Bonus Episode 4: Let Me ‘Buoy’ Your Spirits

How do you pronounce ‘buoy’? In this bonus episode, we explore the history of the word and the reasons why the word is pronounced differently in various parts of the English-speaking world.

14 thoughts on “Bonus Episode 4: Let Me ‘Buoy’ Your Spirits

  1. Hello! Thanks for the bonus episode. I am a Hebrew speaker, and I noticed that the original word for bouy, is “bochna”, EXACTLY the word in Hebrew for the part of rubber that separates fluids from gas in tubes or syringes. Close enough to bouy’s meaning… I wonder where it came from…

    • Hi Meirav,

      I don’t have any specific Hebrew resources, so I don’t know if there is a connection between ‘bochna’ and
      ‘bouy.’ I have researched ‘bochna’ but I can’t find anything. Is there another spelling for ‘bochna’?

  2. Hi Kevin,

    Two things:
    1. this is Bonus Episode 4 but there appears to be no Bonus Episode 3 in the list. Did it use to exist but get removed after the topic was talked about in a later episode?

    2. the pronunciation of ‘buoy’ as ‘bwoy’ is one I remember from childhood (I actually estimate that you’re only a few years older than my hubby and I am, BTW) that certain people here in Australia would use. And it actually makes sense when compared to similar constructions of words in certain Romance languages. For instance, ‘buena’ (meaning ‘good’ in Spanish) is pronounced like ‘bwena’.

    • Bonus Episode 3 was a technical message about the podcast feed which was updated back in 2013. I deleted the episode after the feed changes were complete. So there is no Bonus Episode 3 anymore.

    • I have lived in Australia all my life (53 years) and have never heard buoy pronounced as anything but single-syllable “boy”.

      I’m also wondering how Americans say it when you “buoy up someone’s spirits”.

    • Question Laetitia: they “bwoy” pronunciation you mention in Australia, just wondering what part of the country that was from (should you every happen accross this again). It sounds to me like the “southern” accent being from QLD myself.

  3. 33Avery, you could take a second on Firefox or Safari or Chrome or whatever your preferred browser is and simply bookmark He does give the podcast URL at the beginning of each episode.

  4. I have actually heard a different etymology for the word “butterfly.” Rather than a description of its excrement it was a mispronunciation, sort of.

    This etymology asserts that the term was originally “flutterby” which is a description of most people’s experience of butterflys. Eventually the consonants got shifted around a bit and the “fl” and the “b” got inverted so “flutterby” became “butterfly.” The same sort of thing that happens when children struggle to pronounce “spaghetti.” Eventually they learn to say it. But “butterfly” was one where someone (or more likely some group) had trouble pronouncing “flutterby” and the “mispronunciation” stuck.

    I am not a linguist so I may be completely wrong in this. But I thought this etymology was convincing.

    • That’s interesting. I have never heard that etymology before. It isn’t mentioned in any of my sources, but there is an alternate theory that butterflies tended to hover over butter and were thought to steal butter. Dutch and German have similar beliefs and similar words involving “butter” which apparently developed independently of English. This alternate theory is also suggested by the OED.

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