Capital City

10 August 2005 at 22:22 (General)

I was wondering about the pronunciation of Canberra. Cam-brah or Cam-berr-ah? The man on the abc news was saying cam-brah but all the old people I know say cam-berr-ah. During my head scratching I stumbled over the wiki which has a section providing details about the name. Apparently it means ‘meeting place’ or ‘women’s breasts’ in the original lingo (which sometimes can appear to be one and the same).

But anyway, the wiki also blames the various pronunciations on differences between class to some degree. Any ideas on which is the upper brow way of saying it? I guess the abc bloke’s method is the high street way.

This is what happens when I promise to post something. I’m interested, but I wouldn’t normally write home about it. I’m sleepy now, time for bed.



  1. nimeton said,

    Have you ever heard an American pronounce Melbourne. That shits me.

  2. Kent said,

    Yes, yes I have. Another item on the list of why the world would be better off without Americans.

    Matty, I’ll listen to my sister say it more often. Pretty sure she and everyone else says Cam-brah.

    I even heard Mr Roly Sussex on 891 say once that the more ‘cultivated’/high-brow speakers tend to drop syllables and/or accentuate the difference in emphasis between syllables. Which seems hard to believe, but I’m _sure_ that’s what he said.

    That’d make the high-brow Cam-brah.

    Meh, I say Cam-brah.

  3. Deirdre said,

    Do you want to be a newsreader, Toto?

    I don’t know why you’re putting that “mmm” in there. It’s CAN-bruh, or CAN-buh-ruh or Our Nation’s Capital, isn’t it? Centuries ago I lived there but never talked to anybody of course, so I’ve got no idea how other people say it. The locals only ever seemed to make jokes about what a crappy place it was, which I couldn’t understand; I think it’s a lovely little town.

    As for Mell-born… yck! from me too. They usually say it really slowly so it sounds like M-e-l-l…b-o-r-n. Idiots.
    It’s not like we ever mispronounce THEIR names (New Orleans, say).

  4. Kent said,

    Well, we’d struggle to say Seattle their way.

  5. D said,

    How do they say it?

  6. D said,

    Two more questions, not related to anything in particular:
    1. If I do italics like this – italics – does that show up?
    2. If you search for something on Google you can call it “googling”, so what do you call it when you search for something on Wikipedia? “Wikipedia-ing” is just plain nasty.

  7. Teddy said,

    I agree with D: I’m fairly certain it’s CAN-bruh; at least that’s how I say it. When in doubt, speak quickly…

    As for Seattle, I’ve only ever heard one pronunciation, See-AT-l.

    If there is a way to mispronounce it please tell me! I love all opportunities to get back at Americans for Melbourne and aluminium!

  8. Kent said,

    Fine, fine. My point is that Seattle brings out most effectively that very nasal Australian ‘a’. Which most Americans don’t have.

    As for Melbourne, we shouldn’t really blame them. Americans see past that Frenchified spelling of ‘bourne’ and see ‘born’ and so say ‘born’. Remember they don’t like ‘u’ following ‘o’.

    I don’t know where the hell we’ve got this whole ‘ben’ thing from, but I like it.

  9. Kent said,

    The funny thing about aluminium is that the Americans changed the spelling to fit their deluded pronunciation – or is it the other way around? They don’t have the last ‘i’.

  10. toto said,

    according to the wiki, the various spellings of aluminium are largely due to no body being sure what to call it when it was discovered. Although, officially we are right and they are wrong :D

    if only I could reference the wiki for everything

  11. nimeton said,

    i think i say melbourne mel-bn or mel-bun. Yeah, mel-bn i think.

    i dont think i say it mel-ben.

    i’m simply confused now :s

  12. Kent said,

    If you referenced the wiki for everything I’d have to give you a nice long angry lecture. It’s making me wonder whether it will be the death of critical thinking. No need to read two accounts and make your own mind; just go to the wiki and see what other people have compromised on. In any case, once you get past the particularly controversial points, much of the wiki descends into less-edited and biased writing. And then you have the problem of, because you’re at the wiki, you tend to turn off the critical comprehension part of your brain, and the bias can be missed.

    As for aluminium, interesting story. Still, it merely lends support to my hypothesis: that the Americans had two spellings to choose from. Why they chose it, who knows. The explanation there is a good one, but I’d be tempted to ask a linguist whether Americans of the early twentieth century would be predisposed to either’s pronunciation. Pity we can’t ask any of people who wrote ‘aluminum’ in letters and, well, anywhere, eighty or ninety years ago. They might be able to tell us why. But they’re all dead.

  13. D said,

    Well, no one answered my questions (boo, you slackers) so how’s this: to wikip / wikiping / wikiped?

    I’m with nimeton on mel-bn: bn.

    And Kent’s idea about Wikipedia killing critical thought… Couldn’t you have said that about encyclopedias all along? They only ever offer a summary, and don’t have much room for conflicting views. At least at Wikipedia you’ve got the chance to challenge what’s written, but is that what bothers you? The article ends up being the compromise at the end of the argument, the middle of the road, and all the little tracks from either side get left out?

    I think the consensus thing is interesting. There’s bias in everything, and peer-review (which is basically what Wikipedia is) can help weed it out. On the other hand there’s a lot of crap in there too, but it’s a work in progress, not the gospel. Just the fact that anybody can edit what they read invites critical thinking, I think. I think it’s more likely we turn off the crap-detectors when reading conventionally-published work: the old encyclopedias, for example. If they’re written by experts, it must be true!

  14. D said,

    And before you jump in, my point isn’t that any old blockhead can write good information, or that consensus determines the facts, it’s just that critical thinking involves weighing up the validity or usefulness of what you’re reading. I’m not really talking about the usefulness of the article.

  15. Teddy said,

    I think that kents point was that when you read the wiki, most people generally assume that it has allready been edited to the point where it is true.

    After all, if you knew enough about a subject to actually want to edit the wiki entry, you probably wouldn’t be looking it up in the first place.

    This is why Kent suggested looking in other places as well, and threatened “toto” with an angry lecture for just using the wiki.

  16. Kent said,

    Academic peer-review is as different to the wikipedia as debate in the House of Lords is to a public meeting at the local Institute. Crap academic articles get weeded out because the people who review it actually know what they’re on about. The wikipedia is like the mostly blind reviewing the mostly blind. But then you must already have realised that.

    My beef is that people (might) think the wiki is _more_ valuable or better than an ordinary encyclopedia. I couldn’t disagree more. Idiots aren’t allowed to contribute to the Britannica, whereas they are involved (look at the talk pages) on pretty much every article at the Wikipedia. Lowest common denominator. Especially when you get into more obscure topics.

    As for critical thinking, well, bah to your approach. If you think that anything, wiki or Britannica, is gospel and not a work in progress, then you need to seriously readjust the way you read.

    As for the ability to edit inviting critical thought, I’d say it’s more likely to invite censorship and simple “i’m right; you’re wrong” argument. I refer to the revert wars which plague the place. I suggest a better manifestation of critical thought is the essay and the review. To take other’s work

    The wikipedia’s worth lies in its breadth. It’s not limited by volume size. Downsides?
    – general hostility to it from within academia, the home of the most knowledgeable people in society whether you like their attitudes or not.
    – it’s all volunteer work. This is not often enough realised as a downside.
    – you have to sign away your authorship. This, for me, is the biggest problem, and it’s not just a matter of greed. It ties in with the whole NPOV thing, which is also a load of shit. Everything is political, and the wikipedia is in blind denial of this fact. You can be unbiased, but it’s very difficult and rare, and best achieved through inner reflection and consideration and not through violent argument of the type found over there.

    On top of all that, a minor point, most of the writing over there is shithouse. To their credit, they know it, too.

  17. Kent said,

    Cross all that out. What Teddy said.

    And also, the reason nobody proposed a verb for looking something up on wikipedia is because one just doesn’t exist!

  18. Kent said,

    bah sorry if I sound hostile, it’s not personal. and I take back the third paragraph. And I forgot to finish my fourth paragraph. And now I’m late for work

  19. D said,

    Teddy, now that you’ve said that (that readers assume Wikipedia articles are true), I can’t think whether I’m generally sceptical or not. You’re probably right. I’m probably looking more at the way it’s written, rather than what it’s saying. You do have to have some background in the subject to realise when the stuff is wrong, damn it.

    But surely “The wikipedia is like the mostly blind reviewing the mostly blind” is too harsh, Kent. It needn’t be that at all, and it isn’t when experts get involved. The problem gets back to what Teddy said, basically: we assume the info is true, because unless you’re an expert yourself, or know the background of the person writing there, how can you weigh it up? So yes, the lack of an author’s name is a problem, I agree.

    But how can the Britannica be a work in progress? Each edition is a finished thing. You might be able to influence the next edition, but not the one in the library right now. A wiki is the opposite of that: it’s never finished, which is both its beauty and curse.

    And “I suggest a better manifestation of critical thought is the essay and the review.” Maybe so, but you’re not talking about everyday people there, are you? I thought that was your initial point: that Wikipedia is going to kill critical thought at a general level. Academic writing isn’t ever going to cite Wikipedia (I’m guessing) so readers are not the type who are going to be writing and reviewing serious essays (guessing again).

    And I agree that it’s almost impossible to get a neutral point of view, which is what makes the wiki format useful: if you detect bias, you can challenge it. Try doing that with an edition of Britannica.

    And the “I’m right/you’re wrong” approach seems quite widespread. You seem quite fond of it yourself (I need to seriously readjust the way I read??). Still, combativeness needn’t overwhelm the whole process. There are still reasonable people editing who can balance out the warring parties – the Wikipedia peacemakers or whatever they’re called.

    “And also, the reason nobody proposed a verb for looking something up on wikipedia is because one just doesn’t exist!” Yet. That was the point of asking for ideas. We need a word.

  20. D said,

    See how it takes me so damn long to write anything? I started that comment before Kent posted his last one. Practically an hour. Bloody hell. Shoot me now.
    (Kent: I didn’t take out the third paragraph because I didn’t see your retraction. Still, it’s a mighty fine piece of bullshit, y’know. :D)

  21. toto said,

    Bawh, can of worms.. While I was writing “if only I could reference the wiki for everything” I was thinking it would get under some skin. in fact, what I meant was, –if only everything I say only had to be as credible as the wiki… it’s just so easy to look something up and be done with it.

    As for a verbing the wiki. I normally say “just wiki it.”
    eg. “What’s the longest prong on an LED?”
    “Just wiki it!”

  22. toto said,

    I realise this doesn’t directly answer your original question because you were wanting something with an ‘ing suffix. wiki-ing is what I would use, it sounds about as stupid as googling (note, this wiki page that links to Google (verb), not Googling). But I question whether it’s entirely necessary to turn everything into a verbs. For example, I don’t text people, I send them text messages. As a Calvin and Hobbes strip once said “Verbing weirds language”.

  23. Kent said,

    not entirely useless fact for the day:

    “something with an -ing suffix” is called a gerund.

  24. Kent said,

    And Deirdre, yeah, meh. I’m a fairly combative person, ask matty. But I will continue to differ on the wikipedia. Which just goes to show, argument isn’t generally a good way of reaching the scared cow of consensus (otherwise known as NPOV in the wikipedia world).

    And I continue to disagree on the peer-review situation. Even if there is an expert caring after a particular article, there is absolutely nothing to stop the dumbest contributor to come and edit it – whether in an outrightly combative mode, or with the best of intentions. The expert has a lot of time spent then defending his article. More time defending it than creating it. I’m betting, with good reason, that far more time is spent on the wiki defending and correcting changes than creating content.

    It’s the biggest argument in the world. And critical thought doesn’t happen when you argue; it happens when you reflect and create your own work.

    PS Matty, turning nouns into verbs is perfectly acceptable. Even the verb you used to question it, question, was just a lonely noun once upon a time (c.1300-1470, to be more accurate).

  25. D said,

    toto, I never knew what LED stood for… All praise to the wiki :)
    “To wiki it” looks okay when it’s written, but when I say that it turns into a hiss (like a goose) somewhere around the “ki”. Never mind, though. I could always just shut up, eh? :D

    And you’re probably right about the effort spent defending articles, Kent, yes, and that would be a stupid waste of time, better spent in writing something else. But I do see some benefit in having to defend your work – hopefully not through argument, but just through having your ideas challenged. Reflection helps to develop what you’re thinking, but isn’t much use if your thoughts (and your questioning of them) are in a nice complacent closed loop. You possibly don’t have that problem – if you’re combative, you’re probably always arguing with yourself. Traditionally-published work might only go through an editor (I don’t know) and so can end up being a very narrow view. Wikipedia probably has the opposite problem – too many editors, creating by committee.

  26. Kent said,

    ” a very narrow view”

    Bullshit. I maintain that a single person can produce a more unified, more concise, more attractive, better argued, more inclusive, more considered, more intelligent, more reasoned piece of writing than ANY committee.

    ESPECIALLY when the committee is made up of any buffoons that want to be on it.

  27. Teddy said,

    Depends on the person, depends on the committee.

    Though in the case of the wiki, I’m in complete agreement with you.

  28. Teddy said,

    “Academic writing isn’t ever going to cite Wikipedia…”

    And I almost considered referencing it in my physics project proposal ;)

  29. D said,

    What did you think I meant by “problem”, Kent: that committee writing is a good thing? No. It’s sloppy, it’s mushy, it ends up saying not much of anything, and on Wikipedia too often it says all of that really badly. I agree with your list of single-author benefits (assuming the author is any good), except for “inclusiveness”. There’s no particular reason why a single viewpoint (challenged, if at all, by a single editor) should be inclusive, especially in a cultural sense. A committee, on the other hand, should be so, just because it involves more views and backgrounds. And if you’re going to yell “bullshit” at me, I’ll call you a buffoon. Stop it.

    Teddy, I agree. So much of all this depends on the details. And you’re probably right about the wiki, but there’s no particular reason why its articles have to be crap – it’s possible they will all eventually struggle on towards perfection (somewhere over the rainbow…)

    Are you saying physicists can be bothered checking references? Aren’t you people far too busy solving all the problems of the universe? ;)

  30. Kent said,

    I don’t see what’s wrong with me saying bullshit. I think what you’re saying is wrong… shoot me for not being polite.

    in any case I don’t intend to stop it.

  31. D said,

    Fine. Buffoon.

  32. D said,

    And I’ve just checked a dictionary and am overjoyed to find that “buffoon” originally came from the Latin for “toad”.

  33. matty said,

    so even if we shoot you, you still intend on being impolite? that’s dedication.

    Really I don’t think there’s any need to get our knickers in knots here. You’re free to be as rude to each other as you want in the comments. However, I’d recommend we all take a step back and reflect on the wise words repeated by Thumper: “If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all”

    if you don’t like that, try this quote: “‘Eating greens is a special treat, It makes long ears and great big feet. But it sure is awful stuff to eat.’ I made that last part up myself.” – Thumper

  34. nimeton said,

    I assume Thumper is a rabbit? But whatever it is it can rhyme good. ha.

  35. Kent said,

    Bah, wise for you, seems like a particularly stupid quote to me.

    As for buffon coming from toad, what dictionary was that, Deirdre? Houghton-mifflin at says buffoon comes from the Old Italian for ‘jester’, as does

  36. Kent said,

    as does the oxford.

  37. D said,

    Bambi, Matty. I had to look it up. I can’t remember anything about the story except feeling really upset when the mother gets shot… boo hoo hoo etc. Excellent advice, though; I’ve often wondered how to get long ears and great big feet :)

    The New Collins Concise, Kent: buffoon
    [C16: bouffon buffone bufo

  38. D said,

    Owww. Something zapped the end of that comment. Take two:

  39. D said,

    What the hell?!
    I think the arrows are making trouble. Trying again:
    C16 – from F bouffon; from It. buffone; from Med. L bufo; from L – toad.
    The “u” and “o” in bufo should have little things over them (which look like a dash).

  40. Kent said,

    buffoon [a F. buffon, bouffon, a It. buffone buffoon, f. buffa a jest, connected with buffare to puff; Tommaseo and Bellini consider the sense of ‘jest’ to be developed from that of ‘puff of wind’, applied fig. to anything light and frivolous; others, e.g. Litré, refer to the notion of puffing out the cheeks as a comic gesture.]

    that’s the etymology in the full set of the Oxford…

  41. D said,

    Well, boo. Toad is better. You’re not exactly light and frivolous; buffoon is the wrong word.

  42. Teddy said,

    And to think, all of this started with a discussion as to the correct pronounciation of the word Canberra.

  43. D said,

    It’s just one of those full-circle things, Teddy: buffoon goes back to Canberra (as lots of buffoons do).

  44. J said,

    And now the circle is complete…

  45. Kent said,

    Was just listening to my poppa, and yep. He pronounces it with three syllables. Sounds wrong.

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