Its occurrence in nyah-nyah prompts this question:
how many g-hits one needs for nyah-nyah to be listed in the IPA as a legitimate phoneme of American EnglishWell, first off, I see ca. 224,000 g-hits for that one. That's a ton. And let's leave aside the fact that lots of people don't buy that even the hallowed velar nasal – [ŋ], as in sing and about a million other English words and forms – is a distinctive sound. (We get obvious contrasts in dam, dan, dang, but folks inclined toward abstract understandings of sounds argue that the last one is really a combination of [ng] where most of us delete the g after assimilating the n to its place of articulation.)
But here's the kicker: Some speakers – me among them – don't actually have the word nyah-nyah in speech. Just had to ask Mrs. Verb (not her real name) how to pronounce it, in fact, even though I quoted Safire using it without giving a thought to the question.
More generally, I'm always surprised at how little attention goes to the range of sounds we regularly produce in 'affective' vocabulary, discourse markers and other 'marginal' areas of the lexicon. Lots of people prenasalize bye [mbai] or produce OK [ŋkei]. (I'd superscript those nasals, but don't have time right now.) Cool has a pretty much back unrounded vowel in a certain use for a lot of people, dude a clearly front-rounded vowel in similar circumstances. We could vastly expand the phonemic inventory of English!
And I'll keep track of comments from now on ... may have to quit my job to get this thing rolling.