pronunciation: coupon

rusita preciosa

Modus forendi
Russian (Moscow)
I heard the word coupon pronounced as [koopon] and [kyupon].

I say [koopon] - since the word is French, it sounds like the "correct way".

Question to the natives: Does one way seem preferable and why? Does it matter?
 
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I say KOO-pon also but have heard the KYOO-pon quite a lot since I moved to the US (perhaps in 70:30 or 80:20 respectively). I didn't use the word when I lived in the UK so I can't speak to whether KYOO-pon is used there as well. I see that the dictionary.com box at the top leads to a Random House note :
    It has developed an American pronunciation variant [kyoo-pon]with an unhistorical y-sound not justified by the spelling. This pronunciation is used by educated speakers and is well-established as perfectly standard, although it is sometimes criticized.
    It doesn't seem to me to be a specific regional issue since I hear both all over the place, but KYOO-pon is always the form less often heard.
     

    Arkalai

    Senior Member
    English- British
    I think [koopon] is more common. Both are acceptable and there would probably never be a misunderstanding if you used one or the other. Just a matter of personal preference.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I think [koopon] is more common. Both are acceptable and there would probably never be a misunderstanding if you used one or the other. Just a matter of personal preference.

    Yeah, there is a category of words that have this weird [oo] / [yu] distinction, but they both live alongside each other in a normal way, I'd advise sticking to [koopon], but being aware if you hear [kyupon] that it's just another version.
     

    Ann O'Rack

    Senior Member
    UK
    UK English
    I can't even figure out the logic of the KYOO-pon pronunciation. Where on earth did the Y sound come from? I wouldn't misunderstand someone saying KYOO-pon, but I would cringe.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I can't even figure out the logic of the KYOO-pon pronunciation. Where on earth did the Y sound come from? I wouldn't misunderstand someone saying KYOO-pon, but I would cringe.

    It's like cupid [kyupid], that 'u' sound after the 'c' gets extrapolated to other words.

    [Edit] : Also there is debate about the word 'cumin', it's often said with the same sound [kyumin], though more often than not [kumin] (Thank god!).
     
    Last edited:

    Ann O'Rack

    Senior Member
    UK
    UK English
    But, but, but... "cupid" and "cumin" don't have an O before the U, like "coupon" does. I'm comfortable with both of the words you give, I just can't see how the diphthong "ou" can be pronounced "you", and I can't think of any other words with "ou" in that would be pronounced the same way.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    "ou" isn't the diphthong, that's the spelling of the word, when we talk about diphthongs we need to talk about sounds..
    The 'ou' in 'coupon', pronounced the normal, and the other way are:

    [koo] & [kyu]

    When you said that 'cupid and cumin don't have an O before the U', these are just spelling rules, the sounds between the three words are the same, and that's what we're talking about.. It's like comparing bough, through, though, and the 'ou' in each of those, they are all different.
    When I said the sounds were the same, I was talking about the possible ways of pronouncing it, I don't say [kyupon] or [kumin], but I was referring to the other pronunciations when drawing a comparison.

    I'm sorry if you have understood but I thought it might be helpful to add this example:

    bare / bear - these have exactly the same sounds, we can't draw comparisons on how they are spelt.
    breaks / brakes - etc

    So having coupon / cupid / cumin, just because 'coupon' is spelt with an 'ou', it doesn't alter the sound quality, which is what we were comparing between. But I do see your point because I directly compared it to words that had 'cu-' and not 'cou-' ..

    I think it's relation to those other words means that some people pronounce it that way, and that's the logic I see in where it came from, I could be completely wrong, but I thought it was an interesting discussion :D. I've shot myself in the foot a bit here, basically, I think it's linked to those other words, that's all I can safely come up with at the moment!
     
    Last edited:

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    But, but, but... "cupid" and "cumin" don't have an O before the U, like "coupon" does. I'm comfortable with both of the words you give, I just can't see how the diphthong "ou" can be pronounced "you", and I can't think of any other words with "ou" in that would be pronounced the same way.

    I don't think logic always applies to pronunciation, especially with these little added sounds. How "idea" becomes "i-dee-uhr" in some versions of English is equally mysterious. :) It's as if there are traditions in pronunciation that supercede the spelling.
     

    lablady

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    It is illogical, but it's "kyoopon" for me. It's the "koopon" version that sounds weird in my circle of acquaintances. :p

    I did a quick survey of everyone within earshot (three people), and we are in 100% agreement that it's pronounced "kyoopon". Warning: conclusion is not statistically valid. ;)
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I've heard both and I'm fairly sure I've said both interchangeably. I hear "kyoopon" on television and radio ads so much that I think it affects my pronunciation. If I were thinking about it I would say, "koopon" but I'm sure I say it many times without thinking. Actually, as I think more about it, I think my parents said, "kyoopon".
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    But there's the "Little Deuce Coupe" that remains stubbornly Y-less, even away from the Beach Boys' classic - we still have a 2-door coupe and a 4-door sedan (or saloon) :D
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Am I right in thinking that Americans pronounce Houston Hewston?

    If so, there's your precedent for cyewpon.

    Rover

    What a clever connection to make! I had never noticed this before.

    (As far as I know, the street named Houston in New York is pronounced "How-stun" but the city in Texas is pronounced "Hew-stun".)
     
    Last edited:

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Am I right in thinking that Americans pronounce Houston Hewston?

    Hi Rover, we also call it the same way in England don't we?
    I'm from the same area of the UK as you and I'd say it like that (not [Hooston]).
    Sort of like our own Euston station but preceded by 'H' -

    Then again we are almost certainly influenced by hearing it by Americans, through TV etc.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I have only heard kyoopon from American television. Also included in the Merriam-Webster as a secondary pronunciation. Not in the British dictionaries I have, even those that list American pronunciations.
     

    Ann O'Rack

    Senior Member
    UK
    UK English
    Sound Shift, I really like your thinking! :D

    And I apologise for being stupid with the word diphthong - I was too bothered about spelling it properly to make sure it was the right word to spell!
     

    bspielburg

    Senior Member
    English
    Kyoo-pon is the original and best way.:p English has a phonotactic restraint of three consecutive consonants in the onset, further restrained to the pattern

    /s/ + pulmonic + approximant

    For example, "strength" is allowed with it's "str" onset, but an English-speaker would have trouble saying "ptkength". That's only English though, so a Georgian-speaker would be fine saying "gvprckvni".

    However, when the approximant is a /j/, the modern tendency is to drop it, regardless of spelling. So,
    blue was "blyoo" now it's "bloo"
    suit was "syoot" now it's "soot"
    tube was "tyoob" now it's "toob"
    coupon was "kyoopon" now it's "koopon"


    Therefore, "kyoopon" is the original and traditionally standard way.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Kyoo-pon is the original and best way.:p English has a phonotactic restraint of three consecutive consonants in the onset, further restrained to the pattern

    /s/ + pulmonic + approximant

    For example, "strength" is allowed with it's "str" onset, but an English-speaker would have trouble saying "ptkength". That's only English though, so a Georgian-speaker would be fine saying "gvprckvni".

    However, when the approximant is a /j/, the modern tendency is to drop it, regardless of spelling. So,
    blue was "blyoo" now it's "bloo"
    suit was "syoot" now it's "soot"
    tube was "tyoob" now it's "toob"
    coupon was "kyoopon" now it's "koopon"


    Therefore, "kyoopon" is the original and traditionally standard way.
    This is speculation.
    Tracing back to the OED ...
    The comment about blue is valid.
    The comment about suit is valid.
    The comment about tube is valid where tube is pronounced toob. Only the ty... pronunciation is listed in the OED.
    The comment about coupon is false. There is no evidence supporting a ky... pronunciation.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Agree with panj. Coupon is a 19th century borrowing from French; and the French spelling is preserved. I would have thought that the 'original' pronunciation would be closer to the French one, which would in fact be koo, not kyoo. I think coupon is different from blue or sue.

    I still say syoot (for suit) and tyoob (for tube).
     

    pickarooney

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    Kyoo-pon is the original and best way.:p English has a phonotactic restraint of three consecutive consonants in the onset, further restrained to the pattern

    /s/ + pulmonic + approximant

    For example, "strength" is allowed with it's "str" onset, but an English-speaker would have trouble saying "ptkength". That's only English though, so a Georgian-speaker would be fine saying "gvprckvni".

    However, when the approximant is a /j/, the modern tendency is to drop it, regardless of spelling. So,
    blue was "blyoo" now it's "bloo"
    suit was "syoot" now it's "soot"
    tube was "tyoob" now it's "toob"
    coupon was "kyoopon" now it's "koopon"


    Therefore, "kyoopon" is the original and traditionally standard way.

    You (and your phonotactic restraints :p) seem to have overlooked the fact that the second letter in 'coupon' is an 'O', not a 'U' s in all the other examples. There is no /j/. (there is no spyoon)
     

    bspielburg

    Senior Member
    English
    You (and your phonotactic restraints :p) seem to have overlooked the fact that the second letter in 'coupon' is an 'O', not a 'U' s in all the other examples. There is no /j/. (there is no spyoon)

    I did overlook that, but it is interesting because "tube" comes from the latin "tubus" which has no /j/. I can't understand why a /j/ should be added to such words only later to be removed.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The way we pronounce nearly every word in English has gone through a change, are you arguing we should not accept and standardise any change that the English language has gone through?
    It's not a good arguement (IMHO) to say that "that's the way it was, so that's the way it should be"

    If we take the word 'stone', in Old English it was pronounced /stɑːn/, then when English did its little "I can't be bothered with inflectional endings anymore" it added the letter 'e' to almost every case ending [around Chaucer's time] and the pronunciation changed to /stɑːne/, then the GVS changed it to (basically) /stəʊn/.
    Would you ever say the first 2?

    My point is, the 'original' way (IMHO) does not qualify as any arguement that a word should be pronounced a certain way, that that pronunciation is 'more correct'.

    Regarding this comment:
    but it is interesting because "tube" comes from the latin "tubus" which has no /j/. I can't understand why a /j/ should be added to such words only later to be removed.
    The /j/ is still there, alive and well..... just say the word "Youtube" - maybe in AE things might be different but the rest of the world still retains the /j/ sound (/ju;tju;b/)
    I could never ever in a million years ever say /tuːb/.

    I apologise if that's how other people pronounce that word, I'm not aware of that pronunciation being common and I find it quite strange, that's just my ignorance if it turns out to be common! My only point here is that the reason Old English is considered by language historians as a different language is because it's so different, on a spoken level, anyone who has not studied it would be able to understand what is going on, but this was once normal English.
    The point I wanted to illustrate was, all of us think today's English is correct, so a change has occured (or rather, millions of small changes have occured) that we know accept as correct. The idea that an older way is more correct isn't really 'sound' because all we have to do is look at some changes that we all think are wrong to see that the idea of 'older / more traditional being more correct' doesn't stand up.

    The people who pronounce it the older way are not wrong and I'm not making a point against them, just arguing that it's not more correct because it's older.
     
    Last edited:

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I agree with much of what you've said, particularly the part about older vs. newer.

    I do take exception, though, with the statement "the rest of the world still retains the /j/ sound." The people of the Philippines alone, population 90 million plus, employ the same pronunciation of tube ( /tuːb/ ) as American English does.

    I don't have a resource to discover the common pronunciation of "coupon" in Philippine English. It would be an interesting question. As far as I can tell online it's "coo" not "kyoo".
     

    JeffinHK

    Member
    English: East Texas
    I am from a small town in Texas. I say cue-pon. I understand the reasoning behind saying coo-pon, but I don’t care—it seems unnatural and affected to me. Borrowed words are often pronounced in novel ways in the borrowing language. We don’t pronounce the second syllable in the French way, so why should we be sticklers about the first syllable? I feel the same way when somebody calls an envelope an “ahnvelope,” and when I see advertisements for the Buick “Ahnclave.”
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I am from a small town in Texas. I say cue-pon. I understand the reasoning behind saying coo-pon, but I don’t care—it seems unnatural and affected to me.
    Welcome to the forum, JeffinHK:)
    There may well be people who would find your pronunciation unnatural and affected, but would be too polite to say so;)
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I agree with much of what you've said, particularly the part about older vs. newer.

    I do take exception, though, with the statement "the rest of the world still retains the /j/ sound." The people of the Philippines alone, population 90 million plus, employ the same pronunciation of tube ( /tuːb/ ) as American English does.

    I don't have a resource to discover the common pronunciation of "coupon" in Philippine English. It would be an interesting question. As far as I can tell online it's "coo" not "kyoo".

    Filipinos are not native English speakers, as far as I'm aware.
     
    Welcome to the forum, JeffinHK:)
    There may well be people who would find your pronunciation unnatural and affected, but would be too polite to say so;)

    I'm never too polite to refrain from saying such a thing, and I do find "kyoopon" unnatural (they are generally koo-pons around here), but I don't find it affected so much as I find it - how can I put this nicely - unsophisticated in a rural way, rather like pronouncing "bouquet" as "boh-kay", or "mischievous" with a fourth syllable as "mis-CHEE-vee-us.
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    I think "coupon" is one of those words that have a wide range of pronunciations throughout the U.S and Canada, like pecan, crayon, caramel, aunt, pajamas, lawyer, bagel, salmon, etc.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    US English
    since the word is French
    Borrowed words are often pronounced in novel ways in the borrowing language. We don’t pronounce the second syllable in the French way, so why should we be sticklers about the first syllable?
    In my opinion this is not a "French word" or a "borrowed word". This word has been used in English since 1822.

    The original word (a French word) referred only to bond certificate coupons, and "coupon" meant "a portion that is cut off with scissors". The other meanings in English (discount ticket, discount or rebate coupon) developed later in the 1800s.

    Historically, every word in English is derived from words in some other language. Roughly 29% of English words derive from French words. That does not make 29% of English "borrowed words" or "French words".
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Back in the 1960s, the headmistress, RP (as it was c.1930) speaker, Oxford educated, and then aged circa 60, of my school said "kyoo-pon": we were all a little amazed.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    US English
    Every word? Surely there are native English items in English today that are derived from Old English.

    That's true. Maybe I worded my sentence poorly. But Old English was a different language, not much closer to modern English than German is. The chart of English word origins groups Old/Middle English within the "Germanic Languages" group.

    1200px-Origins_of_English_PieChart.svg.png
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    US English
    French has an "oo" sound similar to English "oo". The first syllable in French "coupon" uses this sound.

    French has another "oo" sound that does not exist in English, but exists in several languages. To me (an AE speaker), this vowel sometimes sounds like "oo" and sometimes sounds like "ee". In pinyin this vowel is written as ü.

    There are several English words, derived from French words, where "yoo" is the English version of this French "oo" sound. For example "perfume" and "legume".

    Perhaps (speculation) this trend has carried over to other "oo" words, in some regional dialects of English.
     

    JeffinHK

    Member
    English: East Texas
    Welcome to the forum, JeffinHK:)
    There may well be people who would find yourpronunciation unnatural and affected, but would be too polite to say so;)

    Thank you for the welcome! What I meant was that nearly everybody where I am from says “cue-pon.” It strikes me as odd to hear “coo-pon.” Odd enough that I would turn around if I heard it said that way from three conversations over. I grew up saying “cue-pon,” I don’t wish to change, and even if I did, I don’t wish to have awkwardly thoughtful moments while effecting this particular change in my pronunciation. Other Anglophones from other dialects may feel differently.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    US English
    There is no reason for you to change how you say words. I grew up around New York. When I spent a couple years in Texas, I noticed many differences. But I admired the way Texans speak. If I could choose my regional accent, I would choose a Texas one.
     
    Top