The Weird, the Fascinating, and the Perils of Pronunciation

Is there a reliable way to say ‘ough’?

Malky McEwan
E³ — Entertain Enlighten Empower


Photo by Natasha Hall on Unsplash

“Can I have a glass of Shiraz, please?”

I pronounced it Shee-raz.

The waiter looked at me like I had ‘666’ stamped on my forehead. This wasn’t a high-end establishment. I’d ordered a lasagne, and I fancied a red to go with it. But I’d made a serious faux pas, and the waiter wasn’t about to let it go.

“I’m not sure we have a Shiraz. I’ll go check.”

He pronounced it Shi-rahz.

I blinked. Had I been pronouncing it wrong all these years? It appears I had. The waiter made a point of accentuating the proper pronunciation. I made a mental note to look it up.

I looked around the drab restaurant with its plastic table covers and cluttered bric-à-brac. It wasn’t the type of place that had a wine list. It was probably one step up from offering a red or white in a cheap plastic single-measure bottle.

“We have Merlot or Syrah.” He informed me when he returned.

This amused me. Shiraz is a variety of grape from Australia, but it originally came from France and is the same as the French grape variety Syrah. They have a different name for it, that’s all.