Bongo Is Wrongo!
Posted by Neal on June 19, 2016
At lunch today, Doug and Adam were looking at a Twitter poll that one of their friends had put up. He had a new guinea pig, and was trying to decide what to name it.
Doug and Adam both liked Lúcio, the name of a character in a videogame they’ve been playing recently. I was partial to Phillip, even though it was spelled with too many L’s. “I like Bongo,” Doug said.
Now since they’d only read this poll, and hadn’t talked to their friend about it yet, I could see at once that there was a problem, a little orthographic ambiguity that would have to be cleared up before Doug could make a valid judgment on this name. “But is it [bɑŋgo] or [bɑŋo]?” I asked.
“[bɑŋgo] or … what?”
Doug tried again: “[bɑŋgo] … no, that’s not it…”
“[bɑŋo],” Adam said.
I tried to break it down. “OK, just say ‘Bong!’ and then say, ‘Oh!'”
Doug focused. “[bɑŋ…o]–oh, that sounds so bad! [bɑŋgo]–ugh, I can’t even say it, it sounds so bad! How do you do it again?” He was laughing because the name was so ridiculous.
“[bɑŋo],” Adam and I said. “It has to do with how strong you say the G,” Adam added.
“Almost. It’s like this,” I said, and drew a table. “See that little letter next to the G? That’s the ng sound. And sometimes you’ll actually pronounce a G after it, and sometimes you won’t. It’s why finger and dinger don’t actually rhyme. Or fungus and among us.”
- finger /fɪŋgɹ̩/ dinger /dɪŋɹ̩/
- fungus /fʌŋgəs/ among us /əmʌŋ əs/
- Bongo /bɑŋgo/ Bong-o? /bɑŋo/
“I’m gonna have to say this to him the next time we talk. ‘So hey, did you name your guinea pig [bɑ̃ŋo]?'” Doug could hardly finish the sentence because he was laughing so much. “It just sounds so wrong!”
“You mean [ɹɑŋo]?” That was me, getting the last word.
That conversation was so much fun that I’m going to suggest Doug tweet his friend with this response:
None of above. Instead, “Butch,” not w the vowel in “foot,” but the one in “but”. Like starting to say “buttcheek” & stopping<