Saturday, January 19, 2008

Berry's Blog

Apparently my carefully crafted title has been modified in some quarters to Berry’s Blog. This keeps the alliterative nature and has the advantage of advancing its alphabetical order a notch. The disadvantage is that the joke is lost on those who are outside my circle of close friends and origami nuts, many of whom happily share both labels.

People who are introduced to my nickname for the first time usually ask for an explanation of its origins. Like many of these tags, it has a humorous beginning. One of my Australian acquaintances, like many other people, commonly mispronounced my name as “Rose Merry”. Now I may be merry, but it is not part of my name. Nor was this my parent’s intention. They gave my name the standard upper class British twist and pronounced it “Rose-mree”. The last half is unstressed.

This was to be expected as my father was Welsh born and spent his formative language years in England and my Australian-born mother had pretensions toward British literary grandeur and the sanctioned superiority of Buckingham Palace pronunciation. During the Howard era, the Australian Tourist Bureau promotionals glorified the Australian dialect spoken by the least educated citizens of that country. Contrary to the assumptions of most Americans, it is spoken by less than thirty percent of Australian citizens. Until quite recently, a slight tendency towards upper class British linguistic traditions was the standard for public broadcasting. This cultured Australian English is still quite noticeable among the intellectual elite in Australia.

One day my working-class mis-pronouncing friend arrived at my house with a cold. Her grated greeting was further trashed by the effects of nasal congestion. The vocal offering was Rose Berry. Since my friend delighted in stressing the differences between our dialects, the mis-pronunciation stuck. I became Berry to some of my friends.

What should you call me? I answer happily to either Berry or Rose-mree and you are welcome to use either.

I answer to other things as well. During the earning of my first four-year professional degree I was elected as student representative for a time. Unfortunately my full name did not fit on the notification sheet and it was shortened to Ros. Among the playful, this was transmogrified to Rozberry. Don’t call me this unless you know me well and are prepared for the consequences – in both senses

During my time in Indonesia I modified my name to account for the linguistic traditions in the area. I became Ibu Ros (pronounced E-boo Rrrrroz). If you speak Indonesian you are welcome to call me this.

I do make allowances for the linguistic failings of my current climate and have learned to tolerate being referred to as Rose-merry and even Rose-MARE-ee. That last one sounds as if I am some kind of female horse. I have been in the US so long now that I rarely notice when people use these variations. In fact, these days, I am more likely to notice if they get it right.

My husband, Peter, is another story. Prepare to be corrected if you refer to him as Pet-er instead of Pet-ә. For those of you without a background in linguistics, that strange upside down and back the front e-symbol is called a schwa. It is used for the unstressed sound you make for the first letter in the English word "above". Australians use this sound to pronounce the spelled -er combination at the end of words. So do the Brits. While the standard American pronunciation makes more sense in terms of letter-to-sound translation it is not yer standard Ozzie lingo, mate.

If you can’t manage to say Peter's name correctly then you could try conversing by email. This may be your best bet anyway. In fact, his work phone is equipped with a recorded message that advises this and you could find he answers email faster than his phone. Or not. You can be sure that he will not answer either if he is in the middle of a hang-gliding flight. But we are getting rather too far away from the original topic here.

I had best stop before I incur one of Peter's random threats to divorce me. Mind you, I don’t take these terribly seriously as they occur in response to the most trivial of events. Our son Tristan has taken to threatening us with similar consequences if we fail to provide him with sufficient computer or television watching time. I rate his complaints as the graver threat.

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