Friday, June 26, 2015

"Do the Dew" and Yod-Coalescence

Dew, one of the most common subjects for macro lenses.
I was watching television the other day when I spotted an advert for Mountain Dew, a beverage that I tend to avoid like the plague as I have no interest in carbonated beverages except when using them as mixers with strong spirits. However, this post isn't about my intense dislike for adding gases to liquids, it's about the advertising slogan that Mountain Dew was using.

American readers will undoubtedly be familiar with Mountain Dew and their "Do the Dew" slogan. However, the one thing they seemingly overlooked was how British people pronounce "dew". The words "do" and "dew" are both pronounced /duː/ across the United States, while many accents across the British Isles differentiate between the two words, pronouncing "do" as /duː/ and "dew" as /dʒuː/.

This pronunciation of "dew" in various accents of British English makes it a homophone with the words "due" and "Jew", which rendered their "do the dew" slogan as a homophone for Semitic fornication when I first heard it. While I don't find this suggestion offensive, I certainly wasn't thinking of Mountain Dew when reading the tagline.

Lawn over dew.
While this is just an unfortunate coincidence of the differences between British and American English, linguists have obviously looked into this phenomenon, which goes by the name yod-coalescence.

Yod-coalescence is the term given when a particular set of sounds undergoes a process of sound change known as palatalisation, whereby a palatal or palatalised consonant occurs. This can happen when the pronunciation of two words together sounds different to when they are pronounced in isolation, while yod-coalescence refers to when the sounds [dj], [tj], [sj] and [zj] end up becoming [dʒ], [tʃ], [ʃ], and [ʒ]. This makes the British pronunciation of "Tuesday" sound like "chews day" to Americans, while it sounds like Americans say "twos day" to British ears.