My husband recently bought an iPod Touch, which is being marketed as the “funnest” iPod (ever). I took this photo last Friday in London, at the IMAX near the Waterloo tube station. Not really for my husband’s sake, but just because it amused me to see the word “funnest” on a huge billboard in the middle of a sea of ‘proper’ English English. (And by that, I mean England generally, rather than London, specifically… and, yes, I know that Apple is based in Cupertino, California… but, still.)
What’s more, apparently “funnest” is synonymous, in Apple-speak, with their other slogan, “the next level of fun.” But it seems to me that that would be “funner,” while “funnest” should be something like “the ultimate level of fun.” Though of course that would mean that Apple could never create a new iPod Touch model, at least not without also creating something beyond “ultimate.”
On another note, but still speaking of Waterloo, I had another misunderstanding recently, this one totally linguistically understandable (haha). I was chatting recently with Professor Deborah Cameron about lapses in intelligibility between US and UK English speakers, and she asked me if I’d had trouble ordering “water.” For non-linguists among you, I should note that this word is particularly problematic because the only sound that’s common across dialects is the initial /w/ sound — all the other sounds are different. So my ‘a’ in “water” is significantly further front in my mouth than the typical British ‘a’, and my ‘t’ is flapped whereas a Brit might either produce a canonical ‘t’ or glottalize it, and I say my ‘r’s whereas many Brits are non-rhotic. So, there’s a lot of room for confusion. But at the time Debbie asked me, I hadn’t really run into trouble with the word “water,” probably because there are so many Americans in Oxford, a fact which I’ll blog about another day. Anyway, last Friday I found myself in the middle of London, trying to catch a bus to Waterloo station. A friend had told me which bus to take, but she’d given me several busline numbers and I’d forgotten one of them, so I asked the first bus that pulled up if it was going to Waterloo station. As the driver shook his head and drove off, I looked up at the sign on the bus, only to see that it was, in fact, going to Waterloo station. Oops. Clearly, linguistic accommodation is not only often nice, it’s often necessary.
And on a third note… concerning the second half of the word “Waterloo,” I had a mildly disturbing realization this weekend, one that made me incredibly happy to not have been raised as a child in Britain. It concerns my last name, and the amount of teasing I’d have been open to receiving on the hypothetical British playground. My last name is Hall-Lew. The way that I and all my relatives pronounce Lew, as far as I know, is completely homophonous with the way Brits pronounce the word loo, meaning ‘toilet.’ In other words, unless I insist on trying to bring back the yod for the pronunciation of my last name (which is a Chinese name, further complicating things), I may need to start self-identifying with the toilet down the hallway!
(P.S. Click here to see my grandpa’s discussion of the pronunciation of our last name, hosted on my dad’s website; I wish I could ask my grandpa where he got his information, some of which strikes me as a bit dubious, but, alas. Just another reminder that we should ask people the questions we want to ask them, while we can still ask them.)