With Friends Like These
A few months ago, a couple good friends brought up a topic they know I disdain, and kept prodding me for my opinion on it. They wouldn't let up, until finally I proclaimed "[It's] terrible!", to which they replied, scheming, "Don't you mean horrible?", and I said, "Yeah, horrible!". They both burst out laughing.
Apparently, I pronounce horrible weirdly, and these goofs just wanted to hear me say it¹.
I struggle with IPA, but my understanding is in General American the word is pronounced with a proper o sound, like whore-ible. On the other hand, I pronounce it with an ar sound, like in hard, HARH-ible. They also told me I do the same with orange (arrnje)².
Comparing Oranges to Oranges
In the intervening months, I've polled a bunch of other people, and almost all of them pronounce the o like an o. And their oranges start with the sound in oar.
One issue I have with these comparisons is that I don't think they're truly oranges-for-oranges. I am a native-born New Yorker, and most of my adult relations live here, but were born elsewhere.
So let me give a little background on forces which may have influenced my idiolect:
- I was born and raised in Manhattan, and have lived most of my adult life on the island (with a couple brief stints in neighboring Jersey City).
- My father was a Bronx Jew, his parents immigrated from the (newly-formed) Soviet Union, and were bilingual.
- My mother was raised in rural Connecticut, among working-class Italian immigrants. Her grandparents immigrated at the turn of the 20th century from (northern) Italy. Her parents were quasi-bilingual.
- My linguistic exposure during my formative years can be broadly characterized as "New York Jews", with a smattering of WASPy 5th Avenue aristocrats (kid I knew in 3rd grade could already trace his family back to the Mayflower).
- Both my parents had college educations. I have a college education.
- I speak ludicrously fast. I don't think this is part of my "dialect", per se, just a personal quirk, but I'm wondering if my pronunciations can be explained by subconscious tactics to streamline or re-shape certain words and thereby increase my bandwidth.
Or Is It Just Me?
So, is this a known feature of any particular, documented dialect, sociolect, etc? Has anyone studied its origins (i.e. when it diverged from General American), and what social or linguistic forces might account for it? Or is it really peculiar to me?
I do note that Wiktionary specifically breaks out New York City and Philadelphia in its pronunciation guide for horrible:
(Received Pronunciation) IPA: /ˈhɒɹɪbəl/
(US) IPA: /ˈhɔɹəbəl/, /ˈhɒɹəbəl/, [-bəɫ]
(NYC, Philadelphia) IPA: /ˈhɑɹɪbəl/
which seems like a hint that I may not be as crazy as I sound.
If this is a feature of a known lect, how else does that diverge from General American? What else am I likely to pronounce in a way others find surprising?
¹ Bonus points for anyone who can help me get back at one of them by diagnosing the illness which compels her to pronounce obsessed with all zs, obzezzed (if it helps, she immigrated from Kiev in early childhood and was raised in Northern California. The only other guy I know who does this is also from NoCal.)
² Note to editors: please feel free to update the question to use proper IPA or other formal phonetic transcription.