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Sir Gawain

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Sir Gawain

Postby repectabiggle » 02 Jun 2008, 20:39

Okay, I really just put this thread in here to get it some visibility, but if asked, I'd mumble something about Malory as an influence and Roger Lancelyn Green and Charles Williams writing Arthurian fiction and poetry.

That aside, I'm wondering how everybody here pronounces the name Gawain. I grew up thinking it was pronounced guh-WANE, but the meter of some poets seems to require GUH-wane. I've looked around online and found some folks who say it is GAH-win or something like that.

That's one of the problems, I suppose, with having interests that most people are unlikley to share and therefore unlikely to talk about: it's too easy to mispronounce a word for years and years. (I misread Cair Paravel as Cair Pavel for maybe upwards of six or seven years as a child, only catching my mistake when watching the BBC production of LWW.)
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Postby Stanley Anderson » 02 Jun 2008, 21:15

Seeing as how our son's name is Gawain, I suppose I can answer at least from one point of view:-)

We pronounce it to rhyme with the first part of the phrase "NOW ANd then" out of convenience, but we were told by a medieval literature scholar many years ago that close as that pronunciation is, properly, the second syllable has more of the ai sound as in the name "Wayne" (with the first syllable still emphasized. We originally used that pronunciation, but it is a bit unweildy to get around the tongue and tends toward the "GOWan" form after a while -- especially when the name needs to come out quickly in order to keep a child from running into the street or sticking his hand into a socket:-)

Perhaps a native of Scotland can say what the modern version would properly be.

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Postby blindlemonpie » 18 Jun 2008, 07:04

Stanley Anderson wrote:
We pronounce it to rhyme with the first part of the phrase "NOW ANd then" out of convenience, but we were told by a medieval literature scholar many years ago that close as that pronunciation is, properly, the second syllable has more of the ai sound as in the name "Wayne" (with the first syllable still emphasized.



I think Chaucer supports this pronunciation in line 95 of The Squire's Tale:

"That Gawayn, with his olde curteisye,"

The meter calls for a stress on the first syllable, and being that Middle English was usually spelled as it was heard, we get the "wayne" sound as well.
This being said, I'll admit that I've always said Guh-Wayne and probably will continue to do so unless meter requires otherwise.
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Postby Mr Hooper » 18 Jun 2008, 10:38

I pronounce it GAH - wain. Emphasis on first syllable, to rhyme with BAH! Last syllable as in John Wayne (Or indeed John Wain). I don't know if this is right, but I may have picked it up from my middle english tutor in college. What a great medieval romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is - perhaps the best of all.
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Postby repectabiggle » 18 Jun 2008, 13:45

Oh, whoops. . .hadn't even seen the responses in here. Shame on me.

Thanks, folks!
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