Saying ‘ukulele’ the right way

A concerned citizen of Fitzroy, Victoria (Australia) wrote in 1941 to correct  a grave error in the way Australians pronounce Hawaiian names.

In 1913, on a trip to New Zealand, I meet Professor Cunninghame, an expert in Polynesian languages, and he told me the simple rules for pronouncing island names. As a result, when later I met an Hawaiian, I astonished him by pronouncing his name correctly. He said that I was the first Australian to do so.

Every letter is pronounced, and always in the same way. AU, as it is in kauri; U, as the oo in “boot”; E, like our E in “merry”; I, like our E; AI, like our I. Thus Emirau should be “emmy-row” (noise). Hawaii should be “Ha – wy -ee”, and Hawaiian is “Ha – wy – ee – an”. The ukulele should be “oo – kulele”; we usually pronounce the “U” correctly in Honolulu…

The fact that some American singers, on records, and the BBC mispronounce Hawaiian words does not make their method correct, as at pronouncing foreign words the BBC, and their servile imitator the ABC, are tiresome jokes.  We always have to wait till we see “The Argus” to find out what they are babbling about.

So, there you have it. From the letters to the editor, The Argus, Monday, 6 January, 1941,  page 8.

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Published in: on January 14, 2010 at 8:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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