Choomuhrik? Really, Jamie?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Jamie Oliver. Not just for his recipes. For how great he is, especially for his campaign to improve the quality of school dinners in UK schools. He got my vote there, and also when he virtually singlehandedly brought the word ‘pukka’ back to life in spoken English. (In the sense of ‘first rate’ or ‘done as it should be done’, as in: a pukka minestrone soup)

So imagine my horror when Jamie repeatedly, nay, incessantly, pronounced ‘turmeric’, that bright orange wonder spice of Indian cooking, as /CHOOmuhrik/ on a recent programme. It should be said as it is spelt, Jamie, /TUHmuhrik/. (This is the British English pronunciation, so the first ‘r’ isn’t actually pronounced.)

By the way, I hope Professor John Wells, a leading authority on pronunciation and author of the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, will forgive my amateur pronunciation system, but hopefully readers of this blog will get what I mean. And maybe even Jamie Oliver!

But is this the pukka pronunciation of ‘turmeric’? (Groan.)

Interestingly, while ‘pukka’ is a word from the Indian language, Hindi, meaning ‘ripe’ or ‘cooked’, the word ‘turmeric’ seems to have come into English from quite another source. I’m quoting the etymology from the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English here:

Origin turmeric (1500-1600) Old French terre merite “saffron”, from Medieval Latin terra merita “deserved earth”

I looked up the Hindi word for ‘turmeric’, which is apparently ‘haidee’, so linguistically unrelated to ‘turmeric’, even though most of us know about turmeric from cooking curries and other Indian dishes. Anyway, the pukka pronunciation of ‘turmeric’ is /TUHmuhrik/.

Any feedback is good feedback

My last blog, about the difference in use between ‘less’ and ‘fewer’, didn’t exactly go viral, I’m sad to say, but here are a few comments originating from Facebook from some American and British friends (all ex-teachers). The question was: Which is correct? – ‘less chairs’ or ‘fewer chairs’?

Anton: Clearly ‘fewer’, but it also seems clear that we’re witnessing a shift toward acceptance of ‘less’ for everything. I hear it used with count nouns (nouns that can be used in the plural) constantly by well-educated people on TV.

Yvette: ‘fewer’ but I read somewhere it’s now considered a bit old-fashioned to use it.

Anton: One thing I never dreamed was that I would be old-fashioned. ?

Yvette: It might have said pedantic too.

Jeanne: I refuse to think it’s old fashioned to say “fewer chairs!” It’s just plain wrong to say “less chairs.” Sounds awful! Don’t it?

Ha ha, Jeanne. By the way the names have been changed to preserve anonymity. I edit names in the Comments section of my blog, too, so I hope more people will feel comfortable about making comments there, and to follow me if they’d like to!

2 thoughts on “Choomuhrik? Really, Jamie?

  1. Maybe Jamie should just stick with curcuma (easier pronunciation) although that botanical name incorporates also saffron.

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