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Darrell Cuthbert
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Buy a Silly Bed

28 July 2012, 20:24

Last night we were watching some TV when an ad came on for a well-known bed and mattress brand. As the narrator spoke one of the lines my wife and I just looked at each other and laughed simultaneously.

Now, there is nothing inherently funny about the bed and mattress industry but it was the way he said it.

What we both heard was something like “buy a silly bed”. It took a few seconds for us to realise that the ad was for Sealy Posturepedic and what he was actually saying was “buy a Sealy  bed.”

We shouldn’t really laugh at another person’s pronunciation but sometimes you can’t help yourself and just do the un-PC thing.

In a country with so many cultures, official languages and accents South Africans can do one of two things – be annoyed by the effects of that multiculturalism on linguistics or find the humour in it.

The (male) narrator comes from a cultural group that regularly shortens vowel sounds when speaking English so that reason becomes rizen and season sizen (if you are South African you have probably figured it out already).

In saying this I’m not singling them out or pointing fingers, I’m sure his knowledge of my home language far exceeds my knowledge of his, merely making the point that every nation and cultural group has its linguistic foibles – even when we are speaking in our home languages.

I’m sure I miss-pronounce some words – although pronunciation is a very subjective issue, influenced as it is by where in the world you grew up or currently live (potato & tomato are good examples of this).

Another example of pronunciation that identifies a particular cultural group it the tendency of Afrikaans speakers to insert “H” sounds into English words – for example create becomes cree-hate.

I’ve never set foot in any part of North America but I can usually tell a Canadian by the way they say out.. In a similar manner if I think somebody I encounter locally is a native Zimbabwean I will listen out for him to say crocodile (or try to work it into the conversation) because that usually gives it away, for me at least.

We all have our peculiarities of language and this adds to the wonderful diversity of our society. How boring and robotic would it be if we all spoke, thought and acted exactly the same way?

Can you think of any words, phrases or pronunciations that identify a person as being from a specific culture?

If so, share them in the comments section below.

Remember though that the goal is to celebrate our diversity in a light-hearted way not to be nasty about each other’s cultures.

The best humour is usually the type that we direct back at ourselves so feel free to share the idiosyncrasies of your own culture.

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