BBC English As Heard By An American

Try to translate each of these words, spelled phonetically as heard on the BBC, into their common English equivalent.
BBC commentators have a wide variety of accents and this quiz reflects this fact.
boldface represents a syllable that is comically overemphasized.
Quiz by kalbahamut
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Last updated: March 7, 2015
First submittedMarch 7, 2015
Times taken799
Average score36.4%
Rating1.47
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As Heard
Suggested Usage?
Intended Word
a freaker
Would you prefer to date a normal girl or do you want a freaker?
Africa
nyuuk
I love it when Curly says "nyuuk nyuuk."
New York
con DUMB
?
condom
fro
Do you wear a hair pick in your 'fro?
throw
office
We all know Steve Carell's office was better.
air force
koala
Koalas eat eucalyptus
cooler
past uh
Have you ever in the past, uh, not remembered how to pronounced a word?
pasta
fensive
The Minutemen in the southern states are feeling quite fensive.
offensive
matta GAS ka
?
Madagascar
wool strait
Is Wool Strait a popular waterway used in sweater shipping?
Wall Street
beepsi
If R2D2 had to spell cat would he start with a "beepsi?"
BBC
seat aleena
I know she has a strange name but could you please ask the hostess to seat Aleena?
Saint Helena
GLASSier
The drug addicts' eyes appeared glassier than usual.
glacier
oh balm her
"The patient is complaining of skin irritation and requests we apply ointment."
"Oh? Balm her."
Obama
chai nur
I don't think a chai nursery is such a good idea. Do you think kids ought to have that much caffeine?
China
hell e COP ter
?
helicopter
fyouuud
?
food
sahviet
If they can say "sahviet" then why is "pasta" so difficult?
Soviet
Q-bert
I like Q-Bert but I prefer Frogger
Cuba
cyan fic
Cyan fic? I've heard of fan fiction but fiction based on obscure colors?
scientific
striggling
?
struggling
sinny
Las Vegas is the most sinny city in the USA.
sunny
+11
Level 27
Mar 9, 2015
I'm British and i don't get any of this.
+3
Level 84
Mar 10, 2015
I watch and listen to a lot of BBC and it's hard sometimes.
+4
Level 75
May 26, 2015
Chhrrist, do we sound that horrendous? When I hear Australians say "sinny" we know they mean the city with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Anyway, I feel a reverse quiz coming on...
+3
Level 84
May 27, 2015
haha.. :) bring it on.
+2
Level 87
Oct 9, 2018
In Australia that's how you would spell hair hair. Haehhhh maybe?
+2
Level 84
May 27, 2015
and... there are quite a few ridiculous accents in the USA so there is a wealth of mispronunciations to draw upon. Though usually you don't hear them on CNN.
+6
Level 66
Sep 29, 2018
Mispronunciations? I don't think any pronunciations are right or that any are wrong. They just differ. I get some of these but I'm not sure about others:

1. Is this about emphasis or the "connecting" 'r'? If it is the former I don't think I've heard it.

2. Couldn't think of anything except "nuke" and "Nuuk"

3. Don't think I've heard this.

4. As said before probably a Cockney accent. I get this.

5. I think the same sound (or a similar one) would be interpreted differently in different contexts here.

6. In my accent koala has three syllables. I can't imagine this is what is being got at.

7. Unless it's the lengthening of the final vowel they sound the same to me.

8. I know the first vowel is often a schema here, which might not be audible sometimes.

9. So you put the emphasis somewhere else? Weird.

10. "Wall" is pronounced with a different vowel in a British accent. (To rhyme with brawl)

11. As you said that syllable is muffled.

+2
Level 66
Sep 29, 2018
12. Not sure about this, maybe a Northern English accent?

13. I'm one of these people. Also can be pronounced "gLACEier". Again is the emphasis somewhere else in the USA?

14. Yes, this was easy to get.

15. Linking 'r' again.

16. Never heard the emphasis on "cop" before.

17. Could only think of "feud" (which I don't know how to pronounce).

18. Heard this but it is rare and considered "posh".

19. Linking 'r' and the 'y' sound in the "Cu" syllable?

20. Muffling a syllable again.

21. In the North of England the sound made by "u" here is replaced by the same sound as in "put" (so that "put" rhymes with "but"). I hear this quite a lot.

22. See above.

The pronunciations are different but neither is wrong.

+2
Level 84
Sep 29, 2018
Fair point about mispronunciation.

1. Is the "r" sound inserted at the end of words that have no "r" at the end called a "connecting" 'r'? Then why does it appear at the end of sentences?

3. You never heard someone say condom? Americans emphasize the first syllable. Brits I've heard (to my ear) comically over-emphasize the second syllable.

5. I got this from the Jihadi John tape

6. The way this guy was saying "cooler" it also had 3 syllables.

7. no it's that the initial vowel sound is totally different.

9. Not really in a different place, the large bold letters represent what sounds like comic overemphasis. So, just not as emphasized. Also an American would rhotacize the final vowel, since the words ends with an "r."

12. maybe

13. The accent isn't in a different place but again, the stressed syllable sounds comically overemphasized to me. Also an American would use an "s" sound in the middle not an "sh"

+1
Level 84
Sep 29, 2018
16. I heard this repeatedly. Don't remember now in what context I just remember hearing it multiple times and it sounding funny to me each time.

17. northern Irish accent I think, used in promotional materials.

18. heard on documentaries often.

+1
Level 66
Sep 30, 2018
Interesting. 3. I wouldn't pronounce it that way and haven't heard it with the emphasis on the second syllable. 7. I pronounce "pasta" ˈpastə. How is it pronounced in the USA? 13. I haven't heard a "sh" in the middle before. 18. Yes, they're probably old documentaries.
+2
Level 84
Sep 30, 2018
Wiktionary lists this as the British /ˈpæstə/ and this as the American /ˈpɑstə/ so you might have an American accent. And I meant to say about the glacier the opposite: Americans use the "sh"
+2
Level 84
Sep 30, 2018
John Oliver says condom many times in this video around the 5 minute mark

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0jQz6jqQS0

An American does not stress the second syllable at all. This sounds so odd to my ear. But he's talking fast so the stress is less than how I've often heard other British people say it.

+1
Level 66
Sep 30, 2018
The use of /æ/ in a British accent at all is now rare. It was historically used in Received Pronunciation (which hasn't updated to fit how words are actually pronounced now and is what Wikipedia uses). It is still used in an American accent and is one of the main distinguishing factors to my ear. I understand the difference though: the first syllable sounds like "possed" and not "past" in the USA (although this is further complicated by the fact that in the South of England "past" is pronounced /pɑːst/).
+1
Level 87
Oct 9, 2018
Yeah, there are definite mispronunciations. Everyone is literate in spelling of simple common words, so some are just lazy mispronunciations.
+1
Level 66
Oct 9, 2018
@someone, have you read my above comments? There are few actual mispronunciations that people actually use. You can pronounce words how you like. Obviously if you want to be understood you shouldn't pronounce "someone" the same as you pronounce "penguin", but no accent (and I mean literally no accent) has any basis whatsoever to call itself more correct than any other that people genuinely speak with.
+3
Level 28
Dec 30, 2015
I'm British and I got 5 of these - the others I couldn't even guess at! I think quizzes like this should be more specific when talking about accents! I'm from London and if I'm speaking with someone from NI or Newcastle for instance I can barely understand what they're saying. This is far too broad!
+1
Level 84
Jun 24, 2016
It would be a lot easier for me to identify certain regional accents from the United States which I am more familiar with. When I watch or listen to the BBC they all kind of blend together because I'm not as familiar with the different regional accents.

Sorry about that.

+2
Level 65
Oct 26, 2017
The city of Hull in Northern England (where my Grandmother's from) is the ultimate gold mine for those who like unusual British accents. Phone call sounds like 'fern curl' and 'Oh no' is infamously 'Errr nerrr'.
+2
Level 84
Oct 26, 2017
Not sure where the strangest accents in America come from. Probably somewhere in the bayous of Louisiana.
+6
Level 45
Oct 6, 2018
I think you might need to do a little reaserch on phonetics, because most of these are waaaaaay off.
+2
Level 84
Oct 6, 2018
I could write them all in IPA but most people can't read IPA.
+2
Level 87
Oct 9, 2018
IPA is atrocious. If you are reading, say, an English language article already and want to know how to pronounce something in English why not use a common English pronunciation guide instead of an every language-ever-conceived chart that makes Roman declensions look like a fun day at Waikiki?
+4
Level 66
Oct 9, 2018
aɪpiːˈɛɪ ɪz nɒt əˈtɹəʊʃəs. ɪt ɪz ˈaktʃəliː ˈvɛɹiː ˈjuːsfəl ɪn kənˈvɛɪjɪŋ pɹəˌnʌntsiːˈɛɪʃənz. fəɹ ˈɪŋglɪʃ ə pɹəˌnʌntsiːˈɛɪʃən gaɪd wʊd biː ˈniːdɪd fəɹ iːtʃ wɜːd. ˌaɪpiːˈɛɪ ɪz mɔːɹ əˈfiʃənt.
+3
Level 84
Oct 10, 2018
^ I can read that. :) and agree.
+2
Level 67
Jan 10, 2019
maybe but how you write it is open for interpretation aswell, depending on the nationality of the person reading it. For known words (in or outside our own language) we have come to remember the way it is pronounced, but if someone throws letters together, they might have one sound in mind while someone else interprets it differently. (eventhough it is not a made up word, typing "wow" some might hear it as w-ow (as in oh no) and others like wauw (as in owl))

Hope you get what I mean. I notice knowing more languages does not make it easier in this case, because reading the "phonetic word" my mind thinks in different accents all at once haha. The "a" in one language is pronounced very different in another ( and even in its own language, see the famous Ghoti reference)

+6
Level 83
Oct 6, 2018
English isn't phonetic so what you've written down as what you heard is relatively meaningless. Especially as we don't now what your American accent is and thus how you'd pronounce what you've written.
+2
Level 84
Oct 6, 2018
Fair enough. Most people would call my accent "non-regional American." Typical for the Washington DC area and other cosmopolitan cities without a distinct accent of their own.
+2
Level 87
Oct 9, 2018
But...but...but people from England on the internet say they have the right pronunciation...even though they make fun of the extreme wide range of garbled accents if you watch any of their entertainment.
+2
Level 67
Jan 10, 2019
with fyooud I thought you meant feud, with beepsi I thought pepsi, and past uh, pasty. I got 13/22 (and was in the midst of typing pasta, mainly because you used that word elsewhere ;) )but even after seeing the answers, for some I still cant see how you can hear one thing in the other, mainly the koala one. Makes me very curious how you pronounce it. (i am exposed to an equal amount of american as british english btw)
+4
Level 62
Jul 26, 2019
This list just screams "I'm an ignorant American who can't figure out basic words as said by other people if they don't say it exactly the same way as I do!" All this quiz does is paint Americans in a bad light. I think they need their collective xenophobia checked, that they still think it's the problems of other people when Americans can't understand them, because Americans don't challenge themselves to figure out the speech patterns of other cultures.
+3
Level 84
Jul 27, 2019
This comments screams something... I'd explain what but it's fairly obvious.
+3
Level 62
Jul 26, 2019
For "Striggling" and "sinny" - are you sure you weren't actually listening to a New Zealander?
+2
Level 84
Jul 27, 2019
I'm not making any claims about the nationality of the people saying these things, just that I heard them on the BBC.
+2
Level 62
Dec 17, 2020
I'm French, score only 10/22 but found this funny, however accurate this is.

Thanks!

+1
Level 48
May 20, 2022
they are not mispronounced, as a Brit I only got half of these, which I think goes to show that when we see the same letters especially the same vowels we ascribe different values to them.

Some it may be down to the vowel mergers occuring on the US in which on some words e, i and u sound and are pronounced the same to US ears but in Br E remain distinct.