The more vowels …

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Today's Zits:

Previous LL coverage here and here, with special focus on "Dude", 12/8/2004; "Dude cartoon decoded", 12/8/2004; "Dude, no way", 12/9/2004; "Duding out", 12/10/2004; and "From dude to duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude", 12/10/2004.

(The backstory for today's strip:


  1. JMM said,

    January 14, 2011 @ 5:47 am


  2. JMM said,

    January 14, 2011 @ 6:03 am

    I left of the 'e'. Sorry. It was inadvertent; dude isn't my first language.

  3. Kylopod said,

    January 14, 2011 @ 6:45 am

    The vowel-sound commonly heard in "dude" is actually quite unique in American English. It's kind of like "dih-uh-ood" and hard to explain unless you've heard it. The cartoon is attempting, however imperfectly, to convey it in writing. If you're familiar with how it sounds, you can almost hear it when you see this comic, but if you've never heard it, you'd easily get the idea it's simply a drawn out "oo-oo-oo" sound.

  4. a George said,

    January 14, 2011 @ 7:08 am

    – it is actually very reminiscent of the Swedish vowel used in "du" ("you").

  5. Mark P said,

    January 14, 2011 @ 8:21 am

    Kylopod, I read and hear the drawn-out u as a drawn out "oo-oo-oo" sound. I'm old, but dude was around when I wasn't. On the other hand, I don't hear teenagers talking a lot, so maybe the pronunciation has changed.

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  7. Josef Fruehwald said,

    January 14, 2011 @ 8:31 am

    "The more vowels the better"

    I've said here and there that human language has on one side semantics with gradations (good-bad, happy-angry-sad, etc.) and on the other side, a phonetics with gradations (vowel height, duration, etc.). We could express our semantic meanings which fall along a continuous cline if we could map them to the continuous phonetic space. But, as far as I know, there aren't languages which make productive use of their phonetic space in this way. Sure, there's sound-symbolism. If you drop a large wrench it goes "clink" and if you drop a large wrench it goes "clank", but that's pretty restricted compared to how you could use the front vowel space in a CVC frame for all size adjectives.

    [(myl) Interesting idea. As far as I know, languages that have a serious ideophone system use the phonological space and not (at least in vowel-quality terms) the phonetic one.

    But in this case, the cartoonist means "more vowels" in the orthographic sense, so that the sonic interpretation is just "longer vowels". And there's no question that for prosodic features in general, longer/louder/higher etc. is generally an iconic intensifier.

    The problem for Hector is that "better" is not the only possible dimension (or direction) to be intensified.]

  8. Gary Vanderpot said,

    January 14, 2011 @ 9:18 am


  9. m.m. said,

    January 14, 2011 @ 10:09 am


  10. Cy said,

    January 14, 2011 @ 10:13 am

    it sounds kinda like a barred 'i,' but it sounds like they palatalize it where Kylopod's from. We're in agreement though: not a back rounded 'u'

  11. Darrell said,

    January 14, 2011 @ 10:37 am

    How did he grow a soul patch in a matter of minutes? Did they glue that on him? (Sorry, I know it's off-topic.)

  12. Justin said,

    January 14, 2011 @ 10:48 am

    Now that it is mentioned. I notice that I myself soemtimes add emphasis to "dude" by adding qualitiatively different vowels, not just elongating them. Interesting.

  13. blahedo said,

    January 14, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

    I've heard (and use) [u] as a special "dude" vowel (meaning: wtf) even when the normal /u/ vowel is [ʉw], but this seems to me to be a particularly East Coast usage (and not universal there, and in retrospect it may even have been a fairly small in-group-y thing, although I think I'm understood when I use it this way). The more common one that I hear and use for a special "dude" vowel (where, again /u/ is normally [ʉw]) is [ɨw] (meaning: cool! or huh, depending on prosody and context), with [ɨː] being possible but stereotypically associated with surfers and stoners and (faux-)mimicry thereof. I'm almost positive I've never heard [y] or [Y] as a "dude" vowel; where are you hearing that, @Gary?

    Also, it's perhaps worth pointing out that this only applies to "dude" as an interjection. "Dude" as in "dude ranch" gets the usual /u/ vowel.

  14. Kate said,

    January 18, 2011 @ 12:35 am

    As a young person on the East coast, I'm pretty sure I've never heard [ʉw] or [ɨw] except in the context of mockery (of the California surfer stereotype, as blahedo mentioned). We really do pronounce it [u], lengthened for emphasis.

  15. Ellen K. said,

    January 18, 2011 @ 11:45 am

    Blahedo, when you say "the normal /u/ vowel is [ʉw]", do you mean the pronunciation that we might spell dyood, as opposed to dood?

    I'm no recollection of ever hearing "dude" pronounced with anything other than a pure "oo" vowel, but, of course, many (most?) words with that vowel sound which spell it with a U are pronounced by some speakers as "you" rather than "oo".

  16. The more vowels ? | tonycreary said,

    January 21, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

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