Vase: pronunciation?

Barbara229

New Member
Italian
I've always had this doubt about how to pronounce "vase".

At first I thought the British would say /vɑːz/ and the American /veɪs/, but last night I was watching "You've got mail" and I noticed that there's a scene in which Tom Hanks seems unsure about the exact form as well and uses them both <<...>> That's when Meg Ryan is sick and he brings daisies.
Also, I remember my Australian roommate saying /vɑːz/ as well.

Why is Tom Hanks not sure? Is there an exact form, or are they both correct? Thanks!
 
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  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I believe the two forms are used as you say: /vɑːz/ is the only form used in (standard) BrE and AusE, and I'd be very surprised if I heard an American say that rather than /veɪs/. (Is /veɪz/ a possible alternative in AmE?) Nevertheless, everyone is aware of the variation, so for comic effect you could show someone unsure of it.
     

    Madrid829

    Senior Member
    US English, Great Lakes area
    As far as I know, /veɪz/ is never used here in AE. But the Tom Hanks confusion is understandable because both /vɑːz/ and /veɪs/ are used here. I would say that /veɪs/ is definitely more common, especially where I'm from—the Midwest—but I've always heard it both ways and have probably even said it both ways.

    I don't know if this can be generalized to the rest of Americans, but in my experience, those who habitually use /vɑːz/ here tend to be of a higher socioeconomic class or spend more time around people/cultures that use /vɑːz/; and/or work with antiques or home furnishings; and/or are being a little pretentious. Of course this isn't to say that using /vɑːz/ is pretentious, but Americans who want to make themselves sound smarter or more cultured will sometimes use British or other foreign variations of a word.
     

    Barbara229

    New Member
    Italian
    Yeah, I had expected something like that! I was just wondering whether Americans get confused about this too. Cool, now I know how to sound more cultured :) Thanks.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There are three pronunciations current in my part of the world,
    vɑːz
    veɪz
    vɔːz
    The third is probably related to the 17th century spelling, vause, which I assume (probably wrongly) was pronounced to rhyme with cause. We're inclined to hang on to older versions way out here on the periphery of BE.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    There are three pronunciations current in my part of the world,
    vɑːz
    veɪz
    vɔːz
    The third is probably related to the 17th century spelling, vause, which I assume (probably wrongly) was pronounced to rhyme with cause. We're inclined to hang on to older versions way out here on the periphery of BE.
    In the Century Dictionary entry "vase," it says the following:

    According to the F. pron. (väz), and to the time when the word vase appears to have been taken into E. (between 1660 and 1700), the reg. E. pron. would be vāz, with a tendency to make it conform to the apparent analogy of base, case, etc.--that is, to pronounce it vās. At the same time, the recency of the word, and its association with art, have tended to encourage the attempts to pronounce it as F., namely väz, in the 18th century absurdly rendered also as vâs, the word being found accordingly in the spelling vause.
    The symbols represent:

    ā as in fate, mane dale.

    ä as in far, father, guard.

    â as in fall, talk, naught.
     
    In my part of the world (US mid-Atlantic seaboard) /veiz/ is heard quite commonly, along with /veis/.

    To me, the pronunciation "vahz" (sorry, don't know how to do the IPA symbols, even assuming I spoke IPA, of which my grasp is tenuous:)) sounds pretentious coming from an American, although there may well be regions or social circles where it is the normal, expected pronunciation.
     

    Madrid829

    Senior Member
    US English, Great Lakes area
    In my part of the world (US mid-Atlantic seaboard) /veiz/ is heard quite commonly, along with /veis/.
    Hmm, I had no idea.

    It occurs to me—and I can't say for sure because I rarely find myself talking about vases—that if I needed to say it in the plural I might be inclined to use the väz pronunciation, just because for some reason in the plural it sounds less awkward to me. But then if given time to think I might stop myself, out of fear of sounding pretentious!
     

    wildan1

    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    My mother always told me that if it was a "/vɑːz/", it came from an antique shop; otherwise it's just a plain /veɪs/! (Coming from the Midwest US).

    Seriously, /vɑːz/ sounds pretty pretentious to my AE ear when coming from an AE-speaker.
     
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    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I hear both /veɪz/ and /vɑːz/ here in New York, but I do not remember hearing anyone from this part of the US saying "/veɪs/".


    As for the "pretentiousness" of "vahz", I do remember someone writing in to Judith Martin's "Miss Manners" column to ask "When is a VASE a VAHZ?" The answer came back "When it is filled with DAH-ZIES".
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I hear both /veɪz/ and /vɑːz/ here in New York, but I do not remember hearing anyone from this part of the US saying "/veɪs/".


    As for the "pretentiousness" of "vahz", I do remember someone writing in to Judith Martin's "Miss Manners" column to ask "When is a VASE a VAHZ?" The answer came back "When it is filled with DAH-ZIES".
    I have always thought that this was the exact same isssue as tomato (tuh-mate-oh AmE vs tuh-mah-toe BrE).
    It's lucky Miss Manners didn't select dahlias as the example - pronounced day-lee-uhs in BrE and dah-lee-uhs in AmE :eek:
     
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