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Now scissors

April 7, 2015

Today I popped into a Superdrug in Ilford to buy some nail scissors, and asked the sales assistant where they were. She looked at me with a puzzled air.

“What, dear?”

“Nail scissors.”

“Sorry, what did you want?”

“Nay-l scissors,” I said, very clearly and precisely.

Gradually comprehension dawned in her eyes. “Oh, now scissors!” And she directed me to them.

This curious pronunciation is widespread in East London and surrounding areas, and is used for any word which ends in a long a followed by an l. The l has a modifying effect on the preceding vowel, changing ay to aoo, but is not itself pronounced. Thus, not only does nail become now, but sail is sow and curly kale is curly cow. It’s not a new pronunciation – I’ve been hearing it since I was a child – but I think this is the first time it’s occasioned a misunderstanding. If I’d asked where the now scissors were I’d have got them straight off.

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2 Comments
  1. Mark Brafield permalink

    Not just in East London, apparently. In my capacity as an organist, I sat through lengthy services on Good Friday and Easter Saturday in deepest Surrey in which the officiating priest repeatedly pronounced ‘world’ as if it was spelled ‘werwd’. The awesome majesty of the Easter services loses something when you are repeatedly told about (and then waiting for) ‘the light of the werwd’ or ‘Saviour of the werwd’.

    Congratulations, incidentally, on ‘Back in time for dinner’ which we find compulsive viewing.

  2. Thank you, Mark!

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