20 Feb 2015

Why did we say it like that?

12:53 pm on 20 February 2015

Almost every day Radio New Zealand receives emails or letters, questioning the way a staff member has pronounced a word or place name.

150714. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Generic radio studio. Microphone, Onair, console

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

A response is sent to these enquiries, usually within two or three days. However, sometimes a word or place name becomes the subject of a great many queries. So, we thought it would be a good idea to explain, from time-to-time, why we pronounce some words, or names, in a particular way.

Research is based on a number of resources, including well-established and respected dictionaries, and in some cases knowledge passed on by other broadcast organisations, including the BBC. This research, sometimes together with other factors, such as recognition of local usage, enables a considered response to requests for information from on-air broadcasters within Radio New Zealand, and listeners alike.

There are many words which we do not have a view on - we don't mind which way they are said. For example: either can be said as IGH-thuh, or EE-thuh. Both pronunciations are perfectly acceptable and many words fall into this category.

There are some words which may have more than one accepted pronunciation, but for which Radio New Zealand has a preference. Envelope is one of those. While EN-vuh-lohp and ON-vuh-lohp are both accepted, it is our preference that it be said EN-vuh-lohp.

Then, there are words for which we have a policy. A good example is kilometre, which is often pronounced kil-OM-uh-tuh. Our policy is to pronounce it as KIL-uh-meet-uh, keeping it consistent with millimetre, centimetre and kilogram. Another example is clandestine. It is our policy to pronounce it as klan-DES-tuhn.

There are also those words, for which there is only one acceptable pronunciation - to say it any other way would be wrong. Two examples of words in this category are mischievous and grievous - pronounced MISS-chuh-vuhss and GREE-vuhss, not mis-CHEEV-ee-uhss and GREEV-ee-uhss.

If there any are any words you would like me to address in future please send your query to RNZWebsite@radionz.co.nz and put in the subject field: Attention, Hewitt Humphrey.

* Hewitt Humphrey is Radio New Zealand's Presentation Standards Manager.

  • Weather in Te Reo sparks language debate
  • 3 News defends use of Te Reo
  • Debate over re-naming of 90 Mile Beach