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View Full Version : centimeters / sonometers are both pronunciations still correct?


aceplace57
06-18-2010, 09:43 AM
My mom was a RN Nurse for ten years and then a Nurse Anesthetist for 35 years. She always says sonometers instead of centimeters.

Are new people in the medical field still taught to pronounce it that way?

Is there any history behind the alternative pronunciation?

KneadToKnow
06-18-2010, 10:39 AM
This discussion (http://forum.mtecinc.com/Topic61669-4-1.aspx) from another message board suggests that it has something to do with the French.

robby
06-18-2010, 10:50 AM
My wife is also an RN and does the same thing--actually my wife pronounces it as "sahnt-o-meter."

When I asked her why she does this, she insists that it's the correct pronunciation because the word comes from French. My response has always been that the word is now totally English, and we don't pronounce other words (like restaurant) that come from French in an exaggerated faux-French manner. Nobody else in the scientific community in the U.S. pronounces it this way, including chemists and physicists who use the unit routinely.

Personally, I think it's a hypercorrection (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypercorrection) that has spread through the nursing schools in this country. Right out of the wikipeida article, hypercorrections like these are "often combined with a desire to seem formal or educated," which I attribute to an inferiority complex that some nurses have around physicians.

Some of the other medical professions (including physicians, who should know better) have picked it up from the nurses.

If nurses are now pronouncing it as "sahn-o-meter," dropping the "t" sound per the OP, then the hypercorrection is getting worse instead of diminishing.

snailboy
06-18-2010, 10:55 AM
It's a Latin prefix, not a French one. Why would you pronounce it as the French?

KneadToKnow
06-18-2010, 10:59 AM
It's a Latin prefix, not a French one. Why would you pronounce it as the French?

Because the SI (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_System_of_Units#History) got started by the French, not the Romans?

Sailboat
06-18-2010, 11:03 AM
Well, centimeter is a System International (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/System_International) unit. The System International is an improved derivation of the metric system. The metric system was created in...France.

...and was scooped right here in GQ, I see.

Floater
06-18-2010, 11:06 AM
My wife is also an RN and does the same thing--actually my wife pronounces it as "sahnt-o-meter."

When I asked her why she does this, she insists that it's the correct pronunciation because the word comes from French.
And it's not even the proper French pronunciation.

robby
06-18-2010, 12:14 PM
And it's not even the proper French pronunciation.Hence the whole "hypercorrection" discussion above.

Indeed, my wife insists on correcting me when I say it properly.

Quartz
06-18-2010, 02:25 PM
Last time I was in France everyone pronounced the T. I occasionally listen to French radio or TV and they still pronounce it. In French it's son-ti-mett-ruhs.

ETA: a sonometer is something quite different (http://physics.kenyon.edu/EarlyApparatus/Acoustics/Sonometer/Sonometer.html).

snailboy
06-19-2010, 01:34 AM
Because the SI (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_System_of_Units#History) got started by the French, not the Romans?

And they used the Romans' language (and the Greeks'). If they wanted to pronounce it as it originally was, they should give it a hard c.

Last time I was in France everyone pronounced the T. I occasionally listen to French radio or TV and they still pronounce it. In French it's son-ti-mett-ruhs.

They wouldn't pronounce the s at the end.

Quartz
06-19-2010, 03:52 AM
They wouldn't pronounce the s at the end.

Quite correct.

Wendell Wagner
06-19-2010, 08:52 AM
There was a discussion on the SDMB years ago about this. For some reason, at some point, nursing schools began teaching student nurses to pronounce "centimeter" as if the first vowel was a broad "a." It thus sounded like "sontimenter." If someone knows how to search thoroughly enough, you can find the thread from years ago about this.

from_a_to_z
06-19-2010, 09:57 AM
They wouldn't pronounce the s at the end.True. Google Translate, for one, is useful in such cases. Example:
http://translate.google.com/#en|fr|centimeters

heathen earthling
06-19-2010, 10:20 AM
I've never heard of "sonometre," but I'm not around anyone in the medical field. On a related note, why is "kilometre" often (but not always) pronounced with the "metre" part as "mitter," even though this is never done to centimetres, millimetres, etc.? At least in Canada, it's the common pronunciation for more casual uses like giving road directions.

John Mace
06-19-2010, 10:52 AM
My buddy's wife is an MD and she pronounces it that way (sohnt-a-meter). She was never a nurse, btw. Is this strictly a nurse thing, or do doctors generally pronounce it that way, too?

LSLGuy
06-19-2010, 11:11 AM
IANA medical anything. But as a patient I've never heard a US doc use any pronunciation other than CENT-ih-Mee-ter with "cent" sounding like "sent" as in mailed, and "meter" sounding just like gas meter, volt meter, etc.

My experience with other medical personel in an office setting is the same. I've avoided hospitals so far, so I can't offer anecdote on that.



OTOH, it's an utter mystery to me why almost everybody refuses to pronounce kilometer correctly, e.g. KILL-oh-Mee-ter, and also why they think the "gram" part of KILL-oh-Gram is both silent and invisible. Grrr. Bugs the heck outta me.

In that sense I guess iI'm glad the metric system isn't really used in the US. Means I don't have to hear that ignorance every day.

Moonshiner
06-19-2010, 02:54 PM
My wife is an RN and she (and all the other nurses I know) pronounce it Cent-o-meter. The only folks I've heard saying Sahn-o-meter are MDs.

vivalostwages
06-19-2010, 03:11 PM
I've been in med. transcription classes for almost a year now, and about half of the dictators (pathologists, specialists, radiologists) say cent-i-meters and the other half say sahn-ah-meters.

rayman5321
06-19-2010, 04:43 PM
Who cares if someone is a nurse or a Ph.D., it 's cent- a meter.

While I'm at it, it's not kilom-e-ter, it's kil-o-meter. Look at it this way, would you say kilog-gram or kilo-gram?

It all has to do with education..

Thudlow Boink
06-19-2010, 05:22 PM
While I'm at it, it's not kilom-e-ter, it's kil-o-meter. Look at it this way, would you say kilog-gram or kilo-gram?Poll: How do you pronounce 'Kilometer'? (http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/showthread.php?t=557568)

fachverwirrt
06-19-2010, 05:56 PM
On a related note I have always pronounced the musical interval "cent" (1/100 of an equal-tempered half step) as [sEnt], but had a piano tuner a year or so ago who kept pronouncing it as if in French, which I'd never heard.

Aaren Aarnensen
01-09-2016, 09:21 PM
Nearly all men and women who had an undergraduate education in the US had to take physics, chemistry, and biology. There they learned the proper English pronunciation of “centimeter.”

The English pronunciation of “centimeter” (“centimetre,” British spelling), and the French pronunciation and spelling of “centimètre” are all acceptable. I doubt, however, that English speaking physicians and other medical personnel use the French spelling. The French pronunciation by English speaking medical personnel may be an arrogant and/or peer pressure pronunciation which tells the uninitiated that the speaker is special because he/she works in the medical field.

Aaren Aarnensen
01-09-2016, 10:10 PM
I'm sorry I needed to repost/correct the former message because of further important points.

Nearly all men and women who had an undergraduate education in the US had to take physics, chemistry, and biology. There they learned the proper English pronunciation of “centimeter.”

The English pronunciation of “centimeter” (“centimetre,” British spelling), and the French pronunciation and spelling of “centimètre” are all acceptable. I doubt, however, that English speaking physicians and other medical personnel use the French spelling. Furthermore, I do not hear American medical personnel use the proper French pronunciation of “centimètre,”which, phonetically written by Quartz above, is "son-ti-mett-ruh." Note the “mett-ruh," which one doesn’t hear. The imperfect French pronunciation by English speaking medical personnel of “centimeter”may be an arrogant and/or peer pressure pronunciation which tells the uninitiated that the speaker is special because he/she works in the medical field.

Looking for creditability for the mispronunciation of this French word by referring to the French Republic’s 1799 introduction of the metric system, or to the modern form of the metric system, the International System of Units (French: Système international d'unités, SI units), seems far-fetched.

Flyer
01-09-2016, 10:47 PM
Aaren Aarnensen, welcome to the Straight Dope. Please note that this is an old thread, so some of the earlier posters may not be around any longer.

Regarding your last paragraph--if you stay here, you will find that no nit is too small to go unpicked, and the far-fetched is a way of life around here.

John Mace
01-10-2016, 09:38 AM
Aaren Aarnensen, welcome to the Straight Dope. Please note that this is an old thread, so some of the earlier posters may not be around any longer.

Some are 6 sontometers underground.

bob++
01-10-2016, 10:20 AM
Some are 6 sontometers underground.

More than that I hope - at least a fathom.

LSLGuy
01-10-2016, 12:02 PM
More like a centifurlong I reckon. :D

robert_columbia
01-10-2016, 12:31 PM
There was a discussion on the SDMB years ago about this. For some reason, at some point, nursing schools began teaching student nurses to pronounce "centimeter" as if the first vowel was a broad "a." It thus sounded like "sontimenter." If someone knows how to search thoroughly enough, you can find the thread from years ago about this.

Were students ever graded on whether they used the "correct" pronunciation, or was this more of a tradition/school colors type thing?

Wendell Wagner
01-10-2016, 01:07 PM
I only have a vague memory of this thread from four and a half years ago and no memory of the early thread I was referring to there.

robert_columbia
01-10-2016, 01:18 PM
More like a centifurlong I reckon. :D

This thread isn't going much faster than a few centifurlongs per microfortnight - and you have to put an "eee" into "micro" nowadays, like they do in Spanish.

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