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Friday, February 16, 2018

Oo! Wales!

I am currently researching a course about varieties of English worldwide, one of these being Welsh English. I had read that a distinctive characteristic of Welsh English speakers is the way they pronounce some words which for the rest of us have an "oo" sound, as in "boot".

First, they pronounce "blew" and "blue" differently, the former having a slight short "i" sound before the "oo" and the latter not.

I felt that my research would not be complete without looking at (oh yeah, and listening to) YouTube videos of the actor Ioan Gruffudd being interviewed. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. The sacrifices I make for my students.

Imagine how thrilled I was when he spontaneously uttered "blew" in this interview. You can hear it at the 4:53 mark. It (and also his vowel in "withdrew" a bit later) is definitely different than the vowel he uses in "two" and "roommate" later in the clip. https://youtu.be/8tubh_QYZ8E?t=4m6s

Another "oo" word that has a distinctively Welsh pronunciation is "tooth", where Welsh English speakers use the vowel of "book" rather than the vowel of "boot". A particularly grisly scene from the Welsh detective series Hinterland fortuitously delivered up confirmation of this. 

OK, so I may be the only person who watches TV and gets excited like this: "She said tooth!!! He said blew!!!"


  1. I wonder if it is partly due to the influence of the Welsh diphthong -iw-.

    1. I expect it is definitely an influence from Welsh.


About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.