Did you get your pumpkin, punkin?

Finishing up The Story of Ain’t, I am reminded of the dumb things people say about language and the many things they do not grasp. They seem to think of proper English as something spoken by three ghosts haunting the hallowed halls of a castle in England and sounding like BBC announcers or the late William F. Buckley. I recall a thread on a listserv where for some reason I was explaining that you could tell the original pronunciation of ‘pumpkin’ by its use as a term of endearment: “punkin’”. Then I explained briefly what a spelling pronunciation is. Santa caca! You never saw such density. Everyone seemed to think that the pronunciation and the spelling matched just fine b/c they pronounced the m and p. Even explaining what a spelling pronunciation is did not help.
The OED says punkin is an American pronunciation and there is some variation, although the m is etymologically justified and the p is epenthetic (hard to go from m to k without a p), a punkin pronunciation would seem to descend from that American variant as shown by the usual pronunciation as a term of endearment, like non-th pronunciations of nicknames and short forms of names like Matthew, Catherine, and Anthony (Matt, Kate, Tony) indicate the original t pronunciation (the th sound is a spelling pronunciation). People are so tied up in knots over being correct and always feeling incorrect that they just cannot follow a reasoned argument that may lead to their saying punkin and thus being labeled a hick. Teachers esp are social climbers.

One Comment

  1. Bathrobe says:

    I’m Australian and I grew up saying ‘punkin’ (or ‘punkyin’). I really hate the way that everyone has now shifted to ‘pumpkin’. I pointedly use ‘punkyin’, but it’s pretty futile swimming against the tide.

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