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I was watching an episode from 2007 of the Science Channel's How It's Made in which a canoe was being constructed*.

The narrator consistently pronounced "gunwale" as /ˈɡʌnheɪl/ (gunhale) with an aspirated "h" (and no "w"). I'm only familiar with the pronunciation /ˈɡʌnəl/ (gunnel) and that (or similar) is the only pronunciation given in a few dictionaries I consulted.

Is there a dialect of English (or regional accent) in which his pronunciation is common?

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  • 2
    Why? I know how it's pronounced generally as I indicated in the question. – Paused until further notice. Sep 9 '18 at 19:08
  • Are you aware that that word was spelled gunwhale during the 1800s, and that some folks pronounce such spellings with [ʍ]? – tchrist Sep 9 '18 at 20:57
  • I don't know anything, but 'How It's made' is produced in Quebec, so it may be a Canadian English thing. – Mitch Sep 9 '18 at 21:09
  • @tchrist: I thought I had seen that spelling before and I'm familiar with [ʍ], but the narrator was clearly saying [h] and not [ʍ]. – Paused until further notice. Sep 9 '18 at 21:59
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    Maybe somebody told the narrator "you don't pronounce the 'w' in gunwhale" so he started pronouncing it gunhale instead. – Peter Shor Sep 10 '18 at 2:37
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Anyone spend time on boats in Ireland? It seems many dialects there appreciate the aspirated h where other dialects use none.

Alternatively (having heard many flavors of mispronunciation of nautical terms) might it be the result of grappling with an unfamiliar word and finding a pronunciation that felt adequate?

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It's more like "gunnel". Like someone said, the Brits shorten "forecastle" to "fo'scle" and "boatswain" to "bosun" so "gunnel" would follow that trend. Some writers even use the spelling "gunnel" as a variant of "gunwhale" but this is not standard usage. (see Liz Dexter's website: she has a degree in English Language and Literature and is an editor, a qualified librarian and a published author so she would know.)

  • 3
    The OP is familiar with the “gunnel” (/ˈɡʌnəl/) pronunciation. The question is: Is there a dialect of English (or regional accent) in which his pronunciation (“gunhale”, or /ˈɡʌnheɪl/) is common? This is not an answer to the question. – Scott Nov 17 '18 at 2:44

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