Case in point: Bernard. Yesterday, we watched the lovely “Love Actually” as we do around the holidays. I’ve watched it a gazillion times but never caught on to the fact that Emma Thompson’s character’s son is named Bernard (minor, if completely irrelevant detail), which is pronounced in the usual British way (BER-nəd) as opposed to the American way (bur-NAHRD).
Bernard is a fascinating one, in particular because we’ve all grown up learning about the St. Bernard dog with the little barrel of brandy under its neck. It’s a bur-NAHRD that does this. Not BER-nəd. At least that is the pronunciation we have been programmed to hear. Having said that, I’ll say that BER-nəd is an altogether nicer pronunciation, which probably explains why it is still used in Britain and also why the American pronunciation of Bernard ranks #1413 on a popular baby names list in the US. It also may explain why I have never met a Bernard.