January 9, 2009


Famous quarterback Brett Favre either spells his name funny, or he pronounces it funny. In either case most of us that held a C average in English recognize the phonetic enigma of Brett’s last name.

There is a family up in Arkansas of the same name, and they pronounced it like “favor. ”Such pronunciation is easily accepted by most, irrespective of their education in the King’s English.

The mystery of the famous Favre name has sent me on a mission. What happened to this name?

The answer: Idioms. Not to be construed as having any relation to idiocy, although certain coincidental instances are likely, an idiom is the different way different folks say the same thing. Case in point: The consonant R.

In the Northeast and the Deep South, most everybody makes the sound of the R by saying AH, a sort of geographical idiom. Black folks everywhere say AH, making theirs a trans-geographical idiom. In Southern Mississippi, the home of Brett Favre, they say AH. To this group, “Park in Harvard yard” sounds like “Pock in Hahvahd yahd. ”Even though similar interpretation would be found in jolly olde England, this is clearly incorrect in American English.

Just across the Mississippi River in neighboring Arkansas and Northern Louisiana, the R sound is spoken in the idiom of a pirate, as in ARRR. I, having a southwestern twang, fully support pirate-speak as the correct pronunciation.

Favre is a French name. In French, the “re” is silent, and the “a” is short. The correct French pronunciation of the name is “Fahv. ”If one of Brett’s ancestors crossed the river into Arkansas and introduced himself to one of the local barefoot persuasion, he would have spoken the name as “Fahv. ”

The Arkansan would interpret the phonetic structure of the name, and assume that there was an R in the name that was pronounced AH. Transliterating that name into the local idiom, the AH sound becomes the ARRR sound, and the name is spoken as “Farrrv. ”

Owing to the glamour and virility of my ancestors from Arkansas, there were many incursions made across the river by the relatively hard-favored Mississippians, and the social intermingling led to a migration of the correct speech back to the Eastern bank of the river. Thus Brett “Fahv” became Brett “Farrrv. ”

Now you know the rest of the story - at least as I have imagined it. This brings my earlier statement about coincidental relationship of idiom and idiocy fully to a meaningful convergence of the two.