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How is "Uranus" Pronounced?

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Question: How is "Uranus" Pronounced?

You somewhat expect the laughter from school children, but discussion of the 7th planet from the Sun elicits giggles from even my college students. The question is though, is it necessary? As it turns out the preferred pronunciation of Uranus actually doesn't sound funny at all. So how should we pronounce Uranus?

Answer:

I have to admit, when I was a young lad I found the word Uranus quite funny. It sounded dirty. This is because most people pronounce it like "your anus". So it's unsurprising that it is often met with a chuckle.

Later in life while studying physics at University, I was corrected by a fellow student and told that the proper pronunciation for Uranus was "urine iss" with the emphasis at the beginning of the word. Not quite as funny.

But which is it?

One Word, Two Pronunciations

It turns out that both pronunciations are correct. The classic, potty mouth version (specifically ū·rā′·nəs) places the emphasis on the long "A" sound, leading to the outpouring of laughter.

In contrast, the latter version (ūr′·ə·nəs) places the emphasis on the long "U" while the long "A" sound is replaced with a short "E". As it turns out this pronunciation is the one preferred among academics, perhaps because it most closely resembles where the emphasis is placed in the Latin from which it is derived.

However, a more simple reason may be because it saves some slight embarrassment and stops the students snickering.

So Which Do You Choose?

So which one should you use? Well, it's up to you. Personally I utter the latter, but not because it sounds less dirty. But rather I think that placing the emphasis at the beginning of the word is more in line with its origins.

Of course if you just want to get a laugh you can always pronounce it the other way. And hey, while you're at it, don't forget to point out that Uranus is large and gassy! What!? It's made mostly of ice and gas and it's much larger than Earth. What'd you think I meant?

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