It's pik-tchur!
April 2, 2016 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Apparently there's complaints in Missouri that people mis-pronounce fiscal. I can't recollect ever hearing anybody say 'physical' instead. However, so many of you are omitting the 'k' sound in the middle of "picture" -- where's that coming from?

So often now, I'm hearing folks from all walks of life say "pitcher" when they mean picture, and I wonder why. Has this mis-pronuciation become more common among the chattering classes on the media, or what? Because I don't recall this so much, in years past.
posted by Rash to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I grew up in the Midwest (Ohio), born 1984, and I absolutely recall lots of people especially of my grandparents' and great-grandparents' generation saying it. I thought it was a hick Midwestern thing. Have you always lived in Missouri?
posted by olinerd at 2:55 PM on April 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I grew up in Washington A.K.A Warshington, MO, and we take interstate 44 A.K.A. Farty-Far to get to the city. I'm just trying to paint you a pitcher here.
posted by blixapuff at 3:28 PM on April 2, 2016 [7 favorites]

Sounds in words often migrate to the least-effortful sound, so long as it doesn't create ambiguity with other words. That's part of why just about every unaccented vowel reverts to schwa—it's more-or-less the most neutral vowel, in terms of where it's made in the mouth and what the tongue, lips, etc are doing. Say "picture" slowly and articulate every sound—you'll feel that every sound except that /k/ are made at the front of the mouth. So there's a tendency to not do the work of making that back sound. Of course, it could then be ambiguous with "pitcher," as you note, and there can be social pressure in some dialects to preserve the /k/. So clearly how much work the articulators are doing isn't the only factor, but it's certainly one.
posted by not that girl at 3:31 PM on April 2, 2016 [7 favorites]

another vote for this not being a new thing. midwest family living in and around arkansas most of their and my life and this has always been a thing among the more accented folks.
posted by nadawi at 3:34 PM on April 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

The OED has written examples of this pronunciation dating back a hundred years, so its spoken history is likely much longer.
posted by Emma May Smith at 4:26 PM on April 2, 2016 [5 favorites]

It's easier to say "pitcher" since it's all in the front of the mouth. "Physical" too, since "i" eases the transition between the s and k sounds. "Fiscal" requires a bit of a stop as you reposition your tongue.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:09 PM on April 2, 2016

Is the fiscal/physical thing coming from the inclusion of a glottal stop in the middle of fiscal?

"Purty as a pitcher" is not a new phrase, and I hear variations on this all the time, from "pitcher" to just a softened middle version that makes a nod to the c without going full-on "piKture." I think it's associated with the midwest, but I live in the west and both versions sound normal to me.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:59 PM on April 2, 2016

Deep South heritage here and "pitcher" is nothing new.
Also, "pants" has two syllables.
posted by telepanda at 8:43 PM on April 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

So I've pretty much lived in the greater St. Louis area all my life and have not noted this phenomenon. But...I take a trip to Mississippi every year and have noted that once you're in Memphis people tend to have a bit of an accent. In Jackson people tend to have a very distinct accent, but are perfectly intelligible. In the Missouri boot-heel and northern Arkansas, especially Blythville (which is apparently pronounced with a weak y, no th and a silent i. I usually have to ask people to repeat themselves several times and feel like I'm being a jerk when, for the life of me, I just can't tell what they're saying.

My travels don't take me too far from I-55, but if you told me this was common across Southern Missouri, I wouldn't be stunned.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:55 PM on April 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I remember older people saying picture as pitcher since I was little, and that was mostly in Maryland, so not strictly a Midwest thing.

Also such common lazy constructions as
Library = lie-berry
Chimney = chimley

Sentence = settence
And slightly rarer
Sentence = Senates
posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:03 PM on April 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

My in-laws, from upstate New York via Cleveland, OH all say 'pitcher' instead of 'picture.' They also say 'melk' instead of 'milk' and yet my SIL thinks I'm the hick because I grew up in Central Indiana.
posted by cooker girl at 7:05 AM on April 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's easier to say; that's how language change works. Do you pronounce the first -d- in Wednesday?
posted by languagehat at 9:30 AM on April 3, 2016

Happens in Australia too. If you were to arks young mr. flabdablet, he'd tell you he last went to the pitchers in Feburey.
posted by flabdablet at 11:02 AM on April 3, 2016

Oh, you mean a piksha? In RP, a pitcher (of water) and a picture (of you) sound almost identical, leading to puns that just don't work for most people. Especially since I pronounce it pik-choor.

  I grew up in Washington A.K.A Warshington, MO

Do you mean Warshington, MO? My MO inlaws are all about that r.

Go further south, and you get the delightful “eastren, westren, pattren” in parts of Georgia that's pure Ayrshire Scots.

So yeah, people have always been doing it.
posted by scruss at 12:22 PM on April 3, 2016

My grandmother, in Tennessee, once asked young me to "run in the kitchen and fetch that pitcher off the table." Young me went to the kitchen and didn't see a pitcher on the table, so instead brought back the pitcher of iced tea that was on the counter, figuring everyone wanted a refill.

This caused uproarious laughter from the grownups and some questions about my intelligence, since of course she'd meant the newly-framed picture of my uncles that was laying on the kitchen table, which was apparently obvious to everyone but me.

It stands out in my mind because I'd never heard that pronunciation before or since. Then again, I now live in the Southwest.
posted by erst at 2:33 PM on April 3, 2016

I remember older people saying picture as pitcher since I was little, and that was mostly in Maryland, so not strictly a Midwest thing.

Don't y'all drink wooder over there, or is that just the Eastern Shore?
posted by serenity_now at 8:51 AM on April 6, 2016

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