Submitted by Hairy Scot on January 20, 2014

Pronunciation of “gill”

I have always believed, probably in common with most Scots, that the pronunciation of “gill” varies depending on whether one is referring to the organ of respiration in fishes and other water-breathing animals ( /ɡɪl/ ), or a measure of liquid (/dʒɪl/ ), or even one of the many other variations of the word. I was therefore somewhat surprised recently when watching an episode of QI to hear the erstwhile Stephen Fry and his guests use /ɡɪl/ for both the fishy organ and the liquid measure..

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It's 'jill' for the English too.

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@Hairy Scot - is there perhaps a word missing after 'erstwhile', or do you know something that we don't know? Anyhoo, the learned Mr Fry is obviously wrong on this one (the humble Wikipedia could have told him that - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gill_%28unit%29).

Oxford Online - /gɪl/ for the fishy organ, and /dʒɪl/ - for the measure. Add looking that up has taught me two more meanings - a deep ravine or narrow mountain stream (although I seem to remember there are quite a few of those in the Lake District) - /gɪl/, and a female ferret - /dʒɪl/.

When I was young, the standard Scottish pub measure was 1/5 gill, as opposed to a 1/6 gill in England, and there were some Scottish pubs who advertised 1/4 gill, which is apparently still the standard measure in Ireland. And as HS will well know, a single measure being considered rather paltry in the West of Scotland, it is referred to as 'a half', a double being 'a glass'. Thus the West of Scotland version of a nip and chaser is 'a half and a half', which sounds more like 'a hof 'n' a hof'.

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@WW
I should have perhaps put erstwhile in italics or quotes.
I'd love to know which word you think is missing. :-))
If it's too sensitive for PITE perhaps you can let me know by email.

Anent the various pub measures: my local in Scotland served 1/4 gills and I was wont to drinking large ones, so if and when I crossed the border I usually had to order triples.

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Yes, I'm intrigued also as to why Stephen Fry is 'erstwhile'. Maybe he's had a sex change and become 'Stephanie'.

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@SL
It would seem that my (attempted) humour has missed the mark.

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@HS perhaps you meant "the timely Stephen Fry" (as opposed to "late")

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@jayles

Skeeter got close.

To be honest, I was probably being a little too cryptic and perhaps trying to be a little too clever.

:-))

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