"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 03/17/13

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Top 50 Words Nigerians Commonly Mispronounce (II)

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

For the part I of this article click this link here

8. Buffet. This is another French loanword in English that retains its original French pronunciation. The last “t” in the word is silent. It sounds like “biufey.” But note that the word is pronounced “biufey” only when it refers to the kind of meal where customers pay a flat fee in a restaurant and eat all they want so long as they don’t take out any food. If the word is used as a verb to mean strike against something forcefully and repeatedly (as in: “the violent winds buffeted him”) the terminal “t” isn’t silent. It is pronounced something like “biufit.”

9. Brochure. Several Nigerians pronounce this word as “bro-kio.” That would throw off almost every non-Nigerian English speaker. It is pronounced something like “browsho(r) in all native varieties of English. The “ch” in the word sounds like the “sh” in “sheep.”

10. Castle. The “t” in “castle” is silent, so that it sounds like “ka-s(u)l” in both American and British pronunciations. Many Nigerians pronounce the word as “kas-tul.”

11. Champagne. The dominant British and American English pronunciation of this word is “sham-peyn.” Nigerians either sound out the “ch” in the word like the “ch” in chair or articulate the “g,” which is always silent in native-speaker pronunciations. The late Durosinmi Irojah, one of Nigeria’s foremost journalists, used to tell us the story of how northern Nigeria’s first military governor, the late General Hassan Usman Katsina, was once discombobulated and peeved when he was told that he had mispronounced “champagne.” 

He was having a dinner with foreign dignitaries when he said to the waitress: “Please give me a bottle of cham-paG-ne!” He pronounced the “ch” in the word like you pronounce the “ch” in “church,” the “pa” like the “pa” in “pass,” the “g” like the “g” in “go,” and the “ne” like the “ne” in “net.” Everyone on the dinner table struggled to suppress the laughter that welled up in them. So an aide said to him in a soft, hushed, barely audible tone: “General, it’s pronounced ‘sham-pain.’” What happened next startled everyone. The general yelled out loud: “What the hell is the ‘g’ is doing there! If they don’t want us to pronounce it, they should take it out. Give me a bottle of CHAM-PA-GNE, I say!” This helped people around him let out the laughter that they had bottled up. You’re right, General. What the heck is the “g” doing in champagne? And, for that matter, what is it doing in campaign?

12. Charlatan. Nigerians pronounce this word “cha-latan.” The “ch” in the word is often pronounced like the “ch” in “change.” In American and British pronunciation, however, the “ch” in “charlatan” sounds like “sh” and the “a” sound after “ch” is a little longer than the way Nigerians articulate it. So it sounds something like “shaa(r)latan.” This also applies to the word’s noun form, charlatanism (“shaa(r)latanizm”). I should also mention that “chauffeur,” which many Nigerians pronounce as “cho-fo,” is pronounced something like “show-fo” by native English speakers. 

13. Colonel. There are two levels of mispronunciations of this word in Nigerian English. Barely educated people sound out every letter in the word as in: “ko-lo-nel.” It makes it sound almost like “colonial.” More educated people pronounce it as “ko-nel,” which is close to the “ke-n(u)l” in British pronunciation and “ker-n(u)l” in American pronunciation. 

14. Comb/crumb/dumb/numb. Like “bomb,” the last “b” sound in these words is silent; it is never pronounced. So “comb” is pronounced “kom,” “combing” is “koming,” and “combed” is “komd.” Similarly, “crumb” is pronounced “krum” and “crumbs” “krums.” Dumb is pronounced “dum.” This also applies to all of the word’s inflections such as “dumber” (duma(r)), “dumbest” (dumest), “dumbing” (dumin), etc. “Numb,” too, is “num.”

15. Cruel. Native English speakers pronounce this word like “kru-ool.” Nigerians, on the other hand, sound out the “e” in the word to make something like “kru-el.”

16. Curse/cause/course. Many Nigerians have a hard time distinctly pronouncing the words “cause,” “course,” and “curse.” They are all pronounced “kos.” British English speakers pronounce “curse” like “kes,” except that the “e” sound (which is kind of like the “e” sound in “met”) is long. Americans pronounce it “keRs,” also with a long “e” sound. “Cause” is pronounced “koz” with a short “o” sound (which is close to the “o” sound in “all”), and “course” is pronounced “kos” with a long “o” sound. In American pronunciation the “r” in “course” is, of course, articulated to have something like “koRs.”

17. Debris. A lot of Nigerians I know pronounce the last letter in this word and render the “i” sound like it’s a short one. But native speakers pronounce it like “debree.” That means the last “s” is never sounded and the “i” sound is long. But there are variations in the way the first “de” is pronounced. Some pronounce it as “deibree,” others as “dubree,” and yet others as “dibree.” What unites all the variations, nevertheless, is that they don’t articulate the last “s” and they elongate the “i” sound. 

18. Debt. In native English speaker pronunciations, the “b” in debt” is silent. It sounds like “det.” This native-speaker pronunciation can lead to grievous, even fatal, verbal miscues in Nigeria. Because we don’t observe the “th” sound in Nigerian English pronunciation, “det” could be mistaken for “death.” Saying “I have come to collect my ‘det’” could be mistaken for “I have come to be murdered,” especially because your debtor is likely going to be interested in your death! I personally would never pronounce “debt” as “det” in Nigeria. I love my life way more than I love “proper” English pronunciation! In the word’s other inflections— debtor, indebted, indebtedness, etc.—the “b” is also never pronounced in British and American pronunciations. So it’s “deto(r),” “indetid,” “indetidnis.” 

19. Depot. Most Nigerians, irrespective of social class and educational attainment, sound out every letter in this word. In native English pronunciations, however, the last “t” is silent. The word is pronounced “depow” or “deepow.”

20. Divisive. It is pronounced “di-vaisiv” in both British English and American English. But Nigerians pronounce it as “di-visiv.”

21. Divorce: It is pronounced “di-vo(r)s” in native-speaker pronunciation, not “dai-vos.” 

22. Elite. Nigerians either pronounce this word as “e-lait” or “e-lit.” Many native English speakers would be mystified by the first pronunciation especially because it almost sounds like the way they pronounce the word “elide” (i-laid). But I suspect that they would have a clue what you’re saying by the second pronunciation. Well, the word is pronounced like “i-leet.”

23. Expatiate. There is usually an intrusive “n” sound when Nigerians pronounce this word. It often sounds like “eks-pan-shi-yeyt.” But native speakers pronounce it like “iks-pey-shee-eyt.” What I call the intrusive “n” appears to be a recurring issue in Nigerian English pronunciation. Perhaps phonologists have studied this and have offered insights into why Nigerians insert the “n” sound in many words that have no “n” at all. Remember “antoni-jenera” (attorney-general) from last week? Another word in which the intrusive “n” occurs in Nigerian English pronunciation is “sigh.” Native speakers pronounce it “sai,” but many Nigerians pronounce it “sain,” perhaps because the word almost looks like “sign,” which is pronounced “sain.” I am also sometimes guilty of mispronouncing “sigh” as “sain.” 

24. Façade. The word is pronounced something like “fa-saad” by native English speakers. Many Nigerians pronounce it “fa-keyd.” About 15 years ago, a professional colleague of mine in Nigeria told me something was a “mere fa-keyd.” I had no clue what he was talking about. So I went to check the dictionary, thinking he was using a word I was not familiar with. But I never found the word in all my dictionaries. Two days after, I went back to him and asked him to spell “fakeyed” for me because I couldn’t find it in any dictionary. I thought I didn’t get the correct spelling. He wrote “façade.” I couldn’t help exclaiming, “Oh you meant fa-saad!” He contested the accuracy of my pronunciation, so we both went to check the dictionary. He found that he was wrong. “These English people are crazy o!” I recall him as saying exasperatedly.  Yes, English is a crazy, quirky language.

To be continued

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