Words that have a "zyu" sound in American English pronunciation?
March 25, 2009 8:54 PM   Subscribe

Are there any words that have a "zyu" sound in American English pronunciation?

In general, there is a difference between British and American English pronunciation of certain words, like "dune", "resume", "suit", where British speakers have a "y" sound between the consonant and the "u", and Americans do not (we say them like "doon", "rezoom", and "soot").

(In both versions of English, this added "y" can occur with certain consonants, e.g. "cute", "fume".)

I noticed that American English has the word "disuse", which has s+y+u consecutively (which is somewhat rare for us). What I am wondering is if there is any word that has z+y+u consecutively in American pronunciation? I am pretty sure it would have to similarly be in the middle of a multisyllabic word, if it does exist.

So, can anybody come up with a word with a z+y+u sound in it?
posted by kosmonaut to Writing & Language (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 9:09 PM on March 25, 2009

Oh, sorry. I thought you were looking for consonant-y-u, not specifcially z-y-u.

Given that:

posted by palmcorder_yajna at 9:11 PM on March 25, 2009

Says you.

The word "you" has your combination of sounds (i.e. Americans don't say "yoo"), but I can't think of any single word that has the letters Y-O-U closely following an "S" sound. Any help?
posted by ad_hominem at 9:13 PM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Exhume is pronounced this way by some speakers.
posted by enn at 9:15 PM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Interesting ... It seems like when there's a letter "s" followed by a "you" sound, the "s" never gets pronounced like "z." There are a lot of words like "casual," "usual," "visual," where the "s" is pronounced "zh," which is different from "z."
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:15 PM on March 25, 2009

Doesn't ad_hominem's suggestion amaze you?
posted by grouse at 9:20 PM on March 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

The brand name "Visio" comes close. (zyo instead of zyu)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:22 PM on March 25, 2009

ad_hominem (and grouse), those are great suggestions. I still have this feeling that somewhere out there, there's at least one single word that has it, though. But if nobody here can come up with one, then your crossing-word-boundaries idea will at least let me sleep at least somewhat peacefully! :)

(enn, you are right about "exhume", except that I believe the "some speakers" you have in mind are those darn British English speakers.)

(Also, as Jaltcoh mentioned, "zh" is a tiny bit different from "z" and is less hard to find in English in those situations.)
posted by kosmonaut at 9:35 PM on March 25, 2009

posted by des at 9:37 PM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

A word that might fit the bill is "zeugma". Here's a section in a phonology textbook that discusses glide presence following consonants (google book link) and the alternation between British and American dialects with respect to this phenomenon.
posted by tractorfeed at 9:41 PM on March 25, 2009

I am American, and I say "ex-zume." How else would you say it, "ex-hoom?" That sounds incredibly weird to me.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:51 PM on March 25, 2009

In my Merriam-Webster dictionary, azure is zh(uh), and zeugma is zu, but lazulite is zyu.
posted by grouse at 9:51 PM on March 25, 2009

They also list igz-yum as an alternate pronunciation for exhume, but lazulite has the nice feature of containing the zyu in a single syllable.
posted by grouse at 9:53 PM on March 25, 2009

The two ways to pronounce "exhume" are "egzoom" (like you, drjimmy11), or "egzyoom" (like, I am guessing, the British do).

tractorfeed: correct me if I'm wrong, but I think zeugma is pronounced "zoogma" and not "zyoogma" (which might the British pronunciation).
posted by kosmonaut at 9:54 PM on March 25, 2009

"Lazulite" is a great one! I've 95% convinced myself it absolutely fits the bill.

It looks like Random House doesn't list the "zyu" sequence as a pronunciation, but the American Heritage dictionary does.

"American" Heritage wouldn't go and include a British pronunciation, would they?

Can Americans here naturally say "lazulite" without making the "z" into a "zh"? (I don't trust my own brain on this anymore!)
posted by kosmonaut at 10:12 PM on March 25, 2009

Can Americans here naturally say "lazulite" without making the "z" into a "zh"?

I can (lived in the U.S. my whole life). In fact, I have to try to say it with a "zh" sound, and it sounds wrong when I do.
posted by cerebus19 at 10:21 PM on March 25, 2009

Bless you.


posted by furtive at 10:27 PM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by furtive at 10:27 PM on March 25, 2009


Also, I'm not American, but how do you feel about Jesuit? Merriam-Webster has "\ˈje-zü-ət, -zhü- also -zyü-\" but doesn't bother including it among the recorded pronunciations.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:33 PM on March 25, 2009

Caesura, like lazulite, seems to be a winner, but again, is a word I've never heard pronounced in my life. But the link you provided definitely has an American pronouncing it that way!

Jesuit, on the other hand, I have never heard with the "zyu" pronuncation... do other Americans feel the differently?

(You know, when I asked this question, I was half-expecting some common word like "disuse" that I just hadn't thought of, but it's pretty neat to discover that it is only in these rare words on the periphery of the language!)
posted by kosmonaut at 10:44 PM on March 25, 2009

posted by No New Diamonds Please at 11:08 PM on March 25, 2009

I don't recall ever hearing "Jesuit" without the "zyu" pronunciation (I've lived in SoCal and NYC). A college roommate of mine went to a Jesuit high school in Rochester, NY, and I'm about 80% sure he pronounced it with "zyu".
posted by equalpants at 11:25 PM on March 25, 2009

Caesura is pronounced say-ZHURra, though, no? I'm Canadian with a preference for slightly Britishy pronunciations, for instance, I say Nyoo (new) and Dyune (dune) and Exyoom (exhume)- but all my poetry & drama teachers always said say-ZHURa.

As You Like It?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:32 PM on March 25, 2009

I grew up on the east coast - NYC area - and I say "Jesuit" with the "zyu" pronunciation, but I've also heard people say "jezhuit". Just my $0.02 ;o)
posted by leticia at 4:03 AM on March 26, 2009

I'm from the Southeast US (our accents have similarities to many British accents) and I or people around me say many of the words listed already with a zyu: visual, disuse, Jesuit, exhume, resume, azure, tissue (I don't do this one) etc.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:32 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I live in Providence, Rhode Island and I hear both, e.g. resume is pronounced rezoom by some and rezyum by others. Everybody pronounces suit like your example, however.
posted by Kattullus at 5:55 AM on March 26, 2009

Seconding what hydropsyche pointed out. I was born in Mississippi and have lived throughout a lot of the southeast in years past. The "zyu" sound is alive and well down south.
posted by metalheart at 6:01 AM on March 26, 2009

I've certainly heard Jesuit pronounced with"zhyu", but "zyu" is far more common here in the Midwest.
posted by marsha56 at 6:27 AM on March 26, 2009

with a zyu: visual, disuse, Jesuit, exhume, resume, azure, tissue (I don't do this one)

Just to be clear: you're saying some people pronounce tissue as /'tiz-yuw/ (TIZZ-you)? Because that sounds very weird to me, and I have a lot of Southern relatives. I don't think I've heard anything but TISH-oo, though I can imagine very old-fashioned people saying TISS-you.

Great question, by the way!
posted by languagehat at 6:28 AM on March 26, 2009

Are you all really sure that you say "Jezyuit" and not "Jezuit"? I'm from Massachusetts and "Jezyuit" sounds really off to me.
posted by creasy boy at 6:30 AM on March 26, 2009

And if anyone can produce any audio of any American saying any of the words: tissue, issue, exhume, resume, visual, or Missouri, with a zyu sound, I'd like to hear it. Seriously. Even if you just record yourself saying it in a sentence. None of this sounds even remotely correct to me.
posted by creasy boy at 6:40 AM on March 26, 2009

"...The word "you" has your combination of sounds (i.e. Americans don't say "yoo"), but I can't think of any single word that has the letters Y-O-U closely following an "S" sound. Any help?"

What about that Brooklyn(?) thing - "Youse" (You's) that is prevelant in media?
posted by DrtyBlvd at 6:44 AM on March 26, 2009

I apologize, but I have neither the time nor equipment to wander around in rural NC and GA to find people saying words that way. I now live in Yankee-land, NC and have lost a lot of the accent of my childhood. I still say vizyual when I'm talking fast, I think, so I could try to get my MacBook to record that directly, then figure out someway to upload a sound file if you really think I'm just making stuff up. Either you believe me, or you don't. Maybe check out old Folkways recordings or something.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:59 AM on March 26, 2009

Just to clarify... I think there are some people confusing the sound of [ʒ] and [z].

The problem here is that there is just no good way to write this stuff using English spelling, so that you are totally clear about what you mean.

[ʒ] exists in the middle of "leisure", "pleasure", and at the end of "bon voyage"

[z] is like "zoo", "zebra", "laser" and NOT like the sound in the words above.

[zyu] would be like the [byu] in "beauty" [byuti] (which contrasts with "booty" [buti]), but replace the [b] with a [z].

If you are saying that you say "vizyual" that means you are saying viz-yoo-ul and not vi-ʒoo-ul, with a pure [z] sound... is that really what is happening? The fact that you say it happens in fast speech makes me think that you are actually hearing [ʒ] and not [z], because fast speech is what encourages that to happen, rather than the other way around.
posted by kosmonaut at 11:36 AM on March 26, 2009

Well, I say leizyure and pleashure differently, so that doesn't help me. And I do say viz-yoo-ul. That's how I grew up saying it.

When I say it happens in fast speech, it means it happens when I am not being self-conscious about using middle class American TV speech and slip into southernism.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:38 PM on March 26, 2009

Wow, if that is as you say then it's something I was completely unaware of (which is possible if it is very specific to your region). Your profile says you are from North Carolina, so is that where your accent comes from?

I tried rummaging through some speech samples of North Carolinian speakers but I didn't run across any conclusive word samples in my quick scan (but I might have missed something).

It's hard for me to imagine those words being said with a "zyu" without picturing a British person saying it. If you felt like recording a sentence with some of those words in it, it would be interesting!
posted by kosmonaut at 3:57 PM on March 26, 2009

I think des was spot-on with "azure", just in case you missed it, kosmonaut.

I have heard some people say "azh-yur" but "az-yoor" is more common, at least in the BOS-NYC corridor.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:05 PM on March 26, 2009

I hate to belabor this, but I did go through some of the samples on the page you linked to. I was raised in Western NC, and the accents where I'm from are something like # 14 and #17. Early on in the story, you can hear them both say "Dyuke" Street, which is very typical of the vowel sounds I'm talking about. Hopefully you can hear how that dyu sound is like the zyu that unfortunately they don't use in those stories as far as I could tell.

As a side note, the Western NC accent is totally different from Eastern NC, where I live now, and here in Durham saying "Dyuke" would be a good way to get myself beat up.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:15 PM on March 26, 2009

I see that thing about Duke, which is interesting and gives a bit more clarity. I found some uses of "usual" in the audio, and I was hoping to hear "yuzyual" but unfortunately it came out as "yuʒel".

Also, I live in NY and I've never heard "az-yoor", but then again, I don't know that I've ever heard any pronunciation of "azure" before :)
posted by kosmonaut at 6:16 PM on March 26, 2009

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