New Ways of Mispronouncing “Duke”

For some reason, Germans have incredible problems pronouncing the word “Duke”, probably because the [dju] combination does not normally occur in German.

To date, my favourite mispronunciation happens in the German crime thriller Scotland Yard jagt Dr. Mabuse (Dr. Mabuse vs. Scotland Yard) from 1963, wherein a character is consistently referred to as the “Duck of Rampart”.

Meet the Duck of Rampart. Quack, quack.

However, today my students managed a mispronunciation of “Duke” that tops even the “Duck of Rampart”.

The kids were reading a short text about Lady Jane Grey, which then turns into an exercise to teach the passive voice. The sad story of Lady Jane Grey is particularly well suited to teaching the passive, because Jane is largely a passive participant in her own story. She does not make things happen, things happen to her. Besides, the blood and death and drama of the Tudor era usually gets the kids’ interest.

Anyway, the text mentions Jane father-in-law, the Duke (not Duck) of Northumberland. Students usually stumble over Northumberland which is difficult to pronounce for a non-native speaker. But today I had a students read out “the Dutch of Northumberland”. I said, “No, he was English, not Dutch.”

Which is pretty funny, but it gets better. Because later in the same lesson, another student came up with the “Dick of Northumberland”.

I suppressed a laugh, corrected the pronunciation and then asked, “Do you know what ‘dick’ means?”

The students said no, though I saw at least one kid smirking, which suggested that he knew and was too embarrassed to say.

So I said, “Dick can be a nickname for Richard. However, ‘dick’ can also be a colloquial term for penis. So you just called him the penis of Northumberland.”

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4 Responses to New Ways of Mispronouncing “Duke”

  1. Sherwood says:


  2. Estara says:

    I’m amazed you could suppress the laugh. When things like this happen, my visual imagination kicks in right away and I laugh out loud. I usually explain it, too – although I didn’t dare correct one kid’s mispronunciation of “Virginia” as “vagina” recently – I mean we are a boys school – they’d have ragged him mercilessly.

    • Cora says:

      Yes, I suppose the poor guy would have suffered for that particular mispronunciation. Though girls can be just as bad as boys in that regard. In one of my current classes, the worst hellraisers are two girls.

  3. Pingback: Accidental mispronunciations and very rude words in the schoolyard | Cora Buhlert

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