Weird Aussie pronunciation

While Australian English is generally close enough to the “mother tongue” to be intelligible to even the most dyed-in-the-wool Pom, we do occasionally get confused by the Australians’ rather odd pronunciation.

When we first arrived in Sydney, I got some strange looks asking for direction to the nearest Dymocks bookshop. I soon found out why – it isn’t pronounced Dye-mocks, it’s pronounced Dimmerks. I believe there’s one fairly near Wynyard station, which – by the way – is pronounced Win-yerd, not Wine-yard.

On a trip down south from Sydney, we quickly learned that Kogarah isn’t pronounced Koe-GAH-rah – it’s pronounced COG-a-rah - while Wollongong isn’t pronounced Wo-lon-gong – it’s pronounced Wool-long-gong, even though there’s no double-o. Those crazy Aussies! Travelling further down the coast, we were amazed to discover that Kiama isn’t pronounced Kee-arma – it’s pronounced Kye-amma – and that Jervis Bay isn’t pronounced Jarvis Bay – it’s actually pronounced Jervis Bay, just like it’s written.

Various other place names have tripped us up over the years. Balgowlah, a Sydney suburb, is pronounced Balg-OW-lah, not BAL-go-lah, while the town of Forster, strangely, is pronounced Foster. One doesn’t pronounce Maleny as MALeny, but as MalAYnee, and you say Merimbula as MerIMbula, not MerimBUla.

If you work with computers and want to ask someone where the router is, don’t be tempted to say rooter, because “root” is Aussie slang for “to have sex”. Instead, make sure you say r-ow-ter. Meanwhile, commenting on an attractive PERgola in the park won’t get you far; try calling it a PerGOla instead for best results.

When ordering a schooner of James Boag in a pub, don’t pronounce it James Bo-ag like I did because the bar staff will think you’re crazy. It’s pronounced James Boge.

Other Aussie oddities include:

  • Data – pronounced darta, not dayta
  • Cache – pronounced cayshe, not cash
  • Eco – pronounced echo, not eeko
  • Project – pronounced pr-oh-ject, not prodject

Finally, even people’s names are pronounced differently. Megan isn’t pronounced, well, Megan as it is in the UK, but Mee-gan. And we were surprised to find that, after naming our baby boy Isaac, all our Aussie friends call him not Eye-zerk, but Eye-zack. (Which we actually quite like, luckily!)

7 Responses to “Weird Aussie pronunciation”

  1. Candice Says:

    eco is pronounced eeko down here… ive only ever heard foreigners say “echo”

  2. Matt Says:

    Thanks for your comment Candice. That’s interesting. Maybe I was just picking it up from foreigners then!

    Whereabouts do you live? Maybe it’s a regional thing.

  3. Andrea Says:

    Before the internet became widespread it was ‘darta’ here in the UK too. ‘Dayta’ is something we adopted from the Americans. Blame the Microsoft generation.

    I do occasionally hear people here who use ‘dayta’ in relation to computers and ‘darta’ when referring to anything else. I suppose that’s as correct as it’s going to get.

  4. David Says:

    As an Australian, pronounced stray yun for all youse (all of you), I fear you have still not run the syllables together enough or dropped them entirely.

    Wollongong is actually Woollen (as in cardigan) gong, while Kogarah should be pronounced COG-rah.

    It is Eeko here as well but I think that it may depend on context or social background.

    While it is understandable that the native english speaker may be suprised and confused by pronunciation of some of the English names, like Jervis, it must be remembered that many of the names are of Aboriginal origin, or anglicised forms thereof, and as such chould not be expected to follow any sort of convention.

  5. Matt Says:

    @David: Thanks for your comments. :) Good point about the Aboriginal origin. It’s funny how many names are from the Aboriginal – for example, Bundanoon, near us, sounds distinctly Scottish (and it’s in the Southern Highlands), but it’s from an Aboriginal word meaning “place of deep gullies”.

    I’m used to the word “youse” since my wife says it all the time (she’s from the north of England). :)

  6. JAn Says:

    Since moving to London from Melbourne I’ve noticed quite a few things – keeping in mind that the UK has far more accent variety than Australia.

    The biggest difference is what I call “vowel flattening” so that the Australian “rOOHm becomes the UK “ruhm” and the Australian “YOH-gurt” becomes the UK “YOGH-urt”.

    Holborn in London isn’t pronounced “Hol-born”, it’s pronounce “Hoh-burn”. The name “Anthony” isn’t pronounced “Anthony” it’s “Antony”. And for someone reason nobody laughs when the announcement comes announcing that this train is stopping all stations to Cockfosters. :)

  7. Matt Says:

    @JAn: Well noticed! Regarding Holborn though, here’s something rather contradictory: many Brits (including my Dad) pronounce Melbourne “Mel-born”, whereas I (and most Aussies) seem to say “Mel-burn”. Most odd!

    I still say “Anthony” as “Antony”. The other pronunciation just sounds weird to me – almost like having a lisp!

    Enjoy your time in London. :)

Leave a Reply