I say NUH-VAH-DUH but they say NE-VAA-DAH !

 One of the things that differentiates a visitor here from a native is the way they pronounce the name of our State, and here I’m afraid I fall down and don’t sound like a local at all…

The differences in  pronunciation between the same words spoken in England, and here are marked, and I have often wondered what lead to them. I would love to have been a fly-on-the-wall when this was first decided.

How on earth did this happen ? Was there some sort of committee meeting round a table that arbitrarily decreed  the way that a particular word was to be pronounced ?

My philosophy here has always been that I will pronounce words the English way unless I feel that the person I am speaking to wouldn’t understand what I was saying, and this has worked pretty well for me. For instance – I will pronounce the word “PROCESS” the English way – with the “O” sound rhyming with the way that letter is pronounced in the word “home”, whereas Americans invariably have it rhyming with the “O” sound in “bottle”. There is nothing at all wrong with this, and I have to say I get tee’d off by countrymen of mine who hold their noses up at this “wrong” way to pronounce words (although there is ONE exception that I will come to later on …).

For a rather small place, England is rich in accents – let alone those spoken by the natives of the three other nations that comprise the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ! Within relatively small geographic spaces (compared to the USA) you can find numerous accents and dialects, and for the benefit of those making films or TV shows in Hollywood I should tell you that they are not confined to the usual three portrayed:

Mancunian – as spoken by Daphne in “Frasier”
Cockney – as butchered by Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins” or
General purpose Upper Class Twit !

For some bizarre reason, Americans really love hearing an English accent – and though benefiting from this on many occasions, I cannot for the life of me think why this should be ! Sadly this is not reciprocated, and we Brits don’t seem to share the same love of an American accent… Don’t get me wrong – we don’t actively dislike them – its just that they are regarded the same way as all other accents heard when speaking our language, i.e. nothing out of the ordinary. One thing that IS a tad puzzling though is the number of people here who ask me if I’m Australian ! Now some accents are close, and can be hard to tell apart – Canadians and Americans can be difficult to differentiate if you don’t know the tell-tale words to look for (like “about”), and Australians do sound similar to South Africans – but Brits and Australians ?

My first riposte when asked this is to ask them if they’ve ever seen the movie “Crocodile Dundee”. I then ask them if they think I sound remotely like Paul Hogan….! I had a lengthy conversation with a lady in Starbucks who had just asked me this, and she swore that to her they did sound similar…. I guess we do hear things in different ways. For those who’ve never heard me speak – I have a very neutral English accent – that is I don’t have a regional English accent of any kind. I sound not unlike Tony Blair in the way I pronounce words – though with his Scottish blood he should really sound more like Billy Connolly !

I often tell people I meet who compliment me on my accent that I am happy they like the way I sound, and that I hope I don’t ever change. I love this country and it’s wonderful people, but have no desire to ever sound like them ! Some Brits who come here do have their accents somehow morphed into a mid-Atlantic drawl over time, or even go completely native…. I think that Jackie Collins – whose novels I have been known to read occasionally on plane journeys – has ended up with a terrible accent… Its a sort of betwixt and between, not coming identifiably from either side of the water !

One thing that does intensely annoy me here is where Brits have been hired to do voice-overs for ads – then forced to pronounce certain words the American way. The prime example of this here is the word “new”. Brits will pronounce this as if it were phonetically written as nyou – whereas Americans say it as if it were spelt noo.

Again – let me stress that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this pronunciation, but this is NOT how a Brit would say it… If you have gone to the trouble of seeking out an Englishman for a voiceover (there must surely be plenty of Americans available), it must be because you think that there are advantages with that accent when you are trying to sell something… Having done this – why on earth then force them to encourage people to buy a “…brand noo car ….!”. We would never in a million years say it this way !

Getting back to the subject of this entry, there is a grey area when it comes to proper nouns…. The names of certain stores here come instantly to mind – with a prime example being Home Depot. Now I know that the name of this store could rightly be considered a proper noun – but it is made up of words used in everyday English, one of which we pronounce very differently.

We pronounce the word depot with the “E’ sound rhyming with the way this letter sounds in the word “get”, whereas Americans invariably pronounce it deepoh ! With apologies to my American friends – it will be a very long time before this pronunciation ever passes my lips.. I figure they know where I mean anyway !

English people generally pronounce the name of our State – NUH-VAH-DAH, with the crucial letter “A” in the middle rhyming with the way that letter is pronounced in the word “car”. Indeed, when the BBC TV news reports on the results of the Caucuses here next weekend – as they surely will – you can bet your life that this is the way they will pronounce the name. Apparently the way you are SUPPOSED to pronounce it is with that “A” sound in the middle rhyming with “cat”. Now I have to tell you this seems very unnatural to a Brit like myself, hence my dogged continuation with the wrong pronunciation !  The most notable English person here in the valley that DOES pronounce it correctly every time must surely be Flo Rogers, the General Manager of my favourite radio station – KNPR. It was very comforting as a keen listener to BBC Radio 4 in England – which is the intelligent speech network there – to hear Flo’s dulcet tones when I first arrived, and unlike some she has not lost a shred of her English accent. She is scrupulous though in pronouncing the name of our State correctly – when that name is embedded within that of your organisation (Nevada Public Radio) there must be a certain pressure on you to do so !

The other day when I was considering this – I got to thinking about the origins of the name, and that perhaps all the fuss is a little overblown. Consider the following:

The name ‘Nevada” is Spanish, being that language’s feminine form of “covered in snow”  – and was surely not pronounced the way inhabitants now do. My best friend here is of Hispanic origin and assures me that phonetically the word is more properly pronounced “NEH-VAH-THA“. So what we essentially have here is a bunch of settlers who upon arriving in this territory – appropriated a Spanish name, totally corrupted it’s pronunciation – and then they and their descendants spend their lives tut-tutting at anyone not pronouncing it this way !!

I mentioned earlier that there was one exception to my not minding at all how words here are pronounced – and that is the awful way people here pronounce the name “Notre Dame” !

The good people of Paris did not name one of the finest cathedrals in all of Christendom NOH-TER-DAYME ! Being a fan of College football here this does on occasions cause me problems, but I shall forever get around this by referring to “The Fighting Irish” or “That college in South Bend Indiana” – the generally used pronunciation will never pass my lips !

On May 27th this year I will have been living in my adopted State for exactly three years. There is some small hope that by then I may feel comfortable pronouncing it’s name the way locals would like – but don’t count on it !

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