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I always fear my conversation sounds like this:

— What would you like to drink, sir?
— I will take some cock, thanks.
ROFL.

Any tips on how to pronounce Coke so it is not mistaken for anything? :)

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to make it simple: kok = cock, kouk = coke –  roman m Oct 21 '10 at 22:18
6  
ask for pepsi then? –  Mitch Jul 18 '12 at 19:13
    
serg, you just need to remember that the letter o has a different sound in each of those words. –  Tristan r Mar 15 at 18:57

5 Answers 5

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Coke is pronounced /kəʊk/ in British English and /koʊk/ in American English. Cock is pronounced /kɒk/ in British English and /kɑk/ in American English.

As you can see, it is the vowel sounds that are different. The two sounds are distinguished in two ways: (1) by one being a diphthong and the other being a monophthong, (the vowel sound changes quality in a diphthong and remains stable in a monophthong), and (2) the position of the tongue is different. The “long O” sound of Coke is a diphthong, whereas the “short O” sound of cock is a monophthong, and it is pronounced with the tongue in a lower position. Here is a vowel diagram for British English: British English vowel diagram

As you can see the vowel sound of Coke starts with the tongue in the position for /ə/, which is in a middle neutral position, and it moves up and slightly back to the position for /ʊ/. The vowel sound of cock, on the other hand, is pronounced with the tongue very low and very far back in the mouth, and it doesn’t move during the production of the sound. The differences in American English are similar.

Here is a page discussing all the pairs of words in English that differ only by these sounds, which suggests that this sound pair is a frequent difficulty for non-native speakers of English. I would suggest looking up those word pairs in an online dictionary, like Merriam-Webster and listening carefully to the recordings for each pair of words to hear the differences between them.

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3  
What's the difference between half-closed and half-opened? Just how optimistic you are? :p –  Ullallulloo Sep 17 '10 at 21:27
    
My native is Ukrainian or Russian, thanks. –  serg Sep 17 '10 at 21:50
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@serg555, according to the Wikipedia article about Ukrainian phonology, the O sound of Ukrainian is ɔ, which is kind of in between the sounds for Coke and cock, so your confusion is understandable. –  nohat Sep 18 '10 at 1:00
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@serg555: the problem is that Russian and Ukrainian don't really have diphtongs. So, to explain it in the most simple terms, "cock" is closer to "кок", while coke is closer to "ко́ук", where the "оу" is kind of one connected sound, rather than two separate ones. If you are familiar with musical terms, I would say that "cock" is (mezzo) staccato, while "coke" is legato. –  RegDwigнt Sep 19 '10 at 17:10
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Down voted for detail? Even when it includes a short two sentence summary at the start? –  Nat Jan 20 '11 at 1:39

It rhymes with "poke" and "joke", not "pock" and "jock". It's a long o sound.

Or you could just switch to Pepsi.

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2  
To expand on this, see Kosmonaut's answer to a similar question. –  RegDwigнt Sep 17 '10 at 18:48
    
Thanks, @RegDwight. Somehow I didn't remember seeing that answer before. –  mmyers Sep 17 '10 at 19:01
    
+1 for the Pepsi suggestion. Frankly if you have any trouble at all with this word sounding like the word for male genitalia in conversation, I'd avoid it like the plague until you are confident you have no trouble with it. –  T.E.D. Sep 22 '11 at 14:55

Refer to it as Coca-cola.

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1  
I have downvoted this answer as, in my opinion, it does not address the question. –  J D OConal Sep 18 '10 at 4:37
    
J D OConal, there is a good point in this answer. Coke is actually a trademark, another name for the Coca-Cola brand of cola. Both mean the same thing. –  Tristan r Mar 15 at 18:22

What would you like to drink, sir? — I will take some cock, thanks.

Maybe it's the "take" as well. "I'd like a coke" or something.

Sorry but it's very difficult to teach pronunciation via typing words into a computer so it's hard to make a suggestion, except if you exaggerate the vowel enough "coke" will not sound anything like "cock" to a native speaker.

http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/wordscape/wordlist/socksoak.html

is a list of minimal pairs for this vowel pair.

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I can see how this can be a problem...

The difference between cock and coke is this (at least the best I can do in writing):

the "o" in c*o*ck is an "open" O. (your lips are pretty opened when you pronounce it : "r*o*ck", "s*o*ccer", "c*o*ffee"...)

the "o" in c*o*ke is more complicated. It's the combination of two sounds : a "closed" o (lips almost closed, not used a lot by itself in the english language) immediately followed by a "u" sound ("t*o* d*o*", "p*ooh*", "L*ou*isiana"...)

For future reference, the sound of the "o" in "c*o*ke" is the same as these : "r*o*se", c*o*de, cr*o*w, gr*o*w, rainb*o*w, cl*o*se, wind*o*w...

EDIT : You shouldn't say "I'll take a coke", you should say "I'll have a coke". Take isn't used properly and it adds misunderstanding to the mispronunciation.

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Tonik, that's a good point about using have instead of take. It sounds more natural. –  Tristan r Mar 15 at 18:25

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