July 1, 2013

July... rhymes with coolly.

Suddenly, it's July, and I wonder if you're pronouncing the word correctly. The (unlinkable) OED says:
The word was usually stressed on the first syllable in the early modern period, as the form July-flower, due to folk etymology (see γ forms at gillyflower n.), implies. The orthoepists Peter Levins (1570) and Elisha Coles (late 17th cent.) both include the word among those which have unstressed -y, and Johnson (1755), W. Johnston Pronouncing & Spelling Dict. (1764), and J. Walker Dict. Answering Purposes of Rhyming (1775) all indicate stress on the first syllable (Johnston also marking the y as ‘long’). Both occurrences of the word in Shakespeare are so stressed, as are most metrical examples down to the late 18th cent..... Stress on the first syllable still occas. occurs in Scotland.
That's authoritative, even though the simplest Google detects an error. There are 3, not merely 2, occurrences of "July" in Shakespeare:
The Winter's Tale: "He makes a July's day short as December..."

Much Ado About Nothing: "The sixth of July: your loving friend, Benedick."

King Henry VIII: "And proofs as clear as founts in July when/We see each grain of gravel..."
We know these plays are written in iambic pentameter, so these lines prove the stress went on the first syllable. Who put the lie in July... and why? 

34 comments:

AllenS said...

Some people might pronounce it Joo-lie.

Bob Ellison said...

Maybe it was to distinguish the word more easily from June. In the age of telephones, radio, and other low-quality transmission of voices, that could be crucial.

Saint Croix said...

C-4 would say Jew-ly.

Dr Weevil said...

No, he'd spell it Jew-lie.

BDNYC said...

The Jews and their lies.

Ann Althouse said...

That's what I thought: an anti-Semitic bias.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Like the name Julie?

I'd observe that thick hillbilly accents might do the same thing with JU-lie that they do with GUI-tar or AH-dult.

My elderly relatives with Ozark roots still talk like that.

Christy said...

How odd! Althouse would have us believe Elizabethan is the correct pronunciation. Everyone knows that Hillbillies, from years of isolation in the mountains, retained their word use and pronunciation of origin -- Elizabethan. Is there a more disdained community in America? How could they be correct?

Meade said...

hath not a Julys?

Joseph Blieu said...

In Norwegian it is pronounced yoolie with a downward glide on the y and an upward glide on the ie. Norwegian is pronounced similarly to Middle English and there are are many Norsk words in modern Scottish Gaelic. Around 900AD the Vikings ruled Britain, of course.

Joseph Blieu said...

In Norwegian it is pronounced yoolie with a downward glide on the y and an upward glide on the ie. Norwegian is pronounced similarly to Middle English and there are are many Norsk words in modern Scottish Gaelic. Around 900AD the Vikings ruled Britain, of course.

MadisonMan said...

It's not coolly July in the southwest.

Astro said...

In the 1982 BBC series 'Playing Shakespeare', RSC director John Barton mentions that the American accent is actually closer to the way Elizabethan-era English spoke than any modern British accent is.

The July/July pronunciation difference reminds me of the song 'Louie-Louie', where the name is given two different pronunciations, back-to-back.

Revenant said...

Makes sense, given that the name is derived from Julius.

Saint Croix said...

That's what I thought: an anti-Semitic bias.

But what does anti-Semitism have to do with July?

"It's hot. Jew hot."

"The Jews gave me this sunburn."

"Jewish greed runs the engine of capitalism that warms up our planet in July and melts the icebergs that kill those polar bears."

It's kind of a stretch. I mean, you really got to work it to get Jew into July. Not saying it can't be done! If you've got Jew on the brain, you might make the connection.

But it would be odd for a whole society to decide that July is evil and the Jews did it and we need to change how we pronounce the word to reflect this.

And what about Australia? July is winter in Australia. "It's cold. Jew cold. The Jews gave me the flu."

edutcher said...

The English don't speak English good.

Scott M said...

Who put the lie in July... and why?

Since America celebrates its independence in July, I'm sure it's the United States' fault somehow.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

My guess would be that ju-LY sounds more like like da-lie, which suggests "the lie" rather as "da Bears" suggests "the Bears". Lying (in a hayfield, say) suggests carefreeness and sex, especially in the olden days when typical people worked in fields, and your typical young teen female would rather males to believe that what might be her favorite month be to her associated with lying down in the fields than with a morally conservative religious group. That the change apparently happened rather abruptly is another reason to think young teenage girls were involved, since they tend to be most intent to copy each other and the latest fashions. And that lexicographers, etc., did not explain the phenomenon would be no surprise, because lexicography tends to be a careful methodical field that presumably attracts it's share of pedants, who hate girls.

BarrySanders20 said...

George M. Cohan don't care. How could it rhyme with "die" otherwise?

I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy

A Yankee Doodle, do or die.

A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam

Born on the Fourth of July

mariner said...

We know these plays are written in iambic pentameter, so these lines prove the stress went on the first syllable.

Nonsense. Just because something is written in iambic pentameter doesn't mean the unstressed-stressed pattern is meant to be strictly followed.

Look at your second example. A strict da-DUM reading puts the stress on the second syllable of "loving".

Do you really believe the line was spoken that way?

mariner said...

Astro,
In the 1982 BBC series 'Playing Shakespeare', RSC director John Barton mentions that the American accent is actually closer to the way Elizabethan-era English spoke than any modern British accent is.

That was an amazing series. I was sometimes at a loss though.

Several times Barton interrupted an actor and critiqued his delivery. The actor would do the same lines again, and Barton would say, "That's MUCH better!"

I would say, "HUH? What was different about that?"

Fritz said...

Much of our pronunciation has shifted since Shakespeare wrote:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQvD2Hj-Odc

ricpic said...

It's clearly racisss to pronounce July Julie. The inclusive pronunciation requires the addition of a hard O at the end. That way July, in the correct Hispanic manner becomes Julio, pronounced Hoo-lee-oh.

mariner said...

Althouse,

...so these lines prove ... (emphasis mine)

I forgot: You, a law professor! ;)

All my above notwithstanding your original question is interesting, in a "Hmmm ... okay now for the rest of the day" way.

Julie C said...

Over the years many people have misspelled my name as July.

Perhaps they knew something I didn't?

DanTheMan said...

>>That's what I thought: an anti-Semitic bias.

That's rich coming from somebody who insults Asians by calling the "Coolies".
Or did you think you could sneak that one by? Like most lefties, I can detect these sorts of thing 200% of the time.

wholelottasplainin' said...


"That's rich coming from somebody who insults Asians by calling the [sic] "Coolies""

*************

Never mind how it looks; the word is actually pronounced Cool-LIE.

Anne B. said...

Well, Lewis Carroll pronounced it as we do, judging from this:


"Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

"Still she haunts me phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes."


So,it shifted some time between 1600 and 1850.




DADvocate said...

Never heard July pronounced being rhymed with cooly That would make is sound like Julie and be confusing, as in Romeo and Julie.

Ken B said...

2 "July", one "July's"
This could conceivably matter in stress.

deborah said...

July, July, July, do you love me?

cold pizza said...

Juli-us and August-us, the Caesars! Which is why our 9th-12th months are named 7th-10th in Latin. -CP

cold pizza said...

And, DADvocate, the same guy that gave us Romeo and Juliet also gave us Julius Caesar (of Rome). Some people just have to riff. -CP

gpm said...

"Juli-us and August-us" are also why our 7th and 8th months *aren't* named the 5th and 6th.

In Latin, Augustus would also be Au-GUS-tus, so we've managed to reverse the stress on both.

On the Shakespeare stuff, the Henry one seems pretty clear, but the other two are more debatable. Neither is a simple iambic pentameter, and some juggling of stress is required. Shakespeare is not exactly known for consistency, even to the spelling of his own name.

--gpm