Saturday, 25 December 2010

phew ~ pooh

Mankind will considerably be advanced by the results of this study published in the scientific journal Polar Biology 27 (2003), pp. 56-58 with the title "Pressure produced when penguins pooh - calculations on avian defaecation".
credit: Polar Biology 27 (2003): 57

Thank you - Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow and Jozsef Gal from Bremen University for this article.

What's it got to do with phonetics? Not much to be honest.
To justify this blog entry I'm going to write about the pronunciations of 'phew'.

The most variegated entry on 'phew' is to be found in ...? (see below)

LPD 3:

[ʍ] = voiceless labial velar fricative
[ɸ] =  voiceless bilabial fricative

The first entry of 'phew' recorded in OED dates back to 1604 when the poet and playwright John Marsten published his play 'The Malcontent'. In 'acto primo, scena tertia' one of the characters, Giovanni Altofronto, says: "Phew, the Divell, let him possesse thee, [...]".

EPD 17:
"[...] that the speaker is hot"? 'Hot' like 'sexy' or like 'angry'? Or is the ambient temperature likely to make the speaker perspire?

Americans don't use the voiceless bilabial fricative in this expression?

OED 3 online:

The most variegated entry on 'phew' is to be found in ...? ... LPD.


  1. The point about "phew" is that it's not a word but a sort of symbolic representation of a noise produced by parts of the same physical mechanism that we operate to produce speech. Phonemic or orthographic symbols are being used only to suggest something which has no fixed and regular form or forms not feasible to attempt to define very precisely. It is possible to say that it's produced by an expulsive airstream usually initially at the lips which may begin as a bilabial plosive or trill, with or with or without loose labiodentality. Either following that or initiating the articulation there is a usually voiceless fricative element that's generally quite prolonged. The whole or part may or may not involve lip rounding.
    The signification of "phew" is similarly difficult to specify.

    The current EPD offers only two non-phonemic impressionistic representations of "phew" namely [ɸ], the IPA symbol for a voiceless bilabial fricative, and [pɸ]. Earlier editions offered four more symbolisations all involving a voiceless [y] ie a close front vowel quality. LPD offers, after the phonemic /fjːu/ three impressionistic ones consisting of the voiceless labial-velar fricative [ʍ] by itself and in the combinations [ʍu] and [ʍʊ].

  2. @JWL: "phew" certainly is a paralinguistic vocally produced sound; but it can easily be turned/transformed into a word and used as such as the four quotations in the current OED illustrate. OED also sketches the meanings of 'phew' as "[e]xpressing impatience, disgust, weariness, discomfort, or (now often) relief." Moreover, phonetic description should include such paralinguistic signals because they are part of human communication by speech (and writing).