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View Full Version : What's up with "'Ukulele?"



jdg
02-18-2011, 01:02 PM
So, I just got a uke on Monday, and before I found my way to UU, I had only seen the instrument's name spelled ukulele. Why do so many people here add an apostrophe before the word and make it 'ukulele? Does common usage leave out part of the name, which is what an apostrophe there signifies?
Edit: Nevermind (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CA%BBokina)

pepamahina
02-19-2011, 05:36 PM
Hi jdf-
This was a perfectly good question. For those still interested in the answer, there is a definition of the little apostrophe thingy on Wikipedia at :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CA%BBOkina

For a deep argument about whether or not it should be there and in what context, see about half way down the page here:
http://fleajumpers.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/heres-looking-at-uke-5/

You'll start to get an idea about why no one wanted to touch this thread in the first place.
(Thanks to ukulelehunt.com for the link).

BWright
02-20-2011, 03:42 AM
Most interesting. Does the 'okina change the pronunciation of the first syllable from "ook" to a sound not commonly used in "American" English?

Ambient Doughnut
02-20-2011, 03:53 AM
Interesting I didn't know that.

Of course I only recently learned that it's 'an ooka-lele' rather a than 'a yew-ca-lele'. Although you'd be looked at pretty strangely if you used the latter in Britain.

roxhum
02-20-2011, 04:34 AM
Very interesting article. Thanks for posting the link.

jdg
02-20-2011, 05:46 AM
For a deep argument about whether or not it should be there and in what context, see about half way down the page here:
http://fleajumpers.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/heres-looking-at-uke-5/
You'll start to get an idea about why no one wanted to touch this thread in the first place.
(Thanks to ukulelehunt.com for the link).
Wow, thank you so much for posting that link. I had managed to come across the explanation of the `okina, but I hadn't stopped to think that using it does, in fact, make it a foreign word when writing in English (and therefore needs italics).
I see that the okina is a consonant in its language. Could a speaker perhaps shed some light on how it's used? A glottal stop is going to be a kind of "gooey" sound from the front of the throat/back of the mouth, but beyond that, my monolingualism hinders my understanding of this interesting little lexeme.

Nixon
02-20-2011, 06:21 AM
Got an email from someone who saw our orchestra play a while back with the best spelling of ukulele I've ever seen :)

"I am not sure if you know what a Ucayali is, but if you don’t it’s like a guitar that has been shrunk in the wash."

ChefDylan
02-20-2011, 07:09 AM
Only got into the Uke 3 days ago after picking one up a kala on a whim at a market... never in my 3 days seen it written with the '

Interesting stuff!

Nickie
02-20-2011, 09:32 AM
LOL, that's funny!
I think most of us Americans pronouce it you-ku-lele for the same reason George W. calls it "new-cu-lar".

Ukulele JJ
02-20-2011, 09:42 AM
LOL, that's funny!
I think most of us Americans pronouce it you-ku-lele for the same reason George W. calls it "new-cu-lar".

I don't know about that. That's more of a regional dialect thing. Plenty of Americans pronounce it "new-klee-er" too.

I'd say it's more like how most of us Americans pronounce Paris as "pair-iss" instead of the French way of "pah-ree". In other words, just the normal anglicization process that has always happened to words borrowed into English from other languages.

JJ

janeray1940
02-20-2011, 10:19 AM
LOL, that's funny!
I think most of us Americans pronouce it you-ku-lele for the same reason George W. calls it "new-cu-lar".

Thanks Nickie, that was the motivation I needed to start pronouncing it correctly while on the mainland. I had no problem with "oo-koo-le-le" while in Hawaii last week, but I was feeling like it sounded kinda pretentious in California. But hey, better pretentious than, well, everything that "new-cu-lar" implies :)

ichadwick
02-20-2011, 03:27 PM
Interesting. Something I didn't know and want to learn more.

But nonetheless, when a word is imported into another language, it generally gets changed to a form that suits that language and its orthography. Since English lacks the okina, it's not unreasonable to avoid it. In the same sense, we write L'chaim for http://www.auntymdesigns.com/assets/images/l_chaim_to_life.jpg because English lacks the same characters as Hebrew. We write Moscow rather than Мосва. We write creme brulee and understand that it's really crme brle because English doesn't use those accents that the French use. We write Zoe rather than Zo because we lack the umlaut. Remember гла́сность? How about glasnost? Same word, the latter written using English/Roman characters.

We do the same with pronunciation: Me-KS-ico rather than Me-hee-ko, van-il-a rather than van-ee-ya (but curiously we pronounce tortilla correctly...). We say Bethlehem, rather than Beit-Lechem.

Yes, you are formally correct when using the proper accents and characters, but it's not necessary and may appear as an affectation and even confuse people who are already puzzling over your pronunciation of the word as "ook-oo-ley-lee".

If everyone understands the printed word without the okina, why complicate matters? Native Hawiians will use it correctly, but unless that's your own language, it's unnecessary. Where, for example, would one put the okina in the Japanese form of the word?

jdg
02-20-2011, 06:05 PM
ichadwick, I should have guessed from the Carroll in your signature that you'd have an informed opinion on this sort of thing. You must have had a real linguistics department at your university. (Please don't tell me you're self-taught; I'll feel even worse.) I very much agree that ukulele is the standard American English spelling. The okina is great when you know why it's there and what it means, but when you use it, you are using the Hawaiian word.
Now, perhaps someone could explain to me how it functions as a consonant and how it is pronounced or alters pronunciation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glottal_stop)?
"The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ʔ. It is called the glottal stop because the technical term for the gap between the vocal folds, which is closed up in the production of this sound, is the glottis." from the Wikipedia entry for glottal stop, linked above.
Apparently, the okina represents a sound similar to the space between uh and oh, or the Cockney pronunciation of the t in city. I'm still having trouble understanding how it functions in 'ukulele, however.

One more link to Wikipedia's "Hawaiian Phonology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaiian_phonology#Consonants)".

Plainsong
02-21-2011, 11:42 AM
But from what I've read, whether or not the okina is there depends on how you define the uke's origins. Is it a jumping flea, or a gift from afar? No one knows, so the okina becomes a moot point unless you speak the language and have an actual opinion on the origins.

I pronounce it closer to the way Hawaiians pronounce it for two reasons. Firstly, I was warned before I even got one that any other way makes you sound like a stupid tourist. But more importantly, Finnish is phonetic, so everyone here pronounces it the same way because those are the phonetic rules. Take the two together, and I can't really form my mouth to say youkulayleigh without sounding like an idiot.

I'm not trying be some linguistic snob, it's just how everyone here pronounces it, and what I've gotten used to.