Things Americans tend to say that sound weird to you

WRP   Mon Mar 02, 2009 11:46 pm GMT
I always feel a bit odd about the subject of mispronouncing place names. One does like to be accurate, but knowing all idiosyncratic pronunciations anywhere is nearly impossible. Everyone feels a bit offended/contemptuously amused when people mispronounce place names they know, but they never really extend the courtesy they expect to others. Because really it isn't an issue of being stupid or even particularly ignorant, those pronunciations are something someone has to tell you. I don't know how to pronounce Gloucester or Worcester or Leominster because of my great study of English culture, I know them because I grew up in Massachusetts, where every other town has an English equivalent.

I suppose we'll have to compromise and just get the big ones in line. We'll learn how to say Edinburgh and Brits can learn how to say Maryland. ;p

There is one minor one that I have a question about though, and that's Haverhill.

Haverhill, MA is pronounced Havril, while Haverhill, Suffolk has a slightly more literal interpretation. I heard a rumor on the internets that the Haverhill pronunciation is rather recent and it used to be pronounced more like its namesake across the pond. Can anyone confirm or deny that for me?
Another Guest   Tue Mar 03, 2009 1:38 am GMT
What's weird is British people make fun of Americans for not knowing random obscure place-names that have only a passing resemblance to their spelling, yet a lot of them don't even pronounce major American place-names correctly, even when the pronunciation follows from the spelling. For instance, the last vowel in LA is "e", not "i". They don't even get the country name right: it's "America", not "Americur".
Jef   Tue Mar 03, 2009 3:43 am GMT
<<What's weird is British people make fun of Americans for not knowing random obscure place-names that have only a passing resemblance to their spelling, yet a lot of them don't even pronounce major American place-names correctly, even when the pronunciation follows from the spelling. For instance, the last vowel in LA is "e", not "i". They don't even get the country name right: it's "America", not "Americur".>>

Yeah, it's pretty annoying to hear "Los Angeleez" and "Laas Vegas".

I think it's very unfair of the Brits to make fun of an American mispronouncing the name of some obscure village when it is spelled nothing like how it's pronounced. In this area (western PA), we could laugh at a Brit's failure to properly pronounce such names as Youghiogheny, Monongahela, Charleroi (not French), Versailles (not French), Wilkes-Barre, Schuylkill, etc, but that would make us a bunch of assholes. ;)
Uriel   Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:02 am GMT
We can torment them with doozies like Schenectady, Skaneateles, Natchitoches, Nacogdoches, La Union (no, not like that....;P), Mesilla, Bernalillo, Ticonderoga, Mattawamkeag, Tesuque, Pojoaque, Chautauqua, Quemado, Uncompaghre, Atmautluak, make 'em get the accent on the right syllables in Yakima and Wichita and Tucumcari and Appomattox.....oh, it's sooooo on!
Liz   Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:00 am GMT
Not only Americans have a hard time pronouncing those weird place names like Worchester and Leominster. I mean...weird as in having an irregular pronunciation. Edith Bowman, a Scottish radio DJ also couldn't pronounce Bicester as it should be pronounced (she said "by-cester" instead of "bister"). The English fellow presnters kept laughing at her for a while.
Liz   Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:02 am GMT
Sorry Damian...I'm not insinuating that Scottish people in general have problems with pronouncing these place names in the "proper" way. :-)
Damian in Edinburgh   Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:37 am GMT
Liz....some Scottish broadcasters DO have problems with some of the English place names - I've heard them hash up names south of the border now and again. A place with a name like Bicester just invites a mispronunciation though doesn't it? .... just like their English counterparts do with many of our Scottish names, especially if they are not so familiar with them...naturally lack of familiarity does breed ignorance, so it's understandable when people make dogs' dinners out of them.

I would have thought that the familiar "-cester" endings in names like Gloucester, Worcester and Leicester would have given a wee bit of a clue as to how the name Bicester should be pronounced, but as I've said before - nothing in the UK is set in stone is it?

Much of what we do and say isn't quite what it seems to be on the surface - an example of this is our dry sense of humour and skill in the art of piss-taking which all too ofen can be misconstrued and a cause of some offence by people at the sharp end of it. The British scene, like our English Language, is beset with irregularities, and having Cirencester pronounced, correctly, as "SIREN-sester" doesn't do much to encourage people to think otherwise.

Did you know that Bicester (located a few miles north east of the city of Oxford and with a population of only 30,000) has six Tesco stores scattered about the town...one superstore on the outskirts, and five Metro and Express stores across the rest of the place. Local people refer to Bicester as Tescotown.
Brad Stedman   Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:07 am GMT
"Worchester" in the US is pronounced "Wooster". How do you guys pronounce it in the UK?
Brad Stedman   Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:10 am GMT
and the sauce, suprise surprise, is pronounced "Woostersher " in America. Do you guys in the UK pronounce it differently? You always say you have different pronunciations for these town names.
Damian in Edinburgh   Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:15 am GMT
***Worcestershire....Do you guys in the UK pronounce it differently?***

It depends on which side of the Anglo/Sottish border you are in the UK when it comes to pronunciation of the name of this fair English county (and the sauce to which it gave its name).

We Scots tend to say "WOOSTURR-shy-urr" while the English themselves say "WOOS-tuh-shuh".

Do Americans use Worcestershire sauce in any big way? That surprises me somehow but I'm not sure why.
Damian in Edinburgh   Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:17 am GMT
Worcestershire sauce is nice sprinkled on the top of a Welsh rarebit -or a Welsh rabbit as some people mistakenly call it.
Bob   Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:57 am GMT
It's the other way around:

"The term Welsh rarebit was evidently a later corruption of Welsh rabbit, being first recorded in 1785 by Francis Grose, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The entry in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage is "Welsh rabbit, Welsh rarebit" and states: "When Francis Grose defined Welsh rabbit in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue in 1785, he mistakenly indicated that rabbit was a corruption of rarebit....

In his 1926 edition of the Dictionary of Modern English Usage, the grammarian H. W. Fowler states a forthright view: "Welsh Rabbit is amusing and right. Welsh Rarebit is stupid and wrong. "

http://www.reference.com/browse/Welsh+rabbit


I'll stick to cheese on toast.
Andy in Kent   Wed Mar 04, 2009 5:37 pm GMT
Damian do you live near Saw-chee-hall?

Somebody left a note for me to arrange a service engineer to visit the "M&S in Sauchiehall St, Edinburgh". My Scottish boss laughed his head off when I read out (aloud) "So-chee-hall Street". Realising I may be mispronuncing it I tried "Saw-chee-hall?" but that just made him laugh even louder. After I made several more failed attempts my boss was laughing so much he was almost crying with laughter. He deliberately made me phone our Scottish Service Engineer (who kept asking "where?" to me) before letting me know I was getting it wrong. In my defence I've never been to Edinburgh or Sauchiehall.

I got my own back with "Trottiscliffe".
Pub Lunch   Wed Mar 04, 2009 6:55 pm GMT
I have an American lecturer who teaches Molecular Biology and she absolutely creases me up with some of her pronunciations. Today she pronounced "Fungi" as "FUN-JI" (OR FUN-JUY - the juy part sounding like guy but with a J instead of a G).

Generally, here in England, the pronunciation would be "FUN-GE (the 'ge' part sounding like key but with a G instead of a K).

The poor lady did get a few laughs out of that one bless her.

When Americans say "Momentarily" confuses me as in "the plane will be landing momentarily". When I heard that I got worried!

Of-course, I could certainly see how the Americans would find some of our pronunciations funny as well. Such as "clerk" being said as "clarke" or "mall" as "male". These two examples are rapidly diminishing mind, but I bet a fair few yanks have shaken their heads at those!
Jasper   Wed Mar 04, 2009 8:03 pm GMT
"Do Americans use Worcestershire sauce in any big way? That surprises me somehow but I'm not sure why."

I have worked in food service for many years. We keep Worcestershire Sauce on hand at all times, but I seldom get a request for it; one or two bottles in the establishment fits our needs just fine. (However, it is often used in Hollandaise sauce, a popular sauce used in Eggs Benedict.)

Oddly enough, I would dare to say that more Worcestershire sauce is consumed in the bars than in restaurants. (It's used in mixed drinks such as Bloody Marys.)