Sunday, July 14, 2013

Four Surprise British Pronunciations

Separated by a common language and all that.

Clerk is CLARK.
D was the first to hear this one and after he told me about it while walking down the street I spent the next block insisting that it could not possibly be true.
It's true.
Forvo proves it.

Derby is DAR-by.
I actually knew about this one, but somehow believed it only referred to the location, then only referred to the location and the horse thing, then only referred to the location, horse thing, and hat...but it refers to any and all usage of derby ever.  Despite already knowing about the place, horses, and hat, I was still surprised to hear someone talk about "roller darby".
It almost sounds like Dobby.
The US version is actually starting to sound funny.

Oregano is o-re-GA-no.
I didn't know about this until I had a local person bring it up, as they are apparently amused by the US o-REG-a-no pronunciation.  At first I thought they were asking me to pronounce Oregon (a matter of some contention within the US).
Hear for yourself.
Oregano comes from Spanish so this may be another example of the differences in how the US and the UK Anglicize Spanish.

Pants is TROW-zers.
I don't even know what's going on there.

Got any of your own?


  1. This made me giggle. How do you say trousers?! Or do you just never say it? You have no idea how many times I've had a chuckle over the classic BE/AE pants confusion (pants in British English being underpants) - such as being told by a Californian friend that she had soiled her pants in the park and was going to home to change them before we met up.

    1. To me trousers is a really old-fashioned word, although D says it's still used for men's dress pants and men's work (non-jeans) pants in the US. Maybe regional? To me it just sounds grampy-ish or nursery-rhyme. It would never be used as a generic word for what AmE calls pants!
      I'm definitely having trouble switching over and am glad it will provide some entertainment for the natives in the meantime. ;)

  2. Just a warning here... once you start talking about pants, fanny packs cannot be that far behind!

    1. Fanny pack should just never be said in any language!

  3. GAR-age is the one that always trips me up.

    1. For the uninitiated, it rhymes with carriage...and the US ga-RAZH (or almost GRAZH in my lazy accent) ends up sounding really pompous!

  4. BALet (or is it BALay?)

    pass-ta (not pahsta, really?)

    And don't forget ol' Guinevere, who never turned down a chonce to donce with Lonce. (Thankfully not everyone talks that way. I'd be cringing constantly. My local English-English crowd is a delightful mixture of Mancunians and Geordies and weirdo combinations.)

    1. I haven't heard anyone say ballet! But I've heard that BrE should be better at Anglicizing French than AmE...

      Pass-ta was also mentioned in either the blog I linked or the one it links. I think they suggested that considering the difference between AmE "ah" (that we use in pasta) and BrE "ah" is such that for BrE to use pass-ta actually makes it more accurate than their pah-sta would be.

      Still, it sounds silly to me. ;)

      Lonce! My favorite in this genre is Kate Nash covering The Black Kids and singing, "I'm not going to teach him how to DONCE! DONCE! DONCE! DONCE!" The fact that it's a cover with an AmE original just makes it stand out all the more.

  5. One (or is it two?) for the road:

    On I hear from a male UK speaker la-BOR-a-tory...the rest seem to say la-BOR-a-chree.

    What does the Mad Scientist of the House hear? And use himself on the premises?

  6. Controversy

    I had a Commonwealth friend who said "contravassy."

  7. I had a Commonwealth-raised classmate who referred to her shed-YULE. Which those of us on this side of the pond would call a schedule.

  8. In Australian English,when someone was dressed particularly well, some would say "he's turned out like the pox doctor's clerk". Which works better with a "clark"; don't you agree?

  9. Way back in 1921, the Sage of Baltimore wrote a book setting out some of the differences between American and English:

    It was one of his best selling works.


I love commenters!