Saturday, September 12, 2009

goatee (beard)

My brothers and I have discussed making a 'Mom bingo' game, in which you get to mark a square in your bingo card if it matches something that our mother regularly says or does--mostly says. Things like to each his own, said the old woman as she kissed the cow and we're off on an adventure! and paint the barn white if you want it to look bigger (the reason you will never, ever see me in white [BrE] trousers/[AmE] pants). Another that I would add to the bingo card is never trust a man with a goatee. Which, of course, is why I married one.

I am reminded of this because a dip down to the bottom of my virtual mailbag brings this query from Joan:
As a US-ian, I've always heard it used as "goatee" pronounced (sorry for the non-technical notation) [go-TEE]. My department manager is a UK-ian, and he uses the phrase "goatee beard" rather than just the word "goatee," and pronounces the first word [GOAT-ee] as if it were spelled "goatey" or "goatie." Is this a real US/UK difference?
The answer to Joan's question, like most of my answers to most readers' questions, is "Yes, but..." In this case, yes, the difference is dialectal, but while a goatee beard-sayer will be British (if the choice is only between British and Americans) not every British English speaker will say goatee beard. The one I live with says goatee without the beard. I suspect it's a generational thing.

Goatee is originally an AmE word, and in AmE to say goatee beard would sound pleonastic, and it would grate, like saying robin bird or bungalow house. Which is not to say we're pleonasm-free. After all, we say crossword puzzle and tuna fish. It's just to say that goatee beard sounds weird and redundant to Americans because it's not what Americans say--we just say goatee. I did a quick comparison of a couple of newspapers just to check. The Boston Globe website has four examples of goatee beard, all of which come from UK sources. The (London) Times Online on the other hand, has 99 goatee beards and more than twice as many just plain goatees. So, goatee beard is not necessarily the norm in the UK, but it's definitely of this place.

(I liked this quotation in the OED from Isabella L. Bird's The Englishwoman in America:
1856 I. L. BIRD Englishw. Amer. 366 They [Americans] also indulge in eccentricities of appearance in the shape of beards and imperials, not to speak of the ‘goatee’.)
As for the pronunciation, I have only heard initial stress on GOAtee when I've heard it before beard (though I am not sure that everyone who says goatee beard stresses it in that way). The OED does not record the GOAtee pronunciation, just the goaTEE one. I can think of two (and a half) reasons why the stress might've moved in this case: (1) the British like to move the stress to the front of words, which is where most native disyllabic English nouns would be stressed (recall our discussion of beret, ballet, etc.) and (1.5) maybe this need is particularly felt when the word is compounded, since we expect the first element in a noun compound to be more heavily stressed, or (2) perhaps he is thinking of goatee as an adjective meaning 'goaty'--after all, it's a beard that's like a goat's. I'm leaning toward(s) (1). But as I have prove{n/d} time and time again, I'm no phonologist--so I hope that someone with a better insight will be inspired to write an elucidating comment.

POSTSCRIPT, 5 NOV 2009: Sorry, I've had to close comments because this post has attracted a spammer.

53 comments:

Zhoen said...

(Am/E )I would not consider it pleonastic so much as a distinction. A (full) beard covers the jaw as well as chin, and unless it's a skethrog*, with just chin and jaw growth or Amish style beard, this would also include a mustache. Then, most people would just say beard, I think. Unless it was a particularly bushy one, then 'full' would refer as much to abundance as placement. A goatee is the mustache and chin hair without the jawline whiskers.


*From Douglas Adam's Meaning of Lif. Not in general usage, sadly.

JW said...

Even though my beard-growing ability is somewhat limited, I have made an effort to grow almost every form of facial hair I am able to. I work in retail in the Midwest, and regular customers like to make note of when my facial hair changes. I've had a goatee both with and without a mustache, and most everyone called it either a goatee or just a beard. A small minority of people used terms like "chin beard," "bush," or "brush."

JW said...

I forgot to mention that a lot of people also just say "goat" rather than "goatee."

James said...

Re tuna fish: To me, a originally a Californian, 'tuna fish' sounds very northeast US. We always just said 'tuna', without the 'fish'.

Howard said...

> Which is not to say we're pleonasm-free

Indeed, and although this is slightly off-topic, the pleonastic mainly AmE 'horseback riding' is surprising to British ears. What other part of a horse's body is commonly ridden upon? Its tail or neck? What other animals are commonly ridden - ostriches? giraffes? (Okay, one does ride donkeys and mules!) As you know, Lynne, we Brits tend to just call it 'riding', and we tend to call horse-racing just 'racing'.

I think it's probably also true that we find constructions like 'Paris, France' and 'London, England' equally pleonastic. As for 'New York, New York' ... well! Although there must be dozens of Parises and Londons in the world, the ones founded first do not seem to us to require any qualification.

John Cowan said...

You can tune a guitar, but you can't tunafish.

Jamie said...

Re: pleonasms-- we have the British edition of The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, and it talks about a flamingo bird. This sounds so odd to me, like saying "a gecko lizard" or "a piranha fish." Is it standard British usage?

John Cowan said...

My wife was once a telephone operator in Florida back before direct long-distance/trunk calling, so she connected callers to various Florida cities such as Miami, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and so on.

When she moved to Denver and got a job with the telephone company there, she had a customer ask to be connected to a Hollywood number, and she out of habit connected him to Hollywood, Florida!

So the most salient Paris, like the most salient Hollywood, depends on where you are and what you're doing. London, Connecticut is quite salient to me, and perhaps London, Ontario to a Canadian: the working title of Tanya Huff's fantasy novel Blood Trail was A Canadian Werewolf In London, Ontario.

Then there's Paris, Texas: there is a replica of the Eiffel Tower there, with a giant red cowboy hat atop it.

Jonathan Bogart said...

I (AmE) would be surprised to hear anyone say "New York, New York" outside a song or without irony markers. But in my experience one reason a lot of (AmE-speaking) people will add the country or the state is that no one's ever sure how firm a grasp the person they're speaking to has on geography. Too much information in such cases is better than too little!

On the topic, my observation has been that the definition of "goatee" varies somewhat. For some people it means just the chin; others don't consider it a goatee without the mustache. (And the existence of the Vandyke, without the connectors on the sides of the mouth, only confuses the issue.) As an occasional goatee-wearer, I've been party to too many of these terminological discussions.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I (BrE) would certainly say "tuna fish", but, were I to use the term at all, I would just say "goatee", with the accent on the 2nd syllable. However, thinking about it, it is not a word I would use in everyday conversation; I'd probably just say "beard".

Jill said...

A vaguely related difference is the word "beardy", which I (American living in London) have heard many times in the UK but never in the US. From context, I gather it seems to be used as an adjective meaning someone who wears a beard ("that beardy bloke"), or as a noun to address someone you don't know or can't be bothed to remember his name ("Hey, you! Beardy!").

Both uses sound mildly insulting to me, the kind of bantering insult that would seldom cause real offense, though I don't know if native speakers of BrE find them so.

Max said...

The stress shift from "goa'tee" to "'goatee 'beard" is absolutely regular when an iambic nominal word comes before a nuclear stressed syllable. See "prin'cess" vs "'princess 'Grace"; or "fif'teen" vs "'fifteen 'times".

jhm said...

Aside from an address (or a song), the only reason to repeat "New York" would be to distinguish the city from the state, in which case "New York City" would sound more natural to my New England sensibilities.

The 'beardy' comment reminds me of a pinball machine which would emulate a carnie, shouting "Hey you, with the face!"

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

@ jhm What, please, is a "carnie" - would that be short for "carnivore", and if so, what are you trying to sy here? ::Confuzzled!::

Robbie said...

"That beardy bloke" is just that bloke with a beard, like "that tall bloke" or "that bloke in the red T-shirt". Nothing derogatory there.

But beards can also bring to mind the stereotypical tree-hugging, sandal-wearing, real-ale-drinking, knit-your-own-muesli hippie type. A soft-left liberal with high interest in environmental issues. Often designated as a "beardy weirdy" to distinguish from other people who happen to wear beards.

(I have a friend nicknamed Beardy. He doesn't even have a beard!)

Cameron said...

(ScE) GOATee without the "beard". Always and only, I'm pretty sure. I'm just a "tuna" person although "tuna fish" doesn't sound particularly odd to me (and nor does "piranha fish", although a bit more so and definitely not what I would use myself). Also I would tend for some reason to spell "beardy" as "beardie", but then I also mostly use "numptie", although I'm beginning to change on that.

Is prinCESS a standard US pronunciation? It's always just been PRINcess to me, but maybe that has to do with my Painite republicanism in some weird way.

Shaun Clarkson said...

"we have the British edition of The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, and it talks about a flamingo bird. This sounds so odd to me, like saying "a gecko lizard" or "a piranha fish." Is it standard British usage?"

Flamingo bird certainly sounds strange to my (British) ears. It may be an old useage. The only species I can think of where it is a common construction is the mynah bird.

On the other hand piranha fish isn't an unknown phrase in Britain, though possibly not as common nowadays.

Just like the topic goatee (beard), I think the use depends on how familar the specific item is, and therefore whether its general type (beard / fish / bird) is obvious or not to the hearer.

Robin said...

American chiming in here to say that both "robin" and "robin bird" sound fine and not at all grating to my ear. I live in the midwest of the country.

Jamie said...

I am Southern-raised and have lived in the Midwest for almost all of my adult life. I would definitely say "mynah bird" but "robin bird" sounds even weirder to me than "flamingo bird." If I heard someone say "robin bird" I would assume s/he was a non-native speaker.

biochemist said...

Hmm, never trust a man with any elaborate facial topiary - he clearly spends too much time in front of the mirror!

The (British) Royal Navy allows sailors a 'full set' but it must be neatly trimmed - either that or clean-shaven. Clean shaven in the other armed forces, or do the RAF still allow afficers to grow moustaches?

Was it Jimmy Hill, the UK football commentator, who grew a shallow goatee to disguise his very long chin? I heard of some children who named the 'langue du chat' biscuits (long ovals, chocolate-dipped ends) after him ...

JW said...

A "carnie" is a person who works at a carnival. jhm was probably thinking of carnival barkers and game-booth workers - people who have to shout in order to draw attention to the attractions.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

Sorry, JW, but I am still very little the wiser - what is a carnival barker? I can only think of a band-leader, or someone responsible for part of the procession at, for instance, the Notting Hill Carnival.

JW said...

Sorry for still being fuzzy. A barker is a person at a carnival who tries to get people to come over to a particular game or attraction. In movies they usually say things like "Come one! Come all! Step right up, Ladies and Gentlemen, and prepare to be mystified by the awesome strength of the amazing ape man!"

They're called barkers because they are loud and they call out to whoever is passing by.

Stereotypically they wear red and white stripes and carry a cane that can be used for pointing at things. This link has a picture of a more gimmicky one: http://www.pbase.com/pgkps/image/68947685

Cathy said...

In the U.S, a carnival is an event where there are rides and midway game booths (pitch dimes into plates, throw darts to break balloons, throw balls to knock over milk bottles, etc.) People who travel with the carnival and work at the various stations are informally called "carnies". A "barker" is a person who tries to get the members of the crowd to give up their hard earned money on the games by shouting things like "three throws for the price of two", "everyone wins".

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

Oh, I see - obviously a carnival is not the same thing in our two varieties of English, as what you describe is like a travelling fair, whereas a carnival here is a street procession with bands and floats and music (and pickpockets and other crime, alas).

JW said...

Yeah, a carnival is basically a traveling fair. Some have small amusement rides and sideshows (with bearded ladies, strong men, etc), but virtually all of them have games where you can win prizes like over-sized stuffed animals.

Cathy said...

Well, unfortunately pickpockets and crime certainly apply in both cases. Here's a good description with a variety of photos from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveling_carnival

The "Notting Hill Carnival" appears to be more like Carnival (car-nee-val'), which is a celebration involving parades and elaborate costumes (and often nudity, pickpockets and crime) that is heavily influenced by Latin cultures.

Jonathan Bogart said...

PrinCESS is definitely not standard AmE. Max seems to be describing a BrE pattern.

DetailBear said...

And there is a distinction, I (Cdn) would pronounce the North America travelling fair as "CAR-ni-v'l" (like festival, with a short i and a schwa) and the procession or the pre-Lenten celebration as "car-nee-VAL" with full vowels in all syllables.

lynneguist said...

@Max: Is that iambic stress thing just a BrE thing? It's hard to tell, since the princess example doesn't work for AmE, since it's always PRINcess even without a name followin it. (But it is prinCESS in BrE.) I think the 'fifteen times' example does work in AmE, but what about 'ballet shoes'? Alone, AmE speakers would say 'balLET'. Do we shift to 'BALlet' when we put it in front of 'shoes'? It doesn't happen when I say it to myself. I think I say 'balLET SHOES' or 'balLET DANCE' (if I say 'BALlet DANCE' it sounds a lot like 'bellydance'). What do other Americans think? (We know that BrE speakers would say BALlet no matter what.) Is 'ballet' a bad example because it retains some 'foreignness' that encourages AmE speakers to let it break other regular rules?

Lisa said...

biochemist,

RAF officers are indeed still allowed moustaches, including handlebars. In fact, there was a story in the press a couple of years ago about an RAF officer who was on secondment with an American squadron in Afghanistan and was ordered to trim his handlebar to meet USAF regulations. He refused and was eventually allowed to keep it.

biochemist said...

Thanks Lisa, what a super story! It's interesting that the RAF officer looks more like Tom Selleck than (my mental image of)Biggles, however.

I am sure that some of the 'beware of men with a goatee' suspicion derives from (and is reinforced by) books and movies that use facial hair as a character sketch - Poirot's moustache displays vanity and attention to detail and is slightly ridiculous, while gangsters in modern cop shows and the goatee-d baddy in the French Connection are identified by their facial hair. Macho, meticulous, but threatening.

biochemist said...

And reading back through the comments, I note that AmE and BrE spelling and pronunciation both differ on the upper lip:

AmE mustache, MUSS-tash
BrE moustache, m'starsh

townmouse said...

Coming back to the original post, I'm curious now - does your mother still say 'never trust a man with a goatee' now that you've married one?

lynneguist said...

@townmouse: She has said it since--but she will qualify it. E.g. "I don't usually trust a man with a goatee..." It must be said that BH keeps his so untidy that he doesn't fall into the stereotype of a man who's uncommonly vain.

@biochemist: The m(o)ustache pronunciation difference was mentioned two posts ago when we were doing French loanwords. So, that's part of a general pattern.

Roger Owen Green said...

AmE; upstate New York
definitely bal-LET SHOES. And PRIN-cess.

Also, mynah bird is OK. Tuna fish is OK, but probably refers to that product in a can.

In upstate NY, we refer to NYC as "the City". We know, though, that some folks in other parts of the country think New York City IS New York State, which makes us upstaters rather peevish.

Herr Doktor Phonologist said...

Re: Max vs Lynneguist:
the "iambic reversal" phenomenon (move the stress to the front in a word that would be stressed at the end if it is followed by a word stressed at the beginning, in other words: move the stress to avoid a clash of two stressed syllables) is also found in AmE. Think TennessEE but TENnessee WILliams or BerLIN but BERlin WALL. The interesting thing, though, is that it's not as straightforward as the English pronunciation guides would have it; there are quite a few exceptions, and there is also disagreement between speakers (your balLET SHOES for example). As far as I know, there are no studies that have looked at this in greater detail (note to self …).

Re Cameron and the GOAtee pronunciation: It is possible that once the second word of a compound is dropped (here: beard) that the reversed stress pattern is maintained because people no longer are aware of the original pattern. A good example is London's largest airport, Heathrow, which almost everybody nowadays pronounces HEATHrow (including Londoners). It used to be HeathROW but iambic reversal occurred in HEATHrow AIRport. After dropping the pleonastic airport (after all, there's nothing else there), stress remained fixed on the first syllable. So maybe ScE GOAtee is a consequence of dropping the pleonastic beard after iambic reversal …

lynneguist said...

Danke, Herr Doktor!

Joe said...

With respect to "tuna fish", I always use this phrase to refer to chopped tuna mixed with crushed hard-boiled eggs and mayonnaise. Swimming in the ocean it's just a tuna and served in non-chopped form it's tuna steak.

Anonymous said...

Not to rain on Herr Doktor's parade, but I don't follow either of his examples of iambic reversal.

I still say TennessEE (not TENnessee) WILliams and I say BerLIN (not BERlin) WALL.

And I'm American from SoCal. Maybe it's regional.

Solo said...

Coming late to the party with a semi-relevant comment:

I wouldn't really describe BH's topiary as a goatee myself, Lynneguist. Maybe it's because people my age generally only have partial beards when at all and the little jawline thing that these pop boys and rappers are so fond of doesn't fit the description either. Anyway, to me a goatee [pronounced exactly as it's spelt: goat-ee] is a little pointy bit just on the chin (not jawline) and is a compund phrase, as in 'You know -the guy with the little goatee.'

And I don't trust men who have them. I especially don't trust a man with a moustache, which is both unsightly and unsanitary. The moustache that is. Although by extension quite possibly the man.

Some American Guy said...

I have to agree with the previous anonymous poster. There doesn't seem to be any difference in stress when I say Tennessee versus Tennessee Williams nor with Berlin versus Berlin Wall.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I think English people have always said HEATHrow, with the stress on the first syllable - and, indeed, maybe there is a touch of iambic reversal here when we refer to the airport by its currently correct name of "London Heathrow", which comes out slightly (but only slightly) as "LONdon HeathROW". Or possibly with equal stress on all four syllable.

Anonymous said...

Even without the 'London', when I say 'Heathrow' I stress both syllables, almost as if they were two separate words.

I think David Brent was the first nail in the coffin for the goatee. How does a style of facial hair come back from something like that?

Anonymous said...

I'm an American from the midwest, and definitely TenneSSEE but TENessee Williams, and BerLIN, but BERlin Wall.

Solo, you're comment about how to pronounce goatee doesn't address the issue under discussion: Which syllable is stressed.

General thought on Goatee. Stressing the first syllable I think would sound odder in AmE than in BrE because of losing the T sound.

lynneguist said...

@Solo: your perception of BH's facial hair as not a goatee is probably due to the fact that he is something of a slob when it comes to shaving. When he shaves, it's just m(o)ustache and chin.

Solo said...

@Lynneguist: Maybe it's just because he's an affable sort of chap and therefore can't possibly be a goateed man as that would disrupt the balance of the universe.

@that last Anonymous: I thought we'd already established that, but if you're interested- I'm English so I stress the first syllable and soften the 't'.

I also realise I didn't exactly make my point in my previous comment. When I was describing current fashions in facial hair, what I was getting at was that I would just say 'beard' or maybe 'a little beard' for all of them, rather than describing them as goatees.

outerhoard said...

I've never heard "goatee" pronounced any way other than "GOA-tee". (Incidentally, for phonetic reasons I think it's more natural to place the syllable break before the 't'.)

As for "goatee beard", there is some debate over whether a goatee includes a moustache or not (here is a site that maintains it does not), and I would interpret "goatee beard" as being a less ambiguous way to specify a goatee without a moustache. (Which just so happens to describe my own beard.)

Harry Campbell said...

Strictly speaking no, a goatee is not "the mustache and chin hair without the jawline whiskers". It means what it says, the kind of beard a goat has, just a little tuft hanging down from under the chin. However, the original sense of the word seems to have died out along with what it refers to, and it's now universally used as Zhoen describes. In a way this seems a pity since it deprives us of a name for that very specific type of beard; but by the same token it's something we very rarely need to refer to.
None of which has anything to do with British/American differences I suppose.

Harry Campbell said...

What we now call a goatee used to be called a Van Dyke beard, also known as (I now learn) a circle beard.

herne said...

and then there are those philistines who say goatee when the meant Van Dyk. Shameful!!!

Perry

Dominic said...

What about the "even smaller than a goatee" patch of hair below the bottom lip and above the bottom of the chin? Jazz tuft? In typically illustrative Australian slang, known as a "Flavour Saver" in apparent reference to their ability to collect sundry bits of food & drink.

Oh, and I would pronounce Goatee with almost equal stress on both syllables, just slightly favouring the last

Anonymous said...

Dominic - I think in polite society that's commonly known as a soul patch. The term 'flavour saver' is in common use in the UK, but has rather coarser connotations than you describe - the same type of beard is also occasionally referred to as a 'lady pleaser'.