British broadcasters

Lynne Murphy lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK
Sun Jan 30 16:41:04 UTC 2000

Ken Miller asks about British pronunciations of foreign terms and place names.
There does seem to be some weird xenophobic tendency in some Brit
pronunciations.  While I'm willing to go native here and work on a SHedule and
take vItamins and Hherbs, I vowed when I came here
that I would never be caught ordering a faedgeeta at a Mexican restaurant.
(A student here referred this week to Rahdgit's Thesaurus, but I was relieved
when his classmates all piped up with "It's rozhez!")  Perhaps the weird
British perception of foreign words explains why all the new names of Indian
cities seem so different from their colonial predecessors.  (Bombay - Mumbai,

But at the same time, I believe there are cases where it is the American
pronunciation that is further from the source language, although I'm having
a hard time thinking of an example at the moment.  Of course, the English
pronounce "France" more like the French than the Americans, but that's an
accident, since it's part of a wider UK English pattern.  In both countries
'France' rhymes with 'dance.'

One thing I find strange is the differences in pronunciations of brand
names in US/UK.

Nissan:  US has high, tense i, low back a.
         UK has lax i, fronted, raised ae.  (different stress pattern)
         (South Africa, incidentally, has lax i and schwa for a.)
Chrysler:  US has 's', UK has 'z' in the middle.
Fiat:  US has(had?) low back a, UK has front, raised ae.
Pantene:  US has high, tense i for 2nd vowel, UK has lax E (as if there's a
grave accent on the e).
L'oreal seems to be pronounced more 'frenchly' here than in US.

If Pantene is French (I don't know), then perhaps the UK pronunciation is
more 'correct'.  It also seems to me on reflection (but I could be mis-
remembering--I have a horrible memory for sounds, which is why I'm a
semanticist!) that Volkswagen here has a lower, backer 'a' than in US,
where it tends to be pronounced like "wagon".

I'll try to be more observant this week, though I'm about to move into my
own place, so I'll no longer have access to TV ads.  Was freaked out yesterday
by one where the model's lips didn't match her speech rate.  Then I realized
that it was an American ad for Biore face wash in which they'd dubbed a British
voice in.

Lynne Murphy, expatriate American
University of Sussex at Brighton

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