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"It is of such stiff stuff that the upper lip of the British phonetician should be fashioned, giving short shrift to chauvinism."
December 23, 2010 8:30 PM   Subscribe

Howjsay.com is a unique online speaking dictionary that offers clear pronunciations of English words, phrases, slang terms, technical terms, brand names, proper names, profanity, and many foreign words, including common variations and alternatives. Astoundingly, the sound files are not computer-generated -- every single one of the site's 138,152 entries are enunciated in the dignified tones of British academic and polyglot Tim Bowyer, who has steadily expanded its glossary over the years using logs of unsuccessful searches and direct user suggestions. The site is part of Bowyer's Fonetiks.org family of language sites, and is also available as a browser extension and as a mobile app for iPhone/iPod and Blackberry.
posted by Rhaomi (27 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ooh, very interesting. I wish it had an API.
posted by Memo at 8:41 PM on December 23, 2010


I call bull. It should be ready by Alec Baldwin playing Jack Donaghy.

Boycott!
posted by inturnaround at 8:48 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Cholmondeley? Cholmondeley!
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 10:51 PM on December 23, 2010


I love this site! I'm experiencing source amnesia on it, but I've been using howjsay for the longest time. It has yet to fail me. :) Overall, a great site.
posted by 47triple2 at 11:22 PM on December 23, 2010


I know it's a touchy one at MeFi but I heartily recommend Mr. Bowyer's delivery of the "c-word". The note of slightly disgusted disdain is spot on.
posted by Decani at 11:48 PM on December 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


"every single one of the site's 138,152 entries"

Heh, three hours since the post and it's already up to 138,176 words (including gems like "mozartian" and "charybdian"). Dude's a machine.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:57 PM on December 23, 2010


I want to use the API to recreate classic rock songs or Monty Python sketches.

This. Is. An. Ex. Parrot.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:06 AM on December 24, 2010


I know it's a touchy one at MeFi but I heartily recommend Mr. Bowyer's delivery of the "c-word". The note of slightly disgusted disdain is spot on.--Decani

...whereas the pronunciation of the plural form of this word gives evidence of ever so slight enthusiasm. Perhaps when he says the singular form he's thinking of one in particular that displeases him, but with the plural form he can think of nothing but goodness.

We can dissect his whole personality just based on the nuances of his articulation.

More seriously, this is great.
posted by eye of newt at 12:21 AM on December 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


He sounds so exasperated when he says "watchamacalit". As though he couldn't be bothered to think of the item's actual name, or had spent to much effort unsuccessfully trying to remember what "it" is called.
posted by molecicco at 1:58 AM on December 24, 2010


This is definitely more useful and natural-sounding than At Home with English. It's like watching Ned Flanders' dorky younger brother. Sure, he means well, but the over-enunciation will get his target ESL audience sounding like some uncanny valley version of English speakers.
posted by chambers at 4:49 AM on December 24, 2010


This is neat. Over-enunciation sounds about right. That would help non-native speakers to pick up on the unfamiliar tones, because initially you cannot really hear tones from a language you weren't raised with.
posted by yoHighness at 5:21 AM on December 24, 2010


I LOVE this, so many words I've only ever read and when I use them I stumble on how they're pronounced.
posted by dabitch at 6:00 AM on December 24, 2010


Aluminum, vitamin.
posted by dabitch at 6:02 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


His version of "Tbilisi" comes closer to Wikipedia's or Forvo's than, say, Merriam-Webster's, but I'd still turn to Wiki/Forvo first for foreign words. But I agree that it's an awesome project for someone to be working on by themselves.

(Are Merriam-Webster's pronunciations computer generated? They don't sound like they are to my ears, but perhaps I haven't listened closely enough.)
posted by Casuistry at 6:33 AM on December 24, 2010


Separate entries for resentment and ressentiment. Good show.

Also: gangsta and house party.
posted by kittyprecious at 7:20 AM on December 24, 2010


I've been using Forvo, but I think Howjsay may provide better material for the lost art of Dictionaraoke.
posted by fredludd at 8:46 AM on December 24, 2010


Bookmarked! I have trouble parsing IPA symbols, so this is great.
posted by Quietgal at 9:34 AM on December 24, 2010


Still prefer Forvo.
posted by fire&wings at 9:35 AM on December 24, 2010


Oh wow, this site rocks! Thanks so much Rhaomi!
posted by nickyskye at 10:21 AM on December 24, 2010


How long before someone makes a beatbox version of this?
posted by jng at 11:09 AM on December 24, 2010


Don't place any reliance on his renditions of foreign pronunciations of proper names. His "Russian" version of Khrushchev (which for some reason he spells "Kruschev") is truly dreadful, something like "KROOOSH-cheeyooov." It bears zero resemblance to the actual Russian pronunciation (khroo-SHCHOF), and I can only suppose that he made it up himself.
posted by languagehat at 11:16 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


no alternate pronunciation for "protein," which is regionally pronounced "pro'-te-in"?
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:12 PM on December 24, 2010


Does anyone actually say "asshole" like that?
posted by Brocktoon at 12:56 PM on December 24, 2010


Of course. Gangsters and bootleggers from the 1920s.
posted by jng at 12:58 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nguyen?
posted by Marla Singer at 1:10 PM on December 24, 2010


languagehat: "Don't place any reliance on his renditions of foreign pronunciations of proper names. His "Russian" version of Khrushchev (which for some reason he spells "Kruschev") is truly dreadful, something like "KROOOSH-cheeyooov." It bears zero resemblance to the actual Russian pronunciation (khroo-SHCHOF), and I can only suppose that he made it up himself."

The site notes claim every entry is based on two sources with IPA transcriptions, but it can still be a little wonky. When I first tested some names, the entries for Reagan, Reaganism, Reagonomics, etc., were all pronounced "REE-gun." I sent an errata report and he had it updated within a few hours. Although a few days later, I happened to learn that his name was originally pronounced that way and that he changed it to RAY-gun when he got into politics. So maybe "Kruschev" is similar, especially if it's not spelled the same way.

Anyway, you can always send in a report through the email form or through the front page (with a Google account) to get something fixed; he's very quick about it.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:29 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


> So maybe "Kruschev" is similar

No, absolutely not. I'm glad he's eager to fix his mistakes, but (imho) it takes a lot of chutzpah to attempt to pronounce words in foreign languages you don't actually know, and unless and until someone corrects him his mistakes are up there for all visitors to absorb and repeat. Better he should stick to what he's sure of.
posted by languagehat at 6:16 PM on December 24, 2010


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