How To Pronounce Melbourne

This weekend (18-19 Nov 2006) is the G-20 summit in Melbourne, Australia. Normally this would not be a huge blip on my radar, but listening to people report on it (NPR in this case) is starting to grind on me a bit. Not because they are covering it in excruciating detail (which they aren’t), but because most Americans don’t know how to properly pronounce Melbourne.

As an American, I can understand. When you look at the world Melbourne it looks like it should come out Mel-born. As someone who lived in Melbourne, Australia for two years hearing that is just wrong. The Australian way to pronounce Melbourne is more like Mel-bun.

And while I’m at it let me pick on how to pronounce Aussie. Parsing that as American it seems like it should come out aw-see. But the Australian version is more like Ozzie. Think of it as being spelled Auzzie and that should get you pretty close. Yahoo! Answers covers this as well.

I got back from Australia in late 1994, since then I have dropped any hint of an accent and reverted back to using the American versions of words (and their spelling) except for one. I’ve had a hard time dropping use of the word serviette in place of napkin.

Check out the Australian-American Dictionary for a list of Australian words and their American counterparts.

8 Comments

  1. Thanks Joseph – this is practically a Community Announcement! Hopefully your fellow Americans will benefit from greater cooperation with any Aussies that cross their paths armed with this new knowledge. It can really put you offside when someone greets you with “Oh, your from Mel-borrrn! I’ve been to Ossssie!!” (Although I find its television shows such as ‘Entertainment Tonight’ which are the far more frequent offenders).

    What brought you to Melbourne for those two years?

  2. wioota-

    I usually just let it slide, but this kept poking at me. So I finally had to stand up and say something 🙂

    I lived in various parts of Melbourne as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints from 1992 to 1994. Happy to see that Nutella is easy to get in the U.S. now, don’t miss Vegemite 🙂

  3. Thanks for the info. No wonder one of my Australian friends looks at me funny… now if I could only figure out why everyone else looks at me funny.

  4. Okay, just to play devil’s advocate dictionary.com shows it as Mel-bern and m-w.com as Mel-b&rn and upon clicking on the cute little speaker icon it pronounces it “mel-burn”. So it would seem to be grammatically correct to pronounce it that way, even if we Americans don’t have the proper accent or aren’t adept with regional phonetics to drop the “R”.

  5. Joseph, Vegemite is one of humanities greatest achievements!

  6. I just stumbled upon this post, and as an American with the name “Melbourne” find it quite interesting. It may be worthwhile to remember that the name is English… Something tells me Prime Minister Melbourne did not introduce himself as “-bun” when he first met Queen Victoria.

  7. Scott,

    While your point certainly carries merit for pronouncing YOUR name, it holds little weight in the Australian context. Cities must be pronounced with their regional context in mind. For example, I’m from New Jersey. We have a town called Bogota that’s about an hour from me. Here in New Jersey, we pronounce it Ba-goatta. Clearly, our pronunciation is quite different from the pronunciation that’s used in Columbia. It’s rather simple: in reference to the Columbian capital, one must use the Columbian pronunciation; in reference to the New Jersey city, one must use the Jersey pronunciation.

    The same logic applies here. Although you may consider the Australian pronunciation a bastardization of your name, it is the only correct pronunciation of the Australian city.

  8. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this site but it started when I was trying to find out the French pronunciation of Bourbonnais, IL. I lived there for quite a while and pronounce it BUR-bun-ay but some older locals say bur-BONE-us. I’ve always been fascinated by everything Australia-related and I really thought that I was correctly pronouncing it as MEL-burn. Now I know. Thanks.

    PS I’ve been to Melbourne in Florida which is of course said the American way.

    PPS It is Colombia for the South American country.

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