Coronavirus

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This seems an unlikely heading for a post from me – how can this possibly have any interest for pronunciation nerds?
Until this week, I have only heard a single pronunciation for this – the ‘obvious’ one: koROHna(virus). (I’m sorry to use a modified spelling rather than IPA, but after a time, all my IPA posts seem to turn into gobbledegook.)
This goes with Corona beer (in the US) and what I remember from my childhood in England: a range of fizzy drinks, mostly ending in ‘-ade’ (add whichever your favourite fruit is at the beginning of the word). Also the astronomical solar corona.
But now I’m hearing both koRONNa (as in RONald), and KORRona (as in CORRidor).
Isn’t it amazing how quickly pronunciation can diversify and change?

Addition:
Covid also has two pronunciations, depending on whether you follow the ‘normal’ English interpretation of VCV where the first V is long, so ‘kohvid’, or know your Latin poets enough to think it should rhyme with Ovid.
The sequence -ovV- is very much a moveable feast in English pronunciation. Take the monosyllabic words ending in -ove:
clove, cove, dove (past tense of dive), Gove (family name), grove, hove/Hove (place name), Jove, Nove (family name), rove, stove, strove, trove, wove are all GOAT words
dove (bird), glove, love, shove (STRUT)
move, prove (GOOSE)
I’m not claiming this is an exhaustive list.
And there’s also the British/South African writer, William Plomer, who rhymed his name with ‘bloomer’.

2 Comments

  1. Interesting observations about the variation. I had noticed the shift in the name; it started as Corona virus but suddenly was changed to CV-19. That bugged me. When a thing has a name, I don’t like it being changed.

  2. Whether we like it or not, there is nothing in language that cannot change. Sometimes imperceptibly, at other times sudden. One of the latter is that “the Indian variant” of Covid-19 has been renamed “delta variant”. Within a week, we are all accepting the change. When I was growing up, and until the mid-1970s, Vietnam had the TRAP vowel in the second syllable. At that point, once the US had disengaged itself, Hollywood started to make films about the war, and the American pronunciation with its BATH vowel started to be heard in the UK. Now I suspect that this is the dominant pronunciation on both sides of the Atlantic. Do you disapprove of this change?

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