Beware of the dog

Mark Crispin mrc at CAC.Washington.EDU
Thu Feb 6 09:21:21 CET 2003

On Thu, 6 Feb 2003, John Cowan wrote:
> > For instance, in the current climate, the way that "Iraq" is
> > pronounced by US commentators tends to grate with many UK people
> > (and other people) who are more used to to the way it is pronounced
> > in the UK (i.e. many US TV commentators often talk about "Eye-Rack"
> > in effect (as in Tie-Rack) while in the UK (and in many places
> > elsewhere, including I suspect Iraq) the "I" in Iraq is pronounced
> > like the "i" in "pin."
> That is because you Brits, having had business there fairly recently,
> know how to pronounce the name of the country, whereas we Americans,
> who don't know Iraq from Indonesia, mostly don't know how.
> It is in no way a sound-change, just sheer ignorance.

Nonsense.  It is an intentional insult, and it has historical precedent.

During World War II, Italy was commonly pronounced "Eye-tally" and Italian
was pronounced "Eye-tal-ian".  This usage was uncommon prior to the war;
and vanished totally after the war.

It amuses many of us enormously to see "Eye-Rack" being used to an Iraqi
official's face without him having a clue that he's being mocked.

It is true that the first usage of "Eye-tal-ian" predates World War II and
was probably out of ignorance, but that was British ignorance, not
American ignorance.  It was used in Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore".
Some recent productions have preferred to use the correct pronunciation
out of political correctness, in spite of the fact that it jars with the

Gilbert and Sullivan also made mention in "The Mikado" to "the idiot who
praises/with enthusiastic tone/every century but this/and every country
but his own."

Perhaps John Clews has been to a few more Gilbert and Sullivan operettas
than John Cowan, since Mr. Clews got it right.  "Eye-Rack" is a product of
the current climate, and will disappear totally after its resolution.  It
is a legitimate sound-change.

And I apologize to Mr. Cowan for rubbing his face in it in this email, but
I was personally offended by his "ignorant American" bullsh-t.  If Mr.
Cowan wants to kiss up to foreigners, that's his business, but he should
not insult his fellow countrymen in the process.

-- Mark --
Science does not emerge from voting, party politics, or public debate.

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