Friday, February 18, 2011

"French has five vowels, namely ong, ong, ong, ong, and ong."

I have, for some time, been a subscriber to "A Word A Day" emails. You may also be interested in this mail list. One weekly newsletter of AWAD (quoted from below) had a quotation (regarding French pronunciation) from Robert Benchley! Enjoy!
Please note that while English may be Germanic, French has at least two important German influences: its name (from the Frankish kings) and the abnormal frontal vowel "u," phonetically [y]--although a Robert Benchley bon mot claims that French has five vowels, namely ong, ong, ong, ong, and ong.

I complimented the person who submitted that contribution on her knowledge of Mr. Benchley and she responded:
I hope I quoted Benchley somewhat accurately. I recall reading an essay of his on the French language some 25 years ago and howling with laughter. Indeed, French has 5 nasalized vowels, and to the untrained ear they sound pretty much the same. I would love to reread that essay, so please steer me in the right direction. I will be sure to check out your website. Would that we still had (and appreciated) humorists of Benchley's stature.

I responded:
It's always a pleasure to find another Benchley fan. The essay, "French for Americans" was originally published in (of all places!) the "Detroit Athletic Club News." This was verified by Gordon Ernst who published "Robert Benchley, an Annotated Bibliography"

The essay appears in the following books of Benchley essays:

Pluck and Luck (1925)
The Benchley Roundup (1954)

You may find this books in a lending library in your area. Both are also available for sale on Amazon via the RBS website.

--David Trumbull

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Robert Benchley Society

For more information about the Robert Benchley Society, local chapters near you, our annual Award for Humor, and our Annual Gathering, visit The RBS Website