Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Finally: the Pill for the Birds?

Well, I am back home and thus - as I have mentioned before - back on my blog as home is wherever you can access your blog.

And boy, do I have stories to tell.

Of course, whether I will ever tell them here is a matter of time and thus improbability, but at least the stories are in my head and might one day make it through the keyboard onto your computer screen - we'll see.

Now just a thought I recently had (I call thought what you'd call folly, just in case you forgot) which is entirely unrelated to anything that happened in the past few weeks but might be as worthy of your attention as the rest of the blog is or not.


Is the Pileated Woodpecker pronounced Pile-e-ated or Pill-e-ated?

I have always been a firm supporter of the Pile-way, yet recently during one of those stages in between being awake and asleep, when the mind wanders to contemplate wondrous wonders, the following line of arguments suddenly appeared and I was actually able to hold on to it and remember my reasoning on the subject the next morning.

The problem with the Pile is the "e". If the Pile-part of Pileated was pronounced "pile", the "e" would not be free to be separately pronounced as a follow-up syllable and the bird would be called a Pile-ated Woodpecker.

Yet as much as birders tend to disagree over the pronunciation of the bird's name, all the fighting and fuzzing is about the first syllable. There is mutual agreement that there is a drawn-out "e" at the bird name's centre. Or, put more plainly:

[Pile/Pill]-e-ated Woodpecker

You see that central "e"? Completely undisputed.

However, if we reserve the "e" to form the second syllable, we are left with a "Pil", which would then be pronounced as in "Pilgrim" or more pleasingly "Pils".

So, following this line of argument, it seems I'll have to pitch my tent in the Pill-e-ated camp for the time being, which will take some time to adapt to. Time, of course, is certainly not of the essence to me right now as a Pileated Woodpecker is as far away from my home spot here in Germany as can be. Nevertheless, I take this moment of revelation and its linguistic challenge as an invitation by the Big Power Of Birding Fate to re-visit the bird's realm in North America.
The "when" and "how" is something that has as yet not been resolved, but the pure need itself has been recognized as a matter of inevitable fact.

8 comments:

Rick said...

Glad you're back, Jochen!
Linguistic relativist that I am, my thoughts: http://birdaz.com/blog/2009/09/30/pileated-woodpeckers/
Best,
rick

Charlie said...

Welcome back Jochen. Your post is as daft as ever, but welcome back anyway :)

Hilke Breder said...

Good to have you back. It would never have occurred to me to pronounce pileated as pill-e-ated. So I had to look it up on Dictionary.com; 2 different speakers there pronounce it as pile-e-ated!

slybird said...

That right there is a winning argument. I think you've convinced me to change (for now).

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

It is about time you gor back Jochen!! I have been missing my discussions on wors, braai and beer. :)

Jochen said...

@Rick: Thanks! Well frankly, as a foreigner who had/has to learn English the long and hard way, I have basically given up on trying to find logic or method in the way English words are pronounced. I actually think that the way a word is pronounced is decided by the one with the biggest cojones and then the others just follow.

@Charlie: Ha, the ever charming Brit! What the freck are you doing at home "off work for a few weeks "? And why is there still no record of a Red-flanked Bluetail from your yard ;-) ??? Cheers, my friend, it is good to be back in my little online universe!

@Hilke: good to have you back on my blog!! About the pronunciation: see my response to Rick above. I actually think that the classic stereotypes of Germans are indeed manifested nicely in our language. Something like this would never occur with a German word or bird name. The English-speaking world is apparently far more relaxed and independent! I find this very charming, indeed.

@Slybird: exactly, "for now". Who knows what my next transcendental experience (preferably ignited by finding a Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Germany) will reveal?

@Joan: oh dear, I spent my last few weeks at the coast. I mean smoked fish is nice and all, but a braai just can't be beat! :-)))

Gallicissa said...

Not knowing all this, I have been reading it mentally as Pill-e-ated - so I guess I am in your camp.

Laurent said...

IT does not matter. My accent is so bad, people won't understand anyway.....