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Old 10-12-2006, 02:12 PM
Green Bean Green Bean is offline
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Location: NJ, Exit #137
Posts: 11,937
HippoPOTamus? HippopoTAYmus?

My coworker says that he pronounces the word "hippopotamus" as "hippopoTAYmus." He claims that this is a British pronounciation. He's from Ghana, so he does pronounce some things Britishish, and some other things just sound odd to us because of his accent. Like the time he told us he just bought a new shit. (it was a new shirt.) It's okay that he talks a little funny. We can't all be lucky enough to be native New Yorkers.

But this hippopoTAYmus thing? I find it hard to believe. Is this a legitimate alternate pronounciation, or is he full of...hippopoTAYmus shirt?
Old 10-12-2006, 02:21 PM
seosamh seosamh is offline
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Location: Claxby Pluckacre
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I've never heard it pronounced any way other than with the emphasis on the POT. But then I've never been to Ghana . . .
Old 10-12-2006, 02:53 PM
Dervorin Dervorin is offline
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Location: London
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I'm Ghana stick my neck out and say it's hippo-POT-amus, even in West Africa.
Old 10-12-2006, 02:57 PM
Iggins Iggins is online now
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Location: Brewtown, Oregon
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I'm sure what the pronounciation is, but did you get that thing I sent ya?*

* Harvey Birdman reference
Old 10-12-2006, 04:40 PM
Steve Wright Steve Wright is offline
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Location: Reading, UK
Posts: 3,283
It's "hippopoTAYmus" in one line, as a joke, in a Flanders and Swann song. But that's about it. The standard British English pronunciation is the hippoPOTamus one.
Old 10-12-2006, 04:57 PM
psychonaut psychonaut is online now
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Europe
Posts: 5,335

Behold now! By the Jordan dreameth
That beast by scholars called bē-hēˈ-moth;

Though scholars of another cloth
I understand say bēˈ-he-mǒth;
While others still, rejecting both,
Refer to him as bē-he-mōthˈ.

The beast is one, the sound trichotomous;
The fact is, he's a hip-pō-potˈ-a-mus.

óWillard R. Espy
Old 10-12-2006, 05:15 PM
Green Bean Green Bean is offline
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Location: NJ, Exit #137
Posts: 11,937
Aargh! He got us!

I told him I was going to check with my new next-to-next-door neighbors, who are from Nigeria. He said, "They pronounce it differently in Nigeria." So I said to myself, "Where am I going to find another Ghanian?" Then I remembered--duh--our buddy who works next door is from Ghana. Same region, same tribe, same native language, even. So I handed her a piece of paper that said "hippopotamus," and asked her to read it to me. She looked at me like I was crazy (okay, I am, so at least she wasn't surprised) and said "hippopotamus." I told her about the hippopoTAYmus thing. I don't think she's stopped laughing yet.

Meanwhile, I had told my coworker that I was checking out his claim. He said, "Don't you trust me?" I said, "I trust you to have my back in a rough situation, yes. But I don't trust you to tell me the truth about how you say "hippopotamus." He just chuckled sagely. (he does that a lot.)

So, thanks to those of you who took the time to answer this ridiculous question.

By the way, he still is claiming that it is pronounced that way, and that he will prove it. Okay, we'll see what he comes up with. Little does he know that I have 6.5 years of Straight Dope "Cite!?" experience...

HippopoTAYmus, indeed!
Old 10-12-2006, 06:10 PM
rocking chair rocking chair is offline
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Location: on the porch
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hey green bean, guess how brits say zebra.
Old 10-12-2006, 06:15 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 19,929

And for your delectation, "The Hippopotamus Song" by Flanders and Swann, which allows you to pronounce the word in pretty much every conceivable variation:
A bold Hippopotamus was standing one day
On the banks of the cool Shalimar.
He gazed at the bottom as it peacefully lay
By the light of the evening star.
Copyright violation. Quoting entire song. Please don't do this.

Last edited by samclem; 10-13-2006 at 08:11 PM. Reason: Copyright violation
Old 10-12-2006, 06:19 PM
Green Bean Green Bean is offline
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: NJ, Exit #137
Posts: 11,937
Originally Posted by Kimstu
Heh. Good one.

I think they say it more like "zeh-bra," right?
Old 10-13-2006, 06:58 PM
rocking chair rocking chair is offline
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: on the porch
Posts: 7,867
yep, good one kinstu.

you got it green bean.
Old 10-13-2006, 07:24 PM
MaxTheVool MaxTheVool is online now
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Santa Clara, CA
Posts: 11,453
I can't believe this place. Not only was I not the first person to bring up the Flanders and Swann song, I wasn't even the SECOND person to bring up the Flanders and Swann song.


Anyhow, there's also some more news from our old friend the Hippopotamus:

The amorous hippopotamus, whose love song we know
Is now married and father of ten
He murmurs "got rot 'em" as he watches them grow
And he longs to be single again

He'll gambol no more on the banks of the nile
Which Nasser is flooding next spring
With hippopatamas in silken pajamas
No more will he teach them to sing...

Mud, mud...


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