I was recently listening to the Pink Floyd song "Pigs (Three different ones)" and a line in the chorus goes,

Ha ha, charade you are!

In the context of the song I am nearly sure that the word charade is intended to mean something or someone that is a fake. What interests me is the way that the word is pronounced.

It is being pronounced Sha-r-ahhh-d (Not sure how to convey a long ah accent but that is the intent. As an American, I have only ever heard this word pronounced more like Sha-r-AID.

My question is, is there a single correct pronunciation of the word, or is this simply pronounced differently in England as compared to America (US, Canada)? Or... is this simply just a poetic pronunciation of the word in the song for effect and uniqueness?

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    In IPA, you mean Brit. /ʃəˈrɑːd/ and U.S. /ʃəˈreɪd/. – tchrist Feb 28 '12 at 16:56
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    It’s nothing fancier than the selfsame trick everyone always used to pull in any other text: you find a web page that has it, apply murine snarf-n-barf to the problem, and voilà all is well. The International Phonetic Alphabet is the standard phonetic notation, and you should always use it for illustrating pronunciations. It’s what the best dictionaries use, too. Failing that, you can sometimes approximate it by using rhyming words, but that is an error-prone process subject to regional interpretation. But these spelt-out faux-phonetic spellings never work. – tchrist Feb 28 '12 at 17:41
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    @maple_shaft: Don't be misled by the preponderance of Americans on ELU. Per my comment to mgb's misleading answer, Waters sings Sha-r-ahhh-d (IPA /ʃəˈrɑːd/) because that's how Brits always say the word. – FumbleFingers Feb 28 '12 at 17:50
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    @FumbleFingers This is yet another French-derived word where using oxytonic stress sounds variously highbrow, bourgeois, educated, or pretentious if it differs from one’s native accent. Others are homage /ˈhɒmɪdʒ/ vs /oʊˈmɑʒ/, montage /ˈmɒntɑːʒ/ vs /mɑnˈtɑʒ/, and of course garage /ˈgærɑːʒ/ vs /ˈgærɪdʒ/. Yet it is always rummage /ˈrʌmɪdʒ/ but mirage /mᵻˈrɑːʒ/. Sometimes the OED marks unassimilated words in the original, like enfleurage /ɑ̃flœrɑːʒ/, without any stress at all. You’d think they’re all destined to have their stress shifted backwards, as in camouflage /ˈkæmɵflɑːʒ/. – tchrist Feb 28 '12 at 19:20
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    @tchrist: I think you get more of these quirky variations in American because historically the country has always been less densely populated. People guess pronunciation from the written form, and if they live in some isolated community their version might just take off. Brits have more variability in total, because we have so many dialectal differences, but for straightforward issues like this where historical origin/written form may mislead, it seems we're less susceptible. – FumbleFingers Feb 28 '12 at 19:32

From (2009 copy) OED:

charade (ʃəˈrɑːd)

A kind of riddle, in which each syllable of the word to be guessed, and sometimes the word itself also, is enigmatically described, or (more recently) dramatically represented (acted charade). Extended also to similar sportive trials of skill, as dumb charades, numbered charades, etc.

Not being a subscriber, I can't access the latest online version of OED, which may mention the US pronunciation /ʃəˈreɪd/ ("shar-aid"). But that doesn't appear at all in my copy, and I've never heard Brits say anything other than (ʃəˈrɑːd) ("shar-ard").

  • 'ard'? two 'r' sounds? – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Feb 28 '12 at 18:27
  • @cornbread ninja: Yawn. I'm British - we don't have your American Rhotic "r"! – FumbleFingers Feb 28 '12 at 18:44
  • @FumbleFingers The OED3 has not yet updated its charade entry, so what you have there is the same as the online version. However, it’s not quite fair to say that British accents are necessarily non-rhotic. Please study this marvellous UK page on accents for how many places in Britain proper actually are rhotic. You are of course correct though if you meant that RP, and more loosely BBC or Home Counties, English is non-rhotic. For bonus points, can you tell me why (and perhaps whether) we must write non-rhotic rather than arrhotic? 😉 – tchrist Feb 28 '12 at 19:02
  • @tchrist: Well, in light of some of your earlier comments, you probably don't approve of me attempting any kind of phonetic representation apart from IPA anyway. I was only trying to be helpful to OP, who said he didn't find it easy to read. I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition! – FumbleFingers Feb 28 '12 at 19:20
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    @FumbleFingers "Noooobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) – Gnawme Feb 28 '12 at 21:30

EDIT: In standard IPA phonetics, that’s Brit. /ʃəˈrɑːd/ and U.S. /ʃəˈreɪd/.

Merriam-Webster advises that both pronunciations are correct:


noun \shə-ˈrād, -ˈräd\

and also states its origins as French:

French, from Occitan charrado chat, from charrá to chat, chatter

  • Thanks, that is informative. This still doesn't answer why I never hear Americans pronounce it in another way however. Is this just coincidence? – maple_shaft Feb 28 '12 at 16:35
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    I don't know, but I'm glad we don't say 'fah-sayd' instead of 'fah-sahd'. :) – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Feb 28 '12 at 16:40
  • Interesting that it is a French derived word meaning "chat". Does this imply that the English word was termed with the assumption that chatterboxes are fake or false? Sounds like a different question... – maple_shaft Feb 28 '12 at 16:58
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    @cornbreadninja That’s why it must always be spelt façade, lest it be taken for a fuckade. – tchrist Feb 28 '12 at 19:22
  • @tchrist That sounds like quite the refreshing beverage. – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Feb 28 '12 at 19:43

In BE the short A (Sha-r-AID) version is more common, the Floyd just needed to use the alternate to make the line scan.

edit: After consultation with she who must be obeyed (British model) - I am informed that sha-rard (as in Pink Floyd's song) is the 'normal' pronunciation and I am a thick northerner

  • It doesn't fit the meter fine with the 'AID' pronunciation? – Mitch Feb 28 '12 at 17:36
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    -1: I don't know why you call AID the "short" version - if anything I'd say being a diphthong it's longer than ɑː (rhymes with "last"), which is the standard British pronunciation (the only one given in my OED). In short, Floyd didn't "do" anything to make it scan (not that scansion would be affected by this anyway) - Roger Waters being British, he just sings the word the same way any Brit would. – FumbleFingers Feb 28 '12 at 17:46
  • @FumbleFingers, I wouldn't say shar-ard was the normal BE pronunciation (unless you are doing extreme RP). The line IIRC is har-har, sha-rard you are. – mgb Feb 28 '12 at 18:02
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    @FumbleFingers Great comment and insightful! If you change this to an answer I will accept it. The legitimacy of the OED is hard to dispute. – maple_shaft Feb 28 '12 at 18:07
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    My accent is "Estuary English", and I went to a secondary modern school, so I certainly don't think I'm likely to be swayed by RP. Waters was a bit more "upmarket", having gone to a grammar school. But like me, his father was a miner, so I account him to be of "peasant stock" like myself. But I'm pretty sure even the Royal Family play /ʃəˈrɑːdz/ after Christmas dinner, not /ʃəˈreɪdz/ (unless they have Americans visiting, who might not otherwise understand what game they were supposed to be playing! :) – FumbleFingers Feb 28 '12 at 18:10

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