Let me count the ways:

  1. Car-bine (like: dine, refine, canine.)
  2. Car-bean (like: green bean, ravine, serpentine.)
  3. CAR-buhn (like: ..like the right and proper way to pronounce the scotch 'Oban'.)

As I understand it, the British all but universally use the first pronunciation.

The second is supported partially in the U.S. by not only countless old Western movies that 'document' our historic ways and dialects, but also the more astute fact that the word originated as the French “carabine” (pronounced: Cara-bean).

I'd love to see a graphic of North American pronunciation; as I suppose most everywhere else English speaking commonwealth people predominately inherit the Anglicized British form.

  • 1
    I mainly have heard the "bine" version here in the US, but occasionally hear the "bean" version. May have heard the "buhn" version once or twice, but did not make note of it. But then, I'm not a gun nut. – Hot Licks Nov 29 '15 at 23:45
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    In my 50-odd years experience, among hunting enthusiasts, not “gun enthusiasts” [and there is a huge difference], I've only ever heard #2 in the real world, and often approaching #3 if you said it 10 times in a row. My people being from California's Central Valley, most originating from the Midwest, predominantly Germanic and some Celtic – “hunters with a farming habit” - as opposed to military, ya know. We had horses, but certainly more Calvary than cavalry... ; ) – ipso Nov 30 '15 at 0:35
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    Carbine was an extremely famous late 19thC racehorse in Australia (won 33 of 43), and it was definitely pronounced Car-bine, as is the modern-day "Carbine Club" where rich racetrack types have a drink or seven between races, before races, and after races.. – Cargill Nov 30 '15 at 1:49
  • @tchrist Do you suppose you could help with putting IPA in this question? – Kit Z. Fox Nov 30 '15 at 14:50
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    The regional divide is larger than you thought; serpentine (and certainly The Serpentine in Hyde Park) is pronounced as in your group 1. I have literally never encountered your third pronunciation; where does it come from? – Tim Lymington Nov 30 '15 at 15:00

As a native American English speaker and avid firearms enthusiast, I can safely say I have never heard anyone of North American heritage and familiar with firearms use any pronunciation other than "CAR-bean". This is the pronunciation used by southerners, mid-westerners, north-easterners, Californians, Rocky Mountaineers, etc. Of course, there are regional differences in the way people pronounce "car", but it is always the same basic pronunciation.

Perhaps there are some small pockets of North America where a few people use a different pronunciation. I can imagine someone from Vermont pronouncing it "CAW-bine", but I have never actually heard it pronounced that way. I have only ever heard New Englanders with the thickest of accents pronounce it "CAW-bean".

On occasion, I've heard firearms novices, having only ever read the word in print and never heard it pronounced before, refer to them as "CAR-bines", but this is usually corrected through exposure to the popular pronunciation.

  • 1
    I like the "no true scotsman" setup in the first few lines. – Yorik Jan 28 '16 at 20:53
  • I wouldn't call it a "no true scotsman" fallacy. I would consider "carbine" to be a technical firearms term, so its usage is limited mainly to firearms experts and enthusiasts. The average person isn't going to refer to a particular firearm as a "carbine". They'll simply call it a gun or a rifle. I wouldn't classify a novice mispronunciation as a valid or common pronunciation. The original question was about regional differences in pronunciations, specifically which of the three pronunciations is used in various parts of the U.S. – Dr. Funk Jan 29 '16 at 21:16
  • The reason for the lengthy list of qualifiers was because I have indeed heard people pronounce the term "CAR-bine" or "CAR-buhn", but they have always been corrected, either directly or through example, to "CAR-bean". I would hardly call such a pronunciation "common" in the states, since it hasn't been widely accepted or used anywhere. – Dr. Funk Jan 29 '16 at 21:19

In England I'm pretty sure it's pronounced "car-byn" and in Australia we also pronounce it correctly as "car-byn" I had a discussion with a very upset American who wouldn't have any word pronounced differently to him, and he said "how do you say the word sardines its f***ing same" and I said " yeah good point how do you say the word canine, wine, devine" and I said it's just pronunciation and accents.

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