Thursday, October 04, 2007

aluminium or aluminum?

Some say English is the hardest language to learn & that at times words just don't make sense the way they're pronounced. At first, I'd vehemently dismiss this utterance but I have now come to realize this just might be true. Learning English really is a whole different ball game. Some words are pronounced & enunciated differently if you've learned the Queen's English compared to American English (which at times this seems to shadow Canada as well). Coming from India & Dubai, my family & I have all had to realign certain pronunciations of some of our words. My mother says it best: I learned English when I was a kid in India & now I have to learn it all over again? Bloody nonsense! Of course, she exaggerates a little. It's only a few words, but getting caught with just those few can depending on the situation, cause you blush a little when you realize that the other party can't quite understand you.

A few years ago in Toronto, I was watching CityLine's Design Thursdays, with Marilyn Dennis hosting & in one segment, interviewing a guest of Asian origin. While discussing products available on that particular show, he mentioned the word aluminium, a common one in the design world. Now if you're from the East, you're going to read this word like the British do & if you're from North America you're going to read it like the North Americans do. What's the difference? Allow me to demonstrate, as best I can. The British version of aluminium is probably said 'aalumineeyum'. The North American version is said 'aloomenum'. The reason for the difference in pronunciation explained here. Of course, Marilyn dared to poke fun at the guest saying: "Aalumineeyum? What the heck is aalumineeyum? It's aloomenum." Suffice to say the guest was significantly embarrassed & could do nothing else but, along with the audience, laugh at himself. Not Marilyn's best moment, I know.

And while I tend to forget about this incident from time to time, I did remember it today while listening to the news on the radio (seems like I listen to the radio a lot lately, but it's only while I'm driving). Anyway, this particular news broadcaster on the radio of British origin also appears on the nightly news as well (many of you know of whom I speak). I can't remember what the context was but he said aluminium exactly the way the Brits say it: aalumineeyum! Nothing wrong with that but it put a smile on my face as it reminded me of the Cityline episode & Marilyn's faux pas.

I'm sure there are more words like aluminium that you may have heard of or come across while in conversation. Like roof, pronounced rooof the British way but sometimes pronounced 'ruf', the American way. Or route, pronounced 'root' the British way, but 'raut' the American way. At this point I would also like to mention that while Canadians for the most part follow the Queen's English, we (not me, except for the word aluminium) sometimes tend to pronounce some words the American way due to our close proximity . Why oh why do we have to deviate & more importantly who is the deviant? It's a rhetorical question, for we know who the culprit is. (Oh! culprit is another word I'm going to touch upon in another post for another day). But getting back to our word of the day, I'm calling all Bermudians (& everyone else too): How DO you pronounce aluminium?

Oh & did I mention my brother & I have a super fun time teasing my parents when they slip back to the British pronunciation of words. Which reminds me, it's my brother's birthday. Happy Birthday, Bro. I can't believe how old you are now. Only a year & a half younger than I but still. Sheesh!


Anonymous said...

A few others, as this is always an issue, I'm British and the wifes Canadian:

Oregaarno and origano for Oregano

Realised not realized, please!

Wostersure not wozestershire for worcestershire sauce.

more will come shortly

DeOnion said...

Dear Ms. Cutepants,

I pronounce it in the Ameri-Bermudian way as simply "luminum". Having already greeted anyone I meet with a resounding A-bye! there is really no need to include an additional vowel in an already vowel crowded word.



Oliver said...

In the process of mutilating anything they pronounce, the Americans have unwittingly reverted to the original Native American pronunciation of the word. The British, being elitist refer to the automobile they produce as "Jag-you-are" as opposed to the Yanks' "Jag-waar", which incidentally is closest to the original ethnic pronunciation.

But I guess we have to be thankful to the Brits for something. At least we could say Bombay, Calcutta and Bangalore for a few years before now being forced to use Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru.

Besides, the Americans speak American; not English!!!!

Oh, about the Aluminum vs Aluminium debate:

Broom said...

Aalumineeyum OFCOURSE! :)

Anonymous said...

Isn't it Bajan rather than Bermudian?