How Do You Say ‘Jaguar’?: British vs. American Brand Pronunciations

(Photo: Fotolia)

(Photo: Fotolia)

A recent article about the British pronunciation of Nike (to rhyme with “bike”) elicited howls of surprise and disbelief from my American friends on both sides of the Pond. According to the company itself, it’s NI-key! Rhymes with “spikey.” The one Brit I know who gives it the “spikey” pronunciation makes the exception for Nike Air. Apparently saying Nikey-Air is weird, so it becomes NI-kair. Go figure.

The whole Nike thing made me think about other brand names that we blithely pronounce the British-English way, to the amusement of our host countrymen and women. Take Sony, whose name is everywhere at the moment because of their World Cup sponsorship. Americans pronounce this almost rhyming with “slowly,” whereas in the U.K. I have heard versions closer to a “Bonnie” rhyming situation. Before the onslaught of denial and outrage begins: yes, it may be a regional thing, but only two days ago I heard a non-northern BBC World News correspondent (reporting from Asia) pronounce it thus.

Then there’s Adidas. Alas, according to the article, the company hasn’t pronounced on its pronunciation. They are also a World Cup sponsor, though, so we might get a clue during broadcasts. Brits and other Europeans tend to say “Addy-das” while Americans say “a-DEE-das” with the emphasis firmly on the middle syllable. Since the company founder was a German named Adi (short for Adolf), you’d assume the pronunciation would be the Addy version, so that next time an American corrects you, just tell ‘em the jury’s still out, then Google it as proof of the ongoing debate.

Brand name pronunciation is a strange thing really. There are the organic differences between Americans and Brits. Although we both emphasize the first syllable, Jaguar is pronounced “JAG-you-ar” in the U.K. and more like “JAG-wahr” here. And then there are differences that seem to be conjured up by the companies themselves. I remember hiring a Toyota Celica in the U.K. a few years ago and having all my friends fall about laughing as I pronounced it “SELL-uh-ka”—you know, like they do in the TV commercials here. Brits (and a few other nations apparently) pronounce it “Suh-LEEK-a” with the emphasis heavily in the middle.

And of course, there’s Hyundai, pronounced “HUN-day” in the U.S, but, as Top Gear viewers will know, “HI-un-die” in the U.K. And here, we have a clear answer about the correct pronunciation: the U.K .version is an Anglicized version, which the company, nevertheless, seems to go along with. The U.S. follows the Korean pronunciation. Porsche (mentioned in the original piece) is treated differently on both sides of the Pond, as is Nissan and Fiat, although those differences aren’t as big as Hyundai and Celica. Most Americans give Fiat a long “A” sound (British version of “long” btw) rather than the flatter “A” given by Brits, although we both stress the “fee” sound. Nissan’s stressed first syllable receives an ”ee” sound in the U.S. which, according to this Japanese speaker, is correct—rather than the more “it” sound across the Pond. But again, Google the subject, and you’ll find “experts” supporting both.

When I first came to the U.S., Oil of Ulay (pronounced “YOU-lay” ) was the British version of America’s Oil of Olay, but they have since gone global and now (except for a few countries) we’re all saying OH-lay. I am SO glad they didn’t go for Ulay since we would have then had the debate about whether the first syllable should be “OO-lay” or “YOU-lay.” Pantene shampoo, on the other hand, stays true to its confusing national pronunciations. Here, it’s Pan-TEEN to rhyme with canteen (which, incidentally Americans, is a British word for “cafeteria”) while in the U.K. it’s Pan-TEN.

I think we all say L’Oreal the same way! Or no (as they say over here)?

What other brands do Brits and Americans pronounce differently? Tell us below:

See more:
No, Arkansas Doesn’t Sound the Way It Looks: A Guide to Pronouncing U.S. Place Names
10 American Speech Habits That Grate on British Ears
A Brit’s Guide to American Regional Nicknames

Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis

Toni Summers Hargis is a Brit who has lived in the USA since 1990. She currently lives in Chicago with her husband and children and writes about US/UK matters when not putting out domestic fires. Toni blogs as Expat Mum and is the author of Rules, Britannia - An Insider's Guide to Life in the United Kingdom, (St. Martin's Press). She has made frequent appearances on radio and TV explaining British things to Americans.

See more posts by Toni Hargis
  • MontanaRed

    My husband (we are both Americans), pronounces “Jaguar” as “JAG-wy-er”, much to my (and my children’s) amusement. Occasionally, to liven things up, I pronounce it in the Spanish way: “HAHG-oo-ar” (rolled “r”). We use “JAG-you-ar” when referencing Richard Attenborough nature documentaries (e.g., in fake British accent: “a rare, Southern Montana pygmy jag-you-ar” (our cat)).

    In the same vein as the mixed American version of “Pantene” is “Jean Naté” (dates me dreadfully, I know). Why is it not all French pronunciation— “Zhã Nah-tay”— instead of half and half?

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      Jag-wy-er – that’s a new one. LOL

      • Shelle Perry

        That is the way I have always heard it here where I live. It seriously grates!

        • Angie Poole

          Jagwire is how it was pronounced where I grew up (in the LA area). I intentionally got rid of some of the bad pronunciations (like pronouncing vanilla as vanella) that made no sense.

    • Hal Jordan

      I grew up on the US west coast, and I’ve never heard that brand pronounced any other way than “JAG-wahr”…until recently. It seems to be a new fad to call it “JAG-wire.” How someone can get “wire” out of “uar” is a mystery, but I hardly ever hear it pronounced the old way any more.

      During World War 2, the US flew many bomber planes. The crew member who released the bombs was known as the bombardier. If you watch any American war movies you will know that the position was referred to as the bomba-DEER. There is a Canadian company known as Bombardier Recreational Products who insists that the name of their company is pronounced bom-bar-de-YAY, and woe betide anyone who mispronounces. :-)

  • dw

    Brits used to pronounce “Nestle” to rhyme with “wrestle”. Now they do it the French way.

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      I remember the switch over. Bit of a wrench to say the least.

    • Carolyn Hanson Mayer

      We Americans (well, Midwesterners) always have pronounced it NEST-lee.

      • Rachel

        It’s “nest-lay” or “ness-lay” in Australia – is that the French way of which you speak?

  • Wildhorses72

    I notice on Top Gear they seem to say Prius as Pry-us. Here in the US it’s Pree-us.

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      Will have to listen for that one – next time I watch Top Gear. Well, with two sons, it’s on a lot but I obviously don’t pay enough attention!

    • whidbeywa

      I’m in the US and I have always said Pry-us.

    • Sevenpenny

      Would never own one of those. Before the car goes on sale it produces more pollution than you could possibly produce by driving a regular old gas or diesel powered vehicle…

      • Jwb52z

        Unless you mean making one causes the pollution, how does a car pollute before it even is able to turn on now?

        • frozen01

          Yes, that is likely what Sevenpenny meant. Has something to do with how the batteries are produced if I remember correctly.

          • dp

            The production of the battery requires heavy metals that can only be obtained through very destructive mining processes.

    • bob, your uncle

      I was under the impression that the PRY-us pronunciation was a Clarkson jab at the pious nature of the car’s smug owners.

  • pk

    When Bill Lyons spoke at my school in the 70s he pronounced it JAG U AR not JAG whar. He should know.

  • Imelda

    When they introduced Hyundai here in the US, they had up billboards that said, “What rhymes with Sunday?” to help everyone know how to pronounce it!

  • BluesFan44

    Each side pronounces “Mazda” slightly different. UK and Canada has an “a” that rhymes with “has”… USA pronounces it rhyming with “car”.

    • Jeff K.

      The tough thing about Japanese, at least according to a friend of mine who studied Japanese literature, is that all syllables receive equal emphasis.

  • ChiCat

    The so-called British pronunciations of Nike and Adidas are actually preferred in some regions of the US. My midwestern cousins got laughed at in the northeast for referring to their Addy-das tennis shoes. Wrong on 2 counts!

    • whidbeywa

      LOL! I never heard of “addy-das” until I read this article.

  • Adrian Rinehart-Balfe

    When my American wife says Puma, it sounds like an encouragement for a constipated relative: Poo-Ma!

    • Jan

      Puma is a Spanish word and she’s pronouncing it correctly!

    • Carolyn Hanson Mayer

      Pronounced “mountain lion” here in California. ;) But I do agree with Adrian.

  • garryej

    Then there’s the undiscovered differences between US and Canadian pronunciation. I was born in UK, raised in Canada and live in the US. My accent is a little of all! But my wife (born and raised in US) still laughs at some of my words!

    • MontanaRed

      Like the Canadian “BAT-tree” vs American “bat-ter-ee”?

      • missdisplaced

        Ha funny. My mom always says BAT-tree and also RAT-ee-ate-or

      • Liberty

        Hmmm, as it is spelled “battery” it is obviously “bat-ter-ee.”

        • Rachel

          Just as library isn’t “lie-bree” and laboratory isn’t “lab-ra-tree”? Yes, the English (and thus the Australians, Kiwis, and to a lesser extent, the Canadians), do love making words as short as possible. Thus, Torpenhow is “trep-na”, Cirencester is “sista”, Cholmondeley is “chumly”, and Loughborough is “luff-bruh”. Thames may be spelt thusly, but that doesn’t mean it should be pronounced “Thaymz” rather than “Temz”, and the American (mis)pronunciation of Birmingham frustrates me to the point that I’ve now begun saying “Brum”, which I’d never have done before.

  • bbdrvr

    I’ve noticed that, for many words that appear to come from Latin languages (whether or not they actually do), Americans will tend to follow a Latinized pronunciation (“ah” for “a”, “ee” for “i”, etc., as well as putting the accent on the second syllable), while Brits tend to stick with the short vowel sounds on these words. I suppose it might have something to do with the influence of the Spanish language on much of America.

    An example of this is Capaldi. Americans pronounce the second syllable as “ALL”, but Brits (including Peter Capaldi) pronounce it like “AL” (with the short A).

    The only exception to the rule that I’ve noticed is “Clara” – Americans pronounce it “Clay-ra” while Brits pronounce it “Clah-ra”.

    • Ginny Hall

      My family came to the Carolinas from Scotland in 1730, I myself have lived from coast to coast, and I’ve NEVER heard Clara pronounced “Clay-ra.” Not even my cousin Clara in Georgia pronounces it “Clay-ra.” I’ve never heard any pronunciation other than “CLAIR-ah.”

      • bbdrvr

        Sorry, it was a very rough attempt to convey the sound. Yes, CLAIR-ah is more what I was trying to say, as opposed to Clah-ra.

        • Rachel

          Well, I’ve only ever pronounced Clara as “Claah-ra”, and I’ve heard it as “Clarra” (short a), but hearing “Claire-a” always seems as though someone’s saying Claire and only just remembering the end. At any rate, it’s pronounced “Claah-ra” on the show.
          As for Capaldi, I go for the short AL, possibly because that’s how he says it, possibly because my primary school did Italian, but pretty much everyone in my part of Australia goes for the ALL pronunciation – Ca-POOO-dee.

    • http://batman-news.com Melody Pond

      I agree! The most glaring example of how Brits refuse to do Latin pronunciations is the name, Jose — Brits pronounce the J, which of course is incorrect. It is pronounced with an H sound….HO-ZA (long vowel sounds). Aussie’s do it too. I always thought that was kind of strange….maybe Americans are more accustomed to it because we share a border with Mexico?? Who knows!?!

      • Liberty

        “HO-ZA?” No, “HO-ZAY.”

        • http://batman-news.com Melody Pond

          Ummm, thanks for the clearer way to spell it out, Liberty….but I was pretty clear what I meant when I noted that is was a “long vowel” sound…or do you not know what that means?

          • Rachel

            It’s because Americans learn Spanish in school (and hear/see a lot of Spanish due to proximity to South America), while British and Australians are more likely to learn French, German, or Italian (the latter mostly Australians, fewer British). You’re lucky we don’t try to say “Yossa” (German phonetics) or “Zhoss” (French phonetics).
            (I get told off by Americans/Mexicans/Argentinians on my Spanish pronunciations anyway, since I learnt in Salamanca, in Spain. Ah, well, I’ve got a Spanish accent, then, and besides, I actually speak Castellano, since I learnt in Castilla-Lion. Spaniards don’t consider other Spanish dialects to be “Castellano” – it’s Galego or Valenciano or whatever – and they certainly don’t consider American Spanish to be Castellano, no matter what South Americans might say. It’s espanol and nothing more.)
            Also, saying “long vowel” usually means you’re making the same sound but doing so for longer. “Aah” is just a longer version of a short “a”, while the “ay” sound is technically a diphthong, not a vowel. If you’re confused, I suggest your refer to the International Phonetic Alphabet – “ay” requires two symbols, while “aah” uses the normal single vowel with a length marking – or listen to a Scottish accent for a bit – a Scottish accent doesn’t differentiate as much as other between long and short vowels, so you get things like “keck” for “cake” and “goggle” for “Google”.

          • http://batman-news.com Melody Pond

            What a great explanation!! (seriously, no sarcasm) I had no idea that other countries didn’t do long and short vowels…thanks, Rachel!

      • therealguyfaux

        Jose Mourinho, being Portuguese, however, DOES pronounce his own name “zho-zay.” It’s a Spanish-versus- Portuguese difference.

  • SAB

    Most Americans give Fiat a long “A” sound (British version of “long”
    btw) rather than the flatter “A” given by Brits, although we both stress
    the “fee” sound.

    No, we don’t pronounce it with the long A sound. That would make it “fee-ate”. We pronounce it with the short A sound – “fee-aught”.

    • whidbeywa

      It’s actually more like “fee-ott”

      • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

        Ha ha – it depends whether you’re pronouncing “aught” as a Brit or an American.

      • Janae

        As a US westerner, they sound exactly the same to me. I might spell it “fee-aht.” Same thing.

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      The long A in the UK isn’t pronounced “ate”.

      • Betsy Fenik

        It’s “ott” instead of “at”

    • John Schrader

      Fiat…Fix It Again Tony.

    • Mary

      fee-ott

  • Kelly

    My husband is from England, I’m from the US and the different way we pronounce things was what drew us together. I’m still amused at how he pronounces Adidas and Nike for example (AH-dee-das vs a-DEE-dus) and (Nike which he rhymes exactly with bike vs. Ny-key).

  • fancypants42

    Peugot was another one. When they sold them in the US during the 80′s everyone pronounced the first cyclable as a stressed POO sound. When I moved to the UK it was funny to hear Brits pronounce the 1st cyclable w/ a poncy peh sound.

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      Looks like both Brits and Americans arbitrarily pick which words they are going to pronounce like the original language. Peu is French (as in “un petit peu” – a little bit) and isn’t pronounced “poo”.

      • MontanaRed

        True. But that sound (French “eu”) doesn’t exist in English or American. By that standard, “poo” (though the vowel sound is shortened considerably) and “peh” are both close enough to count as legitimate pronunciation.

        • Rachel

          I’ve always pronounced (and heard it pronounced) as “purr-show” (non-rhotic “purr”, of course). That’s how I learnt it in France, peu-geot, and Australians (amazingly enough) do a pretty good job of pronouncing it as I described phonetically above. Both “poo” and “peh” sound wrong to me, and I’ve got 6 years of French (the latter three at the local Alliance Francaise) and a DELF B1 under my belt.

          • Mary

            It’s always been pew-shoh for me.

  • gwen towers

    have lived here for over 30 years..I pronounce Jaguar with the U as its meant to be spoken as is Fiat F- at..Really bugs me when its not pronounce correctly ..Would be like me saying Chev-o- let..and yes i still have an accent

    • HitchensImmortal .

      You can’t co-opt a foreign word and go around telling people how to pronounce it.

  • BillyC

    Buoy. That thing that floats in the water. In the USA it’s “boo-e,” which will make UK people roll on the floor with laughter since they pronounce it “boy.”

    • Janae

      Yet we Americans say “boy-ant.”

      We’re funny that way.

  • shawn

    What about aluminum and aluminium?

    • Rita

      This particular article (which I like very much) is about brand name pronunciation. The list of everyday words pronounced and spelled differently in Britain and the US is endless and can be found all over the internet.

  • hotgeek88

    Huh? Apparently I pronounce Hyundai like a British person. :)

    • frozen01

      I apparently mix the two, as I say “heun-die”.

  • Detria Adelle Smith

    Schedule (US: Skeh-jool) and (UK: Sheh-jool)D

    • Janae

      Shouldn’t the “jool” part be pronounced “dyool?” Funny how D-R becomes J-R and T-R becomes CH-R. E.g., “dream” -> “jream” and “tree” -> “chree.”

  • Phersbabydoll

    I noticed Aluminum on Top Gear too is Ow-lu-men-ee-um as opposed to Uh-lu-men-um here in the states.

    • Jeff Henderson

      It is even spelled different in most non-American, English speaking countries, “Aluminium”.

      • Rachel

        Yeah, I was told there was a trade-off – The 13th element is “Aluminium” and should be pronounced with the full five syllables (or four, if you’re lazy and say “UH-la-min-yum”), while the 16th element is now spelt “Sulfur” rather than “Sulphur”.
        (I’ve got to say the trade-off, if true, doesn’t stop anyone. The Americans insist on saying [and spelling] “uh-LOO-muh-num”, while the rest of the world continues to spell sulphur with a PH. I’d be curious about what the Canadians do.)

        • HitchensImmortal .

          Thank Noah Webster for the dropped pointless letters.

          Same reason it’s not spelled ‘phantasy’ anymore. Because that’s stupid.

  • Jeff Henderson

    Oh, pronunciation is not nearly as confusing as plain old different words for the same objects. I think we need to call it speaking Americun rather than English. It simply doesn’t fit. So get your butt out of the boot and watch some telly, mate!

  • Carolyn Hanson Mayer

    Not so much a brand, perhaps, but what about “aluminum”? Huge difference in pronunciation.

    • Sue Allen

      Lived in US for 26 years; Still a Brit and refuse to say “a-lume-min-um” … and will always add the “i” before the final ‘u’ .. al-u-minium … ah, quite right! Also, sulphur versus sulfur … and T-Mobile … mo-bile not ‘mo-bull’ … and miss-ile, not miss-ull. Folks still cannot understand my ‘water’ and ‘butter’ requests… why is American English, spelling and pronunciation, so annoyingl? …

      • Rachel

        “Wodrrr” and “budrrr”? I give up and ask in German – Wasser (fassa) and Butter (boohta). By all means, rhoticise your words, but don’t vocalise all your consonants. Some need to be left unvoiced!
        I’d be curious as to your approach to the alphabet. I’ve started singing “ay, bed, sed, ded, ed, eff, jed”, just to get my sister to say “zed” at the end!

  • gocanux

    The problem with most UK pronunciations is that they are just plain WRONG. In the US, we pronounce foreign words (pah-stuh, not pass-tuh) as they are pronounced in the native language of the country of origin. Having just endured a couple of weeks hearing the UK World Cup announcers mangle the names of Spanish and Italian players, I wonder if it’s not just a holdover of imperial arrogance?

    • Shaun

      Ever heard an American say croissant? Not even close to the French pronunciation, whereas the British pronunciation is pretty close. I don’t think one country is more arrogant than the other, each pronounce some words incorrectly.

  • Michael Walsh

    Say it however of those two ways you like, my fellow Americans. But never, EVER, call it a Jag-wire!

  • Rachel

    In Australia, the promotional thing for Hyundai was “All day, every day, Hyundai” do get the pronunciation. That doesn’t mean anyone pronounces it right, though. You get a lot of “high-un-die” and so forth. Personally I would have transliterated it hyon-dae, but there’s no standard transliteration scheme, so it’s up to the company. Westerners are more used to Japanese pronunciation than Korean, so the “die” makes more sense to us.
    Also, in Australia, “Nissan” has a very short “ih” in the first syllable, and the second all but disappears – Niss’n. It’s the same for Holden – Hole-d’n (except in SA, where the ‘L’ morphs into a weird ‘W’-like thing). In New Zealand, “Nissan” becomes something more like “Nussen”.

  • welcometo1984

    It’s a bit unfair to say Brits pronounce these brands incorrectly. They take the pronunciation from the commercials. Take it up with the marketing team.

  • Jeff K.

    My family has always been big auto-racing fans, and I grew up going to vintage car races. I offer this prelude because I have picked up my car pronunciations from people who spend a good deal of time around said marquees. I grit my teeth hearing my fellow SoCals say things like “Fee-at” and mostly “Porsche” as a monosyllabic word (TWO SYLLABLES!!!! Not that hard). But Jaguar poses a difficulty. The word originated in a South American indigenous language, was ported over Spanish, adopted as a marquee by the British, and then sold in the US (not to mention the Ford ownership). The first Jaguar I saw was an XKE 2+2 owned by my father’s British friend, who told me how to properly pronounce it, only to take Spanish two years later and told that was wrong (in deference to poster Rachel, like most Socals I tend to default to a northern Mexican pronunciation for such things). If I at all can, I will let my interlocutor pronounce the word first and adopt that pronunciation. IMHO, a generally good policy, but your mileage may vary…

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  • Michael Hager

    When I got out of the Tube in London (in 1997) I asked a uniformed porter where was Berkeley Square, and in his arched, perfect London accent he said, “Oh you would mean Barkeley Square, sir.” It is spelled the same way in England as it is here in America, just Bark instead of Berk. I stood there nodding, looking silly to onlookers and wife alike.

    • therealguyfaux

      Left you feeling like a right “berk,” I’m sure.
      Though why “Berkeley” and “Barclay” are homophones, and “berk” rhymes with “work,” I’ll never figure out.

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  • Sue Murphy Umezaki

    The British pronunciation of Sony is closer to the Japanese (no long American OW – as in “row the boat” in Japanese), but Prius is Pree-oos, as the only Japanese “i” sound is EE and the only “u” sound is OO, as in toot.

  • dp

    Pantene is first grade phonics, y’all. Vowel, consonant, final E makes the vowel say its name. Panteen. (And any American who’s watched a movie set in WWII knows that a canteen can be a place where food is served!)