15 Responses

  1. Claudio says:

    Ahah, you’re right, I ‘adn’t thought of that, actually! Anyway, Milan ‘as no ‘arbour, so reaching London by ‘overcraft would ‘ave been an epic effort! And probably an epic fail! 😀

  2. James Walford says:

    Claudio – leaving the h off words isn’t confined to those with a foreign first language, let alone Italians… A cockney would stay at an ‘otel, ride an ‘orse, contract ‘epititis, and if his flight was grounded by a cloud of volcanic ash, probably look for an ‘overcraft in the ‘arbour.

  3. Larry White says:

    Yes, thanks James for the insights and examples—I love the “wideo” example, which is not confined to Denmark. And my Chinese sister-in-law still confuses gender pronouns after 40 years in a mostly non-Chinese-speaking community in America.
    To my ear, when Eyjafjallajökull is broken down into three smaller components it’s not much more difficult than saying “Samuel Taylor Coleridge”. I can imagine Ian Dury pulling it off and making it a household word, in time. It’s just such a towering eyefull at first, to Anglo-American monolinguists.

  4. Claudio says:

    Good to know how to pronounce the name of what caused my flight to London from Milan to be cancelled, just 2days ago! Maybe my curses against it (him?) will be more efficient now!
    Anyway, after reading James’s comment I’d be very curious to know what do the English-speaking world think about all the Italian people messing up the words starting with an H (howl/owl, for instance)! I think it’s one of our most common prononciation mistakes, since the H in Italian has no sound (we say “hotel” as “otel”, for example).

  5. Ian Marchant says:

    This is top. Thank you Larry and James.

  6. James Walford says:

    One of the stranger things about pronunciation of foreign words is thinking you’ve got it right when you haven’t, of not actually being able to hear the difference between various sounds. Apparently it’s the vocal sounds we hear in the first six months of life that are those we can recognise and work with, anything else is very hard to learn. In Denmark this is quite a problem for me, despite having been here since the mid nineties. They have the three extra vowels (å, æ and ø) plus y is also a vowel here. The differences between some of the vowel sounds are, to my ear, very subtle indeed, if they’re said slowly and stressed I can hear them, but in everyday speech it’s near impossible. The Danes, on the other hand, regularly mix up hard gs and ks, to the point where they’re one of the common spelling mistakes (and there are even alternative spellings for some words with the two letters swapped). The names of the vowels are even harder to hear the difference between, especially e and i, æ and a, and u, y and ø.

    Then there’s the soft d, which is somewhere between a th and an l, depending on context. The Danish for street is gade. It’s pronounced something like gaTHe-uh. But the Danish for red is rød, which is pronounced something like rull (but leave your tongue touching the back of your teeth at the end to soften the ending).

    There are some weird and inexplicable things going on as well. The Danes don’t really use w, but do have a soft v. Nonetheless they pronounce video pretty mush as we would (vowel sounds aside…). Until they say video in English, where every last one of them says wideo. I just don’t know why at all. It’s not like we even have a soft v in English (not that I can think of anyway), why on earth should they change the v when it’s exactly the same as in their own word?

    I’ve also heard that this difference in how we hear sounds is the root of the infamous “flied lice” in the Chinese takeaway. It’s not a question of accent, it’s the non-existence of consonants conforming to l and r, coupled with the existence of one that falls somewhere in between.

  7. Larry White says:

    Ian, having posted this so soon after “Anti-antidisestablishmentarianism” I never thought you personally had a problem with it. In my case, while I could hear it rolling off my tongue, now that I’ve heard an Icelander pronounce Eyjafjallajökull, I have learned that the double l in “fjalla” and “jökull” is pronounced “tl”—“fyatla” and “yökutl”. Not too hard for a Welshman—or a Nahuatl speaker. I was fooled by the absence of any obvious Old Norse letters. Accent seems to be distributed equally on “Ey”, “Fja”, and “jö”. The Icelander reporting to ABC did not seem to stress a difference between ö and o. For what it’s wörth. (My e-mail address has alternate pronunciations.)

  8. Ian Marchant says:

    As to Victoria’s comment (and I’m sorry these things seem to post up out of order), I think a fair few people were dissapointed by Cleggy; after all, the polls are scoring it roughly 50% Clegg, and 25% the others. My favourite moment though, was where Puir Gordon was talking about a lower house elected by AV and an upper house elected by PR, and kept saying ‘Nick agrees with me’, and Cleggy got angry (rightly in my view), because the point is that the New Party now pretend they agree with the Lib Dems, not the other way round. And, of course, I would wish to argue that naive first time voters should vote Green if they want a radical alternative they can square with thei conscience…

  9. Ian Marchant says:

    If you look at the time this was posted, it proves my point that they were burning the midnight oil…
    I hope Cleggy had a good nights sleep.

  10. Victoria says:

    I don’t know, I seem to be the only one who felt a bit let down by Nick Clegg. I only want to vote Lib Dem if they offer a genuine alternative to Labour, not the prospect of another 4 years of Gordon Brown. To me, there seemed to be a lot of Cameron-bashing from Nick Clegg, a fair few “I agree with Gordons” and, most embarassing of all, the suggestion that Labour were ‘slightly’ wrong in particular policies. The debate just seemed to be an exercise in forging a Lib-Lab alliance, which I found sorely disappointing. But then, maybe I’m just a naive first-time voter…

  11. Ian Marchant says:

    Oh, I can pronounce it, no problem. I’ve been cheerfully pronouncing it for days. My Icelandic accent is frighteningly accurate; people often mistake me for Bjork. Or is that Burk? I just find it funny that the newsreaders all seem to be running scared.

  12. markswill says:

    Like all right thinking people, I ignored the so-called ‘debate’ and spent the night in the pub competing in a remarkably challenging ‘pop quiz’. (Sample question: How old is Cliff Richard?) However fast forwarding through the recorded version over my Shreddies this morning I couldn’t help but conclude that the Cleggster is actually a robot. Nowt wrong with that, however, but if we’re going down that road, then I’d rather have Terminator-stylee Arnie: after all, see what a fine job he’s made of governing California. Anyway, I hope those of you who live in our politically jaundiced, if not liberated little burgh will be joining me at the Monster Raving Loony party’s, erm, party in Llandod on April 23rd. I’ll organise the chara if there’s enough of us.

  13. James Walford says:

    Here in Copenhagen I used to live in a part of town called Island’s Brygge, where all the streets were named after Icelandic or Faeroese places. While the Danish pronunciation will undoubtedly differ a fair amount from the Icelandic I concur with Larry, though maybe more Aya-fyalla-yokull. I’m not sure which syllable would be stressed in Iceland, in Denmark it would either be the Ay of aya or the fya of fyalla (the fy phonetic spelling is an atttepmpt to reprodcue the fj, which is the same as the fj in fjord)

  14. Larry White says:

    I haven’t checked with my cool Icelandic relatives, but how hard can it be if you are familiar with any Germanic languages? Eya-Fyalla-yokull (jokull=glacier). I’m guessing the accent is on the penultimate syllable, the yo. Welshmen should have no problem.

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