06 December 2011

A Lesson in Phonetics

6 December, 2011 11.00p.m. by Darcy Ireland
The published recap can be found here.

The chore of recollecting the Sunday afternoon clash between the visiting Black Bears of Orono, Maine, and the hosting Rams of Kingston, Rhode Island, could plausibly be condensed into a single quote, taken from a fellow witness, who implicitly granted permission to make his opinion of the affair known:

"You should put this on your website: The student turn-out is puahr!"

Attempting to caricature that quote in ones own head does not do the make-up of the quote any proper justice. The gentleman, who was passionately rooting his Rhode Island Rams to victory (and who thought I was a professional basketball scout), undoubtedly sported a well-defined Eastern New England form of our American English tongue. An afternoon in the Thomas M. Ryan Center, which could have been chronicled by the ugly, imperfect basketball game, unfolded with the humorous aid of a duo of biased, mustachioed commentators, one of which provided the above, concise quote.

Earlier that afternoon, after my bus had dropped me at a stop in the heart of the University of Rhode Island campus, I had an opportunity to peruse and explore the campus on my own whim, the game not scheduled to tip for another 45 minutes' time. As I wandered about the campus, particularly after purchasing this warm delight of a drink, I couldn't help but ponder the contrast between the states of Maine and Rhode Island.

Having visited Maine on three separate occasions, including to the unrivaled Bar Harbor, I can safely say that the state is more untouched by the Industrial Revolution, less defined by the cogs of the machine that is the 21st century society, which all but demands more technology and more resources. Natural beauty overwhelms and embraces the state of Maine. On the other hand, while one can spot traces of such majesty in Rhode Island, such as in Newport, more shreds of industry can be found, and easily so, throughout the Ocean State, than in its northern counterpart. More relevantly to my view on the game, though, the states differ in phonetics. While a majority of Maine residents are rhotic speakers (to be a rhotic speaker, such as myself, is to be one that pronounces the /r/ sound in all its positions), the majority of Rhode Island natives are non-rhotic speakers. In other words, one is more likely to hear the word 'car' pronounced 'car' in Orono than in Kingston, where one can have greater success spotting a person who pronounces the word 'car' as 'cuahr' or 'cah.' This phonetical phenomena is more commonly referred to as 'r-loss' or 'r-deletion.'

The game itself, along with the unexpected and looming presence of the duo which cheekily reminded me of Statler and Waldorf of the Muppets, was an interesting exercise in phonetics.

As I was still savoring the warmth and tastiness of the taro milk bubble tea, I took note that the first half of the match was the Orono boys' to lose, for the Black Bears led for a majority of the first 20-minute stretch, despite the athleticism of the Rams, without this certain fellow's help.

At approximately the under-14-minute mark of the first half, the presence of the mustachioed duo, seated behind me, could not be ignored.

It was at that time in the game when Maine forward Alasdair Fraser legally scored a hook shot over a Rams defender. In response, I could overhear one of the mustachioed men retort to his companion verbatim (remember the accent), "See, I auhlways thought that should be illegal!" Immediately, I snickered inconspicuously, so as to not be caught by the speaker. Speaking of being caught, less than a minute after overhearing that interjection, Maine center Svetoslav Chetinov was called for a defensive foul. What quote would I jot down this time? "Yeah, you got chaught, buddy!" The overwhelming waves of hilarity captured this innocent sailor, who had truly low expectations for this nautical adventure, which led me to the basketball arena of the lone sea-grant institution in the Ocean State.

But the waves would keep coming.

At the under-11-minute mark of the first half, one of the referees charged Rhode Island head coach Jim Baron a technical foul for apparently swearing at one of the ten players on the floor. About a half-minute later, after a time-out session had ended, Maine head coach Ted Woodward was inexplicably, but clearly, on the court, supposedly yelling at one of his players. The end of the time-out session came a few seconds later than anticipated, after Coach Woodward finally walked back to his 'coach's box.' One of the men sitting behind me yelled at the referees in response to the scene, "Yeah, wait for the coach to get ouhf the floor!" Detecting the hint of sarcasm in his voice, I tried my best to stay composed, to not double over in laughter in the midst of the pair of gents.

The duo's take on what Coach Baron should be doing with the Rhode Island defense? "Stay with youha man!" What did the two make of at least one traveling call on the Rams? "Oh, that's disgusting!" What was the consensual opinion of a substitution at the end of the first half, when Rhode Island senior forward Orion Outerbridge was substituted by sophomore forward Levan Shengelia? "That kid [Shengelia] can shoot a hell of a lot better than that other kid [Outerbridge]!" At half-time, they blunted rated the first half with one word: "Awuhful!"

Noticeably, the duo was quieter, but not absolutely silent, throughout the second half, even though Maine kept its tentative lead most of the time. While they were continuing their silly commentary of the match, I kept watching the representative of the quieter northern New England continue to lead the symbol of the more industrious southern New England. One frequent phrase that echoed throughout the confines of the Thomas M. Ryan Center that afternoon, particularly in the second half, was 'Traveling, Rhode Island,' which I found to be humorous, for I have traveled Rhode Island on a multitude of occasions (pun intended).

As the second half progressed, the collective voice of the two gents behind me grew slightly more profound.

A Maine three-point shot, which gave the Black Bears a 50-44 lead with 15 minutes remaining in regulation play, was greeted with some indeterminable mumbling - I believe one of the entities swore multiple times - then, "... Unbelievable!" Eight game-minutes later, Maine guard Raheem Singleton fell and hit the back of his head on the parquet floor beneath the basket to my left. A minute or two later, he arose as if nothing had happened and was cheered out of respect. However, none of the members of the Maine bench, which was very close to that particular basket, bothered to tend to him. The reaction of the duo behind me on that note? "Well, that was weeahrd!" I nodded my head in concurrence to their opinionated observation.

After a few more game-minutes, two Rams and one Black Bear, all of whom were diving for a loose ball, fell in a heap. "Yeah, that's rioght!" was what I heard regarding that odd scenario. Less than a minute after that collision, a Rhode Island player was fouled behind the perimeter, thus calling for three free-throw attempts. Strangely, one of the men replied, "There's no logic to that!" During one of the free-throw attempts, an official review took place, for reasons beyond my knowledge. The song 'Can't Touch This' blared over the loudspeakers while the review took place. In case I had no idea who sang that song, I was informed: "This is M.C. Hammah!" A few breaths later, I overheard, "What is this time-out fouhr!?" I'm almost positive that my cheeks were flushed by then.

When Rhode Island had the basketball with about twenty-four seconds in regulation time, which was not accompanied with a shot clock, the duo wanted Coach Baron to "cauhl a time-out!" When he did a mere few seconds afterward, the two men behind my seat retorted, "Atta bouhy!" With the Rams missing its final shot attempt, the game, which was tied at 72-72 at the end of regulation time, was to be sent into overtime. A few minutes into that overtime session, the Rams turned over the ball. The quote I jotted down best sums up the opinion of the Rhode Island faithful to that mistake: "This is nouah time for playing around!" That turning over of the basketball contributed to the clash which would conclude with a final tally of Maine 76, Rhode Island 74.

The last proclamation I would hear from the duo is this quote, which I wrote down verbatim: "S***! S***! Two in a row, Couhach!" After a few seconds, I turned around. The two men, who had unnecessarily apologized to me earlier because I "had to see such a pouhr game," had apparently stormed out of their seats and into the chilly Kingston evening. From the surprisingly entertaining affair I had witnessed that afternoon, I decided that no such apology was necessary. The former Yankee Conference rivals had clashed in an ugly, yet satisfying game, which needed a five-minute overtime period so as to meet its official ending. If former United States president James Garfield could simultaneously write Latin with one hand and ancient Greek with the other, than the differing peoples of southern and northern New England can certainly tolerate one another through a riveting basketball game. Entertainment had been found through an unlikely source, that being the hilarious commentary my right ear admitted for a relaxed two hours' time. Northern New England, with its vast beauty and lightly-touched natural features, bested southern New England, which boasts antiquated snapshots of a time of industry and its own small share of natural beauty. After applauding the teams, I paced back to the main campus of the University of Rhode Island with the delicious quote, "C'MON CWAUCH!" still ringing in my ears.

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