Thursday, March 4, 2010

Not Quite Homophones To The Indian Ear

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homophone-dialectHomophone clues in crosswords set by British compilers can be confounding to the Indian solver.

Take this one:
ET 4392: Listened to you vulgarly speaking the language (4) URDU {~heard you}

For me, 'heard you' sounds nothing like 'Urdu'.

On solving blogs of UK crosswords, homophones often spur debate. Someone or the other protests that the words don't sound identical. Issues are brought forward about rhotic and non-rhotic accents. Strict crossworders expect the pronunciation as well as emphasis to correspond exactly. Slight digressions are put under the scanner.

But for Indian solvers, even the homophones that go without question can be tricky.

Example:

Guardian 24705 (Pasquale): Asian drunk, reported office worker (6) TYPIST {~Thai pissed}
'Thai' is supposed to be pronounced as 'tie', but most Indians pronounce it with a sound that isn't even present in the English alphabet.

If your accent differs from that of the crossword's primary audience, homophone clues in the crossword can be tough to resolve.

How should you approach these intractable homophones?

To start with, it is easy to identify that we have a homophone clue on hand. The homophone indicator can be spotted quickly, what remains is to discover the words that share pronunciation. Keep in mind that the words need not sound identical in your accent and work from there. When in doubt, looking up the dictionary for pronunciation and checking the audio online helps. That, plus the crossing letters make it not so formidable a challenge.

Solve These

Have a go at these clues, meant to be homophones:

Times Jumbo 672: Author pronounced Indian food good as side-dish (5)
Everyman 3298: A hardy grass from an Indonesian island, reportedly (6)
Guardian 24932 (Gordius): Plant confusingly spoken of for some time to come? (7)
FT 13290 (Gozo): Backstreet hair-dresser suggested as pantomime character (3,4)

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7 comments

Anonymous said...

1)Raita (Indian side dish)(writer-author)
2)Rattan (Indonesian grass)(reportedly -rat on?)
3)--
4)Ali Baba (Back street -alley , hair dresser - barber)

Shuchi said...

1 and 4 are correct.

2 needs revision.

Krishnan said...

2) Barley (Bali) ??
3) Pitcher ???

Shuchi said...

Hi Krishnan,

BARLEY {~Bali} it is.

3 needs some more thinking. I had to hear the audio to find any shred of similarity between the two words.

Anonymous said...

3)Fuschia (plant) (sometime to come - future)

shyam said...

It is quite difficult to believe that fuchsia and future are pronounced the same! Chambers doesn't say so!!
fūˈshə - fuchsia
fūˈchər - future

Even if we were to ignore the r at the end, s and ch are two distinct sounds in English, aren't they?

Moreover, I quite didn't get your message in this: "Most Indians pronounce it with a sound which isn't even present in the English alphabet". Could you pl. elaborate on this?? :)

Shuchi said...

Probably 'confusingly spoken' is meant to indicate that if one says 'fuchsia' imperfectly, it'd sound like 'future'. In a British accent, the two words sound similar enough!

The Hindicized pronunciation of 'Thailand' is थाईलैंड. The English pronounce it as टाइलॅंड / ठाइलॅंड. The sounds of थ, ढ़, ध, etc. are not present in the English alphabet. Another example: the English dictionary pronunciations of 'dharma' and 'Gandhi' - the 'dh' isn't exactly ध, is it?

PS: Wrote this assuming you know Hindi; I hope the above makes sense!