Zed or Zee?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by aaqucnaona, Feb 23, 2012.

  1. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

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    So why does Z alone have 2 pronounciations? And which is the correct one, so to speak?
     
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  3. Chipz Banned Banned

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    Most nations in the world pronounce it some variation of 'zed' reflecting the Greek letter zeta and its introduction under British Commonwealth. I'd be interested on more precise information of 'Zee', as its perhaps for no other reason than rhyming schemes.
     
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  5. Ripley Valued Senior Member

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    Elizabeth Taylor couldn't possibly be thought of as having been 'Zed' opposite Michael Caine in X, Y, and Zee.
     
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  7. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    It's zee in the USA. Bringing a "d" into it is obviously a sign of mental degeneration.
     
  8. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

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    Most of us in Canada still call it 'zed', eh?

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  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    They're both correct; the difference is dialect. In American English it's zee. In RP it's zed. As noted, the Canadians use the British name. I believe that all the other dialects of English (such as Scots, South African, Indian, Austalia-NZ) also call it zed. But in non-anglophone countries where English is spoken as a second language in commerce or academia, it might go either way, depending on which culture's influence is strongest.

    W, H and Y are the only letters in the English alphabet whose names do not represent any of the sounds they are used to transcribe. Some native anglophones call H "haitch" instead of "aitch."

    In Spanish, where the letter W is only used in foreign words and names, some people call it ve doble, "double V," and some call it doble u, "double U."

    They also call Y i griega, "Greek I." That's a misnomer since ypsilon was originally the Greek U. The Germans still call it ypsilon.
     
  10. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    I can't really speak for anywhere else, but here in NZ, Zed and Zee tend to get used somewhat interchangably (at least in my generation it seems). This seems to stem from the influences of American culture in educational media, through things like TV and movies.

    Consider Sesame Street, for example. The version of Sesame Street that is televised in NZ is the american version. My wife uses predominantly Zee, even though she was born in NZ - I think that comes down to her having spent time in the US in her youth, but I'm not 100% certain.

    For my part, it's almost contextual. Mentally I pronounce the Z in NZ as zed, but for AZ and CZ I'd be more likely to think Zee (I think - it changes even as I try to focus on it). Indeed, when you listen to NZ advertising, when they read out website URL's it's always zed, rather than zee.

    Having said that, my recollection of School is that it was "We say Zed, but some other places say Zee".
     
  11. RJBeery Natural Philosopher Valued Senior Member

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    I'm American and have never used Zed but I think it's a "cool" word.

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    Very mildly related...I've noticed that I always pronounce the number zero as "zero" unless it's in a string of digits (such as my social security or phone number), when I pronounce it like the letter "oh". "four-oh-two..." No one has ever looked at me funny for doing this; perhaps everyone does it?
     
  12. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    nil is what many use for zero.
     
  13. RJBeery Natural Philosopher Valued Senior Member

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    Nil, of course!

    You "rest of the world" people are so quaint!

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  14. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    Another point I find interesting is that the difference in pronounciation of the letter, also makes a difference at other levels, for example, I notice a difference in the pronounciation of words like Zebra or Zero.

    Most American sources seem to pronounce them (to my ears at least) as if the e has a long vowel sound (Zeebrah or Zeeroh) where as UK english sources to me sound like they're being pronounced with a short vowel sound.
     
  15. RJBeery Natural Philosopher Valued Senior Member

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    Yeah, I think North Americans over-enunciate our syllables in general. A comedian was comparing the smooth sounds of the French language being spoken by a Frenchman vs the obnoxious sounds coming from a Canadian speaking the same language.
     
  16. przyk squishy Valued Senior Member

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    Zed Zed Top.
     
  17. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    See, everybody I know here in New Zealand would say Zee Zee Top.
    :shrug:

    I suppose it's as simple as (in NZ at least) foreign words are said with their native pronounciation (or as close to it as can be managed).
     
  18. RJBeery Natural Philosopher Valued Senior Member

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    I think that's right. I cringe when an American says "that's a split foy-er home". It's "foy-yay" because it's a French word.

    On the other hand, it's annoying when someone pronounces a South American country with a thick Spanish accent...so maybe I'm inconsistent.

    Edit: On second thought, I don't think it's inconsistent. I don't say "France" with a French accent; that would just be stupid.
     
  19. przyk squishy Valued Senior Member

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    That was tongue in cheek by the way. I remember reading somewhere that in British English we pronounced Z as "zed" except in cases where it would sound silly, and the example explicitly given was ZZ Top. But up until then, I'd only seen their name written and had never heard it spoken, so I really did mentally pronounce it "Zed Zed Top".

    Speaking of French, I wonder if ZZ Top is aware that, in French, zizi is a kid's word for "penis"...
     
  20. RJBeery Natural Philosopher Valued Senior Member

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    OMG I'll bet you hit the nail on the head there! They have all kinds of double-entendres and suggestive material (Pearl Necklace, Tube Snake Boogie, etc)
     
  21. Rhaedas Valued Senior Member

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    I never was aware of the "zed" pronunciation until an episode of Stargate (I can't recall if it was an SG-1 or the first Atlantis), where they are discussing the zero point module power sources of the Ancients, and the canadian scientist McKay called is the "zed P M". I seem to recall some commentary on proper pronunciation.
     
  22. rpenner Fully Wired Staff Member

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    "Kneel before Zed!" "Why." -- Exchange with Major Zed, one of entries in Superman's also-ran rogues gallery. Ran away in terror from Jimmy Olsen's auto-focus camera.

    Of course the final insult to the RP was getting Sir Patrick Stewart to play Charles Xavier and pronounce it: Ekz-zayv-vee-er. Some nukes were re-targeted on that day.
     
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    In my American accent (I was born in Chicago) those two words don't have the same vowel. Zebra is indeed zeeebra, but the accented vowel in zero (also in hero and Nero) is the short I of sit. Or the vowel in deer, shear, etc., but again that's not the way all Americans pronounce those words either. Some say deeer and sheeer.
    You mean zeh-bruh and zeh-row, as in Zebulon?
    Most Americans (except perhaps New Yorkers, but then the people in the South make up for them) speak much more slowly than most Englishmen. We pronounce all four vowels in ordinary; they say it as if it's spelled ordnry.
    I think that difference is much less prominent and he was merely exaggerating it. I think you have to be a native speaker to hear the difference between Parisian and Quebecois. I've talked to people from both places in my tourist-French and I couldn't tell them apart. The people from southern France, on the other hand, do sound different. The Gauls were a Celtic people while the Franks were Germanic. Some of the people in the south still flap their Rs like the Irish and Scots, instead of gargling it like the Parisians and the Germans.
    Doesn't matter: They pronounce ZZ as zed-zed too.
     

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