The Young, Gifted and Black Ms. Amanda Gorman delivered a powerful and poignant piece at yesterday’s inauguration of President Biden. This morning I caught a portion of her interview on GMA and heard her say she suffered from a speech impediment and went on to clarify that she would drop letters like the ‘r’ in her own surname. Subject to the correction of professional speech therapists, this is not a speech impediment per se but a mistaken learnt approach to English pronunciation, which suggests that every letter in an English word needs to be articulated even though we all know of silent letters in English like the final ‘e’ in were, are, etc and the troublesome silent ‘h’ for even some very educated Jamaicans!
As I point out in my book A Controversial Clergyman, p. 170, the basic rule of thumb for sounding the consonant ’r’ for singers especially and public speakers is simple: “Never ‘r’ before a consonant or pause (punctuation or dramatic), always ‘r’ before a vowel [sound].”
So Ms. Gorman’s surname is correctly pronounced as Gawman, ‘r’ dropped! For Christians especially the word Lord is correctly pronounced as Lawd, dropped ‘r’ but for us Jamaicans, not Laad!
Check out more pointers in my book (available on Amazon).
Rev. Clinton Chisholm is former Academic Dean at the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology and a retired Jamaica Baptist Union Pastor now residing in Florida.