Monday, January 06, 2014

What was that you s-s-said?

Watched the film "The King's Speech" last night. it's about George VI's speech impediment and how it was cured. It led me on to speculation about the difference between stuttering and stammering. According to most authorities, the terms are interchangeable. Many years ago, I read (In Fowler's English Usage, I think) that there are only two words in the English language which were true synonyms: gorse and furze. So, as I am not ready to gainsay the gorse/furze argument, I poked around in my cerebral attic and came up, as you do, with a Venn diagram to demonstrate that the two circles have a huge overlap, but that there ARE situations when stutter seems more appropriate than stammer, and vice versa. Machine gun fire, for example, can be described as stuttering, but not as stammering. Go on, find some more examples!
Checking later in my trusty Chambers, I found a clue in the definitions. They suggesti that stuttering is primarily about difficulty with initial consonants, leading to repetition: t-t-t-tell it to the m-m-marines; whereas stammering is primarily about hesitation before uttering a word.

You'd think I would have something better to do with my time. But it's better than vandalising er er er telephone kiosks or molesting dwarves on their b-b-b-birthdays.

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