Random Rant: Karaoke ≠ Carry-okie

How the heck did karaoke (ka-ra-oh-kaykeh) get pronounced carry-okie? Or is it carrie-okie?

I can understand if one or two people just screwed it up, but how did the wrong pronunciation gain popular acceptance?

I used to correct people — or rather help people how to say a word they are struggling with. But at some point I stopped trying.

I can kind of understand the “okie” part, but as for the “carry?” No way, no how, nuh uh.

What other mispronunciations really annoy you?

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20 Responses to “Random Rant: Karaoke ≠ Carry-okie”

  • I think the word has been completely transferred to the English language, especially in the ‘States and well, we speak English in a lazy way; vowels all start sounding the same and we really stress our arrrzzzzzzz…

    I try to pronounce it the “real” way, but I also don’t want to be coming off as the most annoyingly PC guy in the room. Reminds me of that SNL sketch with Jimmy Smits and everyone trying to pronounce all the food they wanted to order out for in the “native” way. Burrito became an exaggerated boo-ree-toh. And who can forget the way Ross from Friends (yes I’m an NBC whore apparently) would insist on pronounce karate like KA-RA-TAY.

    The problem is of course, most non-Japanese don’t know how to pronounce Japanese. In English we want to stress syllables, usually the second, but the Japanese stress the first and only subtly at best. So the words simple roll off the tongue in a respectable way… not sure you can expect us lazy Americans to get those right…

    Excuse me while I head out to the pa-TEE-oh to munch on my croySAHN while listening to folks sing ka-ra-oke. :-)

  • I agree with Jesse!. Karaoke is just one of those words that has gained popular acceptance into the English vocabulary and has thus been given its own unique way of being pronounced. Eventually there will come a point where it will be so accepted that only Japanese purists would pronounce it the Japanese way. Think of saying Pa-ree instead of Pa-ris nowadays in the States. Just weird.

    But while I do tend to pronounce Japanese words properly, I don’t hold it against Americans that don’t because, while I’m familiar with Japanese pronunciation, I’d probably fuck up any other language =P

    Words that irritate me though include:

    Audi – Ow-Dee (correct way) or Au-Dee (just plain wrong)?
    Omega – O-mE-ga (English way ala James Bond) or O-Meh-ga (American way)?
    Nokia – Knock-ya (Finnish way) or No-Key-ah (American way)?
    Japanese cities such as a Tokyo and Kyoto – Toe-Kyo (Japanese) or Toe-Kee-Oh (American), Kyoh-toh (Japanese) or Kee-yo-toe (American)

    list goes on and on and on ^_^;

  • To be fair, other countries & societies appropriate English words into their own pronunciations too. Off the top of my head, “San Francisco” is “San Fan-cee” in Cantonese. I don’t recall the Japanese pronunciations of English words, but they have their own style as well. This just seems to be what happens when words are imported from other cultures.

  • Yes, I agree with Mike on this one. Words get basterdized all the time as they cross borders. I don’t think people intentionally try to mangle “foreign” words, it’s simply a matter of what people are phonetically trained to hear and say. Humans lose the ability to hear and say the full range of phonetical sounds between the age of 5-8 (earlier for boys, later for girls). That why people who immigrate to the US as young children can sound native born American, while those who come in their tween years often have mild accents even after living in the country for 30-some years. As much as I try, I know I’ll never be able to get my caucasian partner to properly say my Korean name. I’m okay with that. And anyway, it’s fun saying words like banana and butter like they do in South Korean – Bhah-nha-nha and Bhah-dah

  • Actually, about half of all Japanese vocabulary are words imported directly from other languages re-packaged with a typical Japanese accent so that it sounds, well, Japanese. To be fair then, we should all voice objections against the way the Japanese pronounce so many American-English words.

    I think how a State-side individual pronounces karaoke reflects his or her upbringing. International students from Asia will say “ka-ra-okay” a little better aligned with the way Japanese pronounce it. An Asian American born and bred in the midwest will likely call it “carrie-okie” like all their heartland-of-America type friends. Personally, I’ll say “carrie-okie” because that’s the way I’ve been raised to pronounce it. I’m a product of my environment, for better or worse.

  • There are a few regions in the US (and maybe all) that I will not forgive for butchering Spanish words. First, most of the US was either Spanish controlled and/or Mexico at one point, so the words have been in the States for years. Second, since the US has no official language… de facto there are two, English and Spanish. I’m not expecting people to say them perfectly with a perfect native accent, but at least just make an attempt.


    Californians generally get them right, but of course:

    Los Angeles (too late to change it, sigh, but at least we don’t say Los Angeleez anymore)

    Point Reyes, the north Bay Area point is often pronounced: Point Rays. Wrong. Reyes, two syllables, no excuses, I don’t care how much money you make.

    Vallejo, Va-lay-ho. no. Vai-ye-jo. At least the J is right or I’d be from a city called San Josey.

    Texas and the Southwest. WTF guys, Mexico is RIGHT THERE and yet…

    Queso, pronounced fine albeit with a twang, yet the meaning is off. Queso means cheese in Spanish, but in the SW it means hot nacho “cheese” for dipping, which is gross.

    Guadalupe road in Austin. it’s not Gwadaloop.

    I could go on… to bring it back to Asian languages… I always felt bad for the one of our customers we worked with last named Zhang… which was of course pronounced by any non chinese as “Zand” rhymes with bang instead of the proper Jahng. *sigh*

  • In theory I should speak fluent Mandarin but I still can’t pronounce that last name “Zhang.” From my understanding, it’s supposed to sound something like “Drahng” but I’ll admit when speaking English I’ll still say “Zayng.”

    I don’t even pronounce my own last name correctly. When introducing myself, I still pronounce it exactly as it’d sound like it’d be pronounced by an American. Which is utterly wrong but it’s better than me visibly struggling with the correct Chinese pronunciation when it’s MY own name.


  • Sake as “saki”
    Udon as “Ooh-dawn”
    Daikon as “Die-Kahn”
    Hiroshima as “HeROSHshumuh”

    PS the last syllable of karaoke should be pronounced like the KE in ketchup.

  • Deke: you are right about “ke”

    I was making it point that it wasn’t “key” and then I typed out O-K instead of O-KE. Which even now looks wrong. Hmm.

    I’ll update regardless.

  • I got it!

    “Keh” (Not “key.” Not “ke.” Not “kay.”)

    Sorry I’m a bad phonetic speller!

  • If Japanese people in the States have such a big bone to pick about how Americans pronounce Japanese words, then they really should move back to Japan where people will pronounce it correctly.

    Why care how non-Japanese pronounce sake, Hiroshima or whatever else? Frankly, Jesse has a point. When they go out of their way to attempt pronouncing it correctly, it sounds affected and usually it gets even more butchered than before.

  • I don’t think “Japanese people in the States” have a bone to pick about Japanese words.

    I’m not Japanese and I PERSONALLY hate the way this PARTICULAR word is pronounced. Mostly because I think “carry-okie” sounds totally stupid.

    That would be STOO – PID.

  • hahaha.

    Well some of the comments above strongly suggested that at least certain Japanese people in the States have a bone to pick about Japanese words.

  • akrypti wrote:

    If Japanese people in the States have such a big bone to pick about how Americans pronounce Japanese words, then they really should move back to Japan where people will pronounce it correctly.

    Christ, you’re ignorant.

  • Ratrace,
    You’re the one intolerant of dissenting viewpoints. Who’s ignorant now?

    And I thought I challenged you to write an 8Asians post. You’re punking out?

  • Heh. Amusingly, what Ratrace had to say doesn’t quite work when it comes to Americans in certain places. For example….

    There is a a town around here spelled “Pfafftown”.

    I’d say the majority of west coast, and north eastern … well heck, most people would say it:


    Wrong. Here they call it:


    Ooooookay. So where should these people move to? lol. They live here, and can’t say it correctly.

  • People not familiar with NYC pronounce the “Houston” in “Houston Street” as “Hew-ston” when it’s actually “How-ston.”

  • Akrypti, when I was a kid, and I’m sure I’m not the only one here, white kids would taunt me with chants of “go home”. I remember the old “America, love it or leave it” Bumper stickers, ones you rarely see these days. The idea behind both being that A’murca is for A’murcans and furreners ain’t welcome. Do you subscribe to this idea? Are you so white washed that you would tell a Japanese to go back to Japan, what about second or more generation Asians?
    Your ignorance blares in your comment:
    “If Japanese people in the States have such a big bone to pick about how Americans pronounce Japanese words, then they really should move back to Japan where people will pronounce it correctly.”
    Would you say the same thing to someone of German heritage who insists on people saying angst and not “ang”st? Or how about telling someone who insists it’s Monsieur and not Mon sewer to go back to France? I bet the idea wouldn’t cross your colonialized little mind. But when it comes to A’murca, it’s only for white folks and those who appease them for you, right?

  • darkmoon, read much? I was quoting someone else. Try to keep up.

  • I have, in fact, told a second generation Brit-American to go back to England for insisting I pronounce “been” as “bean.”

    However, I was also in elementary school.

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