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.

Published in: on January 14, 2010 at 8:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dame Nellie Melba and Ukulele Envy

The Argus of 6 March 1928 (page 16) noted that Dame Nellie Melba has offended the city of Sydney.

Sydney feels keenly Dame Nellie Melba’s inferential slight on this city and its beaches in her laudation of Honolulu and its attractions. It is thought that Dame Nellie Melba became mesmerised by the ukulele and the moonlight, for she speaks of the ukulele almost with reverence. That, however, would not matter a great deal. Sydney claims that in beaches and moonlight it is unsurpassed. Its people are peeved by the revelation that Melba surfed twice a day in Honolulu. There is no record of her having done so here once a day as a regular practice. Her determination to buy a bungalow home on Waikiki Beach is the greatest advertisement that Honolulu resort has had in recent years, and it will be fully availed of in the publicity of the clever people who boom the Hawaiian moon, the ukulele, the surfing beaches, and the volcanoes. Manly has yet to be heard from in connection with the transference of affection of Australia’s best known citizen. Probably a score of its residents are even now writing the newspaper on the subject. 

Wikipedia has failed to note Melba’s love of the ukulele — shocking omission.

[Update: The Sydney Morning Herald of 5 March 1928 (page 10) noted Dame Nellie’s return to Sydney after a seven week holiday in Honolulu. It reported that there “she had enjoyed one of her finest holidays”. (But no talk of the 67 year old surfing twice a day.)

Everyone in Honolulu was happy, she said, no long faces there. The SMH noted that “the eminent singer was greatly interested by the ukulele music. The playing of one of these orchestras, she said, had a fascination of its own.”]

Published in: on January 9, 2010 at 9:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith plays ukulele

The Argus newspaper reported (2 November 1934, page 10) that Australian aviator Kingsford-Smith (1897-1935) bought a ukulele in Honolulu on 31 October 1934. He and his co-pilot P.G. Taylor intended to fly from Wheeler airfield to Oakland California on 1 November — it was the third and last stage of their trans-Pacific flight which started in Brisbane, Australia. 

The Argus stated that:

he is practising on a ukulele he bought to-day, saying that he intends to play it to keep Captain Taylor from going to sleep, as he did on the way from Suva. 

[Update: The Montreal Gazette (5 November 1934) reports P.G. Taylor as saying. “Sir Charles didn’t play the ukulele he got in Honolulu. Nor did he have time to sing.” They didn’t even drink the liqour they had on board, as nothing went wrong…]

Aviator and Ukulele Player

Aviator and Ukulele Player

According to Wikipedia: ‘Kingsford Smith and co-pilot Tommy Pethybridge were flying the Lady Southern Cross overnight from Allahabad, India, to Singapore, as part of their attempt to break the England-Australia speed record, when they disappeared over the Andaman Sea in the early hours of 8 November 1935.’

Published in: on January 5, 2010 at 5:38 am  Comments (2)  
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