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Doth and Doeth--YAEPT alas, so ignore(th) at will

From:Sally Caves <scaves@...>
Date:Sunday, March 13, 2005, 16:47
----- Original Message -----
From: "Philip Newton" <philip.newton@...>

> On Sat, 12 Mar 2005 10:18:47 -0500, Sally Caves <scaves@...> > wrote: >> Hmmm. I'd always thought that dost and doest were pronounced alike >> after a >> certain point in the Renaissance. > > By whom? :)
Oh, Philip, I'm just playing Devil's Advocate, here. When you asserted a difference in pronunciation, I wondered how it was that YOU knew. :) It felt a little prescriptive and/or monolithic, but also it piqued my curiosity. I learned the pronunciations from my father (an Englishman
> in Germany); no idea where he got them from. Possibly from the > Catholic church which he belonged to when he was younger, since he > didn't join the church we grew up in until after he had come to > Germany; we use the KJV but I don't know what he used to use before > that.
See, that's the rub. Our pronunciations of these words tend to be modern, tend to be what we hear in church, or hear others say today who read the KJV or Shakespeare or Milton outloud. There is a wonderful episode in The Story of English where two people read Shakespeare, one with a BBC British pronunciation, and the other, a philo/phonologist, with what he had come to surmise was Shakespeare's "real" pronunciation--retroflexed "r", and all manner of rich diphthongization. My point is only that one has to do some serious examination before asserting that "doth" is pronounced one way and "doeth" another in earlier times across the board, because the conjugations emerged from a verb that was pronounced /do/ originally, and not /du/. But you seem to be talking about contemporary pronunciations. So of course you can assert that it's pronounced differently today, by some people, but not by all. Whether or not dost and doest were spelled differently on account of *function* within the sentence (I had assumed they were due to arbitrary fluctuations in spelling, but I might be wrong) can be proven using a vast concordance, or close analysis of literary conventions. I'd be interested to know, because I hadn't thought of it that way. This would be a terrific study. Maybe it's been done. One might then be able to suggest a difference in pronunciation.
>> How do we corroborate the pronunciation of "saith," though? >> Having spent a long time as an Episcopalian, I'd never pronounce it as >> /'sejiT/, but rather /sET/. But who's to say? > > Hm, both sound acceptable to me, though I'd use the first > pronunciation more often.
And I the latter! But that's because I used to go to an Episcopal Church in Berkeley: "All souls are mine saith the Lord" was engraved on a beam over the entrance. Our rector always pronounced it /sET/ and I followed suit. I like these "abbreviations" of pronunciation that English is so prone to: Worcester as /'wIst@r/. "Am I not" as /&nt/ or /e:nt/. I suppose that's why I resist any announcements that doeth has to be pronounced as /'du@T/. But that's just me. As I said, Devil's Advocate.
>> We need to see it in rhyming poetry to get the pronunciation. What >> rhymes >> with doeth? :) > > rueth, for example (e.g. "It rueth him to ..."). Or mooeth :)
HA! :) It vastly rueth Him that he doeth! The cow sadly mooeth; Thus he escheweth What he pursueth. A "merciful to bovines" poem. Vyko! Sally