Our way of pronouncing things generally stems from our environment. What sounds do we hear when we are growing up? When we go to school we are also influenced by our peers. So when you pronounce the word coupon, it’s generally the same way your family or friends pronounce the word. There are two common ways to say it. These are koopon and kyupon. The more elegant pronunciation is koopon and this is attributed to the fact that it is closer to the French pronunciation. Coupon was originally a French word and was anglicised in the early 1800s according to Dictionary.com.

There are many words that have multiple pronunciations and there are commonly numerous regional differences. A typical example is the family of words including out such as about, shout, out and pout. There is a distinct difference in Canadian pronunciation and US pronunciation and this is one of the more marked examples in language most of us normally consider to be identical continent wide.

English Language and Usage, a site for those who enjoy language issues, brings up the case of words like aged and marked which can be pronounced with either one syllable or two while preserving exactly the same meaning. This site notes that marked with 2 syllables is only for archaic or poetic use, but somehow I missed the boat on that because I always pronounce it as mark (ed) when I want to emphasize how something is distinguished.

Homophones and heteronyms are definitions dealing with words in terms of sound, meaning and spelling. Homophones sound alike but have different meaning and spelling. An example is eye vs. I. Heteronyms are words with the same spelling and different pronunciation and meaning. An example is “Excuse me!” as opposed to “Not another excuse!”

Words are fun to play with and talk about. Sadly, many of our regional differences in pronunciation are disappearing because of global exposure to standardized language from the media. We’ve all grown up listening to TV which has homogenized our speech patterns. For the sake of diversity, let’s celebrate variations in the pronunciation of coupon rather than being snobby about preference.

Twenty years from now, when our children are grown, they will hail us when they see us in town. But will we recognize their voices? Or, will they all have the same cadence and lilt as an NBC reporter? Will their crisp pronunciation and standardized speech be so uniform that we no longer recognize the unique individuals within whom we know and love? Perhaps we should all get out our recorders and capture a tiny bit of regional history before it disappears as completely as Native American languages and song.


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