Lion of the Blogosphere

About the pronunciation of quay and quayside

In my previous post, I quoted from an article that used the word “quayside.” I then couldn’t resist pointing out that the correct way to pronounce it is “key-side.” And, of course, the word “quay” is pronounced “key.”

On an episode of Critical Role (where “nerdy-ass” voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons), the party came to the port city of Nicodranis, with an area of the city called the Open Quay. Which dungeon master Matt Mercer mispronounced. Liam O’Brien, who plays a wizard from Zemnia, said “in Zemnia, we call it a key.” Matt Mercer either didn’t get the hint or decided to continue pronouncing it incorrectly in order to avoid admitting that he made a mistake, and continued to say “kway” all episode instead of “key.”

I received an interesting comment about pronunciations from Vince:

Re: Sounding educated…

Tyler Cowan has remarked that when someone mispronounces a word, his respect for them grows because it indicates they learned it from reading in isolation rather than absorbing it from a social circle.

That would no doubt describe how Matt Mercer came about that word. I, for one, can’t, personally, every think of a time when a quay came up in a real world conversation. If I ever found myself at a quay, I’d most surely just call it a dock. But somehow, when Liam gently corrected Matt Mercer’s pronunciation, I knew immediately what he was getting at.

Anyway, in case you ever have to use the word “quay” on a video that will be watched by hundreds of thousands of people, I figured I should help you out by making sure you know how to pronounce it. Because most people who know how it should be pronounced would use the mistake as an excuse to look down on you, instead of being impressed by how well read you are, the way that Tyler Cowan would.

* * *

SWPL food is an area especially fraught with pronunciation mistakes. Who could know the correct pronunciation for quinoa, arugula or Nicoise salad without having first heard it from someone else? It’s almost as if the whole SWPL food industrial complex was purposefully engineered to make proles sound stupid when they walk into an eatery where they don’t belong.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 16, 2020 at EST pm

Posted in Proles

57 Responses

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  1. You must never have been to Singapore, they have a bunch of quays where people dine and walk around…

    Gjo

    February 16, 2020 at EST pm

  2. I know it is pronounced “key”. My mother used to live next to Lonsdale Quay. She lived there for a number of years before she died. So i have used it in a sentence many times.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lonsdale_Quay

    Rosenmops

    February 16, 2020 at EST pm

    • I love the Lonsdale Quay, I grew up in North Van.

      Roli

      February 16, 2020 at EST pm

  3. If you ever visit Sydney and stay at one of the downtown hotels you’ll probably hear it pronounced because of Circular Quay. It’s the main focal point for visitors.

    CamelCaseRob

    February 16, 2020 at EST pm

  4. In Zemnia we call him Tyler Cowen.

    Lowe

    February 16, 2020 at EST pm

    • I knew I should’ve looked it up.

      Vince

      February 17, 2020 at EST am

  5. I appreciate Tyler Cowan’s outlook. I have an Indian relative who’s pronunciation of English words had always grated on me because she pronounced all words in a phoentic way only. I eventually learned that she (not having the benefit of a formal education in English) had learned the language on her own, in a community where she would’ve had little contact with other English speakers. I’m like her in a sense, I learned to speak French largely on my own. In Canada (outside of Quebec) basic French is offered in school as an option and most people lose what little they learned after graduation. Having made the effort throughout my adult life, I now speak relatively fluent French. But just like my relative, I will never shake off that sense of being self-taught.

    Roli

    February 16, 2020 at EST pm

    • Ireland has a situation similar to the teaching of French in Canadian schools outside Quebec. Almost all students have to study Gaelic for several years, but most dislike it and soon after leaving school forget the bulk of what they learned.

      Peter

      ironrailsironweights

      February 17, 2020 at EST am

  6. Toronto has a part near the lake shore called Queen’s Quay.

    Asf

    February 16, 2020 at EST pm

  7. I know how quay is pronounced from playing through Dragon Quest VIII on recommendation of the Audacious Epigone.

    Jokah Macpherson

    February 16, 2020 at EST pm

    • I know how quay is pronounced from watching episodes of Fawlty Towers, set in the English seaside town of Torquay.

      Oswald Spengler

      February 17, 2020 at EST am

  8. I don’t agree with Cowan. Sure, cut these people some slack, but I make a point of avoiding a word until I know the pronunciation. And I try and look up dictionary pronunciations when unclear. Of course, it’s acceptable to ask others without fear of stigma.

    I had a friend in college who, for some reason, thought onyx was pronounced oinks instead of on – iks. And my sister chastised me around that time for pronouncing Nietzsche as Nee chee instead of Nee cha. Best to look it up.

    Curle

    February 16, 2020 at EST pm

    • I feel like a lot of people mispronounce it as NEE-chee.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 16, 2020 at EST pm

      • Try to pronounce this Metro North train station along the Hudson River that is in the Upper Bronx, devoid of NAMs, which was the site of a deadly derailment killing 4 people a few years ago. The train driver was overworked and suffered from sleep apnea. Typical of American Prole Culture.

        Spuyten Duyvil

        Ok, what, who's this again?

        February 17, 2020 at EST am

      • Nietzsche is peachy.

        Peter

        ironrailsironweights

        February 17, 2020 at EST am

  9. I mentioned this post to my 16 yo daughter and she immediately said “that means they know the word from reading and not their own experience “. I’ve always been embarrassed when unsure of pronunciation of a word.

    High parole and rising

    February 16, 2020 at EST pm

  10. Quay is an Old World term. “Piers” and “docks,” though not naming the exact thing “quay” describes, are welcome terms in the U.S. “Quay” is gay.

    Webster's Dictionary (Haha, Webster, remember that dumb show?)

    February 16, 2020 at EST pm

  11. “On the Quai at Smyrna” by Ernest Hemingway

    “The strange thing was, he said, how they screamed every night at midnight. I do not know why they screamed at that time. We were in the harbor and they were all on the pier and at midnight they started screaming. We used to turn the searchlight on them to quiet them. That always did the trick. We’d run the searchlight up and down over them two or three times and they stopped it.”

    The opening of the first story from the magnificent “In Our Time” collection.

    peterike

    February 16, 2020 at EST pm

  12. Maybe I’ve never heard anybody say quay. I would have bet money that it’s pronounced kway.

    A Feynman story:

    http://nekhbet.com/feynman-joke.shtml

    I often listened to my roommates — they were both seniors — studying
    for their theoretical physics course. One day they were working pretty hard
    on something that seemed pretty clear to me, so I said, “Why don’t you use
    the Baronallai’s equation?”
    “What’s that!” they exclaimed. “What are you talking about!”
    I explained to them what I meant and how it worked in this case, and it
    solved the problem. It turned out it was Bernoulli’s equation that I meant,
    but I had read all this stuff in the encyclopedia without talking to anybody
    about it, so I didn’t know how to pronounce anything.
    But my roommates were very excited, and from then on they discussed
    their physics problems with me — I wasn’t so lucky with many of them — and
    the next year, when I took the course, I advanced rapidly. That was a very
    good way to get educated, working on the senior problems and learning how to
    pronounce things.

    Calvin Hobbes

    February 16, 2020 at EST pm

    • Good one! Bur-NOO-lee

      Rosenmops

      February 17, 2020 at EST pm

  13. I personally can never remember the difference between a quay and the Klingon chief of security aboard the TNG-era Enterprise.

    Hermes

    February 17, 2020 at EST am

    • Cheesy but me likey

      driveallnight

      February 17, 2020 at EST am

  14. Italian food is always good for SWPL sorting. Most Americans, even college graduates, mispronounce “bruschetta”, “gnocchi”, and “tagliatelle”.

    Peter Akuleyev

    February 17, 2020 at EST am

    • Yes, you’re right about that!

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 17, 2020 at EST am

    • What about guido sorting? Ginzos famously pronounce capicola as gabagool, mozzarella as mutzadell, prosciutto as pruhjoot, ricotta as ree-goat, etc.

      Tom

      February 17, 2020 at EST am

    • I pronounce gnocchi as “those italian potato balls” and tagliatelle as “spaghetti”.

      destructure

      February 17, 2020 at EST am

      • Just to save time, I pronounce them both “maryk”

        driveallnight

        February 17, 2020 at EST am

      • “Just to save time, I pronounce them both “maryk”

        You’re lucky I have a sense of humor!

        Maryk (the g-loaded guidette)

        February 17, 2020 at EST pm

    • I feel like the incorrect pronunciation of “bruschetta” is so ubiquitous that it’s almost become the correct pronunciation of the word (in American English at least), sort of like the word croissant. Anyone who says “KWAH-SAHNT” is just an asshole.

      How could anyone mispronounce “tagliatelle”? Hard G?

      sup

      February 17, 2020 at EST am

    • Back when I was a young fellow, I took a road trip through Western Europe with a couple of friends. We flew from Newark to Brussels on People’s Express to give some idea of the period to which I’m referring.
      I wanted to see the Eiger, so we left Paris one afternoon in our rented Ford escort, bound for Switzerland.
      We arrived at the Swiss border, a real border at the time, in the wee small hours of the morning with snow gently falling, only to find it closed. Making the best of a bad job, we slept in the car, to be awakened by a Swiss border guard tapping the butt of his sub machine gun on my window. Sprawled in the back seat was my friend, who had pushed through the cork on a bottle of wine for sustenance and who had fallen asleep while paging through a French porn magazine he had picked up. The border guard didn’t even bat an eye.
      We went to the first cafe we could find, only to be refused service until we could pronounce “croissant” to the owner’s satisfaction. Thanks to my grade school French classes, I ate first.

      JMcG

      February 17, 2020 at EST am

  15. “Who could know the correct pronunciation for quinoa, arugula or Nicoise salad without having first heard it from someone else?”

    Quinoa has two more letters than acai but has two syllables compared to the latter’s three.

    When I was a kid the older relatives on the Italian side of my family pronounced ricotta as “ra – GOT” while mozzarella was “MOOTS – a – rell” or sometimes even “ska – MOTZ.” Pasta e fagoli was “pasta fazool.” And, of course, the famous curse “va fai culo” (literally, “go make ass”) was “fongool.”

    Peter

    ironrailsironweights

    February 17, 2020 at EST am

    • That’s right, even Italians mispronounce their own foods. (Although actually, it’s just a low-class dialect.)

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 17, 2020 at EST am

  16. everyone in australia knows how to say quay interestingly enough bc of sydney’s famous circular quay.

    james n.s.w

    February 17, 2020 at EST am

  17. Not directly related. But ever wonder how a person could be named “Jussie” instead of the familiar “Jessie.” “Jussie” sounds like a word that shoukd describe a bucket or horse feces. As in “dump that jussie.” No reasonable person could name a child “Jussie.” Sounds like “fussy” or “hussy” or “jughead.” Whereas “Jessie” sounds just fine. Btw, there’s something as off about J. Snot-lett’s Smutt-lett’s face and facial features and his semi sociopathic blank arrogant facial expressions as there is his name.

    Neil Haversham

    February 17, 2020 at EST am

  18. Interesting topic, Lion. Local, archaic, and where borrowed original pronunciations are always correct pronunciation variants in English. As the multi-cultural libertarians love to point out.

    Quay is a perfect example. In Florida it’s pronounced ‘kay’ after French so as not to confuse with natural (after Renaissance Spanish cayos), called ‘keys.’

    Some added interesting stuff: https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2018/04/cay-key-quay.html

    I’ve observed uppers have slight archaic and pronunciations of many words, so ‘what’ is pronounced ‘hwut’ and ‘quay’ indeed has a faint u-stop after the q.

    When I was in script-doctoring back in the day stage English tried to steer a middle-course in all this, though no one cares now (except Canadians).

    Robert the Libertarian

    February 17, 2020 at EST am

  19. Just read that in Middle English it was written Key but became Quay under the influence of the French word Quai due to Normand.

    Quai on French is not pronounced Key but /kɛ/ with the sound you found in first syllable of « feminine » or « senator » ˈsɛn.ə.tɚ or second syllable of « elected » / ɪˈlɛkt/,

    So I guess a very posh person could come with the French pronunciation to distinguish itself as one among cognoscenti.

    Bruno

    February 17, 2020 at EST am

  20. Never knew it was pronounced key. Have said kway without anyone caring. Seems like a word that doesn’t come up much.

    I wonder how many words I say wrong.

    Monsieur le Baron

    February 17, 2020 at EST am

    • What is up w/ the NYT mentioning the parents always mother first, and giving both last names? Like, she is the daughter of Julienne Wilberstein and Thomas Wilberstein.

      That sounds stupid. I guess it is to make couples with different last names look less pathetic.

      Lowe

      February 17, 2020 at EST am

    • IHTG

      February 17, 2020 at EST pm

      • Lion May disagree but I’d say Katie is Catherine Rampell’s equal. Also, gotta love the Elvis! What an anti-cosmopolitan dog whistle!

        Question for the masses, is my memory going or has social media upped the schmaltz factor for events like this or simply made public expressions of overboard sentimentality obligatory? “Perfect man, perfect day” yada . . .

        Curle

        February 17, 2020 at EST pm

  21. Is Lion so focused on obscure word pronunciation because not even he can defend the Captain Picard that enjoys the company of CHILDREN we were introduced to in Episode 4?

    PerezHBD

    February 17, 2020 at EST am

  22. According to Merriam-Webster “quay” can be pronounced “kee”, “kay”, or “kway”.

    (For the record: the English language is a conspiracy against the rest of us.)

    Bert

    February 17, 2020 at EST am

    • That’s because our intellectual elites are now cultural relativists and believe in descriptivism, and in fact have intense disdain for descriptivism. (You should see the furious scorn that emerges on the liberal Straight Dope Message Board when a naive rube calls some common spelling or grammatical error “incorrect.” You’d think they had advocated eating babies.) They say that if enough people start saying or writing something wrong, that wrong becomes the new right.

      Hermes

      February 17, 2020 at EST am

      • *Intense disdain for prescriptivism.

        Hermes

        February 17, 2020 at EST am

      • I don’t think this applies to the names of people, countries or cities. The NYT followed others and issued an order to spell Ukraine’s capital Kyiv instead of the Russian Kiev (in keeping with the revived pronunciation). A marker of American ignorance is pronouncing Iran as “eye-ran.” The stereotypical example is a 2nd generation Latina broadcaster who will speak in a perfect American accent until pronouncing her name.

        Vince

        February 17, 2020 at EST pm

      • It’s language, not math. There is no right or wrong.

        raoulduke2767

        February 17, 2020 at EST pm

      • There is no right or wrong when it comes to language.

        Unless OF COURSE you are a Latino pronouncing the name of the shithole you came from. Then you must carefully follow the rules and roll your tongue around like a spastic, so as best to capture the exquisite nuances of this peasant language name

        Otherwise, others might not know how cool it is you are part Aztec baby killer.

        Lowe

        February 17, 2020 at EST pm

  23. “Tyler Cowen has remarked that when someone mispronounces a word, his respect for them grows because it indicates” they grew up as a socially isolated nerd just like him, and never had a chance to use the word in conversation with human beings.

    There’s a great scene in Silicon Valley where one of the spergs exults that technology has reversed the old social order, allowing them to replace and dominate the neurotypicals who bullied them as kids. This is Cowen’s ethos summarized. It’s pure nerd-resentment against the “brutes” (his word) who look down on bugmen like him.

    chedolf

    February 17, 2020 at EST am

    • That’s such a new money form of resentment. History is a long series of plots by nebbishs against jocks for their own amusement. Jocks are the innocent martyrs of history, with their kindly nature, loyalty, and stoicism. Jocks fight the wars, work the satanic mills, and uphold civil order. Small town Middle America is right to valorize jocks. The worship of the nerd is downright un-American and oligarchic. It is the triumph of the Old World and its Ivory Tower system over American smallholders and their muscle and guts.

      Monsieur le Baron

      February 17, 2020 at EST am

      • well yeah, Mr Baron, I see what you are trying to say, but you are not speaking the truth, I was not a jock, and when I fought in a war my side won, largely because of people like me. Not largely because of sad little people who wanted to be good at sports, the people you call jocks, who spent so much time pleasing the crowd, but because of people like me who wanted to win and knew how to win.

        ALSO THERE ARE NO QUAYS IN THE UNITED STATES —– well maybe there are one or two in Louisiana, but that is local knowledge —- AND IF YOU AN AMERICAN YOU PRONOUNCE QUAY as KAY, to rhyme with ORSAY, because KAY DORSAY is the only Quay that comes up in conversation more than two or three times in a lifetime.

        Did I mention that I grew up with jocks in my family and in my town and that NONE OF THEM were anywhere nearly as useful a soldier as I was?

        I mean I like the people who get excited about “sports” and “competition” and who were oh so respectful to the little men who coached their teams, and I like lots of people who spent countless useless hours playing at games …. but this is my world, not theirs. I had more muscle and guts than any jock I grew up with, while they were playing their little games I was figuring out the world. You can go on as long as you want about how the jocks are loyal kind and stoic but you need to show a little more respect for people like me. Or don’t bother, I am used to lack of gratitude, it amuses me, it does not bother me.

        I know what I am talking about. Little men have never “valorized” men like me, unless they needed my leadership, and I don’t care.

        I was a leader when it was necessary.

        Howitzer Daniel

        February 17, 2020 at EST pm

      • Thank you for your service.

        Monsieur le Baron

        February 19, 2020 at EST pm

  24. I don’t know why anyone would know the correct pronunciation of quay, unless they had traveled somewhere where the term was used casually in spoken language. And some very well traveled people could travel without running across a quay. So how do these elites know how to pronouce quay? It just doesn’t come up ( until right now, anyway.) Up until this point my familiarity with the word has essentially been with its utility in the game Scrabble, pronounced “kway.” Though it’s likely I ran across it in C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian novels. I haven’t played Scrabble in a serous way since I was a child, 40 odd years ago. My mom was a Scrabble geek, and she’d use “quay” with devastating effectiveness. Pronounced “kway”… And I added it to my repertoire as well. The more important issue: Is Scrabble prole?

    Kosher Kowboy

    February 17, 2020 at EST am

  25. The best pronunciation story is Darby/Enroughty, from the Civil War. Back in the old country, some Cavaliers had an intrafamily feud. A rich old fart in his will gave part of his fortune to a black sheep under the condition he changed his name from Darby to Enroughty. The black sheep agreed, spelling his name Darby but pronouncing it Enroughty. Fast forward to 1862, when the Union army was fighting on the peninsula near Richmond. The bright young Harvard grads who were military aides to General McClellan started noticing that their maps had plenty of Darby Roads etc. on them, but the local yeomen and slaves had never heard of “Darby.” To them, it was Enroughty. The black sheep had emigrated to Virginia in colonial times, bought up lots of land around Richmond, and liberally bestowed his name on the local geography, complete with the Enroughty pronunciation. This is a fable invented by American Heritage magazine, which is the only source for it.

    Fake Booze

    February 17, 2020 at EST pm

  26. At least according to Wikipedia, there’s nothing wrong with pronouncing it like it looks.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wharf

    raoulduke2767

    February 17, 2020 at EST pm


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