US-to-UK Word of the Year 2021: "doon"

 Click here for the preamble to the 2021 Words of the Year and the UK-to-US word.

As I discuss in the post at that link, 2021 was a dry year for US-to-UK borrowings. Some might say that's because BrE is already saturated with them. But it feels to me like the UK is feeling a bit more insular these days, and paying less attention to Biden's USA than to his predecessor's, possibly because it was more fun to pay attention to another country when one could pretend their government was messier than one's own, possibly because everyone was watching Korean and French tv.

So, I don't really have a US>UK Word of the Year this year. None were nominated. But I do have a pronunciation.

US-to-UK Word Pronunciation of the Year: Dune

In most BrE dialects (the notable exception being Norfolk—and now probably more older, more rural Norfolk), the spelling du (and tu and su) involves a palatal on-glide, which is to say a 'y' sound before the u. People with this pronunciation would have different pronunciations for dune and doon, whereas for Americans they are generally the same. I've written about this difference before,

The 2021 film Dune had everyone talking, though, and sometimes BrE speakers were using the AmE pronunciation. It's a proper name, after all, and proper names can defy spelling–pronunciation rules. It's kind of like how many BrE speakers do not pronounce the title of Kevin Smith's film Clerks as "clarks". It would feel weird to pronounce the word differently from the people in the film. 

Emma Pavey nominated this pronunciation on Sunday, when I had just heard my London-born sister-in-law say "doon" in reference to the film. And so it is thanks to her that we have any US-to-UK 'of the year' for 2021. She says:

People kept calling the movie by its full name 'Dune or doon or however we're supposed to say it'.
This Australian YouTuber gets pronunciations from the film's cast and director:



Meanwhile, Americans tend not to understand what the fuss is about. 


A US-in-UK friend said pretty much the same thing in the Facebook thread where Emma nominated the pronunciation. If you're not sensiti{s/z}ed to the 'u' versus 'oo' distinction, it just passes you by. But for many BrE speakers, dune isn't just "dyune", it's "June". That's what happens when that d-sound and that y-sound mix. 

I doubt that this will have much effect on the word dune. (I can't say I've been around any BrE speakers who've needed to say it in some time.) But at least some BrE speakers are looking forward to the next instal(l)ment of Denis Villaneuve's Doon

That's it for 2021. Send me your nominations, as you encounter them, for 2022!


  1. Rather like the difference between the American and British pronunciation of Van Gogh, which means I don't always realise why an American pun is funny (they call him "Van Go", while we say "Van Goff"; neither is correct!).

  2. I remember Penny Junor on BBC Travel Show Guides c1990 talking about visiting a "dyude rahnch". That was before we knew "dude" is a clipping of "Yankee doodle".

  3. This is my comment-catching comment!

  4. What about that interviewer's "pronounce-iation" of pronunciation?

  5. I'm Australian, and found the interviewer's pronunciation of pronunciation weird. But maybe that's how the youngsters are saying it these days.

  6. Just because it's a name doesn't mean Brits don't struggle! I had a friend from the South who's surname was Redpath (Redparth) but to my Northern tongue it had to be a short a sound in path.

    I felt awful that I struggled to pronounce her name!

    1. I was born in London but grew up in the north-east. Eventually I learnt how to pronounce "Newcastle" in the local way (but I never picked up a Geordie accent).

  7. (20ish years of UK-in-US). Found myself consciously modifying Dyune to Doon this year because, you're entirely right, it came up *a lot*. Mountain Dew's 'Do the Dew' slogan has two different D sounds when I say it. Happy to add 'palatal on-glide' to the linguistic arsenal. Thanks for the edification as ever.

  8. I remember being startled when Marc Okrand retro-Klingoned 'Klingon' as 'tlhIngan'. The initial consonant cluster is fine, but what's that unrounded vowel doing in the last syllable?

  9. Interesting. I first read the book about fifty years ago - I was at university at the time and I graduated in 1973 - and had no idea that was how Americans pronounce it. Of course, you wouldn't if just reading. I did see the David Lynch film and the later mini-series a long time ago but I don't recall how they pronounced it there. After all, the planet is officially called Arrakis.

    I haven't heard the film name being pronounced either on TV or in person, Not doing much in-person meeting these days.

    When my book club discussed Frank Herbert a few years - all of us British - I'm sure we all pronounced it 'june'.

    I read a lot of US books. Most SF is by American authors. There are words that I know are different in the US but I still read 'math' as 'maths' and 'aluminum' as 'aluminium'.

    A while back there was an xkcd cartoon where someone claimed he called his car [name of 16th century treaty] because it was a 'Tudor compact'. I had to go to the explainxkcd website to discover that Americans would pronounce this 'two-door compact'.

  10. Here in Northern California we have a small town [village] named Tudor. And yes, they pronounce it two-door.
    But, I believe most Americans know how to say Tudor properly, it just lends itself to jokes easily.
    Oh, near Tudor is another small town [village] named Artios- pronounced Are-toys. And that is a whole 'nuther story...

    1. "Most Americans know how to say Tudor properly".
      I've always suspected that Americans really know how to pronounce ALL words properly. They only talk in that weird way to annoy us British!

  11. Incidentally, there is a book by Philip K. Dick I read as a teen that involved a drug called Chew-Z. It was many years after I read it that someone pointed out to me that Dick, being American, meant that to be pronounced "chew-zee".

  12. BrE speaker. Not having read the book or seen the film, it wouldn't have occurred to me to pronounce this word without a 'y'. Dropping the 'y' sound is Norfolk to me. It's also supposed to start with a 'd' rather than a 'j' unless you're being a bit casual.

  13. What I tell you three times is true. :-)

  14. Yes Norfolk. But other parts of East Anglia, too? And in Essex and London north of the river 'Duke' is often 'dook'.


  15. FROM THE GAZA of Goyathlay

    The great American resistance fighter of Sinai southwest Arizona and Mexico North America had an American name spelled in English of "Goyathlay" or "Goyathle".

    His humanly popular name Geronimo or Jeronimo was a Kathlick translation to Saint Jerome and was often assigned to Americans of both South and North America under Spanish Kathlick tyranny.

    He was stuck in captivity within a certain portion of the GAZA of North America OKLAHOMA (Red People Home) by Federal Union military forces.

    It was in this area, near what is now called Lawton OK and Fort Sill OK, that

    Space Shuttle Explosion
    Current COVID World Plague

    were witnessed in September 1973 in a simultaneous Vision given by a UFO Intelligence over a 2-3 hour period.

    It accompanied a massive UFO flap in this area.

    Was unable to reveal this at time because American medicine ceremonies are VERBOTEN by the Invasion Government Over America.

    There is a Law of Nature.

    Human Deviationi$m is ALWAYS within the Borders of the Law of Nature

    Under $urveillance by
    the past 49 years for
    Pro Peace Anti War
    Pro Environment Anti Nuclear
    sentiments and activities.


    Americans are a COMPLETELY SEPARATE Race, a COMPLETELY SEPARATE Culture from those who invaded and destroyed America.


The book!

View by topic



AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)