The karatekatrix in question is broadcastrix Lynne Russell, and the accent in question is American, as in “ostentatiously from the U.S. rather than Canada.” That’s a spin we don’t often see here in Americacentricland, and Torontonian Joe Clark of fawny.blog has an entertaining post about it, “Lynne Russell Dialect Watch.” He says of Canada “We put people on TV who speak in accents. Yes, of course everybody has an accent, but I mean detectable accents,” and goes on to dissect Russell’s:

♦ Most disturbing is Russell’s mispronunciation of the title of an elected head of a province (and some territories), premier. It’s pronounced exactly one way, “preemyer,” a lesson only some recent U.S. ambassadors to Canada have bothered to learn. It is not pronounced in the various hodgepodges Americans use for that word and the related premiere (“premeer,” “premyare”). Russell pronounces it “primyeer” [ˌprɪmˈjiːr] or “premeer
♦ Back vowels (chiefly [aː] → [ɑː]), sort of like a Buffalonian…

He finishes up with a striking slip Russell came out with even as he was writing the post: “How’s it gonna play with the American – ‘with the American.’ How’s it gonna play with the Canadian public?”
And now I know how to say “premier.” Thanks, Joe!


  1. Yours is the #2 Google for KARATEKATRIX. The other guy will be pissed.

  2. I see that you were citing him.
    My son’s Buffalonian friends had problems with identity questions because they weren’t New Yorkers or Midwesterners. They decided that they were basically Canadians.

  3. Yes, of course everybody has an accent, but I mean detectable accents

    Funny. Of course, all accents are detectable. He means accents other than his.

  4. I used to have a Buffalonian friend, and indeed if I wasn’t really thinking about it, I thought of him as Canadian.

  5. Funny, in my Texas/California mindset, Midwesterners, Buffalonians, & New Yorkers are all basically Canadian!

  6. The ka in karateka corresponds to -ist, -tor, etc., so karatekatrix sounds redundant

  7. John Atkinson says

    Well, maybe now you know how to say “premier” in Canada. But if you’re ever here in Oz, don’t try to use that pronunciation for our state leaders if you don’t want to be laughed at. (It’s /’prEmi@/.)

  8. Gosh, as a Canadian, I have to say it really bugs me when Americans on TV can’t pronounce a Canadian word or place-name. 🙂 And those southern accents can really be grating.
    Jonathan, I’ll grant you that Buffalonians are fairly Canadian, but New Yorkers? No way. Cringe-worthy accent and attitudes. The best honourary Canadians, however, are probably Michiganders — Yoopers, especially.

  9. Canadians clearly cannot pronounce ‘premier’.
    The word for the first minister of an Australian state is pronounced in only two ways. ‘premyer’ with 2 syllables or ‘premee-er’ with 3. The first syllable of ‘premier’ and ‘premiere’ are the same.
    The present Premier of New South Wales sounds strange if said with either pronunciation. Premier Iemma is difficult for the best of us.

  10. Siganus Sutor says

    Alan : Canadians clearly cannot pronounce ‘premier’.
    Well, maybe they should switch to ‘dernier’ then, since it’s been established for some time now that “the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

  11. Guilty confession, I have heard ‘premeer’ with stress on the second syllable, but only rarely and only in Queensland.

  12. Incidentally, I can not only pronounce “about” both in American and in Canadian, but I can also imitate both an American imitating a Canadian and a Canadian imitating an American.
    It’s the last vowel/dipthong:
    American: ah-oh, abaoat.
    Canadian: uh-oo, abuoot.
    A imitating C: aboot
    C imitating A: aboat
    The notation isn’t ideal but if these are realized as dipthongs with one vowel very unstressed, you get the idea. (I’m not a linguist, in case you didn’t know that.)

  13. Siganus Sutor says

    The New Yorker, I’m afraid you are confusing my feeble mind. Aren’t Canadians supposed to be Americans too?

  14. Yes, New Yorker. Canadian English (at least, my dialect) has two separate “ow” diphthongs: ah-oh and uh-oh.

  15. I mean that accents that aren’t Canadian are detectable.

  16. Caffein[e]d: Did you manage to read the post? If so, did you plotz at vixentrix?

  17. Your title has me looking out for a situation where I will be able to refer to somebody as a kareokatrix.

  18. (Or would “kareokeuse” be preferable?)

  19. Karatekeuse is, in retrospect, much better. (I already coined bloggeuse.)

  20. I claim that the word should be blagueur, but no one seems to agree.

  21. I’m always amazed and delighted to discover another gaping lacuna in my knowledge. I had no idea until reading this thread that premier and premiere were two different words. I had always assumed it was one word with multiple meanings and two standard spellings.
    Is premier typically pronounced differently than premiere within the same dialect? I.e., in “The Premier attended the premiere,” are the two words homophones?

  22. They are for me, but who knows what those weirdos in Canada say, let alone the Aussies and Kiwis?

  23. In Canada, HP, that sentence would be:
    The preemyer attended the prihmyare
    (which I could write in IPA, but that might be futile)

  24. Joe Clark has it exactly right.

  25. (aren’t Canadians Americans?)
    – geographically, yes, but socially and politically, no. They are all “North Americans” (a phrase used mostly by Canadians), but inhabitants of the US have long claimed the word “American” for themselves alone. When the president talks about “Mmerica” and “Mmericans” (at least this is what those words sound like to me coming from him), he means only the US.
    (Canadian accent(s))
    – (of course we are only talking about English-speaking Canadians (anglophones) here).
    In the British detective novel “The list of Adrian Messenger”, the stranger who has disappeared is hard to identify – some people who heard him speak think he was American, but others recognize from his way of speaking (which is described in a not very accurate way) that he was probably Canadian.
    It is true that there are features which are typical of Canadian English but those features vary between regions. For instance, in BC (British Columbia, on the West Coast) the pronunciation is close to the general American one, and the vowels (or rather diphthongs) in words like “house” and “browse” are not very different from each other, but as you go East such words are pronounced more and more differently from each other. Those of you who gave different examples of Canadian pronunciations above are both right, because a given pronunciation does not necessarily apply to all of Canada any more than to all of England or the States.
    As a general rule the Canadian differences in the pronunciation of diphthongs are not haphazard – the differences in specific words are due to the quality of the following consonant: for the first part of the diphthong the mouth is less open and the tongue reaches higher in the mouth if the following consonant is voiceless, that is without vibrations of the vocal chords, as with the sound [s] in “house”, as opposed to the voiced sound [z] in “browse”. For the diphthong usually written “ou” as in “house” this higher position of the tongue means that the difference between the first and second part (in which the tongue is in a high position anyway) is less than with the “ou” in “browse”, which starts with a wider open mouth and the tongue in a lower position. This is well-known among North American linguists and reported in some linguistics textbooks.
    Here in Nova Scotia (on the East Coast), the diphthong of “house” often sounds like a “long o vowel” (e.g. the word “about” sounds exactly the same as “a boat”) while in Ontario the diphthong in “about” is something like “uh-oh” (as Paul D wrote above). On our local station of CBC radio the man who reads the weather report for the region pronounces “South” as if it were “Soath”, and this is quite typical of Nova Scotia. Similar differences in pronunciation apply to the diphthongs of “site” and “side”, for the same phonetic reason, although the contrast is not quite so marked. There are also more subtle differences in more specific areas of the regions.
    As for Buffalonians, Buffalo is quite close to Toronto, which is the big city for them, and they have many reasons to go there (e.g. in order to fly to New York many find it most convenient to take a plane from Toronto), so it is not surprising that to other Americans they should sound more or less Canadian, or more specifically Ontarian.

  26. p.s. I mean “vocal cords”, not “chords”.

  27. When Maurice Iemma attends a Sydney opening the sentence is:
    Premyer Yemma or Premee-er Yemma attended the premyare.

  28. Siganus Sutor says

    inhabitants of the US have long claimed the word “American” for themselves alone. When the president talks about “Mmerica” and “Mmericans” (at least this is what those words sound like to me coming from him), he means only the US.
    Yeah, one can gather the idea that when he says “God bless America”, he doesn’t ask the divine favour to fall on Cuba or Venezuela as well. But how to say it in a way which is different but which doesn’t look too awful nonetheless? “United-Statian” or “USAian” definitely won’t do it.
    (On the other hand while Czechs are known to exist, what really is their country’s usual name since Czechoslovakia disappeared? Not Czechia it seems.)

  29. Historically, the US was named “The United States of America” when the rest of N and S America were colonies. Brazil, for example, came along later and is “The Federal Republic of Brazil”.
    “America” is a national designation and a geographical designation both, with an imperfect overlap. “English” is a national designation and a language designation — Americans don’t demand (since 1776) to be called “Englishmen” for that reason.
    The reasons why the Americas are so named are very obscure.

  30. As an French alternative to “Americains” (acute accent on the e) for the inhabitants of “les Etats-Unis” someone had proposed “Etuniens” but this did not take. Once in a while you hear “Etats-unisiens” but I have not seen it in print. However, in Spanish if you don’t want to say “Americanos” (or “gringos”) there is the more specific and formal word “Estadounidenses” for the citizens of “los Estados Unidos”. Sometimes Americans refer to themselves as “US citizens”.
    In older French literature “les Americains” means the native people – this usage seems very odd nowadays as things have changed so drastically.
    The country of the Czechs is now officially “The Czech Republic”. Surely there must be a less cumbersome Czech word used within the country. I have seen in French newspapers “la Tchequie”, the equivalent of “Czechia”. A name can be widely used without being the official designation. On French stamps and official documents you don’t see “France” but “Republique francaise” (cedilla under the c), but nobody ever uses this title in other contexts. It must be the same in Brazil.

  31. Who gives a crap how the Canucks say Pre-meer? In my American dictionary, the first pronunciation is pri-mir with the accent on mir; the second pronunciation is the Canadian way. So there, Canadians; we speak American down here, like our great president–how do Canadians pronounce pres-i-dent?
    I know and love many good Canadians, though a couple I know are really from India, which leads me to my questioning the Canadian officials on their recent break up of an Al Queda cell in Toronto–how do you profile a Muslim? How do you profile a Canadian? I worked with a Canadian once, from Prince Edward Island. I found him a nice guy but his constant defense of Canada made him sometimes intolerable…that and the fact he graduated from Columbia and bragged about that all the time, too. Disgusting. Ye knowest I joketh…or doth I?
    And the guy from Texas who says all New Yorkers sound Canadian to him–really? I never thought that in my life and I’m a Texan living with New Yorkers for 35 years, though I do know some Upstate New Yorkers may due to their close-relationship with Canada (Canadian radio and television) use certain Canadian inflections–but then people in Minneapolis sound like Canadians, too? Detroit? Chicago? The closest I’ve come to the Canadian sound is in Virginia. You know, hume instead of home.
    By the way, the South Park kids decided they liked the Canadian National Anthem better than the Stars Strangled Banner, which they said seemed too full of war and killing whereas the Canadian anthem brimmed over with love of God, Queen, and country, the way it should be. Does the Stars Strangled Banner even mention God? One episode ends with them all singing the full “Oh, Canada,” all the nine-year-olds including Butters, Timmy, Token, and Pip, the rudely treated English transfer student, and even Kenny, though he’s dead while he’s singing it.
    Ur fiend,

  32. Siganus Sutor says

    in Spanish if you don’t want to say “Americanos” (or “gringos”) there is the more specific and formal word “Estadounidenses” for the citizens of “los Estados Unidos”.
    Don’t forget, though, that you have other U.S. in North America: The Mexican United States.

  33. Siganus, you are absolutely right, but in this case the title is only the official one, not the one in everyday use. The inhabitants call their country “Mexico” and themselves “Mexicanos”, while the average US citizen refers to “America” or “the US”. “Los Estadounidenses” does not refer to the Mexicans.

  34. If you’re asking why the fuck we should care about certain things, thegrowlingwolf, well, why the fuck should we care why the fuck we should care?

  35. (the growling wolf) not everyone who writes to this list is American or living in the US or a native speaker of english. Why should you or anyone care what others say or how they say it? isn’t this the point of writing to a list that is interested in language(s)? If anything else, one good reason to care is to avoid misunderstandings – at best you can make a fool of yourself, at worst get into dangerous trouble. There is a famous example in the Bible of the importance of just a little insignificant phonetic point – at a crucial time the people who said “sibboleth” instead of repeating “shibboleth” as their enemies said did not live long.

  36. A Czech I know calls his country Czechia in conversation, both in English conversation and in Dutch. (in the latter case he says Tsjechie, but he means the same.)

  37. Yes, it would be extremely convenient if “Czechia” would catch on in English. “Czech Republic” is extremely cumbersome.

  38. Siganus Sutor says

    According to a Czech friend, it would have made more sense to call the country Bohemia. (It could be assumed that she’s not from the Moravian side.)

  39. As in the Sherlock Holmes story, “A Scandal in Bohemia” – the only one in which SH is bested by a woman – he never recovers.

  40. My tongue wants to call the country Czech and its inhabitants Czechis. But it is an ignorant tongue, pay it no mind.

  41. Siganus Sutor says

    It’s pronounced exactly one way, “preemyer,” a lesson only some recent U.S. ambassadors to Canada have bothered to learn.
    This morning on the BBC I’ve heard something about a game called “football”. It was about some English championship, which is apparently called the “Premier League” (got this on the internet: http://www.premierleague.com/ ). As far as I heard it well and apart from the soft English -r, the journalist said it exactly like in French: prœmié.

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