Pronunciation spelling – or not?


One of my voluntary jobs is proofreading a local newsletter. In this month’s offering, I have just changed the following description:

Beautiful singing and top draw musicianship in the English folk tradition

My immediate reaction – and the one I have acted on – was to change ‘draw’ to ‘drawer’, but on reflexion, ‘top draw’ might also be appropriate in this context. Perhaps these musicians are among those who attract a better than average audience, and so are a ‘top draw’, as well as being very good – ‘out of the top drawer’.

No rhotic speaker could ever have written the wrong word here, but I live in a non-rhotic part of England, and there will always be some doubt about which word is intended for the pronunciation /drɔː/.


  1. “No rhotic speaker could ever have written the wrong word here”

    You’d be surprised. I hear this kind of thing from otherwise fully rhotic speakers all the time in the US, and I see references to things like “dresser draws” in online forums where I know the speaker is from a fully rhotic part of the US. It surprises me every time I encounter it, but there it is.

  2. Graham, can I join your campaign to do away with the hyphen in both top-drawer and your proposed top-draw? I hope your manifesto demands its abolition everywhere else too, except perhaps where German would have one.

    Well, Amy, winter draws on, and that’s what they’re undoubtedly looking for in the dresser draws. Or they may even mean the winter draws in the dresser in the dining room rather than the chest of draws in the bedroom! Only in North America would they keep them in a ‘dresser’ in the bedroom I think, and the OED agrees with me. And there aren’t that many non-rhotics in N. America, are there? So where do they get all these draws from? Strange indeed.

  3. I forgot to put (adj) after both top-drawer and top-draw. For of course there would otherwise be no hyphen there to abolish.

  4. “And there aren’t that many non-rhotics in N. America, are there?”

    No, not many – but it’s a relative term, considering how large the American population is, and how many non- or variably-rhotic speakers there still are in New England (which includes the New York metropolitan area if we are considering accent). There are still some Southern non-rhotic speakers as well. Not many, but in American, “minority” can mean an awful lot of people.

    Thanks for the laugh.

  5. Pingback: Intrusive r | Linguism

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