Anonymous asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 1 month ago

Why is "cap'n" the eye-dialect spelling of "captain" when the point is to spell it how it's said but people who say it that way say "cap'm" ?

People never say "cap'n," with an N. In fact, saying it that way is kind of hard, way harder than actually saying "captain." The pronunciation, if not "captain," is always "cap'm," with an M. 

So I don't understand why writers using eye dialects, writers who intentionally change spelling of words in dialogue in order to reflect to readers how someone is pronouncing it, like Mark Twain does in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and like Quaker Oats does on Cap'n Crunch, don't spell "cap'n" how it's really pronounced: "cap'm." Why's it always N instead of M? Why, oh why?!

7 Answers

  • 4 weeks ago

    Cap’n is the pronunciation of captain in Scotland and northern England, while cap’m isn’t a word. Here in Australia, we say it ‘kap-tuhn’. I think it’s the same in the US.

  • 4 weeks ago

    Simply because the letter P is pronounced with the lips together, and the N immediately after becomes M if the lips are not opened quickly. 

    It is spelt with an N because that is the correct last letter. It is pronounced often with an M instead because of the mechanics of the mouth. 

    Another nautical term, the shortened form of boatswain, which became bosun, retains the N because there is a vowel before it, so it is easier to say. 

  • 1 month ago

    Hmmm, that's interesting. The other folks who explained that it is an abbreviation of the actual spelling of the word are correct. I'm curious where you live that people might be pronouncing it with an M sound at the end. I have never heard any person, in real life, or in a movie about pirate captains, :) or any other type of captain, pronounce it with an M sound. My dad was a captain in the Air Force, so I heard the word frequently.  I remember one very genial man from Missouri saying , "Yes Sir, Cap'n Jack!" He also said, "Yes'm",  southern style, instead of "Yes ma'am." (Which of course, is itself a shortened version of the very proper sounding, "Yes Madame.") Languages are strange, ever-changing beasts!

    Source(s): Pirate Cap'n for 41 years. Have lived in 55 different states with different American accents. Have ears. Know English real good.
  • Mark
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    Because it's not...  "Cap'n" is far more realistic... Lower-class people in the UK say "ek ceterar" for "et cetera", though.

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  • Cogito
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    I think this is just YOU - the way YOU are hearing and interpreting it.

    The spelling is an abbreviation of the full word - not a guide to how someone pronounces it.  It's spelled * cap'n * because the TAI has been removed.And where I come from, people always say * cap'n *, pronouncing the N.  Okay, it's a rather blurred N, not completely unlike an M, but it's most definitely an N.

  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    They're leaving the mouth closed after the "p" to say "cap'n" which might make it sound like "m" to your ears.  Try saying it yourself.  You can make an "n" sound but if you leave your lips closed, it muffles the "n" which could be what you're hearing as "m".   Spelling it "cap'm" wouldn't make sense because there's no "m" in "captain".

  • John P
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    Some people might say 'cap'm', but, in Britain, I have heard only 'cap'n',

    Personally I find 'cap'm' no easier than 'cap'n', in fact slightly harder.  The apostrophe represents the missing letters, not a brief halt in speech.

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