I am reading Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express and I noticed that at least two American characters say “Parrus” to mean “Paris”.

I guess that by this Christie hints at some difference in the pronunciation of the name of Paris in (the in-universe, as described by Christie) AmE vs BrE. Is that so? Which are the two different pronunciations?

EDIT: Kenyon and Knott's 1949 A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English doesn't seem to be useful, since it gives the more or less standard pronunciation /ˈpærɪs/, which is apparently the same as British one.

  • In AmE it's Parrus. And I hate to break it to you, but it's ver-SALES, Illinois and KAY-ro, Illinois. – deadrat Oct 31 '16 at 19:23
  • @deadrat Just goes to show you should never trust an Illinoian with the faculty of speech. ;-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 31 '16 at 19:32
  • @JanusBahsJacquet At least most of them don't pronounce the final 's' in their state's name. – deadrat Oct 31 '16 at 19:40
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    As GEdgar suggests, It seems likely to me that the difference was between "parrus" and "paree". On the Orient Express many would pronounce it "paree", even the English. – Hot Licks Oct 31 '16 at 19:49
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    I see your point, @Lambie, thanks. What I meant is that, independently of Christie's intentions, I'd like to understand what she meant by “Parrus”, and in contrast with what. Just a sort of “Christie's spelling - IPA” translation, so to say. – DaG Oct 31 '16 at 23:02

It's hard to be sure from the spelling alone, but I think that this represents a phenomenon called the weak vowel merger:

The weak vowel merger is the loss of contrast between /ə/ (schwa) and unstressed /ɪ/ [...]


The merger is also commonly found in General American. [...]

  • So, if I understand correctly, is it more or less /ˈpærɪs/ in BrE and /ˈpærəs/ in AmE? – DaG Oct 31 '16 at 19:32
  • @dag Not always. Some speakers have this merger and some don't. What's more, most AmE speakers also have the Mary-marry-merry merger (57% according to Wikipedia), meaning that you're more likely to find /ˈpɛrəs/ ~ /ˈpɛrɪs/. To top it off, I've also heard some Americans trying to imitate the French pronunciation with /pəˈri/ or /pɑˈri/. – J. Siebeneichler Oct 31 '16 at 19:43
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    @DaG No, that is incorrect. It is the writer's interpretation of what she BELIEVES to be AmE pronunciation. I am American, I speak French and have been around a lot of Americans talking about Paris. None of them say Parrus (walrus). Perhaps it's best here for those of us who are actually Americans to say something about this. If I hear Parrus, I think: uneducated or middle American states or just not very bright. – Lambie Oct 31 '16 at 21:46
  • Here too, @Lambie, please consider my comment here amended as: «So, if I understand correctly, is it more or less /ˈpærɪs/ in default assumed pronunciation by British MotOE characters and /ˈpærəs/ in pronunciation by American MotOE characters?». – DaG Oct 31 '16 at 23:04
  • I have already answered the question. Like I said, some people may say that, but not everyone. If no one said it, it would be impossible to make fun of it. I'm just saying it is not a valid marker across the board for types of speakers (speech) in AmE. – Lambie Oct 31 '16 at 23:10

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