hyperbole (pronunciation)

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by mathman, Jul 19, 2009.

  1. mathman Valued Senior Member

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    How did "hyperbole" get its (to me) unusual pronounciation? Most words beginning with "hyper" have the accent on the first syllable, not the second. Also, words with "ole" are usually pronounced like sole, mole, pole, etc., not like "olee". My only guess is its similarity to hyperbola, so the prounciation is similar.
     
  2. James R Just this guy, you know? Administrator

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    It's a word of ancient Greek origin that has come to us via Latin.

    The "hyper" part means "above" and "ballo" means "I throw".

    A lot of ancient Greek words ending in e are pronounced with a long "ee" sound. Think, for example, of the names of Greek gods and mythological figures, like Persephone (per-sef-on-ee) or Calliope (Call-eye-o-pee).
     
  3. Fraggle Rocker Moderator

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    As JR noted, hyper- is a Greek morpheme and most English words that start with it are of Greek origin. (Exceptions are recent hybrid coinages like "hyperinflation.") Therefore we're at the mercy of Greek phonetics. In addition to hyperbola and hyperbole, the name of the mythical Greek figure Hyperion also has the accent on the second syllable.
    Yes, but those three words are of Latin origin, not Greek, and they arrived in English via French, in which final E's are silent. If you lived in the USA you'd be familiar with the Mexican avocado-based sauce called guacamole, in which the final letters are pronounced MOH-lay.

    American English has the infuriating custom of assimilating foreign words complete with both their foreign pronunciation and foreign spelling, even when the spelling rules of the other language are not the same as ours. The British pronounce Nazi with a soft Z, NAW-zee. We pronounce it in correct German, NAH-tsee. We pronounce tequila in proper Spanish, teh-KEE-la. They say tee-KWILL-a.

    Of course we both say jaguar wrong, JAG-wahr versus JAG-yoo-er. The correct Spanish pronunciation is kha-GWAR.
     
  4. James R Just this guy, you know? Administrator

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    They do?

    In most instances, British pronunciation is identical to Australian pronunciation, and in Australia it is certainty NAH-tsee and te-KEE-la.
     
  5. Steve100 O͓͍̯̬̯̙͈̟̥̳̩͒̆̿ͬ̑̀̓̿͋ͬ ̙̳ͅ ̫̪̳͔O Valued Senior Member

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    Tis here too (England)
     
  6. Enmos Moderator

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    That's exactly how I pronounce it..
    Accent on the first syllable of 'hyper', and 'ole' as in 'mole'.

    :shrug:
     
  7. phlogistician Banned

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    Never heard people say 'naw-zee', it's always a hard 'z' NAH-tsee, and Tequila (It makes me happy) is pronounced teh-KEE-la by Brits, including the linked songsters.
     
  8. FreshHat Registered Senior Member

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    Then you have Procul Harum, with their 1960s hit, the title of which they pronounced "Con-kwiss-tador". :D
     
  9. Cellar_Door Whose Worth's unknown Registered Senior Member

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    So how exactly are you meant to pronounce 'hyperbole'?
     
  10. Enmos Moderator

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    Like I do, of course ! :p
     
  11. Cellar_Door Whose Worth's unknown Registered Senior Member

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    So it rhymes with 'diaper-mole'? :D
     
  12. Enmos Moderator

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    You got it! :D
     
  13. Fraggle Rocker Moderator

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    In newsreels Churchill said NAW-zee. At least that's what I've been told, I was too young. Perhaps the generations who grew up after WWII learned to pronounce it more properly. And I've heard tee-QUILL-a in British movies, but that was many years ago and perhaps they've improved on that too. But they still say JAG-yoo-er.:)
    Not to mention Byron's famous poem "Don Juan," which must be read as Don JOO-uhn to make the meter and rhyme work. The British are famous for pronouncing French correctly, but not other languages. Their Latin is just plain silly, since they pronounce V as W as in Classical Latin, but then pronounce all the vowels as if they were English.
    According to Dictionary.com it's high-PURR-buh-lee and there is no alternative pronunciation. I'd be very surprised if a British reference gives more leeway than ours.
     
  14. James R Just this guy, you know? Administrator

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    I'd be confident in saying that there's near universal agreement that "hyperbole" is pronounced high-PURR-buh-lee, as Fraggle said.
     
  15. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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  16. Enmos Moderator

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  17. Enmos Moderator

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    I, and everyone I know, pronounce it like this:

    Hyper bole
     
  18. Fraggle Rocker Moderator

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    Why? The closest word to it in our language is hyperbola, which has the identical stress pattern. Even if it didn't, our language is full of pairs of Greek words that have different stress patterns, such as autonomous and autonomic or geography and geographic. Even among native Anglo-Saxon words, we have FOR-ward and for-GET.
    But you can't do that with English words. You can't break them apart and assume that the pronunciation of the individual pieces will correctly aggregate into the pronunciation of the entire word.

    Besides, "bole" as an individual word is of Latin origin, whereas the -bole in hyperbole is of Greek origin. They're two different words! We got the Latin word second-hand via French, in which the second syllable had already fallen silent. The Greek word came through classical scholars and the original Greek pronunciation was preserved much more faithfully.

    Perhaps some day your slang pronunciation will become standard, but today it is not. As I pointed out earlier, it is not even noted in American dictionaries, which are notorious for caving in to popular pressure, e.g., listing "dove" as an alternative past tense for "dive" without so much as a derogatory comment.

    So I would strongly advise you not to say the word that way in an interview, a presentation, an important meeting, a university class, or any situation where you would like people to defer to your educational authority.
     
  19. Enmos Moderator

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    I don't know. It just does. And I guess it sounds weird to pretty much everyone that has Dutch as a native language as well because I've never heard it being pronounced that way.

    I just posted it like that so people can hear what I meant.

    Perhaps, but the teachers here say it like that as well.. :shrug:
     

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