Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

flau-e(r) or flaue(r)?

A pronunciation conundrum made more confusing by Mick and Maybelle.

imageThe Carter Family:

Convincing one syllablers

Does flower have one syllable or two?

This burning issue has been raised once again, this time in the Malaysia Star by May Nozawa.

“I was taught to pronounce the word ‘flour” as ‘flar.’ Almost everyone around me in Malaysia pronounces it as ‘flar’ too. But when I checked my Oxford Dictionary, it says it should be pronounced the same way as we pronounce ‘flower.’ It doesn’t mention ‘flar’ at all. Is ‘flar’ a correct pronunciation?”

The paper’s expert, Fadzilah Amin, offers an extended non-answer (including a brief discussion of schwa), and wisely confuses the matter further by noting “There is also an alternative pronunciation of ‘flower,’ indicated by the 20-volume OED, which is exactly like the second pronunciation of ‘flour’!”

Right-o,  May. Here in the American South, we also pronounce flower as “flar,” especially when picking guitar. The most renowned “flar’ was recorded by the Carter Family in 1928. Make sure you listen to “The Wildwood Flower” all the way to the end.

Oh, he taught me to love him and called me his flower

That was blooming to cheer him through life’s dreary hour

Oh, I long to see him and regret the dark hour

He’s gone and neglected this pale wildwood flower.

Maybelle’s guitar between the verses cues us for a one syllable word: flar (well, maybe one and a half syllables.)

We find that “flowers” plural, as in Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” usually comes out as two syllables, “flau-urs” not “flars” (Pete, a Yankee, definitely takes two beats). But with the plural, also, there’s a lot of inconsistency, even within the same song,

Take me down, little Susie, take me down.

I know you think you’re the queen of the underground.

And you can send me dead flowers (2 syllables) every morning,

Send me dead flowers (1 syllable) by the US mail,

Say it with dead flowers (2 syllables) at my wedding

And I wont forget to put roses on your grave….

(Dead Flowers: Mick Jagger/Keith Richards)

For further, quite earnest discussion of the matter, see this online forum and this one, where non-native English speakers, Aussies, and royal-watchers all chime in. As ever, your regionalisms—twang-twang—are welcome here.

Surely, you DID listen to “The Wildwood Flower.”





Posted by Julie on 12/26 at 10:12 PM
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