r pronounced as w - speech impediment


australia english
So many English people pronounce " r " as " w "
Bargain Hunt is on right now and, according to the host, one team have bought a " Beatwix Potter plate "
" Pwoperty pwices " are always rising.
This is peculiarly English, we Aussies and the Americans and Canadians don't do it.
Why is it so?
  • Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    Elmer Fudd, a genuine, home-grown Amewican, had a gweat pwoblem with this sound, too.

    If you can believe the Life of Bwian, some Ancient Womans were afflicted with rhotacism.


    Senior Member
    England English
    Without wishing to get into a long discussion about flapping and all that (there is already at least one thread about that already), I would only say that a lot depends on your perception. I was in America as a youngster, so when I returned to England, I also thought they all pronounced their r's as w's.
    But when you get used to it, there is a clear distinction between an English r and an English w. Around the world, there are endless variations on the pronunciation of r. And each is relatively soft (like in England) or hard (in America) or in between, or rolled, flapped, whatever.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    <<Reinforcing Lexiphile's Without wishing to get into a long discussion about.
    To keep the scope of this thread within reasonable bounds, please keep to the topic of r/w confusion of the Elmer Fudd variety.

    There are other threads about rhotic and non-rhotic pronunciation.
    Look up rhotic in the WR dictionary.


    Senior Member
    English English
    A certain gentleman and I were talking the other day about this bloke, who is much in the news here at the moment, and who is renowned for having this speech impediment (pronouncing his r's as w's: hence his nickname Wossy).
    My interlocutor described the impediment as his lisp.
    "That's not a lisp," said I, "that's a wubble-you."

    I wonder if anyone knows the correct name for this particular impediment ... or has their own name for it? (And does anyone else call it wubble-you, as I have all my life?)

    (This thread was inconclusive.)
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    According to this site about speech disorders:

    Ok, first of all the Elmer Fudd Speak is something we refer to as a "weak /r/" or if it happens with /l/, we call it "Gliding of Liquids". Sounds a little dirty but the /r/ and /l/ are classified phonologically as "liquids" and when you say "yeave the wabbit awone" you are "gliding" those liquid sounds.


    Senior Member
    English English
    Oh, I like your wisp, Viv. Nunty, your gliding of liquids is indeed a little too dirty-sounding for my taste:( ~ oops! I see that's the 'correct' name for it!

    Oh and by the way, I definitely wouldn't call this rhotacism ~ to me that suggests you do pronounce r's rather than you can't.
    Last edited:


    New Member
    I am constantly surprised that this trend is not more widely recognised, indeed as in this case, when the issue is raised it is usually explained away as a speech impediment or some other cause that refuses to address the matter. From my experience Fiona is quite right. The phenomenon of sounding r as w is much more common in the language of England, and further more, it is more common in english speakers of certain class and educational level. Rather than being a speech impediment caused by some physical vocal fault, it is a learned behaviour that is handed down through generations. It seems to be far more a speech mannerism than an impediment.
    Where this speech habit appears in other cultures, eg Australian, Canadian or American english it is far more likely that it is an impediment, but in English speakers of upper middle class, it is a language trait as common as that of any other facet of accent.