Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Pronunciation

What do you see here?

Available from

That style of structure above is a fairly common sight in homes around Australia and can be found in the middle of the garden as a freestanding structure, or it can be seen attached to houses and decks to help create shade.  They can be simple in their design like the one above, or they can be quite ornate.  No matter how or where they're constructed, they're a much loved Aussie addition.

So now that we know we all recognise the structure, let's see if you know what it is actually called.

Yes, yes, yes, very clever.  It's a pergola which has its origins in Italy and was originally designed for climbing plants and ivy.

There are variations to the pergola which can lead to heated debate as to when a pergola stops being a pergola and instead becomes a veranda, porch, arbor, trellis or gazebo. But I'm not here to debate when a pergola is or isn't a pergola. I'm here to debate how you pronounce the bastard.

No seriously, how do YOU pronounce that thing I have pictured up there?

Yesterday my bestie and I were shooting the breeze via voice message, back and forth from the east coast of the USA to the east coast of Australia.  She was telling me how her brother-in-law was building this really fantastic pur-gal-lah.

What the f*&% is a pur-gal-lah?

A pink and grey Aussie bird that sounds like a cat?

A galah is an Australian native bird, related to the cockatoo, and is also the name we give really stupid people.
They do not purr like a kitten as this picture suggests.  They squawk loud enough to wake the dead. 

I ask her again, what the f*&% on earth is a pur-gal-lah? Some sort of fancy coffee percolator?

No, a purrrr-galah. You know, like a roof over his back deck.  A purrrr-galah.  Don't you have purrr-galahs in Australia?

No, we don't have bloody purrrr-galahs in Australia. But we do have Per-GO-lahs.

And we laughed, and laughed and laughed.  I mean, we often laugh over the Aussie-isms and Americanisms and the weird way both countries manage to butcher our mother tongue, but for me the whole pur-gal-lah versus per-GO-lah takes the cake.

Which is how we started a very hefty debate about who was right and who was wrong.  I mean, for once in my god-damn-Aussie-life I was actually pronouncing all the bloody letters in the word, the way they were meant to be pronounced.

Per. Go. La.

No short cuts, no weird inflections, just pure pronunciation the way the mother-land had intended it.

So I did what any well educated woman of the world my age would do. I went straight to Google.  Of course I had to prove that we who practice the British version of the English language on a daily basis, MUST be correct.  There is no way that thing my Dad built on my first home was a pur-gal-ah.  It was a true blue and very British per-GO-lah.

Guess what.  The British call it a pur-gal-lah.  A f*&%ing pur-gal-lah.  Mind blown.  I honestly don't know who I am anymore.

So I did some more research and it turns out that we Aussies are quite well known for our weird pronunciation of pergola.  It seems we're the only country in the world that really gives the ol' pergola a really big GO.

Which has me really confused, yet also very interested, in what other words we pronounce very differently to the rest of the English speaking world.  But that's a story for another day. Today it's all about the pergola ... or per-GO-lah ... or pur-gal-lah.

How do you pronounce pergola?

Do you have a pergola?

Have you built a pergola?

When is a pergola, no longer a pergola?  When it suddenly becomes a f*&%ing pur-gal-lah

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  1. I guess the question is how do the Italians say it - in that case it's Pear-goh-la. With a flourish!

    1. Lydia, that pronounciation is works for me!

      SSG xxx

  2. Merriam-Webster dictionary lists two ways to pronounce pergola. Now you'll look at a pergola and have a fun memory of your phone conversation with your bestie.

  3. I have heard this word pronounced SO many different ways but I pronounce it PER-GOAL-LAH though I have met many people who pronounce it differently! I wonder if it's a state by state thing in Australia like togs/swimmers/bathers etc? Haha - too funny.

  4. LOL Leanne! My brother calls them pergolias! Yes, we were raised in the same household :)

  5. I am the same as you - a big GO in the middle. And I giggle when people on HGTV say it differently.

  6. I know what a pergola is because my hubby wanted to build one over our patio at one point. We didn't, though. I pronounce it - PER-go-lah. But I'm from the US, so what do I know? :)

  7. Ours is a per-GOAL-lah for us...we also have a vergola (one of those automated roof thingies) also pronounced ver- GOAL-Lah.

  8. Ah...I am back. Google has let me in ! Yes, I pronounce it as you do. Denyse x

  9. I've heard the US pronouncation on TV and smiled. What blew me away is that they don't use the word "fortnight" over there - they just say two weeks. I was asked by a US blogger why I'd said "fortnight" in a post - they think of it as ye olde English or something.

  10. Right, well I'm going to have to investigate this more thoroughly too! Just has a quick squiz on Google as well but I'll dig further. I'm with you on the pronunciation but I'd have spelt it something like per-goal-uh so the o in 'gol' can't be mistaken for the o sound in 'golly' or 'lolly'. I'm sure there are official ways to represent spellings/pronunciations but I'm not familiar with them.

  11. Very nice. I have seen them in parks but not in a lot of homes here in the states.


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