Monday, 18 January 2016

A-g-nother g-nu

In the recent series of University Challenge: The Professionals, shown at Christmas time, Jeremy Paxman asked a question involving a gnu. A gnu is an animal, also known as a wildebeest. Here's what they look like:

Brilliantly, Wiktionary captions this photo as 'a few gnus'
It's pronounced the same as 'new', where the 'g' is not silent, exactly, because it changes the pronunciation of the 'n', but it's not pronounced as a /g/. However, in the well-known Flanders and Swann song The Gnu, some of the joke is centred around the pronunciation /gnu:/, with a hard 'g'. This animal isn't that commonly talked about, so you most often hear it in the context of this song, which means that it can be quite hard to remember it's not actually pronounced /gnu:/. Paxman apparently failed to remember this as well, as he pronounced the 'g' when he said it. I'll add this to the list of 'language influenced by comedy'.

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