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Posted at 11:10 AM ET, 02/02/2012

Pronunciation Manual videos sound it out slowly, hilariously

In order to avoid the terrible faux pas.of ordering vichyssoise or acai or quinoa and fumbling over the word, one YouTube channel offers assistance: the Pronunciation Manual. In easy, short instructional clips, the channel sounds out some of the stranger words in our language.

The only hitch? The Pronunciation Manual does not how to pronounce the words himself. His struggles with words like Kreayshawn, bichon frise, and Bvlgari are nothing short of hilarious. “Pronunciation Manual Person” didn’t wish to be identified, but he talked to the Post about the words he finds most difficult, below.

How did you get the idea to help people with the pronunciation of difficult words?

Well for the longest time I thought YouTube was just a great big place with videos of people getting their stones (sorry for the bad language) pummeled and kicked ... I discovered, though, that beneath all the funny crotch accidents and people recording their opinion about horses there were actually a lot of very helpful videos. How to shave a cat's face, how to wave a katana around in the park, there were even some people doing helpful pronunciation videos too, and I wanted to join in that spirit of helping out strangers. I thought, “probably not enough people know how to pronounce really expensive leather things properly, and they would be really embarrassed in the store asking for them and messing up the name, and it's bad to be embarrassed,” (I am quoting my own thoughts from the past) so I decided to help out. Ha ha ha. I bet you didn't think that I could type this much! I can though.

How do you choose the words? Do you do the pronunciation for all of them, or are there other voices?

I look for words that have unnatural, normally illegal letter combinations, or have letters that have foreign decorations on them, and I also look for words that would help people the most, to stave off real embarrassment as it were. For example, if you mispronounced the word “heart” to a doctor, the doctor would say “Fellow, do you mean heart? Do not be embarrassed, it is a technical term,” so there is less urgency for me to help out with the pronunciation of heart than, say, “Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” which a) has illegal letter combos (neu) b) foreign letter decorations (the French canopy) and c) if you said this to a waiter incorrectly he would denigrate you in his mind, and think ill of you. Eventually I suppose I will get around to pronouncing all of the words, hopefully. All of the pronunciation is handled by our team of [one] talented (sorry for bragging) individual.

Which words are your favorites? Which words are the hardest for you to pronounce?

My favourite (I am spelling this word differently on purpose - I am Canadian and not a dullard which you may think and trust me I would judge you for thinking that) word is champagne, because it reminds me of drinking champagne - have you had it before? It's really delicious, and special. This applies also to hors d'oeuvres. The hardest word for me to pronounce is Phở, because, well... just look at it. I'm not even sure that that's an O on the end of it, it could be a logogram of a waving person.

Before using Helvetica as your font for the words in your videos, did you have to instruct people in the pronunciation of Helvetica?

No I didn't but I suppose I should now, as many people ask me the name of the font I use in my videos! Thank you for the great idea Ms. Judkis.

Which is tricker: The umlaut, or the tilde?

Well, now that I have looked up what those are, I believe the tilde is very difficult to deal with. The umlaut, on the other hand, is actually just a trick invented by the New York Times to make normal people feel stupid, and should be ignored 100% of the time. The tilde, though, or “floating Spanish boogie arm” as it's also known, is hard to pin down, because it means “approximately,” so if you see "ñ," you know that that sound is “approximately n-sound,” which is not much to work with.  

Given the channel's popularity, do you have any other projects planned?

Thank you for asking me this question! I am working very hard on an “app” for people's telephones, so that if they are having trouble with their pronunciations, sentences can be constructed from the various discrete words, and played back via the phone's speaker, that the phone and my pronunciation examples might serve as a helpful communication device! 

By  |  11:10 AM ET, 02/02/2012

 
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