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This question on SF&F Stack Exchange asked how a particular name ("Chasch", made up by the author) from a novel would be pronounced.

An answer to the question referenced an audiobook of the novel, which was definitely the right approach.

The name was uttered a few seconds in. I heard /tʃɑʃ/ , which I would spell as "Chahsh" (or in my East Coast American accent, "Chosh", rhyming with "Josh").

But the answerer didn't do that. They spelled what they heard "Charsh".

I guess a non-rhotic English speaker would pronounce "Charsh" the same as "Chahsh". But I was surprised that they went the other way, inserting a silent "r".

The book was read in an educated, rhotic, North American accent. There were plenty of "r"s that non-rhotic speakers would omit. But the /ɑ/ sounded like a plain one, not even "r-colored".

So my question is, is this a well-known effect, or a one-off?

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    In British English, Chash might be pronounced to rhyme with trash, and Chosh would be pronounced to rhyme with Josh (which isn't the pronounced the same in the U.K. and the U.S.). The only way to get the correct pronunciation is Charsh. Jan 5 at 1:25
  • @PeterShor and "Chahsh"? Anyway, you should post an answer.
    – Spencer
    Jan 5 at 1:45
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    "which I would spell as "Chahsh" - I don't know any English words spelt with "ahsh" at the end. Chash looks like it should rhyme with cash, bash, etc. Charsh looks like it should rhyme with harsh or marsh.
    – nnnnnn
    Jan 5 at 3:39
  • @nnnnnn It's a word an SF author made up. "Chahsh" was an attempt to find a common spelling between AmE and BrE pronunciations -- as herisson's answer says, "Chosh" would be prononced in different ways. But your interpretations of the other spwllings agree with mine.
    – Spencer
    Jan 5 at 6:25
  • I understood that it was a made-up SF name, but then didn't that mean the original author already provided a spelling? (Which, from the question you linked to, seems to be Chasch, not Chash, just to confuse things further.)
    – nnnnnn
    Jan 5 at 7:41

1 Answer 1

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It's fairly common in British English to write the /ɑː/ sound as ar in respellings that are intended to indicate the pronunciation of words. You can see in the following discussion thread two other examples, "Marfia" for Mafia and "Sharday" for Sade:

I assume speakers who do this don't think of it as inserting a non-pronounced r any more than you or I would think of the spelling "ah" as inserting a non-pronounced h, or the spelling "aw" as inserting a non-pronounced "w". In nonrhotic accents such as most typical southern British English accents, ar when not followed by a vowel letter can be viewed as a digraph for /ɑː/ (or sometimes for /ə/ in final unstressed syllables, as the linked blog post notes, although -er is the more common spelling for final /ə/).

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  • You can see this even with common English words as in the Oxford Dictionaries pronunciation of (e.g.) "march", which in UK English they give as /mɑːtʃ/. (You need to select UK english from the Lexico link if it's not your default.)
    – Stuart F
    Jan 5 at 9:54
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    Is this where arse came from?
    – Robusto
    Jan 6 at 20:07
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    @Robusto: the "rs" in "arse" is original (cf. German "Arsch"). The form "ass" comes from simplification of "rs", like the variant forms "hoss" from "horse", "cuss" from "curse", or "bust" from "burst".
    – herisson
    Jan 6 at 21:08

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