Date: Wed, 13 Apr 1994 20:38:06 CDT


Subject: Re: ink pen

Both "fountain pen" and "ink pen" may be useful as phonological disambiguators,

and it's possible that commercial terms [as opposed to "quill pen"] played a

role in establishing the terms that then could be clipped. It's not

necessarily the case that "ink" and "fountain" were added to "pen" -- but

the two-word forms are useful.

When I was presenting a workshop to English teachers in Conroe TX (about 1966),

one of the 25 or so teachers was from the Upper Midwest and the others from

that part of Texas. The E-speaker inititated a digression in my discussion

of phonetics by complaining about the kids -- and teachers -- not distinguish-

ing 'pen' and 'pin'. I wrote the two words on the board and asked the

E-speaker to say one of the words. She distinctly said [pEn] and when I asked

for a show of hands the class was evenly divided on which vowel was spoken.

The E-speaker was visibly surprised and a little shocked to discover that

her colleagues really couldn't hear a distinction that was so clear.

Now I wish I'd had the foresight to ask that group of teachers about "ink