American vs British pronunciation: 7 words to watch out for
Americans and Brits. There are some things that we have different words for (zucchini vs courgette, stroller vs pram), and some words we use for different things (always make sure you’ve agreed on a common meaning of pants before you broach the topic). Some words we spell differently – the pesky ‘u’ to remember to add or remove in color/colour , for instance – and then some are transatlantically fine on the page, but the moment you open your mouth… not so much.
We’ve picked some of the most common words you’ll find pronounced differently across the pond, whichever side you’re looking at it.
Niche can rhyme with ‘itch’ in American English, though in Britain you’d only hear niche pronounced to rhyme with pastiche or quiche. The British pronunciation is based on the fact that the word is borrowed from French, where it means ‘recess’, from nicher, ‘make a nest’.
In British English, vase is pronounced to rhyme with Mars. Head over to America, and there are a few options – two of the most common pronunciations rhyme vase with place or maze, neither of which are in use in British English.
While the US pronunciation of privacy is gaining currency in the UK, traditionally Brits have pronounced the first syllable ‘priv’ while Americans have pronounced it ‘prive’.
This is another word where you’ve got choices in US English: buoy can be pronounced with one syllable or two. If one, it is exactly the same as boy (and this is always the case in British English); if two, it is along the lines of ‘boo-ey’, as the video above indicates. The word itself is probably from Middle Dutch boye, boeie, from a Germanic base meaning ‘signal’.
While there aren’t any zebras indigenous to either America or the UK, we have different ways of pronouncing the English name of this black and white African mammal. American English pronounces the first syllable as ‘zee’ – an option that is included on OxfordDictionaries.com for British English, alongside the more common pronunciation of that syllable in the UK of ‘zeh’.
In British English, route is always pronounced as the homophone of root. This pronunciation is also used in American English, alongside another which rhymes route with out.
In British English, clique (‘a small close-knit group of people who do not readily allow others to join them’) always follows the same pronunciation as other words which ended –ique, such as antique, critique, and unique. This is an option in American English, but you will also often hear clique pronounced in the same way as click.