Sunday, December 14, 2008

How do you pronounce sauna?

Nick and I were talking about saunas this morning.

Or rather, I was talking about sitting in the sauna. And Nick kept asking me to repeat myself. Which I did several times, until I got to the point where I was speaking really loudly and clearly. Like maybe he had a head injury.

Because how, right across the breakfast table, could he not hear me so many times?

He was, however, asking me to repeat myself so that he could be sure, when he made fun of me, that he'd heard me right.

Because I pronounce sauna "SOW-nə" (you know, sow, rhymes with cow). Actually, what I say sounds a little more like SOUW-nə. But "sow" is close enough.

He insists it's "SAW-nə" - "saw," definitely not "SOW," and with slightly less emphasis on the first syllable.

He contends he's right - and offered up all kinds of "au" words with his pronunciation: Caught, fraught, cause, pause...The list goes on.

And I had no examples on the tip of my tongue for "au" pronounced "ow" - can't, in fact, think of a single one. Except sauna.

I thought back to where I learned the word, which would be one Duluth, Minnesota. Where my relatives - my Scandinavian relative - were big fans of the SOW-nə. That's how they always pronounced it. So maybe this is regional? And maybe my regional pronunciation (which I always want to spell pronounciation) is in fact correct. Because didn't saunas originate with my people, or somewhere around there?

I headed to Wikipedia, and their pronunciation - a Finnish one, as they apparently started this sauna business - looks like it would be "SOY-nə" - unless I'm misunderstanding their chart.

So I'm figuring our respective pronunciations are regional American...but I still feel like I'm right.

39 comments:

  1. A google search has revealed that you are both right.
    The dictionary has sound files for both and there's a funny blog entry and cartoon about it.

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  2. Hmm... I'm not sure how to break this to you in way that sounds polite, as I don't know you and don't want my first comment on your blog to be all disagreeable and whatnot. BUT, I am from Minnesota and I pronounce it "SAW-na." So, don't blame it on us! :) Perhaps the "SOW-na" is a greater Minnesota thing, as I'm from Minneapolis.

    Love the blog, by the way.

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    1. I've always said saw-na. My fiancee and her family (all from the iron range areas) all say sow-na and are very militant about it... *shrug*

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  3. yeah, i definitely pronounce it "saw-na" and i'm from wisconsin. though i did know a bunch of people from northern michigan (not the UP)that insisted it was pronounced "sow-na," and so far, here in new york, it's "saw-na."

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  4. Hi - Oh, "Heated Words About Sauna" is such a better title for this! Thank you for the great links.

    Sarah - I totally don't mind being disagreed with. I don't know! I almost always generalize, so assumed that what my relatives said was what ALL Minnesotans said. But following that logic, all Minnesotans would be fairly bizarre, and I'm sure you're not all. So I dunno!

    LuckyLys - And further Midwestern evidence that I'm aberrant! Hmm!

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  5. My college roommate was half Finnish and pronounced it your way. She always gave me crap for pronouncing it Nick's way, usually with some sarcastic "stupid American" comment under her breath. I suppose the Finns know their saunas so I always assumed she was right.

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  6. I've only ever heard it referred to as "saw-na" and would probably laugh hysterically if I heard it pronounced your way. :)

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  7. As a former Duluthian, I also use your pronunciation. Some trusted Finn sources once informed me that in Finnish, "saw-na" means "whorehouse", so "sow-na" it is.

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  8. Pronunciation - one of my FAVORITE subjects!! Check this out: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sauna

    I am sorry to say, but the link above proves that Nick is right. However, you are not entirely wrong - your bizarre version is listed as the second accepted pronunciation (obviously some Scandinavian must have pull at the dictionary)

    My Canadian husband gets endless grief from me when, for example, he says "hel-ee-copter."

    I am known to guess people's accents quite accurately, but honestly - I had never heard of "sow-na."

    Liz

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  9. Hmm... I used to get annoyed with I heard people butcher the word 'khaki.' But I've since learned to accept the fact that when word migrate from one language to another, they tend to get butchered. English seems to have a large number of such loanwords. Wikipedia of course has a list:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_English_words_of_international_origin

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  10. lizzledinwizzle - Hmm. I have no idea but I am so glad to hear that! Awesome. Thank you so much for making me feel better!

    Paula - I have a lot of experience being laughed at, so I personally would be OK with it. :)

    Miss Kate - Whorehouse! I seriously want to give you a giant hug! Thank you thank you thank you!

    Liz - Yes, my bizarre version does seem to be legit but less preferred. As for never having heard of sow-na, well, that's what you get for growing up in those crazy countries.

    VVK - Yah, I suppose that's very true. Plus you tend to be pretty generous with/tolerant of people. Do you know the Hobson-Jobson? My parents have one and it's very fun book to look through. And I just found an online version: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/hobsonjobson/

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  11. SAW-na... never heard it any other way.

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  12. I'm with the lovely Brett and lovely Lemmy: SAW-na. Of course I could ask the receptionist in my office tomorrow. She's from the North Pole, aka Minnesota and get her opinion.

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  13. I used to hang out with a bunch of Finns (and let me tell you, the Finns love their sauna) and they pronounced it SOW-na. So I think it's cool. European, in fact. And that makes it triple cool.

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  14. i say saw-na and i'm from baltiomre. never heard it any other way! i should ask some swiss how they say it.

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  15. The nordics pronounce it Sow-na (or, sah-oo-na). Americans say Saw-nuh. Funnily enough, in spanish and portuguese it's pronounced sow-na.

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  16. This is the joy of regional dialects.

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  17. I have to side with you. When I lived in Sweden, we pronounced it "sow-na".

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  18. Yeah, I've always said it 'saw-na', as well. =-) In the end, so long as you get to be in one, does it really matter?!?

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  19. www.merriam-webster.com

    Go to this website, it pronounces the words for you, so you can hear the proper pronunciation, I use it all the time, mostly to prove I am right :)

    Sorry to say according to Merriam-Webster, Nick is right on this one.

    I am very good friends with someone that was raised in Minnesota and he pronounces words very differently sometimes so I think that probably has alot to do with this.

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  20. sorry girl, gotta go with Nick on this one.
    your pronunciation sounds straight out of Minnesowta : )

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  21. I like most of the rest of the Minnesotan commenters, say SOW-na, but I wouldn't take pronunciation lessons from me because you should totally hear the way I say puma. It's ridiculous, and I have no justification for it.

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  22. It's not just a "Minnesota thing". I am a second generation Finlander. As such I speak fluently in Finnish and I can assure you it is most definetely pronounced SOW-NA and NOT SAW-NA!!! I get extremely offended when it is not pronounced correctly!

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  23. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Kaylee

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  24. Sow-na. Definitely Sow-na. The Finns invented the things, they get their choice of pronunciation. Not their fault if some foreigner messed it up down the line and got a wrong pronunciation accepted by way of common usage. ;)

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  25. I'm from the U.P. of Michigan, an area that is rich in Finnish culture and home to a large number of Finnish Americans, of which I am one. Growing up we had a sauna (pronounced SOW-nuh) and took sauna (SOW-nuh) at least once a week. My grandma (born in Finland) also had a SOW-nuh, as did most of my relatives. I live about 11 miles from Finlandia University (formerly known as Suomi College) located in Hancock, Michigan, a community which celebrates its Finnish heritage with street signs labeled in both Finnish and English. In our area we cringe when we hear someone say SAW-nuh, and every time we hear someone in a movie or on a t.v. show say SAW-nuh, we usually blurt out SOW-nuh, not SAW-nuh, hoping beyond hope that someday the rest of the world will learn the correct Finnish pronunciation.

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  26. Have Nick take a trip to Finland and pronounce it his way!! See what happens- the Finns will have no idea what he will be talking about!! Mary Kay has said it all! Sow-nuh is ready- is one of the best phases ever.

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  27. Nice post and this mail helped me alot in my college assignement. Say thank you you as your information.

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  28. I'm from Thunder Bay, Ontario where the most Finnish people outside of Finland live and all the Finnish people I grew with pronounce it SOW-nah. I was always told that Finnish doesn't use the "ow" combination in their language so the sound is mimicked with the "au" spelling but that could be hearsay. I've heard many people pronounce it SAW-nah but they're usually not Finnish people and since it's a Finnish word...well I just stick with SOW-nah.

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  29. Okay,this is a pet peeve for me.You are correct,your boyfriend is wrong.It is a Finnish word.I am Finnish,my father spoke Finnish before English and it is pronounced Sow-nah.So you in Minneapolis are wrong.I'm from Minnesota too and it irks me every time I hear someone pronounce it Sawna.I don't care what any dictionary says as it is a word from origins in Finland.Thanks!

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  30. I spent my childhood in Washington State. Every Wednesday night was sauna night (pronounced SOW-NA). All the Finnish people called it that, and I was surrounded by them. I only seem to hear it pronounced correctly when with Finnish people. Everyone else calls it saw-na. Drives me nuts.

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  31. One more Finnish-Canadian chiming in, it is most definitely SOW-na. In Finnish, 'a' is always pronounced 'ah', 'u' is always pronounced 'ooh' (without exception!), put it together, you get a 'sauna'. SAW-na would be spelled saana in Finnish, and doesn't mean anything as far as I know (auto-translation gives news?).

    In other words, Finnish spelling makes sense! The grammar, not as much.

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  32. Lee Anderson6/15/2011 5:45 AM

    I lived in Northern Minnesota my whole life, around Finnish people. We pronounced it SOW-na. Then I moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, to Houghton, like Kate, where I indeed verify that the locals with their Finnish heritage, pronounce it SOW-na. It is a borrowed word. If you want to say SAW-na, you have to start saying "Tor-till(as in plowing)-uh" for tortilla. People still can't pronounce jalapeño.

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  33. Most pronounciations are considered "correct" if pronounced using the locally accepted pronounciation. So in Minnesota, where my parents were from, you would be correct to prounounce it "sow-na". In Texas, where I grew up, I heard "saw-na". I tended to use the former, when visiting relatives, the later, when home.
    Now where I live, in a town spelled Kearney, locals pronouce the city "Kar-nee"; however, visitors often say "Keer-ne". I suppose both pronounciations are correct, it's just that you know who the "tourists" are depending on the venacular. Hope this helps.

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  34. I took Finnish lessons in highschool. It is one of the easiest languages to learn, pronunciation-wise. And the "au" is pronounced as "ow". Just like the Finnish name "Aulis" is pronounced "Ow lees"

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  35. I'm from Minnesota. It's sow-na. Saunas are a Finnish invention, the Fins pronounce it sow-na. Saw-na is just a butchering of the word.

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  36. You are right. My relatives are Finnish, live in Finland, and each and every one of them has a sauna in their homes (even the retired school teachers who live in an apartment in Heinola). They pronounce it "SOW-na". Sauna is a word of ancient Finnish origin, so the Finns win in terms of how to pronounce it. Stand tall.

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  37. Sauna is pronounced like you were saying. We brought it over from Finland and the darn white-folks messed up the pronounciation. It's kind of like mispronouncing jalapeno. Personally, when someone says saw-nuh, i think they sound like an idiot.

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