From capital cities (yes, seriously) to iconic neighbourhoods, Aussie-bred mispronunciations are frighteningly common.
Our laidback drawl is globally adored but did you know we’re pronouncing our own hometowns inaccurately? A recent study conducted by Preply, an online language learning platform, combed through search data for 332 Australian hot spots and discovered the number of times people have Googled ‘How to pronounce’ or ‘How to say’ our most recognisable destinations. While it may be distinctly un-Australian to get all of them right, some are downright cringe-worthy. Drumroll, please…
10. Derby, Western Australia
Don’t say: Dar-bee
Do say: Der-bee
Spectacular dirt terrain, tropical mangrove swamps and one consistently misarticulated moniker. Poor old Derby in Western Australia may serve as one of the most unforgettable things to do in the Kimberley but it’s come in as the tenth most mispronounced place in the country. Resist the temptation to switch the ‘e’ for an ‘a’ and take a more refined approach without a second thought.
Swoon over the magnificent Boab Tree in Derby. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
9. Warwick, Queensland
Don’t say: Wor-rick
Do say: Wa-rick
Boot-scootin’ babies can’t get enough of Warwick in Queensland’s Southern Downs, particularly fans of the Warwick Rodeo and Gold Cup Campdraft, one of the best events happening this month, but many haven’t the foggiest idea how to say it. Shimmying in at number nine on the list, this country town is more ahh and less ohh.
Visit the heritage-listed Warwick Post Office. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
8. Ngunnawal, Australian Capital Territory
Don’t say: Nun-uh-wahl
Do say: Nun-nah-wol
It’s home to one of Australia’s best emerging city experiences, but pronouncing Ngunnawal is proving a bit of a mouthful. Registering in eighth place is the land within Canberra and a name that also represents the Traditional Owners of the Canberra region. Ditch the inclination to follow Ngunnawal’s literal ‘a’ at the second last letter and steer it towards an ‘o’ sound.
Practice perfecting the name Ngunnawal before you visit the ACT. (Image: Tourism Australia)
7. Balmain, New South Wales
Don’t say: Bal-mah or Bal-mahn
Do say: Bal-mane
Sadly, we’re quite some distance from chic Paris. As tempting as it is to pronounce Balmain with the type of Je ne sais quoi that fancies up Target to Tar-jay (just us?), articulating the inner west suburb of Sydney is way more literal. Next time you’re referring friends to Balmain and its epic secret summer swimming spot, call it directly as it reads.
Dawn Fraser Baths is a cool swimming pool complex in Balmain. (Image: Destination NSW)
6. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Don’t say: Can-berra
Do say: Can-bra
It doesn’t get more ocker than this. Yes, Canberra may technically contain eight letters but there’s only six letters worth bothering with. Proving once and for all that we Australians roll right over the pronunciation of an ‘er’, Canberra’s correct articulation ignores the suffix completely. Gotta love Straya’.
The best way to explore Canberra is by hot air ballooning over Lake Burley Griffin. (Image: Tourism Australia)
5. Gloucester, New South Wales
Don’t say: Glow-kester or Glou-sester
Do say: Gloss-ter
One of the prettiest Lower Mid North Coast NSW towns on the map, Gloucester on the Barrington Coast is often mispronounced for its likeness to the British town of Gloucestershire. Punch up ‘ouces’ as ‘oss’ and you’ll score top points whenever you’re referring to the magical mecca of bushwalks, cellar doors and outstanding camping.
Gloucester is surrounded by scenic landscapes. (Image: Destination NSW)
4. Launceston, Tasmania
Don’t say: Lawn-ses-ten or Lawns-ten
Do say: Lon-ses-ten
You may get away with pronouncing Launceston similarly to how it’s spelt but you’ll need to check yourself if you’re chatting to Tassie locals. The wonderful river-facing city, home to so many beautiful historical sites and stunning scenery, should be articulated with a ‘lon’ rather than a ‘lawn’.
Cataract Gorge Scenic Chairlift in Launceston is one of the longest chairlifts in the world. (Image: Tourism Australia)
3. Melbourne, Victoria
Don’t say: Mel-born
Do say: Melben
Slipping in at third position is one of our native language’s most criticised pronunciations – Melbourne. Commonly referred to as ‘Mel-born’ around the world, and for understandable reasons given the spelling, our beloved culture capital is more widely accepted with a rounded off ‘ben’ sound. Again, Straya’.
Melbourne is home to Australia’s oldest train station. (Image: Visit Victoria)
2. Prahran, Victoria
Don’t say: Praa-ran
Do say: Pran
Keeping the curiosity within Victoria, the trendy suburb of Prahran has proved another bone of contention, arriving on the list in second place. Renowned for its outstanding shopping, dining and entertainment, making it a must-explore on any multi-day itinerary of Melbourne, Prahan should be shortened to just a smidge over one syllable to earn authenticity points off locals.
Prahran Market is a one-stop shop for fresh produce in Melbourne. (Image: Visit Victoria)
1. Cairns, Queensland
Don’t say: Kerns or Can
Do say: Cans
Are you one of the savvy few who don’t stumble over Cairns when you’re saying it out loud? You’re sitting in the minority. Coming in at first place is Far North Queensland’s tropical gateway. Perhaps we should blame the Frenchies for tagging their big Cannes film festival with too-similar a name, but the ongoing debate surrounding the pronunciation of Cairns is as robust as the verdict on pineapple-topped pizza. Here it is, once and for all: Cans. Now, there’s no excuse.
It’s the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef but Cairns is a mouthful for many. (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)