Where Do People Who Say 'Myoozam' Come From?03 Mar 2018 —
It was a nice evening, sitting around a fire under the stars with my new lab a few days after I started grad school. My girlfriend was visiting at the time, and I was gently teasing her about the way she pronounced the word “eggs” (“eygs”).
No one batted an eye.
It was then that she called me out for pronouncing “museum” as “myoo-zam.”
All hell broke loose.
I am just one of those superior human beings who pronounce the word “museum” in two syllables instead of three.1
I have theories as to why I pronounce it like that (interpreting /eə/ before /m/ as the result of a raised /æ/ in Midwestern American English dialects), and I could explain why pronouncing it like that actually makes more sense than the way most people do it, but my lab was having none of it. My pronunciation of that word quickly became a meme that follows me to this very day.
Where does it come from?
Part of why I’m teased so much about it is that this particular linguistic affectation doesn’t seem to a documented to any region or dialect. In fact, half of my family (including my twin brother) doesn’t even pronounce it this way. I could write this quirk off as a one-time “glitch” in human language learning (which happen all the time) but for the fact that my labmates and I have run into other /myoo-zam/ speakers every once in a while.
I have no idea whether (like the X-Men we truly are) us “myoozamers” have popped up spontaneously across the country, or if there is some sort of region where this happens in more. I have scant information that suggests this could be something in western Pennsylvania and Texas, but the data is honestly pretty anecdotal.
I’m trying to get a sense of where this phenomenon is coming from (as well as learning more about Google API–more blog posts on that coming soon), so I’ve put together a survey to collect some basic information.
Please share this with anyone you know who pronounces “museum” as /myoo-zam/ or put it on Twitter so other people can pass it on. If you yourself have this quirk, please take the survey so we can understand what the heck is happening.2 If you have any information you think might be important to solving this mystery, leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter (@zachburchill)!
If you’re interested in collecting this type of data yourself, I’ll be releasing a little tutorial about how I made this survey, Google Map interface, and collection process in a blog post in a little bit, so stay tuned!
Just to be clear, I’m being tongue-in-cheek here. Linguists know that no dialect or way of speaking is “superior” to any other.
With the exception of their own, of course. ↩
This is not a real “study” (i.e., it isn’t funded, it doesn’t represent anyone’s opinions or views other than my own, it will never lead to a scholarly publication, etc.)—it’s just me wanting to sate my own personal curiosity. It has the same seriousness as a Twitter poll, basically. However, the name you put down, which is optional, will never be released without your consent, and neither will your parent(s)’ locations ever be connected with yours (which could conceivably help people identify the data points?). Not that any of that really matters, but still. ↩