Speech error of the week

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The context:

yeah Rob I wanna thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about this on your show
and I'm happy and honored to endorse Donald J Chump
uh for president

The crucial phrase:

Presumably this is perseveration of the affrication feature from "J", replacing the coarticulated /tr/ at the start of "Trump".

Some may take Rep. Steube's speech error as support for Freud's theory of Fehlleistung ("Freudian slip") — or at least an example of it — though the trend for the past 60 years or so has been to attribute most such slips to tangles in the execution of speech motor plans, in most cases without any influence from unconscious associations.

Clarification: In most varieties of American English, syllable-initial /tr/ is pronounced as a retroflex affricate, so that Rep. Steube's slip was basically the loss of retroflexion, perhaps as perseveration of the relevant feature of the earlier "J".


  1. Rodger C said,

    April 20, 2023 @ 9:30 am

    Someone will now write in insisting that "Trump" and "Chump" are exact homophones, and that anyone who says they distinguish them is lying.

  2. TonyK said,

    April 20, 2023 @ 8:17 pm

    While agreeing whole-heartedly with your (implied) opinion on Trump's suitability for US president, the sounds written as 'tr' and 'ch' are so similar that you could just put this down to regional accent compounded by personal speech differences. I don't see anything to see here.

    [(myl) I don't know of any American regions where e.g. "trip" is normally pronounced the same as "chip". And elsewhere in the interview, as you can hear in the brief clip posted on Mediaite, Rep. Steube uses the usual pronunciation of "Trump". So this was definitely a speech error, not a regionalism or a matter of "personal speech differences". ]

  3. Bob D. said,

    April 21, 2023 @ 6:55 am

    I very clearly heard him say
    “Donald K. Chump” — “K”, not “J”.

  4. Nathan said,

    April 21, 2023 @ 10:30 am

    Nope, defniitely an affricate. I listened a bunch of times, and there's nothing velar there at all.

  5. Jaap said,

    April 21, 2023 @ 10:53 am

    At first I thought it was a bit like half a Spoonerism. On a recent podcast there was mention of a similar sounding one, where a presenter met Dame Judy Dench and called her Jame Doody.

    But then I remembered a video I saw by Goeff Lindsey, "Why Some People Say SHTRONG (the CHRUTH)".
    So maybe he does naturally use the CH and just accidentally elided the R.

  6. /df said,

    April 21, 2023 @ 1:30 pm

    Describing a Vietnamese (a language with which I'm not familiar, sadly) name starting "Tr…", an author explains that it's pronounced "Ch…". Online sources give this IPA: /ʈʂ/. Are Vietnamese immigrants the Americans who favour the Tr/Ch/ump identification?

    More generally, the identification seems implausible from Britain where our "Trump"s vary from somewhat to heavily rhotic, but maybe some Southern US accents would effectively lose the "r", though the accent in DonaldJChump1.wav isn't one.

  7. M. Paul Shore said,

    April 21, 2023 @ 8:43 pm

    A small note of correction: The German word cited in the original post should be Fehlleistung, not *Fehleistung. This error also occurs in the linked-to article.

    I’d also argue that, since Fehlleistung simply means “mistake”, for clarity’s sake the last paragraph of the original post should begin “Some may take Rep. Steube's speech error as support for Freud's theory of what’s come to be known as freudsche Fehlleistung [ . . . ]”.

    (Please feel free to delete this comment, or eliminate its first and third paragraphs along with the word “also” in the second paragraph, in keeping with any making of the suggested changes.)

  8. Jonathan Smith said,

    April 21, 2023 @ 10:08 pm

    cf. e.g. Why is Henry's wife covered in bite-marks? Because he's Tudor, initially mystifying from U.S. POV

  9. Nhan Hong said,

    April 22, 2023 @ 7:14 am

    as said by /df, the people in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, where I was born, pronounce /tr/ as/ch/; whereas the people in North Vietnam pronounce /tr/ as /z/.
    So at school, children have to practice very hard saying that /tr/.

  10. Misha Schutt said,

    April 22, 2023 @ 6:26 pm

    I learned Vietnamese pronunciation from an ethnic Chinese from Da Lat, central Vietnam. She had a southern accent (Jaheim Northern pronunciation is much more prestigious). Her tr was a very retroflexed apical post-alveolar stop, with very little affrication. Her ch was much more laminal.

  11. Misha Schutt said,

    April 22, 2023 @ 6:28 pm

    I don't know where "Jaheim" came from in the above. Unable to edit.

  12. Jonathan Smith said,

    April 22, 2023 @ 11:36 pm

    to extend Nhan Hong's comment, (my impression is that) Vietnamese tr- is *prescriptively* still a cluster, so primary schools are producing young people with a conservative pronunciation that is (was?) endangered in the wild.

  13. John Swindle said,

    April 23, 2023 @ 7:43 am

    @Nhan Hong: So in Northern Vietnamese they're pronouncing the same as and ?

  14. John Swindle said,

    April 23, 2023 @ 7:44 am

    Sorry. So in Northern Vietnamese they're pronouncing "z" the same as "d" and "gi"?

  15. Quinn C said,

    May 2, 2023 @ 12:51 pm

    It happens regularly to me that I hear, for example, "chain" and it turns out to have been "train". I haven't been able to pinpoint the geographical origin of those speakers.

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