1 Apr 2015

Do you know the way to say San Jose?

3:44 pm on 1 April 2015

American place names can cause difficulties sometimes, especially for broadcasters, because you can't rely on the spelling to give you the clues.

San Jose

Photo: 123RF

Also, they can be pronounced differently in countries outside the United States. And the pronunciation can vary from state to state. Some American place names, originating from other languages are anglicised, while others are not.

The following is a guide our staff use, in a New Zealand context, for some American places.

Measuring the strength of alcohol

After all of that you might need a drink. The strength of alcoholic beverages can be expressed by percentage or by proof. The two measures are not the same.

Proof is not the percentage of alcohol in the drink. In simple terms, liquor described as being two proof contains one percent alcohol.

It is wrong to describe an alcoholic drink as being 40 percent proof. A correct description would be either "degrees proof", or just "proof" - or "percent alcohol".

For example, standard gin containing 37 percent alcohol, is 74 proof, or 74 degrees proof. Our staff are advised to stick to percentage and avoid proof altogether.

Letters to Hewitt

A correspondent is concerned about the pronunciation of 'respiratory'.

It's an interesting word because its "accepted" pronunciation has changed twice in the 50 years I have been a broadcaster.

In my early days, it was ris-SPIGH-(uh)-ruh-tree [IPA: rɪˈspaɪərətr̩i]. Later it was to be become "correct" to say RES-p(uh)-ruh-tree [ IPA ˈrespərətri] - a pronunciation our listener is not too keen on.

Today our presenters are encouraged to say ris-SPIRRUH-tree [IPA: rɪˈspɪrətr̩i]. It is a really good example of how pronunciations can change.

Note: IPA refers to the universal system of international phonetic symbols and provides a more exact notation of how we say things.

* Hewitt Humphrey is Radio New Zealand's Presentation Standards Manager. If there are any words you would like him to address in future please send your query to rnzwebsite@radionz.co.nz and put in the subject field: Attention, Hewitt Humphrey.

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