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.
Last night, we watched the series premiere of The X-Factor, which spotlighted auditions in Los Angeles.
Or should I say Lohs Angeleez? Because that’s what host Steve Jones, as well as British judges Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole were calling it repeatedly. LohsAngeleezLohsAngeleezLohsAngeleez.
But why? What’s wrong with Lahs Anjuhles? Or at least the original Spanish Lohs Annhelles?
I don’t think it’s a turn of phrase that is difficult to say with a British accent so I have to wonder … How do these sorts of national mispronunciations get started? Is there a British pronunciation handbook somewhere that decides these sorts of things? Is it written by the Queen? And can I buy it on Amazon?