choose to be shipwrecked with), because of some personal grudge, had Gilbert’s voice deliberately sabotaged in several movies, to make him sound silly. But this is a horrible imputation to make (apart from anything else, such a move would have cost Mayer a lot of money). People in Hollywood often say strange things about each other.

Pah-rent certainly sounds as though something was wrong with the recording system. Nobody says it that way on purpose.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2017 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2857
Joined  2007-01-30

Definitely not the recording system, Lionello. If you watch the film you’ll hear that the words are quite clear and understandable and pronounced just as you would expect. No, Gilbert pronounces this quite deliberately. As for his voice it’s a complete myth that it came across as squeaky or high. Redemption was his first sound film although released after the second made, His Glorious Night. (Gilbert didn’t want it released at all.) The trouble with Gilbert’s voice was not that it was high. It wasn’t. The trouble was that it was not the voice audiences had imagined for him in silent movies. It was, as a later critic said, as if Robert Montgomery’s voice were issuing from Clark Gable. Nothing wrong with it, it just wasn’t what they expected, and I think that any voice would have been wrong. The truth was that audiences were turning to younger rising stars like Gable and Cagney. Gilbert’s day was past and Louis B Mayer knew it although he let him play out his contract and in fact some of his later sound films between 1931 and 1934 are very very good especially Downstairs and Fast Workers. You can see in his first sound movies the actor trying to shake off the techniques of silent acting and failing until in his third sound film he began to get it. His films after that until his early death in 1936 were each one an improvement on the last. But it was too late. Gilbert had never really been the same since being left standing at the altar by Garbo in 1926. It didn’t affect his acting, he made some classic silents with Garbo after that date but he’d started drinking heavily after the jilting and that was what killed him in the end.

Made a clip of the movie and uploaded it to Vidme. (Hope the link works.) Just before the end of the very short clip you should hear Gilbert utter the word. Note how distinct all the words are. (It takes a couple of seconds to start.) As you can see, Lionello, John Gilbert most certainly says it on purpose.

[ Edited: 18 May 2017 10:35 PM by aldiboronti ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2017 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  258
Joined  2007-02-23

My hearing is not good but the bit in the video clip sounds familiar to me.

FWIW The 1913 Websters reports pâr´ent or pār´ent;” and the 1828 Websters reports PA’RENT.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2017 04:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6077
Joined  2007-01-03

The film is available on YouTube. If you know when the line occurs, we can easily find it.

In his Lexicon Valley podcast, John McWhorter frequently talks about accents in old movies. He hasn’t talked about this one, though. I could very well be a regional accent of Gilbert’s, but I’m no expert on historical dialectal pronunciations.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2017 05:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Moderator
Rank
Total Posts:  29
Joined  2015-05-27

Gilbert’s pronunciation (per Aldi’s clip) sounds perfectly normal to me, since I say it exactly that way. I am aware that the predominant American pronunciation is pare-ent, but I thought that was relatively new. The long-A pronunciation is the only one given at MWO, but the Cambridge Dictionary has something very close to Gilbert’s (and my) pronunciation as the UK version, and even the American version is somewhat toned down from that of the MWO clip.

I’m even more out of step than I thought :)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2017 06:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3870
Joined  2007-02-26

I’ve listened to it a few times. To my ear, it sounds very much like a General American /æ/ sound, as might be used in trap or bat.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2017 10:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2857
Joined  2007-01-30
Bayaker - 18 May 2017 05:37 PM

Gilbert’s pronunciation (per Aldi’s clip) sounds perfectly normal to me, since I say it exactly that way. ................

That’s fascinating, Bayaker. Is it a common pronunciation in the region in which you were raised? Gilbert was born in Utah but it’s extremely difficult to pin down an area in which he might have acquired the pronunciation as his parents were itinerant actors and the family moved frequently in his childhood all across the country until finally settling in California when he was in his early teens.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 May 2017 03:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2571
Joined  2007-02-19

What a wealth of knowledge you have about movies and movie people, aldi!  I shall know better than to argue with you about this particular field in future.

Did you ever see a movie called (I think) Biscuit Eater?  It was about a dog, and made me cry when I was a snivelling schoolchild......

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 May 2017 06:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4295
Joined  2007-01-29

To my ear, it sounds very much like a General American /æ/ sound

Same here.  I suspect aldi’s misanalyzing a sound he’s not used to hearing (in that context), as Americans think Canadians are saying “aboot” when they’re actually saying /abəut/.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 May 2017 07:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2571
Joined  2007-02-19
Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 May 2017 07:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2571
Joined  2007-02-19

as Americans think Canadians are saying “aboot” when they’re actually saying /abəut/.

Not only Americans --- me, too. I have a whole lot of Canadian relatives (mostly in BC), and have had occasion to travel all over Canada, on numerous occasions over the past forty years. When a Canadian says “about”, I have always heard “aboot” ---- it’s been an infallible marker, distinguishing (anglophone) Canadians from US speakers. I first noticed it many years ago, and have always assumed that it’s a vestigial leftover from the Scots, who did so much to make Canada what it is.

(that’s all in the past --- now, my ears are ruined, an occupational disability --- BTW John Gilbert sounded quite ordinary to me too, in aldi’s clip)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 May 2017 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2857
Joined  2007-01-30
languagehat - 19 May 2017 06:15 AM

To my ear, it sounds very much like a General American /æ/ sound

Same here.  I suspect aldi’s misanalyzing a sound he’s not used to hearing (in that context), as Americans think Canadians are saying “aboot” when they’re actually saying /abəut/.

I did wonder about that and listening to it again you may well be right. It’s my British ear at work.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 May 2017 03:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Moderator
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  131
Joined  2007-02-24

It sounds like “pear” or “pair” to me. That is how I pronounce it here in the Iowa/Nebraska area. It sounds very much midwestern American.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 May 2017 04:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6077
Joined  2007-01-03
OP Tipping - 18 May 2017 06:49 PM

I’ve listened to it a few times. To my ear, it sounds very much like a General American /æ/ sound, as might be used in trap or bat.

Yes, sounds quite unremarkable to me. Pretty much the standard American pronunciation of the word. Maybe a bit more stress on the initial syllable than is usual, but otherwise perfectly normal.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 May 2017 06:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4295
Joined  2007-01-29

I wouldn’t go that far.  I think the standard American pronunciation is with /ɛ/, not /æ/; that’s certainly how I say it.

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 2
1
 
‹‹ Most donated books      shtum ››