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Frinds, Roomuns, coontrimun, lend me yurr eerrs.
January 28, 2010 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Oy coom too berry Sayzurr, nut too preyze im. That's a reconstruction of how Brutus's famous speech from "Julius Caesar" may have sounded to Shakespeare's original audience. (Scroll down in the linked page for the rest of the speech -- or look inside this post.) If you'd like to learn more about Original Pronunciation (OP), check out www.pronouncingshakespeare.com, where you'll find several recordings by David Crystal, the scholar who probably knows most about the subject. You can also listen to this example or this NPR broadcast, first linked to in this 2005 post, here. Ben Crystal, David's son, tries some OP here.

Frinds, Roomuns, coontrimun, lend me yurr eerrs.
Oy coom too berry Sayzurr, nut too preyze im.
Thee eevul that men doo livz aafturr theym,
The gewd iz awft inturrid with thyr boonz.
Soo et ut bee with Sayzurr. The nerbl Brootus
Eth toowld yu Sayzurr wuz ambishius.
If it ware soo, it wuz a greevus fawlt,
Und greevusly hath Sayzurr arnsserrd it.
Heerr, undr leeve uv Brootus un the rest
-- Fur Brootus iz un onawrubl mun --
Soo aar thay ol, ol onawrubl men --
Cum Oy too speek in Sayzurrs fyoonurrul.
Hee wuz mahy frind, faythful un djust too mee,
But Brootuz sez hee wuz ambishius,
Un Brootus iz un onawrubl mun.
posted by grumblebee (34 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite

 
David Crystal's qualifications
posted by DU at 5:52 PM on January 28, 2010


In other words, everyone spoke as if they came from Wolverhampton.
posted by unSane at 5:53 PM on January 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


MehtuhFihltur: Cum Oy too speek in Sayzurrs fyoonurrul [NAHT SAYZURRSIZT]
posted by davejay at 5:57 PM on January 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


But... That's how I talk now. Which explains a lot.
posted by Splunge at 6:00 PM on January 28, 2010


OP always sounds like (the film version of) Hagrid to me.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:01 PM on January 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


English motherfucker... (obviously NSFW)
posted by Splunge at 6:03 PM on January 28, 2010


lurve it
posted by exlotuseater at 6:19 PM on January 28, 2010


nerbl!
It's like Kriten Wiig as the Target lady.

If noble = nerbl, how would one say "nobility? Ner bilitee?
posted by exlotuseater at 6:33 PM on January 28, 2010


Sounds like west country.
posted by conifer at 6:46 PM on January 28, 2010


God I hate it when American theater troupes put on fakey British accents to do Shakespeare.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:53 PM on January 28, 2010


So, Michael Palin-ish amirite
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:58 PM on January 28, 2010


another awesome post from grumblebee.

thanks.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:04 PM on January 28, 2010


God I hate it when American theater troupes put on fakey British accents to do Shakespeare.

I haven't seen a company do that in years. Maybe some community-theater actors do it, but I can't imagine a professional company doing that.
posted by grumblebee at 7:16 PM on January 28, 2010


Heh. As a Yank, I'm confused by reading his notes:

A very noticeable feature was the way some modern diphthongs were pronounced as pure vowels. In Modern English, words like say, go, fear, tour, and where have two audible elements...

Do I speak Middle English? (Go? Go-oh?)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:18 PM on January 28, 2010


The vowel in 'go' changes from an 'uh' (or 'ugh') to an 'oh'. Try saying the word really slowly, and thinking about the shape of your mouth.
posted by Dysk at 7:28 PM on January 28, 2010


So if Londoners used to sound like country folk, where did the classic upperclass British accent come from?
posted by doctor_negative at 7:36 PM on January 28, 2010


The vowel in 'go' changes from an 'uh' (or 'ugh') to an 'oh'. Try saying the word really slowly, and thinking about the shape of your mouth.

Huh. I see what you're saying, but only when I emphasize the word. In that case it's almost "Go-w."

If I'm using it in a sentence, the "w" is almost entirely clipped. As a friend once explained about trailing Rs in French, "You don't quite say it, but you have to keep in mind it's there."
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:42 PM on January 28, 2010


So if Londoners used to sound like country folk, where did the classic upperclass British accent come from?

You're talking about Received Pronunciation (RP), which is relatively new. I think it's about 150 years old (someone correct me if I'm wrong). The Elizabethans didn't differentiate the classes via dialect, though they did via some other audible effects, such as enunciation.
posted by grumblebee at 7:54 PM on January 28, 2010


It sounds like like Shakespeare done by these guys.
posted by Snyder at 8:19 PM on January 28, 2010


The speech was by Mark Antony, not Brutus.
posted by shen1138 at 8:29 PM on January 28, 2010 [2 favorites]



I'm with Unsane -- It looks like a discography of Slade song titles.

Slayed?
posted by Herodios at 8:58 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with unSane; I can't read those words in anything but a Black Country accent.
posted by salmacis at 1:18 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The speech was by Mark Antony, not Brutus.

Duh! Thanks, shen1138.
posted by grumblebee at 3:34 AM on January 29, 2010


Bostin'
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:38 AM on January 29, 2010


It's pronounced:
oo-lee-us kai-ser.

Fucking Philistines.

Also, the word is ka-we-at. Not caveat, like a cavity. Caweat. Like the sound a crow makes, plus ay-ot.

These are my pet peeves and I must feed them twice a day.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:19 AM on January 29, 2010


Huh. I see what you're saying, but only when I emphasize the word. In that case it's almost "Go-w."

Here's another way to think about it. Does your tongue move while you sound a vowel? If so, you're diphthong-ing. It's a little hard to do tell whether your tongue is moving or not, because when you think about it, you become self conscious. And you might not pronounce the word the way you usually do when you're speaking naturally. It helps to say the word in a sentence. At a slow pace, say "I like to go to the store."

I have a fairly standard, Midwestern-Amercian accent. When I say "go," my tongue slides up to the top of my mouth (because, as Brother Dysk pointed out, I am saying something like guh-oh).

When I'm saying "ma" or "pa," my tongue stays in one position, so for me, that sound is not a diphthong.

Due to the way we write, most people who aren't linguists don't notice diphthongs. The written word "go" looks like it just ends in "o." And many diphthongs are subtle. A non-subtle one in English is the vowel-sound in "boy." Which sounds a bit like David Bowie's last name.
posted by grumblebee at 5:15 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Diphthongs in English are very easy to notice for non native speakers. My English pronunciation still sucks because I tend to pronounce pure vowels. I have to force myself to use diphthongs, which in my head makes me sound stupid, if I want new coworkers to understand me. Old coworkers are used to my accent.

For example, from last weekend, I said "I want a glass of wine" and the waiter did not understand. Then I said "Ay wuant ey glass of wain" and all was good.

Having said that, I have absolutely no idea how I am supposed to pronounce these texts. I listen to the recordings, look at the text, and feel like I am reading Trainspotting all over again.
posted by dirty lies at 6:24 AM on January 29, 2010


Depending on your interest and patience, if you want to work out the pronunciation, take a look at this pdf, which has phonetic spellings rendered in IPA.
posted by grumblebee at 6:55 AM on January 29, 2010


I'm so going to prepare a FPP on Ulster Scots.
posted by Damienmce at 8:42 AM on January 29, 2010


I'd like to mention how illuminating grumblebee's Directing Shakespeare Podcast has been.
posted by The Whelk at 8:53 AM on January 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, the word is ka-we-at. Not caveat, like a cavity. Caweat. Like the sound a crow makes, plus ay-ot.

That depends on where you're from. It also depends on whether you're taking your pronunciation cues from Classical Latin or Ecclesiastical Latin. Ecclesiastical Latin pronounces w as /v/. So I'll perhaps grant your Caesar peeve, and I would even agree with you about, say, "veni, vidi, vici." But caveat only entered English in the mid-16th century, so it probably came in being pronounced with a /v/ and not a /w/.
posted by jedicus at 10:26 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, Shakespeare in the original Irish (when I tried to read it)

The recordings sound more West Country. Maybe that's to do with the actors fitting it to something familiar (as I did)?

Anyway, fascinating and best of the web. This will add to my stock of "wonder how X would be pronounced in Y accent, try it out, confuse strangers in supermarket" material.

Also, aren't the finer points of original Latin pronunciation a matter of complete speculation? If anyone can answer, they're probably reading this post, so: Did Sayzurr say "Veni, Vidi, Vici", "Weni, Widi, Wiki" or "Weeny, Weedy, Weechy", or what, and (more importantly) how do we know?
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 12:36 PM on January 29, 2010


I believe "Caesar" is also pronounced "keezar" in Latin. Like "Cannae" is pronounced "cannee".
posted by ishmael at 3:15 PM on January 29, 2010


This is pretty awesome. I've been wondering both what Henry VIII sounded like in his day and what George Washington's accent would have been like. While this is neither of them, I can still nerd out on it and bask in the glow of "Hey. People talked all different like! Neat!"
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:53 PM on January 29, 2010


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