Thursday, May 29, 2008

Don't Mispronounce that Beer

A couple of years ago I took a trip to Wales and decided to sample beer from the famous Brains Brewing Company, the unofficial national beer of Wales. But I realized I had a problem. I thought for certain the word Brains was not pronounced like I thought it was. You see, for those of you who haven't been to the UK, many things, especially place names, are not pronounced at all like they are spelled and you have to hear somebody say it first. Common examples are Gloucester (glaw-ster), Nottingham (drop the 'h'), Thames (tems, rhymes with gems or stems), Leicester (lester), and Edinburgh (impossible to explain in writing). I'd been burned many times before this Wales trip, so I was wary. It's not worth the embarrassment of having everybody think you're a dumb American tourist to risk pronouncing incorrectly (if you think I was being too sensitive, try spending a lot of time with British people as the only American). Not only that, but Welsh is even trickier because sometimes their words look like English words but are something else entirely. Anyway, I went a full day with no Brains because of this. By this point I had convinced myself that the traditional pronunciation could not possibly be correct, not only because it was too obvious but because what kind of a brewery calls itself Brains? I thought it had to be a Welsh word. Finally, on day two, I got to overhear a local ordering one. He pronounced it exactly as you would think, just like the internal organ. Well, at least I got to try it.

So is it any good? It's okay. Their specialty beers are better than their plain ales. But who am I to argue with Welsh national pride?

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