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Bob Ross

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How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Bob Ross » Sun Sep 24, 2006 11:56 am

Murr-LOW or Mare-LOW ?

I've been told either is correct, but I'm wondering which would be preferred, and why?

Thanks, Bob
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Robin Garr

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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Robin Garr » Sun Sep 24, 2006 12:08 pm

Bob Ross wrote:Murr-LOW or Mare-LOW ?

I've been told either is correct, but I'm wondering which would be preferred, and why?


With the caveat that my French is fairly fractured and that Frenchmen get me to talk just so they can laugh, I don't pronounce it either of those ways, Bob. Accenting the second syllable just doesn't seem right to me. It's not really a first-syllable accent, either, but more an equal stress on both.

For the first syllable, I'd say definitely "mare" (or "mehr," maybe). "Murr" may be A<i>murr</i>ican, but I don't believe it's French.

So, "Mehr-low," with roughly equal stress on both syllables.

(I heard a Slovenian wine maker say it "Mehr-lot" once, but I think he just didn't know how to speak French.)
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by James Roscoe » Sun Sep 24, 2006 12:21 pm

You mean it ain't called merr-llott? Dang! I don't want to drink that French stuff.
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Robin Garr » Sun Sep 24, 2006 12:21 pm

Randy R wrote:FWIW Robin, all multi-syllable words have the accent on the last syllable which is why it's so easy to imitate a bad French accent. Where you would say A-MER-i-can they say améri-CAIN. I'd say the mer from merry christmas and the lo from hello. ...


Let's put it this way ... my French is lousy, but I have a fair ear, and a couple of years of college classes in linguistics ... it seems to me that accents in French are relatively subtle compared with English (or the extreme example, Mexican Spanish). I'm sure there are some stress variations, but to the casual Anglophone listener, they're muted.

"Merry" is an interesting sound example for Americans, by the way - there are wide regional variations in the pronunciation of "Merry," "Marry" and "Mary." I say them all exactly the same, but people in a lot of US regions don't, particularly New Yorkers, who (to my ears) say them sort of like "Meh-ry," "Mah-ry" and "May-ry" respectively.
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Isaac » Sun Sep 24, 2006 12:37 pm

MURR-lutt.

I dunno what the rest of you are thinking!
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Jenise » Sun Sep 24, 2006 1:05 pm

Bob, I've been told that MARE-low is correct, but I nonetheless say murr-LOW, in the same way I saw BOO-luh-vard instead of boo-LAY-vard. The latter is a French word too, but I would feel a little affected imitating a French accent while saying it and so I stick with the anglicized version.
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Hoke » Sun Sep 24, 2006 1:25 pm

And let's add to this stewpot the various and sundry regional differences within France.

The most noticeable one----to our fairly insensitive Murrican ears...is between the North and South. (Hey, just like the US of A!). There is a perceptible twang in the Southern French---the Langue d'Oc---that makes many words sound totally different than they do in the north---the Langue d'Oeil.

And yes, I'm afraid the northern French laugh heartily at their bumpkin southern cousins for their funny accents. One evening in Seattle we spent a hilarious hour listening to two French exchange students educate us---between giggles and belly laughs--- about how ridiculous the southern French sounded to their ears. People are the same the world over.

My favorite French language lesson came from Bruno Prats, former proprietor of the justly famed Ch. Cos de Estournel. He was visiting the US and I had the great fortune to have lunch with him. I took the occasion to ask this intelligent, witty, and polished gentleman a burning question: How does one properly pronounce the "cos" in the name of the estate?

He smiled easily and said, "It depends on where you are when you say it." He went on to explain that in some places the final 'ess' was sounded; in some places it wasn't. In some places the vowel sound had a hard 'ah' sound; in some places it had a softer 'oh' sound. He was quite content with any of the variations
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Bob Ross » Sun Sep 24, 2006 1:29 pm

According to the OED, there are two versions in the UK and one in the US. I'll post the variations if I can figure out how to duplicate and define their pronunciation marks.

Thanks, all -- I've done a web search and there seem to be many different variations online.
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Gary Barlettano » Sun Sep 24, 2006 1:39 pm

Jenise wrote:Bob, I've been told that MARE-low is correct, but I nonetheless say murr-LOW, in the same way I saw BOO-luh-vard instead of boo-LAY-vard. The latter is a French word too, but I would feel a little affected imitating a French accent while saying it and so I stick with the anglicized version.


French intonation patterns tend to be a little flatter than American, so my tendency would be to pronounce it your way with a light stress on the second syllable ... my rendition of French when I'm speaking French.

But I agree with you 100%. When I speak English, I would tend to pronounce the word American style, i.e. "murr-lów," with the stress on the second syllable and a "schwa" (the upside down and backwards "e" you see in IPA pronuciation guides) for the"e" in the first syllable.

I feel more than a little affected when I toss those foreign sounds into my English especially when, after a word has become somewhat conventional in our language, there is a perfectly good English pronunciation to use. I used to beat my interpreter/teacher trainees around the head and ears when they tried to sound suave and say things like "bare-leen" for Berlin or "pæ-ree" for Paris. (One except is "Spätzle" (spætz-leh). It really pains me to hear it said "spaht-zells," but that's just me. Say it any way you want. You make 'em; I'll eat 'em.)

I dunno. My mantra has always been that language is convention. Stick to the conventions and most people will understand ... and I think that is one of the points of most communication, i.e. to be understood. Do something else and one starts to obfuscate or simply stick out like a sore thumb or a pretentious so-and-so.
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Hoke » Sun Sep 24, 2006 1:52 pm

Funny, Gary, that bit about spaetzle.

And rapping on about sore thumbs and pretentious pains in the anatomy--- I'm about as liberal as they come with language, figuring that it can (and does) take care of itself. But even saying that, there's the funny little things that can stick in your consciousness---and make you seem sore and pretentious.

With me it's 'Rice-ling' instead of Riesling---jeez, folks, pay some frickin attention! It's not like you haven't heard about three thousand people pronounce the damned word properly. Minor irritations with 'Spat-lese' instead of 'spayt-lese'; I cringe a little, but usually let that one pass.

In Italian, the only word where I do get surly and a little pretentious is bruschetta. It seriously chaps when I hear someone refer to it as 'brooshetta'. Heck, I've even had Italian-born people who've lived in the US for too damned long pronounce it that way!
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Gary Barlettano » Sun Sep 24, 2006 2:10 pm

Hoke wrote:Funny, Gary, that bit about spaetzle.

And rapping on about sore thumbs and pretentious pains in the anatomy--- I'm about as liberal as they come with language, figuring that it can (and does) take care of itself. But even saying that, there's the funny little things that can stick in your consciousness---and make you seem sore and pretentious.

With me it's 'Rice-ling' instead of Riesling---jeez, folks, pay some frickin attention! It's not like you haven't heard about three thousand people pronounce the damned word properly. Minor irritations with 'Spat-lese' instead of 'spayt-lese'; I cringe a little, but usually let that one pass.

In Italian, the only word where I do get surly and a little pretentious is bruschetta. It seriously chaps when I hear someone refer to it as 'brooshetta'. Heck, I've even had Italian-born people who've lived in the US for too damned long pronounce it that way!


You hit the nail on the head! When I hear all those words mispronounced, it gives me "agita," too. These are words which can be said in English almost exactly as their are said in their native languages without putting on airs. But most folks encounter these words in writing and tend to pronounce them based on the orthography and not on oral tradition. They are to be forgiven ... and then gently corrected. But if I gotta order a "spaht-lease" with my "spaht-zells" and "weener-snitzell" in order to get 'em, I guess I will. :roll:

And now I'm off to Cline Cellars. I'll be there by 11:30. Ciao.
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Dave Erickson » Sun Sep 24, 2006 2:20 pm

Hoke wrote: 'Spat-lese' instead of 'spayt-lese'; I cringe a little, but usually let that one pass.


That's "shpayt-lay-suh," pardner. Sorry, I work for a German. :D
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Jenise » Sun Sep 24, 2006 2:46 pm

Gary said:
When I hear all those words mispronounced, it gives me "agita," too.


Of course it does: you're eye-talian. :)
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Brian K Miller » Sun Sep 24, 2006 4:46 pm

It may sound pretetnious to pronounce it correctly, but I still wince when I hear "awwww juice" for au jus :lol:
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Mark Willstatter » Sun Sep 24, 2006 4:51 pm

Hoke wrote:In Italian, the only word where I do get surly and a little pretentious is bruschetta. It seriously chaps when I hear someone refer to it as 'brooshetta'. Heck, I've even had Italian-born people who've lived in the US for too damned long pronounce it that way!


My wife and I took some Italian classes from a native a few years back, before a trip there, and this was one of her two pet peeves about American pronunciations - along with Capri having an accent on the wrong syllable. I wonder how she feels now that you can find "bruschetta" in jars in the supermarket - now we've not only mangled the pronunciation but altered the meaning of the word.
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Gary Barlettano » Mon Sep 25, 2006 8:15 am

Randy R wrote:
Robin Garr wrote:it seems to me that accents in French are relatively subtle compared with English


Let me rephrase that, the strongest accent in French can be confidently placed on the last syllable. You'll almost never be wrong.


That's correct, but there's a corollary which may illustrate what Robin was hinting at. In word strings, usually whole sentences, the stress falls on the last word of the string, almost as if the whole string were a single word, e.g. if you compare Je passe les vaCANCES to Je passe les vacances à PaRIS, there is a subtle shift of stress from -cances to -ris. In English, words retain their normal stress when stuck in a sentence or string.

Of course, if you are in le Midi, then you will often hear a different stress pattern in colloquial speech because the silent letters are often pronounced. The stress gets a little"bouncy."
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Gary Barlettano » Mon Sep 25, 2006 11:53 am

Randy R wrote:
Gary Barlettano wrote:In word strings, usually whole sentences, the stress falls on the last word of the string, almost as if the whole string were a single word, e.g. if you compare Je passe les vaCANCES to Je passe les vacances à PaRIS, there is a subtle shift of stress from -cances to -ris. In English, words retain their normal stress when stuck in a sentence or string.


I wouldn't disagree with that, but only about 0.000001% of all Americans will ever approach that level of sophistication and they are probably all reading this forum right now :) In fact, in French you will usually add an underline phrase for emphasis of object, subject, etc as in

J'habite à Paris, moi meaning "Unlike you (or her, him, George), I live in Paris" rather than the American accented subject I live in Paris. This has got to be confusing in both directions. Part of the fun, I guess.


It fits right in. Those disjunctive or tonic pronouns actually make a second word string which is evidenced by the pause after the mental comma.

What's cool is that one post-Normand-invasion aspect of English is the emulation of French in that we use "me, him, her, it, us, you, them," as tonic pronouns. The purist calls it incorrect grammar. I just call it assimilation to the conquerors' parlance. "Who wants more wine" "Me!" "Who's gonna pay for it?" "Them!"
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Bob Ross » Mon Sep 25, 2006 1:30 pm

"... assimilation to the conquerors' parlance."

To preserve clarity, though, the Norman's often built in redundancy, at least in legal matters: "to give and devise", among many examples.
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by James Dietz » Mon Sep 25, 2006 2:40 pm

To return to the theme of the thread....

I think Merlot is pronounced

P - E - T - R - U - S
Cheers, Jim
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Bob Ross » Mon Sep 25, 2006 2:54 pm

PAY-troos right James?

With extra strong emphasis on the PAY. :-)
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by James Dietz » Mon Sep 25, 2006 2:59 pm

Bob, you obviously have not learned anything from this thread!!! It's

Pee-TROOOOS... :lol:
Cheers, Jim
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by AlexR » Mon Sep 25, 2006 3:50 pm

Pétrus is one of the most frequently mispronounced wine names I've ever heard.

Well, mispronounced compared to the native language....

It's:

1) Pay

2) trus *but* English speakers find it very hard to differentiate between the "u" and "ou" sounds which are very different in French.

Examples:

- la rue (the street) and la roue (the wheel)
- au-dessus (above) and au-dessous (below)!!!!!

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Alex R.
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by James Roscoe » Mon Sep 25, 2006 5:33 pm

PAY-troos-the-nose!
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Sue Courtney » Mon Sep 25, 2006 6:02 pm

Bob Ross wrote:Murr-LOW or Mare-LOW ?

I've been told either is correct, but I'm wondering which would be preferred, and why?

Thanks, Bob


Hi Bob,
Down under, the accent is often on the first syllable - or equal on both symbols, as Robin says. I had never really heard of that Murr-LOW stuff until Sideways.
Cheers,
Sue
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