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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Yourview@ theaus­tralian.com.au

WAS Ir­ish writer Frank O’Con­nor jok­ingly teas­ing James Joyce when he re­buked the great writer’s ques­tion about the name for a penny in Cork (Stephen Romei’s A Pair of Ragged Claws col­umn, May 18-19)? ‘‘We call it a lop,’’ he in­sisted, not the ‘‘lob’’ Joyce had won­dered about. The op­por­tu­nity to score off Joyce must have been too tempt­ing for the Cork man O’Con­nor. But wait — might both have been right? There is great flu­id­ity in spell­ing and pro­nun­ci­a­tion of many cog­nate words in dif­fer­ent lan­guages (think of Hab­s­burg, pro­nounced in Ger­man as if spelled with a ‘‘p’’, and ac­cord­ingly mis­spelled by many English speak­ers). So dif­fer­ences of di­alect in County Cork may well have ex­isted. But how might Joyce know that? Re­cently, in

a Lon­doner jour­nal­ist who de­scribed Joyce’s ac­cent as ‘‘Dublin’’ was cor­rected by an Ir­ish cor­re­spon­dent who in­sisted Joyce’s ac­cent — like that of his fa­ther and grand­fa­ther, in­deed — came from north­east County Cork. O’Con­nor may very well have recog­nised what he heard in Joyce’s ac­cent — some­thing that es­caped the later English writer. Some­one sharply said once that whereas the English have vir­tu­ally no ear for mu­sic, they have a fear­some ear for ac­cents. Un­less, per­haps, they come from be­yond their Sceptred Isle.

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