How to pronounce Python

A python is not just a rather dangerous looking animal. It also gave the name to a very powerful and popular programming language — Python. Having heard different people pronounce Python in different ways, I decided to look up its pronunciation. This is what I found.

In British English, Python is pronounced as [ˈpaɪθən], whereas in American English it is pronounced as [ˈpaɪθɑːn]. Clearly, the o is pronounced very differently, and explains what I had been hearing. You can listen to both variants here.

If English is not your native language, make sure you pronounce the th correctly (at least when speaking English), as explained previously.

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How to pronounce parameter

I find the incorrect pronunciation of the word parameter in English (and of Parameter in German) both annoying and fascinating. Remarkably, the mistake is made both by professionals who use it almost every day, and people who haven’t used the word parameter since they distanced themselves from mathematics after high school.

The OED gives the following pronunciations (listen here)

[pəˈræmɪtə(r)] (BrE), [pəˈræmɪtər] (AmE)

Note that in both cases, the stress is on the second syllable, not the first! It is a common mistake but still a mistake to stress parameter on the first syllable. However, it is quite obvious why the mistake is common, because the words
parallel, paramilitary, paramount and even parametric are all stressed on the first syllable. In the case of paralyses, the stress is on the first syllable for the verb, and on the second for the noun. Furthermore, for the words paramedic and paralegal, the stress is on medic and legal, respectively. Hence, there does not seem to be an easy-to-remember rule regarding the pronunciation of para-, but at least you know the correct pronunciation of parameter now.

A detail not captured by the phonetic spelling given above (but can clearly be heard here) is the fact that in American English, the t is typically flapped (see, for example, the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary), similar to the word city.

PS: for a related discussion of the word meter, see this post.

How to pronounce engineer and engine

Are you an engineer? Even if not, you may want to find out about the correct pronunciation of the word engineer, because many people are not aware of it. The pronunciation is tricky because it differs from that of the word engine in terms of stress. While engine is usually pronounced correctly, namely as [ˈendʒɪn] (note the stress on the first syllable), the correct pronunciation of engineer (verb or noun) is [ˌendʒɪˈnɪə(r)] (BrE) or [ˌendʒɪˈnɪr] (AmE). The word is hence stressed on the last syllable. Similarly, engineering is pronounced as [ˌendʒɪˈnɪərɪŋ] (BrE) or [ˌendʒɪˈnɪrɪŋ] (AmE). Click on the links to listen to these words. The next time you hear somebody stress engineer or engineering on the first syllable, you know better! (Among German native speakers, this mistake is quite common but surprising, since the German word Ingenieur is also stressed on the last syllable, just like engineer.)

Testify is not a fancy word for test

I recently came across a scientific paper in which the authors (who struggled with the English language quite a bit throughout the text) used “to testify” instead of “to test”. However, the meaning of these two verbs is very different. According to the OED, to testify means either

1. to make a statement that something happened or that something is true, especially as a witness in court

2. to say that you believe something is true because you have evidence of it

3. to express your belief in God publicly.

If you are interested, I previously discussed a different example for the (often unnecessary) use of fancy words in academic writing here.

 

How to pronounce the chemical elements

Below you can find a list of the most important chemical elements and their correct pronunciation. Elements which are often pronounced incorrectly are highlighted in red. I have previously written about iron and copper. Let me also remind you that in English, the letter y (which appears in elements such as Beryllium or Yttrium) is not pronounced like the German ü, see here. If different, the first line for each element corresponds to the British pronunciation, and the second line to the American pronunciation. (Sources: Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Longman Pronunciation Dictionary).

Apart from the pronunciation, confusion often arises in the cases of mercury (not quicksilver, a false friend related to the German Quecksilber), potassium (Kalium in German), sodium (Natrium in German), tungsten (or wolfram; Wolfram in German), silicon (not silicone), and phosphorus (not phosphor).

1 Hydrogen H ˈhaɪdrədʒən listen
2 Helium He ˈhiːliəm listen
3 Lithium Li ˈlɪθiəm listen
4 Beryllium Be bəˈrɪliəm listen
5 Boron B ˈbɔːrɒn
ˈbɔːrɑːn
listen
6 Carbon C ˈkɑːbən
ˈkɑːrbən
listen
7 Nitrogen N ˈnaɪtrədʒən listen
8 Oxygen O ˈɒksɪdʒən
ˈɑːksɪdʒən
listen
9 Fluorine F ˈflɔːriːn;ˈflʊəriːn
ˈflɔːriːn;ˈflʊriːn
listen
10 Neon Ne ˈniːɒn
ˈniːɑːn
listen
11 Sodium Na ˈsəʊdiəm
ˈsoʊdiəm
listen
12 Magnesium Mg mæɡˈniːziəm listen
13 Aluminium Al ˌæljəˈmɪniəm;ˌæləˈmɪniəm
ˌæljəˈmɪniəm;ˌæləˈmɪniəm
listen
14 Silicon Si ˈsɪlɪkən listen
15 Phosphorus P ˈfɒsfərəs
ˈfɑːsfərəs
listen
16 Sulfur S ˈsʌlfə(r)
ˈsʌlfər
listen
17 Chlorine Cl ˈklɔːriːn listen
18 Argon Ar ˈɑːɡɒn
ˈklɔːriːn
listen
19 Potassium K pəˈtæsiəm listen
20 Calcium Ca ˈkælsiəm listen
21 Scandium Sc ˈskændiəm listen
22 Titanium Ti tɪˈteɪniəm listen
23 Vanadium V vəˈneɪdiəm listen
24 Chromium Cr ˈkrəʊmiəm
ˈkroʊmiəm
listen
25 Manganese Mn ˈmæŋɡəniːz listen
26 Iron Fe ˈaɪən
ˈaɪərn
listen
27 Cobalt Co ˈkəʊbɔːlt
ˈkoʊbɔːlt
listen
28 Nickel Ni ˈnɪkl listen
29 Copper Cu ˈkɒpə(r)
ˈkɑːpər
listen
30 Zinc Zn zɪŋk listen
31 Gallium Ga ˈɡæliəm listen
32 Germanium Ge dʒɜːˈmeɪniəm
dʒɜːrˈmeɪniəm
listen
33 Arsenic As ˈɑːsnɪk
ˈɑːrsnɪk
listen
34 Selenium Se səˈliːniəm listen
35 Bromine Br ˈbrəʊmiːn
ˈbroʊmiːn
listen
36 Krypton Kr ˈkrɪptɒn
ˈkrɪptɑːn
listen
37 Rubidium Rb rʊˈbɪdiəm listen
38 Strontium Sr ˈstrɒntiəm;ˈstrɒnʃiəm
ˈstrɑːntiəm;ˈstrɑːnʃiəm
listen
39 Yttrium Y ˈɪtriəm listen
40 Zirconium Zr zɜːˈkəʊniəm
zɜːrˈkoʊniəm
listen
41 Niobium Nb naɪˈəʊbiəm
naɪˈoʊbiəm
listen
42 Molybdenum Mo məˈlɪbdənəm listen
43 Technetium Tc tekˈniːʃɪəm listen
44 Ruthenium Ru ruːˈθiːniəm listen
45 Rhodium Rh ˈrəʊdiəm
ˈroʊdiəm
listen
46 Palladium Pd pəˈleɪdiəm listen
47 Silver Ag ˈsɪlvə(r)
ˈsɪlvər
listen
48 Cadmium Cd ˈkædmiəm listen
49 Indium In ˈɪndiəm listen
50 Tin Sn tɪn listen
51 Antimony Sb ˈæntɪməni
ˈæntɪmoʊni
listen
52 Tellurium Te teˈljʊəriəm
teˈlʊriəm
listen
53 Iodine I ˈaɪədiːn
ˈaɪədaɪn
listen
54 Xenon Xe ˈzenɒn;ˈziːnɒn
ˈzenɑːn;ˈziːnɑːn
listen
55 Caesium Cs ˈsiːziəm listen
56 Barium Ba ˈbeəriəm
ˈberiəm
listen
57 Lanthanum La ˈlænθənəm listen
58 Cerium Ce ˈsɪəriəm
ˈsɪriəm
listen
59 Praseodymium Pr ˌpreɪziəʊˈdɪmiəm
ˌpreɪzioʊˈdɪmiəm
listen
60 Neodymium Nd ˌniːəʊˈdɪmiəm
ˌniːoʊˈdɪmiəm
listen
61 Promethium Pm prəˈmiːθiəm
prəˈmiːθiəm
listen
62 Samarium Sm səˈmeəriəm
səˈmeriəm
listen
63 Europium Eu jʊərˈəʊpiəm
jʊrˈoʊpiəm
listen
64 Gadolinium Gd ˌɡædəˈlɪniəm listen
65 Terbium Tb ˈtɜːbiəm
ˈtɜːrbiəm
listen
66 Dysprosium Dy dɪsˈprəʊziəm
dɪsˈproʊziəm
listen
67 Holmium Ho ˈhəʊlmiəm
ˈhoʊlmiəm
listen
68 Erbium Er ˈɜːbiəm
ˈɜːrbiəm
listen
69 Thulium Tm ˈθuːliəm;ˈθjuːliəm
ˈθjuːliəm
listen
70 Ytterbium Yb ɪˈtɜːbiəm
ɪˈtɜːrbiəm
listen
71 Lutetium Lu luːˈtiːʃiəm;luːˈtiːsiəm
luːˈtiːʃiəm
listen
72 Hafnium Hf ˈhæfniəm listen
73 Tantalum Ta ˈtæntələm listen
74 Tungsten W ˈtʌŋstən listen
75 Rhenium Re ˈriːniəm listen
76 Osmium Os ˈɒzmiəm
ˈɑːzmiəm
listen
77 Iridium Ir ɪˈrɪdiəm listen
78 Platinum Pt ˈplætɪnəm listen
79 Gold Au ɡəʊld
ɡoʊld
listen
80 Mercury Hg ˈmɜːkjəri
ˈmɜːrkjəri
listen
81 Thallium Tl ˈθæliəm listen
82 Lead Pb led listen
83 Bismuth Bi ˈbɪzməθ listen
84 Polonium Po pəˈləʊniəm
pəˈloʊniəm
listen
85 Astatine At ˈæstətiːn listen
86 Radon Rn ˈreɪdɒn
ˈreɪdɑːn
listen
87 Francium Fr ˈfrænsiəm listen
88 Radium Ra ˈreɪdiəm listen
89 Actinium Ac ækˈtɪniəm listen
90 Thorium Th ˈθɔːriəm listen
91 Protactinium Pa ˌprəʊtækˈtɪniəm
ˌproʊtækˈtɪniəm
listen
92 Uranium U juˈreɪniəm listen
93 Neptunium Np nepˈtjuːniəm
nepˈtjuːniəm;nepˈtuːniəm
listen
94 Plutonium Pu pluːˈtəʊniəm
pluːˈtoʊniəm
listen
95 Americium Am ˌæməˈrɪsiəm;ˌæməˈrɪʃiəm listen
96 Curium Cm ˈkjʊəriəm
ˈkjʊriəm
listen
97 Berkelium Bk bɜːˈkiːliəm;ˈbɜːkliəm
ˈbɜːrkliəm
listen
98 Californium Cf ˌkælɪˈfɔːniəm
ˌkælɪˈfɔːrniəm
listen
99 Einsteinium Es aɪnˈstaɪniəm
aɪnˈstaɪniəm
listen
100 Fermium Fm ˈfɜːmiəm
ˈfɜːrmiəm
listen
101 Mendelevium Md ˌmendəˈliːviəm;ˌmendəˈleɪviəm listen
102 Nobelium No nəʊˈbiːliəm;nəʊˈbeliəm
noʊˈbiːliəm;noʊˈbeliəm
listen
103 Lawrencium Lr lɒˈrensiəm
lɔːˈrensiəm
listen
104 Rutherfordium Rf ˌrʌðəˈfɔːdiəm
ˌrʌðərˈfɔːrdiəm
listen
105 Dubnium Db ˈdʌbniəm
ˈduːbniəm
listen
106 Seaborgium Sg siːˈbɔːɡiəm
ˈsiːˈbɔːrɡiəm
listen
107 Bohrium Bh ˈbɔːriəm listen
108 Hassium Hs ˈhæsiəm listen
109 Meitnerium Mt maɪtˈnɪəriəm
maɪtˈnɪriəm
listen
110 Darmstadtium Ds ˈdɑːmʃtætiəm
ˈdɑːrmʃtætiəm
listen

False friend alert: to go studying (studieren gehen)

My fellow German native speakers tend to make the mistake of translating the expression studieren gehen as to go studying. However, the correct English expression is to go to university. Moreover, in a previous post, I had pointed out that the noun study is not the English translation of Studium but instead means Studie. Therefore, a study of physics is not a Physikstudium.

Mathematical English: Powers

math-powers

Non-native speakers often struggle when they have to speak about powers. For example, the correct expression used for 10^3 is “ten to the power of three“, although it is common to instead use the shorter form “ten to the three“. Similarly, x^7 is “x to the (power of) seven“. The exponents 2 and 3 (can you think of other examples?) have special names: x^2 is “x squared“, x^3 is “x cubed“. A confusing yet common mistake is to say “ten to three” (which refers to the time of day 2:50) instead of “ten to the three“. If the exponent is negative, for example 10^{-3}, the correct expression is “10 to the (power of) minus three“, but not “10 to the (power of) negative three“. Finally, the correct form for e^x is either “exponential function of x” or, much shorter, “e to the (power of) x“.