I’m trying to figure out how to say the name of the poet Thomas Carew (more poems here). Chris Whent on the wonderful WBAI program Here Of A Sunday Morning (which I highly recommend to anyone in the New York area) says “kerry,” and that’s the pronunciation given in Daniel Jones and the Oxford Companion to English Literature, but the BBC Pronouncing Dictionary insists on ka-ROO (like the great baseball player Rod Carew), specifically for Thomas. Does anyone out there know how specialists in Renaissance music and poetry say it?

Incidentally, the name is Welsh; it’s simply the plural (caerau) of caer ‘fort.’


  1. I can’t cite a source, but I’ve always heard “kerry” from people I have reason to believe know what they’re talking about.

  2. Good enough for me. The problem, of course, is knowing with whom to use which pronunciation; I guess a rough-and-ready division would be “kerry with Brits, karoo with Yanks.” Anyway, thanks for the input!

  3. I knew about Donne, but not about Carew. I continue to tout Longmans as the best pronunciation dictionary. It gives two pronunciations for the family name: the first is the karoo one, the second is exactly like Carey, i.e. slightly different diphthong/vowel for British and U.S.- BE like care + ey, AmE like kerry. There is also a separate entry for the place name (in Dyfed).
    Supposing (which I don’t know) the man’s family name was pronounced like Carey? Then surely you can’t simply Americanize it by going for the totally different pronunciation? I mean, I know you talk about clerk and derby, but how do you pronounce the town of Derby in England? Well, perhaps that’s a bad example. How do you pronounce Cholmondely, Strachan and Featherstonehaugh? Hmm, I think I’d better leave fast…

  4. It’d be nice if someone could dig up a contemporary reference like that old rhyme about Jowett:
    First come I; my name is Jowett.
    There’s no knowledge but I know it.
    I am master of this college:
    What I don’t know isn’t knowledge.

    Surely there’s a Notes & Queries-type nugget on this somewhere.
    That’s an interesting point you make about pronunciation policy. When, if ever, is it okay to change one’s pronunciation of a word to please one’s company? On the one hand, it might be a good idea; on the other, it could backfire, especially if it’s clear you’re faking it. Example: as an undergrad, I was taken to task by a prof for pronouncing “Gower” as if it rhymed with “cower.” He wanted a Middle English-ish “goo-er,” so I started saying it that way. About a week later, another prof overheard me saying it that way, and he told me that until I was prepared to explain my pronunciation and apply the same rules to all conversational references to ME literature all the time, I should just stick with the first way. (It turned out the two profs didn’t like each other, so maybe I was kind of a little pawn in their game of departmental politics.)

  5. All I found was this, and it is rather boringly coarse in parts
    You can scroll down for Carew (Care-y), but it doesn’t really prove anything.

  6. All the Renaissance poetry specialists I know pronounce it “Carey.” I’ve also heard “Gower” pronounced as “Gore” — not quite “goo-er,” but close to it. The one that really flummoxed me when I first saw it in print was “Hakluyt.” (It’s pronounced “hack-lit,” according to my dissertation committee chair.)

  7. When, if ever, is it okay to change one’s pronunciation of a word to please one’s company?
    It’s not so much a matter of pleasing (as far as I’m concerned) as of simply being comprehensible; until yesterday, if anyone had mentioned “Thomas Carey” to me I would have had no idea who they were talking about. The name looks like it’s pronounced karoo, and it was so pronounced in every case with which I was familiar; how would I (not being a Renaissance-music expert) have known otherwise? Apparently in the UK the odd pronunciation is well known (as with the others used in the delightful limericks MM so thoughtfully provided: here‘s the direct link), but not so here, which means that if I start saying kerry indiscriminately I’m going to spend a lot of time adding “You know, see-ay-are-ee-double you, it looks like karoo but actually it’s pronounced kerry,” which is both tiresome and pedantic. Similarly, I try to remember to say “Dave Daveez” when discussing the Kink with Yanks, because almost no one here is aware that Davies is pronounced Davis across the water (and hence by the Kink himself). It’s a confusing business, but that’s the price we pay for all this linguistic variety I revel in.

  8. and i thought i was being pedantic
    when i pronounced Villon like “vee-
    lawn” because in middle French that’s
    how HE would’ve said it–!

  9. Sounds like the caloo-calley part of Jabberwocky.

  10. dung beatle says:

    pro nunc iation : “trey difficile”: at one time in the olde countres, one could not go 100 furlongs before one started missing words because they did not match known words in the brains prerecorded sound department. Since the advent of Tellywood, the sound bytes have merged. Granny (bbc) sounds have changed. We are wot wee hear(e) and see ( biofeedback). With Educational system expanding, accepting a wider range of economical groups that have inter mingalled (no longer so class {sound wise} concious ; So basically the sounds of words have merged to a common base. Brow(n) Browne Brun, sound now similar to most except for the higly trained musical ear that that can separate the “a” sound (and the how many others) into 256 parts. So Carew woould be be more Kar roos for those who did not want to be idenified with Care rees. as for the chumley(Cholmondely) and sister(Cirencester) they now appear be sound on all syllables.
    In my lack of knowledge of the subject, my take is that it boils down to the the sounds one first hear and record and the response (positive to negative reaction) to the sound that you issue.
    If you get the reaction that you need i.e. that the sound is right otherwise if the eyes brows raise(rise)(twitch) then you have hit the wrong nerve. We only want to be birds of the same fether, no outsiders please [Must separate the chaff from the good stuff, eliminate all that is different] .{ must be like “US” }

  11. Similarly, I try to remember to say “Dave Daveez” when discussing the Kink with Yanks, because almost no one here is aware that Davies is pronounced Davis across the water (and hence by the Kink himself).
    You’re right, my last name has been Davies for almost 21 years and I didn’t know it was pronounced “Davis”. This begs the question of why it isn’t spelled “Davis”.

  12. I suppose another issue is how his contemporaries might have pronounced Carew’s name – and this might have varied according to what part of the country they came from (to mention only one variable). Personally, I’d always thought of him as “Karoo”…

  13. Over here, east of the ditch, people called Carew pronounce it Care-y and Karoo in roughly equal numbers, and Thomas is usually referred to as Care-y because a. it’s still current,and b. it’s probably closer to the favoured pronunciation in his own time. But you can take this to absurd extremes: Christopher Marlowe probably called himself Marley, but nobody would have a clue who I was talking about if I called him that.
    As far as Gower is concerned, there was an aristocratic family called Leveson-Gower who are said to have pronounced it Leeson-Gore, but I’ve never come across anybody in ordinary life who didn’t say Gower as spelled. Welsh folk called Davies and Davis regard them as alternate spellings of the same name and pronounce them alike.

  14. my last name has been Davies for almost 21 years and I didn’t know it was pronounced “Davis”. This begs the question of why it isn’t spelled “Davis”.
    Posted by: Xhenxhefil

    It doesn’t beg the question, that’s something else. You raise the question about the reason for the alternate spelling, and the answer is that no one person ever sat down and designed English spelling, or made any promises about the consistency of it’s pronunciation.

    Another point that people often miss about spelling and pronunciation is that some words are pronounced in many different ways across Britain and the rest of the English-speaking word. The spelling and pronunciation cannot be made completely consistent for everyone. E.g. some Cumbrians pronounce “water” to rhyme with “batter”, would changing it’s spelling to “wortuh” or similar make any sense to them?

  15. Carew in Dyfed, mentioned above, is actually pronounced “Care-oo” by all authorities, but “Care-ee” by elderly denizens. Just FYI.

  16. “I don’t like this house – It can’t be a good house:
    There are no books by P. G. Wodehouse.”

  17. Interestingly, there’s a Norwegian football player called John Carew. Although his name presumingly should be pronounced ka-ROO, Norwegians, for some reason, started pronouncing his name KAH-rev (forgive my ignorance of IPA), with a trilling r.
    This usage has become ingrown in virtually all Norwegians; I have never heard anybody pronounce in differently (even the Norwegian Bradcasting Corporation (NRK) use it), so you can say it’s accepted and integrated quite well in the Norwegian society.

  18. I had a teacher from Wales who pronounced it as “CARE-oh”.

  19. Weird, thanks for passing it along!

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