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In Australian English, is (OS X) Yosemite pronounced to rhyme with "vegemite", or the same as in Yosemite Sam, who is named after the national park?

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    Say your prayers varmint! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS_X_Yosemite /joʊˈsɛmɨtiː/ yoh-sem-it-ee (I don't think it matters what dialect you speak it in - it's a trademark or whatever - so Apple call the shots)
    – Frank
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 7:26
  • I'm with Frank. Have there ever been products from Apple (or any manufacturer for that matter) whose name was supposed to be pronounced differently in different parts of the world?
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 8:06
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    Most global products are produced with anodyne or coined names which can't be mispronounced. That said, Toyota's MR2 was renamed in France.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 8:44
  • ... and Vauxhall Motors had trouble marketing the Nova in Spain ... Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 12:56
  • @DavidGarner That is an urban legend which has was not rooted in reality.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 16:24

2 Answers 2

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The operating system is ultimately named after the valley, just like the national park, and Sam. The valley, in turn, is named after the Central Miwok name for the Ahwahneechee people, yoṣṣe’meti ‘the killers’ (apparently from the root yoṣ- ‘kill’ enlarged by a relativising agentive suffix -e ‘one who’ and the plural suffix -meti).

The English pronunciation of the name is always any given speaker’s local phonetic realisation of the following phonemic representation:1

/jɵˈsεmɨti/       yuh-SEM-ət-ee

This goes whether you’re refers to the people (though they should be called by their endonym, Ahwahneechee or just Ahwahnee), the valley, the national park, the Sam, or the operating system. The word Yosemite is never, to my knowledge, in any circumstance supposed to rhyme with vegemite (rhyme /-aɪt/).

There’s a good page about the origin of the name on the park’s website, Yosemite online.

(Of course, as Frank mentions in his comment, OS X Yosemite is a trademark by Apple, and Apple are free to prescribe any pronunciation they wish for it. Happily, they’ve chosen to prescribe the only pronunciation the word otherwise has.)


1 I’m using Wikipedia’s guidelines for a uniform way to represent English phonemes in IPA and pronunciation respelling. Note especially that /ɵ/, /ɨ/, and /i/ are variable vowels: they are pronounced differently by different speakers, even within the same dialect—a kind of ‘abstract phonemes’:

  • /ɵ/ is realised as either /o/ or /ə/ (in American English usually pronounced [oʊ] and [ə])
  • /ɨ/ is really just an allophone of /ə/ that can be realised as either [ə] (as in the indefinite article an) or [ɪ/ɨ] (a reduced form of the vowel in hit)
  • /i/ is also known as the happy vowel; it can be any of [ɪ, i, iː]

So the single phonemic representation /jɵˈsεmɨti/ covers 12 different basic possibilities. In standard Broadcast American: [jəˈsεməɾɪ], [jəˈsεməɾi], [jəˈsεməɾiː]; [jəˈsεmɨɾɪ], [jəˈsεmɨɾi], [jəˈsεmɨɾiː]; [joʊˈsεməɾɪ], [joʊˈsεməɾi], [joʊˈsεməɾiː]; [joʊˈsεmɨɾɪ], [joʊˈsεmɨɾi], [joʊˈsεmɨɾiː]. I would say the bolded ones are the most common. Other dialects, of course, may realise both the vowels and the /t/ differently.

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    What? You mean "Vegemite" isn't pronounced "veg-em-uh-tee"???
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 12:25
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    @HotLicks Only if you’re one of those people who also rhymes vegetable with detestable. ;-) Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 12:27
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    Your pronunciation doesn't match what Wikipedia says: /joʊˈsɛmɨtiː/ yoh-SEM-it-ee Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 22:02
  • @curiousdannii It does actually. Wikipedia just (annoyingly) doesn’t distinguish /phonemic writing/ from [phonetic writing], and in this particular case, the article kind of mixes them up, even. I wrote the pronunciation in strictly phonemic terms, since the phonetic realisation varies a lot from speaker to speaker. The vowel [ɨ] is a surface phone of the phoneme /ə/ that may or may not be present in this word; it is not a separate phoneme. [ε], [oʊ], and [iː] are common (AmE) surface phones of /e/, /o/, and /i/. So in Broadcast American, /joˈseməti/ = [joʊˈsεməɾi(ː)] or [joʊˈsεmɨɾi(ː)]. Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 22:09
  • (The fact that the Wikipedia pronunciation has [t] in what is otherwise phonetic notation is where it gets mixed up—very few Americans would pronounce the /t/ as an actual [t] in this word: nearly everyone would reduce it to a flap [ɾ]. I’ll edit the non-IPA forms a bit to match Wikipedia’s version better. I’ve never been any good with the whole pronunciation respelling thing.) Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 22:09
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Regardless of how it's meant to be pronounced, I suspect most Aussies probably would pronounce it so that it rhymes with Vegemite. If you haven't heard words pronounced before you follow the normal pronunciation patterns.

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    And would you condone Americans saying Brissbain? Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 19:50
  • @Peter Shor The French say and write Londres, and the entente cordiale is still around. Mind you, Paris sounds different in the UK from how some think it should be pronounced. It seems that it's Arkansas and Kansas where they get exercised. Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 22:40
  • I suspect most Aussies are familiar enough with the word "Yosemite" that "jɵˈsεmɨti" is the normal pronunciation pattern.
    – user867
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 23:32
  • @Edwin: the French are speaking French; when they speak English, they generally say "London". Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 15:32
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    @Peter You're asserting that Strine is English? Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 17:25

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