Pronounced E


The misuse and abuse of the poor apostrophe is nothing when compared with the widespread mispronunciation of “ae”.

When the letter “a” is joined with the letter “e”, the resulting sound is a long “e”. It is that simple. It is not sounded like a capital “A” (as in “hay” or “day”).


Caesar (ceezar), encyclopaedia (en-sigh-klo-peed-ee-ah), paedophile (pee-doh-file), paediatrics (peed-ee-ah-trix), haemoglobin (hee-mo-globe-in), daemon (dee-mon).

A common example of common mispronunciation is Aerial (ee-ree-al). Scottish is perhaps the worst for this, for gaelic should be “gee-lik” not “gay-lik”.

The most annoying examples are found when people try to represent Glaswegian with a Scottish tool.

To do — do is pronounced “day” in Glasgow, but it is very often written as “dae” — which would be pronounced “dee” — which reveals it’s Scottish origins (it sounds more Dundonian to say dee for day) . This is probably due to the comic strips originating in Dundee, especially “Oor Wullie” and “The Broons”. Try reading them afresh, but pronounce the “ae” correctly — as in Dundee and not as in Glasgow, it will become clear that “dae” is indeed “dee” and not “day”.

Long have the Scots been annoyed by the English mispronouncing “loch” as “lok”. Now take the “ch” sound and soften it or quieten it down. The resulting sound was written down as “qu”.

So “qu” sounds like “ch” — but less wet, and more whispery — or more to the front of the tongue than the back.

Thus the word “quine” would be said, starting with a soft loch “ch” sound — yet I am always hearing people say “kwine”! The word “quine” is closer the word for child, “wean” (pronounced “wane”), than people seem to realise. The best way to pronounce Scottish words provided by the likes of Sir David Lyndsay and Robert Burns, is to abandon Glaswegian and embrace Scotland — the softer sing-song tones of Inverness and the highlands, or the lilts of the borders.

When reading “Oor Wullie” or “The Broons”, a Dundonian accent is required — not a Glaswegian one! Burns did not write for the Glasgow tongue. Malky the cartoonist mispelled back in the 70s, and now it’s “Still Game” and “Chewing The Fat” that compounds the error; “Gonnae no dae that” is what I see written, but as it is said “Gonny no day that” rather than “Gonee no dee that” the problem is clear: there is a long tradition of writing Scots, but there is no such tradition for writing Glaswegian — and so Glaswegians are taking the Scots spellings and mispronouncing them on the basis of a hard “ch” and the mistaken idea that “ae” is pronounced “hay”.

Things are Getting Worse.

5 Responses to “Pronounced E”

  1. Georgio Says:

    Surely Scots language is like English. There is no set rules for pronouncing particular groups of letters. It depends on how the words have evolved. As in the letters ‘ough’

    Rough, dough, thought, ploughman, Gough, through, Loughborough, Slough, drought, coughed, trough.

  2. eastender Says:

    If Scots English and Glaswegian English were actual languages, then you might have a point (that they don’t have to be logical and phonetics-based).

    Accents and dialects are not languages.

    I started off by showing that the special character “ae” is pronounced as a long “e”. Then I showed that the Dundonian attempt to represent their version of spoken English is very good because they use this “ae” or long-e to very good effect.

    Trouble only begins when Glaswegians get involved.

    What I am asking is for Glaswegians to do what the Dundonians and other Scots have done (including Robert Burns) — and be strictly phonetic! For the English “do”, a Dundonian might say “dee” and write it, “dae” (which is correct), but because a Glaswegian would say “day” then it ought to be written phonetically as “day” (and not “dae” as it so frequently is).

  3. Hanzi Says:

    Your argument is poorly thought out. You are correct that in words that originally had AE as the combined symbol, this AE, now separated, is generally pronounced as “ee”. However, English is a language that has taken in words from many other languages, and not every word with an A beside an E did have the combined symbol originally. To use one of your own examples, “gaelic” is from Gaelic, never had a combined AE, and should be pronounced closer to “ga-lik” than “gay-lik”, and certainly never “gee-lik”. AE, as used in the representation in English of a Scottish accent, is the commonly accepted spelling, and most people seem to have no problem with it. Oh, and Robert Burns wasn’t from the Borders or Inverness and the Highlands, so why would these be the best accents for reading his words?

    Also, a couple of points about your response: it is a matter of debate whether Scots is a separate language from English – I’m not saying it is, as I don’t know enough linguistics, but I’ve read some pretty convincing arguments. Also, how can you ask people to be “strictly phonetic” in a language (English) that is not, itself, at all phonetic?

  4. eastender Says:

    At the start, you say my argument is poorly thought out, but fail to explain why you think that; nothing thereafter supports this assertion.

    I think you have simply misread or misunderstood the article and the response.

    That is not an attack on you, but an identification of my failure to get my point across. I stated:
    “The best way to pronounce Scottish words provided by … Robert Burns, is to abandon Glaswegian and embrace Scotland” — which to me is not the same thing as saying you ought to use a borders or highlands accent! It’s probably my fault for trying to illustrate the point with a couple of random examples.

    I have no problem entering a debate on language, etymology, linguistics, and so forth; as you may have gathered from my posts here, I enjoy such matters.

    In my response to Georgio, I tried to communicate the fact that “actual languages” are not logical and phonetic.

    I stated that “Scots English” and “Glaswegian English” were not actual languages, and instead that “Scots English” and “Glaswegian English” were supposed to be phonetic, supposed to represent as accurately as possible the nuances and inflexions of everyday speech — and my point is that they FAIL to do that job well.

    My article tries to explain that “The Broons” was written in a “Dundonian English” — in a phonetic way that was pretty accurate — especially when you know how to pronounce the ae as a long “e”, but that when this convention is misused for the Glaswegian, then it fails.

    When you asked:
    “… how can you ask people to be “strictly phonetic” in a language (English) that is not, itself, at all phonetic?”
    I realised that I had not got across my argument to you at all.

    Please understand that I am NOT asking people to be strictly phonetic in English (or any actual language for that matter).

    I am merely asking that more people (a) pronounce the long e when they see the “ae”, and (b) write Glaswegian more accurately and phonetically, instead of misusing borrowings from Scots.

  5. Gianmaria Says:

    Listen mates, I’m half Italian, I can give you some advice here: did you ever think that every word with an “ae” is pronounced as “ee” JUST BECAUSE IT DERIVES FROM LATIN?
    I mean, whenever it derives from Latin (i.e. paedophilia, Caesar, encyclopaedia…) it is always or often pronounced “ee”; when it comes out of another language it is quite different: “Gaelic” is clearly “gay-lick”, couldnae ever be “gee-lick”! The same goes for our “tae”, “fae”, “dae” and so on… if Dundonians do pronounce these ones as “ee”, well, it’s just part of their dialect, nothing to deal with some proper Scottish pronunciation.
    It’s Latin that makes the difference, sure.
    Have your say then!

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