Rapid / rabid b'ball fans

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A colleague recently called my attention to "rapid b’ball fans".  Carol Kennedy remarked to me that what the colleague intended was "rabid b’ball fans".  Carol noted further that her father, Leigh Lisker, an experimental phonetician and specialist on Telugu who was in the departments of linguistics and South Asian Regional Studies at Penn and was also affiliated as a research scientist at Haskins Laboratories, used "rapid" and "rabid" over and over again when he was exploring voice onset times, etc.

If you do a Google search for "rabid fire", you'll get more than 10,000 ghits.

On the same day I encountered "rapid b’ball fans", another interlocutor told me that he had "attained several packages" when he meant to say that he had "obtained several packages".


Selected readings


  1. Taylor, Philip said,

    January 12, 2023 @ 3:23 am

    Unclear how these substitutions could have occurred — the vowel sounds in "rabid" and "rapid" are very different (/eɪ/ v. /æ/), at least in my topolect. And is "b'ball" "baseball" or "basketball" ?

  2. Jamie said,

    January 12, 2023 @ 4:04 am

    The vowels are the same for me (but I have different vowels in rabid and rabies)

  3. Robert Coren said,

    January 12, 2023 @ 10:26 am

    @Philip, @Jamie: I wonder if this a transatlantic difference. (USAn here, /æ/ in both rabid and rapid, /eɪ/ in rabies.)

    What, no rabbit fans?

  4. Terry K. said,

    January 12, 2023 @ 10:27 am

    After reading Philip Taylor's comment, I was thinking it must be a US/UK split, but Wiktionary shows there's a north/south England divide, with American pronunciation matching the north of England.

  5. David L said,

    January 12, 2023 @ 11:51 am

    I'm from southern England and rabid and rapid have the same first vowel for me. Rabies, as Jamie said, is different (long a rather than short).

    It may be more of a posh/unposh distinction than a north-south divide (I am unposh, in case you were wondering).

  6. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    January 12, 2023 @ 12:09 pm

    Philip tends to always check these things in the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, so I'm puzzled hih didn't this time. The dictionary doesn't distinguish between GB and GA, and gives gives TRAP as the first vowel choice.

  7. Richard Hershberger said,

    January 12, 2023 @ 12:55 pm

    @Philip Taylor: Definitely basketball. The language within and around baseball is one of my interests. I have never seen this form in that context. It is moderately common in a basketball context.

  8. Taylor, Philip said,

    January 12, 2023 @ 1:04 pm

    You are quite correct, Jarek, I didn't check, simply because I have never heard any variant other than /ˈreɪ bɪd/ in <Br.E>. But on checking the LPD, I see that it does indeed give /æ/ rather than /eɪ/ as first choice — odd, or so it seems to me …

  9. cameron said,

    January 12, 2023 @ 1:43 pm

    I've lived in both the UK and the US, and the only place I've ever encountered the /ˈreɪ bɪd/ pronunciation is in the song "Rabid (Over You)" by the Damned, which was the B-side to their 1980 cover of "White Rabbit".

    Thankfully it's not a word that comes up very often in conversation, not in its literal sense, anyway

  10. Victor Mair said,

    January 12, 2023 @ 3:52 pm

    Can't resist: "rapid rabid rabbit".

    Remember the Jimmy Carter Rabbit Episode / Incident of April 20, 1979?


  11. Philip Anderson said,

    January 13, 2023 @ 12:02 pm

    Like the other Philip, I say /ˈreɪ bɪd/ and have never really thought about it; it matches rabies, without changing the number of syllables.

  12. Don said,

    January 18, 2023 @ 2:14 pm

    What caught my interest here is that you spell it "b'ball," which I would expect to be pronounced "buh-BALL" and not (as I assume you intend) "BEE-ball." I'd have written "b-ball."

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