A label on a lapel


I was taken aback to hear Anthony Horowitz, scriptwriter for many TV programmes, including Midsomer Murders, Foyle’s War, and Poirot as well as many children’s books, use the pronunciation /ˈleɪpəl/ in an interview Saturday Live, BBC Radio 4’s Saturday morning programme (9-10 am): “I’m wearing my Blue Peter badge in my /ˈleɪpəl/”. According to his Wikipedia entry, Horowitz was born in 1956, but I don’t think this has anything to do with it. I’ve not been able to find his pronunciation in any of my dictionaries, although I have found /ˈlæpəl/ in New English Dictionary (edited by Ernest A Baker, MA DLit, Director of the University of London School of Librarianship and Lecturer in English, UCL, published by Odhams Press, 1932), and Cassell’s Concise English Dictionary (no editor given), in its First Australian Edition, 1945.
Can anyone throw more light on Horowitz’s usage, or is it an idiosyncracy of his idiolect?


  1. I’ve never heard anyone pronounce lapel other than with two schwa’s, and with the accent on the second syllable (I’m American, from New Jersey). However, if I were to guess, and I don’t know the speaker’s origins, it might be a Scottish or Irish dialectal variant – only a guess.

  2. Now I’m curious as to what you think the standard pronunciation is. I’d say that here (in Australia) /ˈleɪpəl/ and /lə’pεl/ would be the two most frequent pronunciations. Maybe he picked it up during a visit?

  3. Marc – Do you really mean “two schwas”? The second, stressed, syllable is highly unlikely to have a schwa (i.e. /ləˈpəl/), even though the final dark ‘l’ may affect the quality of the vowel quite considerably.

    James – the only pronunciation given in most of my dictionaries, including all the standard pronunciation dictionaries (LPD, EPD, ODP) is /ləˈpel/. Unfortunately, I don’t have immediate access to an Australian dictionary. There is nothing in Horowitz’s biography that suggests he may have spent any length of time there when he was at an impressionable age.

  4. Hardly a a week seems to pass in which I dont hear a unique or at least very unusual pronunciation of some word or other but I have to admit I’ve never he·rd /`leɪpl/ for lapel. Anyway, I guess it’s something that sprang up or more likely survived praps in Aussieland. I’ve checkt with my copy of Baker’s which my father acquired no dou·t soon after it came out in 1932. That makes it my first experience of dictionaries coz then I was about six. I was devoted to it until he baut me the splendid Shorter Oxford for my sixteenth birthday. You can be sure that the Cassell’s Concise was Baker’s work too. He came from Bath and subsequently lived in London whence his degrees. His /`lӕpl/ is perfectly credible when we look at the word’s hist·ry. It wasnt included in Walker’s Pronouncing Dictionary in 1791 etc. The first vowel Bradley showed it with in OED1 in 1902 was /ӕ/ tho he had the modern stressing as /lӕ`pel/. OED lists three extra eighteenth-century-etc spellings lapell, lapelle and lappel the last of which it quotes from Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby as well as other writers. A newfangled French word that took a time to settle down.

  5. Strange to find such a recent post on this, I just heard my Nan say it today and found this looking it up on the Internet. Hadn’t heard it before either. I was wondering if it’s a Welsh thing (she’s from Cardiff), but seems to be cropping up in a few places. Maybe the result of spelling pronunciation?

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