There’s a long and interesting history to the pronuciation of Canberra. It’s an Aboriginal word and up until the official opening ceremony no-one was quite sure how it should be pronounced (trying to convert Aboriginal sounds into written English is damn near impossible.) Everyone just waited until the bigwig cutting the ribbon (I think it was the Duke of Windor) said the name, and copied that. Basically it’s pronounced Kanbruh, with a very, very short ‘E’ in between the ‘B’ and the ‘R’. The ‘E’ sound virtually can’t be heard unless you’re listening for it. So if you say Kanbruh you’ll be getting pretty close. For Gods’ sake, don’t pronounce out the whole word like most Merkins do.
I lived there for three years and still spend half of each year there.
There’s not really a standard pronunciation though most of the locals pronounce it Canbruh
*Can- as in tin can
*-bruh somewhere between bra (as in brassiere) and bruh
BTW Gaspode, I’m not sure that the Duke of Windsor story isn’t an urban legend. While living in Canberra I heard several similar stories regarding QEII naming Manuka and various other dignitaries naming other places.
The name Canberra was in use well before any foreign dignitaries came around.
Canberra; Aboriginal word meaning “waste of a good sheep paddock” or “too much hot air”, depending on which lexicography you’re using
“CANbruh”. Saying “canBERRuh” will get you hung up on the Parliament House flagpole.
And, if you’re going to be driving while you’re there, get a good, current street directory. It can be an easy place to get lost in sometimes. I was aiming for Belconnen (belCONNen) and wound up in Queanbeyan (QUEENbee-YAN) via Manuka (MAR-nu-kuh) once.
Kinda. Canberra was oficially named by Gertrude Denman, the wife of the Governor-General. Up until then, there was general consensus that, like most Aboriginal words, it should be pronounced with equally stressed syllables (Can-berr-uh). When Gertrude Denman, who IIRC was English, mispronounced it CAN-bruh, most people started saying it that way out of politeness to her -and more than likely out of a liking for the snootier sound. The original Can-berr-uh pronunciation has survived, however. It’s generally a working class, older generation, or rural thing, although interestingly the mid-20th century conservative Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies pronounced it this way. My parents do as well.
So, most Aussies say CAN-bruh, but some also say Can-berr-uh and get away with it. As a foreigner, you won’t have the luxury of that choice, and most people will correct you if you use the second one. Hardly fair, but there it is. Just say CAN-bruh, MEL-b’n, BRIS-b’n, and SYD-ni, and you’ll be fine. We can work on Wollongong, Gwabegar, Coober Pedy, Goondiwindi, and Lake Cadibarrawirracanna in the next lesson.
Of course, as Canberra is home of our federal politicians, it’s also known as CAN’T-berra.
And finally, something to make you feel better: it’s not only foreigners who get laughed at for mispronouncing names. Aussies do it to each other mercilessly -it’s an interstate thing. The “castle” in Castlemaine (Victoria), and in “Newcastle” (New South Wales) are pronounced diferently. The first syllables in Albany (Western Australia), and Albury (NSW) are also very different, and Coolangatta (Queensland), and Talangatta (Vic), have completely different stress patterns.