Silly moi!

I have a talent for making born-and-bred Canadians laugh at me, especially when it comes to my accent and pronunciation. I mean, it’s obviously just ridiculous to assume that French-looking names would be pronounced according to French pronunciation norms in a country where French is an official language!

This all started on my first visit to Vancouver Island, when I pronounced Esquimault, home of the Canadian Navy’s Pacific fleet, as Eskimo. WRONG! It’s Esk-WHY-molt.


There have been other examples over the years, with the most recent being new Vancouver Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis.

Which is apparently pronounced HAM-hoys*, not am-HWEE.

Now, in the Geordie dialect of the northeast of England, where I’m originally from, hoy means throw**. So when I hear “Ham-hoys”, I imagine a Geordie sport that entails throwing pork joints as far as you can – similar to the Scottish caber toss.

But with ham.

This is gonna make next season’s match commentary much more interesting.


*So I’m guessing his family isn’t of French origin after all, then. It was the -uis that threw me!

**Apparently it’s the same in Chinese! My Dad used to play on a football team in Manchester (which is not in Geordieland) that once tried out a goalie who’d recently immigrated from China. The goalie’s kicks forward to his teammates were rather erratic, so they asked him to throw the ball to them instead – but he didn’t understand. Everyone got really frustrated until my Dad shouted “just hoy it, man!” None of the other English players understood what he meant, but the goalie said “hoy? Oh, hoy!” and threw the ball straight to my Dad’s feet.

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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14 Responses to Silly moi!

  1. tideliar says:

    I think I heard this from John Cleese (maybe Billy Connoley*) when he was filming in Australia…Having trouble with Aboriginal names and pronunciation he was getting frustrated until one of his crew said to just pronounce things phonetically. Things seemed to go fine for a while until they were coming back from a long jaunt in the bush. They got to town and were looking for somewhere to eat and he turned to his crew member and said, "Whats that place sell? Takee Yawayaa?""Uh, that's the Take Away, mate…"*I have no idea how 'n's and 'l's are in that name…

  2. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    HAHAHA! That's brilliant!There are lots of Aboriginal place names around here, too. There are so many different languages though that I haven't been able to distinguish any pronunciation patterns, and some of the names even have numbers in them! I find it best to ask how to pronounce each place on a case-by-case basis.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Quebecois don't speak French wrong. The French speak French wrong, at least according to the Quebecois.-antipodean

  4. Schlupp says:

    Well, "huis" looks more Dutch than French anyway.

  5. Nina says:

    I was about to say that too. Hamhuis in Dutch means ham house. His ancestor was probably a butcher.It is one of the Dutch tricks to get foreigners prononounce the "ui' sound. Everybody fails miserably. I think it was even used in the war to check whether someone was really Dutch. That's my patriotic post for today 😉

  6. chall says:

    Nina> I guess the "ui" sounds is the longish sighlike sound that is sort of similar to a Swedish dialect 😉 We could always have used 'y' and 'u' since those two are superhard for English speakers to get correct.Cath> I'd falled in that trap too. There is a city called "New Orleans" and the obvious 'Arkansas' which of course, is not pronunced anything like Kansas… to the dismay of many 😉

  7. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Antipodean, that's true in my experience! But the French Canadians I know here in very Anglo British Columbia tend to agree with me on my pronunciation of places such as Esquimault!Schlupp and Nina, I haven't had enough exposure to the Dutch language to spot that! I took French at high school and visited France often, plus I see it on every single labelled product I buy in Canada, so I was thinking of words like depuis.So Nina, is Ham-hoys partially, completely, or not at all correct…?!Chall, it's a minefield! I still don't really know how to pronounce New Orleans, but I do at least know that Arkansas is not Are-KAN-sas!

  8. chall says:

    Cath> my guess on the 'hoys' is that you think on the swedish word 'sju' and get inspired… 😉 (it's almost lie my teacher in Scots-Gaelic who stated "it's a silent RGHR in your throat". yeah… a silent sound to be heard… duh.)NO is easiest to skip as NOLA imho 🙂 Otherwise the concept of "pulling all sounds together with a drawl" is poular "Naw'leans" sort of… (here endeth my rant. can you tell I want to go home and have weekend?!)

  9. Nina says:

    Cath, "hoys" is definitely as close as you're ever going to get. I wouldn't have a clue as to how to write it phonetically so that an English speaking person could correctly pronounce it. youtube "ui zinnen", it's a bit slow, but many examples …

  10. Eva says:

    In some Dutch dialects the "ui" sounds like the sound in the (English (not French!) pronounciation of) "lieu"

  11. Silver Fox says:

    Nu OR Lins. (unless you're from the south or live there, then I'd go with Chall's pronunciation, though that looks distinctly Virginian)

  12. Anonymous says:

    On the subject of hard to pronounce place names. New Zealand offers this wee gem.Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu luck with that-antipodean

  13. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Chall, thanks for that comment, which was very helpful to a non-Swedish speaker! :)Nina, I'll give that a try – thanks! But I guess if "Ham-hoys" is good enough for the CBC, I'll just say that, and try not to think too much of people throwing meat.Eva, so it's Ham-hyoos? Or Ham-hoos? (I think Brits and Yanks pronounce lieu differently. Or maybe it's just my Mum who says lyoo – she does that with some other words too).Silver Fox, that's kinda hard to pull off with an English accent, but I shall give it my best shot!Antipodean, WOW. That's up there with Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch!

  14. Anonymous says:

    No fair!There's a quadruple L in that one. When I tried to say it I gagged on one of my tonsils with the first 'LL' and then switched tonsils for the second 'LL'.Fucking Welsh!-antipodean

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