Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When to keep your trap shut

I think the word 'duh' (doh?) came from The Simpons tv show. It is quite a useful word. Here a few of my duh word moments.

Hyperbole, a word that I mispronounced in my head every time I read it until I was well into my twenties. I never embarrassed myself by saying the word out loud until I learnt it was not said hyperbowl.

Hermione, oh so tragic. While I know the word now, I am still unsure of the precise pronunciation. Do the lips go out after the m?

Eloise. It defies the vowel sound pronunciation I learnt as a kid. One day the light bulb moment arrived.

Place names remain problematic. Before we went to Vietnam, I told a Vietnamese born workmate that we were going to stay a night in Hue. Me saying Whoee, had him express a very blank face.

Before we went to Japan, at a party a Japanese guy asked where we were staying in Tokyo. I replied Uno, mispronouncing Ueno. I tried some pronunciation variations and he finally worked it out.

Once up in the north of Japan, I put the wrong emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABle  of Aomori. Place names are fraught.

I did well enough in England, knowing enough to pronounce Cholmondeley correctly and how to say the suffix 'shire. I even managed to understand Geordie, slightly toned down for my benefit, the toning down which invariable disappeared after a few drinks by our various hosts. English/Eastern Europe accent in London, no problem. Sad that we met only one English English person in London. I'm afraid the broad Lancashire accent got me though. I had to call on R to help, and even being English born, he struggled.

Food menus are the perfect way to embarrass yourself. I do now confidently pronounce bruschetta correctly and confidently, although few others seem to in Australia. If I don't know, I will say, 'Sorry, I am not sure how to say this', as I point. I would rather do that than get the word wrong.

Many of you are or were school teachers. At least teach your kids about a few of these hard words. Although while I have never had anything to do with Harry Potter books or films, I don't think kids will have such a problem with Hermione now.


  1. I have to call out patients' names at the hospital, an activity fraught with dangers especially when the subject is sensitive about the pronunciation of their name.

    Two that I got right recently that could easily have gone the other way were;

    Higham which I correctly pronounced 'High-am' rather than the possible 'Hig-em', and

    Mahoney which I pronounced 'Marney' rather than the possible 'Mar-ho-nee'.

    I could easily have been incorrect with both had the subjects been wedded to the alternatives.

  2. As a child I had a problem with Her-mee-own, (Hermione) because I'd only ever read it in books, and there were several other words that I had trouble with, until I heard other people read them out loud or otherwise use them in conversation and the penny dropped. Names of people and places are tricky, for instance I will never understand how Cholmondeley becomes Chumley. As for Welsh place names, they'll confound anyone not born and grown up there. My own childhood surname is a puzzle, nine consonants and one vowel right at the end.

  3. You did well Victor. I would have gotten Higham wrong. Foreign names must be very difficult, although I guess people are quite forgiving.

    River, I guess there weren't many Hermiones around for us to know. Sometimes word pronunciation just has to be accepted as 'that is how it is'. I assume your name was German. Are those names difficult? Don't even mention Welsh.

  4. My memory might be wrong about this; but I think I first learned the pronunciation of hyperbole from your blog. Didn't you post about it months ago?

    I have words I've seen and don't know how to pronounce. So I usually avoid saying them.

    I'm very bad at mispronouncing Australian place names.

    I messed up on Bondi, Circular Quay, Wagga, Wagga...plus others.

    I can relate to the menu stuff.

  5. I love the name Hermione, i was rather annoyed when Harry Potter made it popular ha ha ha!

  6. Dina, good memory, except a little more the a few months ago. 2009. Bondi could be difficult. Do you say quay as it is written?

    Fen, you were probably one of the few in the world who knew how to pronounce it.


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