eBay the letter

Taking the temperature of the waters of our networked youth, I find that people are very much cooling on Facebook. But tomorrow’s hot prospect, if the conversations which K. eavesdrops on when on the bus to Oxford provide any kind of useful information on which to extrapolate, is Bebo.

Except, being styüd’nts or similar, they pronounce it Bebay. I do hope they’re not subscribing to the service by mistake, hoping that they might be able to auction their Squarebob Spongetrousers figurines and tickets to see Tiger Tail-Pull, and wondering why on earth there’s a group of similarly vacuous teenagers hanging around like dirty washing in a bedroom, talking about their spots and periods and how much they drank last night, ay ma-ee gohd, ye war taytlee weistid! Ay, oy knay; ye tee, thay!

… It struck me while writing this that I don’t even know how a styüd’nt accent would pronounce the second half of eBay. You’d expect it to follow the tightening trend of the “-bəʊ” phoneme and disappear somewhere into the hard palate, but some unexpected vowels seem to drop instead: witness the “-ʤɒ” sound in “media”. I don’t know without hearing it in the wild. Does anyone have a younger sibling they can quiz?

(This is less a vowel shift than a vowel spin: frontal open vowels go back; backal closed vowels move forwards. Does the schwa stay right where it is? Do the fricatives come out all staticky and stuck together?)

This entry was posted in cliques, experience, language, media, neologisms, nu-media, overheard, phonetics, society, wisdom_of_groups. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to eBay the letter

  1. K says:

    The second syllable of ‘eBay’ is ever so slightly longer than the second syllable of ‘Bebo’, but you’d be forgiven for not noticing the difference. It’s almost as if the “Bay” in “eBay” is pronounced by saying “Bear-ee” very fast, whereas the “bo” in “Bebo” sounds like a straightforward “bay” sound.

    However, as far as I can work it out, “tea” as in the drink really is pronounced exactly the same as “too”, which means that questions like “Would you like some tea?” can be ambiguous enough to confuse even native speakers of styeedent. I’ve also witnessed on a genuine misunderstanding based on the identical pronunciation of “Kate” and “coat”. Again, that was among native speakers.

    I really need to pass my driving test.

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