NPR's Weekend Edition touches nerve with their pronunciation of emu

"Ee-mew" or "ee-moo" - do we really need to say it louder? Picture: Shutterstock

It started with a lost pet bird and it ended with an international debate (read: correction) about the pronunciation of one of Australia's national animals.

But let's start at the beginning.

Every weekend American media organisation NPR goes to air with its radio program The Weekend Edition. Last Saturday's line-up included a segment by Stu Rushfield about a woman in Maryland who lost her pet emu.

It turns out the emu, Winston Charles Featherbill, had learned to open the gate with his beak. But while this heartwarming story of how a community got behind one woman's bid to find her pet had a happy ending, it was both Rushfield and the owner of the bird, Cassandra Redding's pronunciation of emu that stole the spotlight.

That's right, they both pronounced emu as "ee-moo" rather than "ee-mew".

Of course, Twitter was fast to correct them, reaching out to Nemesis of Australia - as Rushfield has now called himself on Twitter - because it's not even a matter of accents getting in the way of pronunciation. It's just simply incorrect.

And that's fine. People pronounce things incorrectly all the time. But then they get corrected, they take note and we all move on with our day knowing that at least one of us has learnt something new.

But NPR and Rushfield stuck to their guns on their pronunciation, with the radio journalist tweeting:

"BIG EMU NEWS! After discussions with editors & the NPR RAD team (Research, Archives & Data), the ruling is that ee-moo wins!! The [Oxford English Dictionary's] pronunciation favors ee-mew, this is one of the common words for which NPR doesn't have a standard pronunciation for, & ee-moo is acceptable".

Hold up.

Even though you admit that the Oxford Dictionary states that the correct pronunciation is "ee-mew", you still think you're right? You can't just rule that a word is pronounced a certain way.

Do we go around changing how to pronounce American bald eagle? No. So, lay off our national bird.

At least the US Embassy to Australia gets it.

"After much community consultation, the U.S. Mission Australia will be adopting the ee-mew pronunciation in all future emu-related alliance matters #USwithAUS," it tweeted on Monday afternoon.

The official Twitter account for Winston Charles Featherbill is yet to comment directly on the pronunciation, however, the Maryland emu's account did share a video of John Williamson singing Old Man Emu saying that it was "An Aussie claiming ee-moo".

I'll let you listen and decide for yourself on whether the country singer is pronouncing emu correctly, but I like to think that it's pretty clear that Williamson is singing "ee-mew". As an Australian, he is sure to know the correct way of pronouncing emu.

And just in case it hasn't got through to everyone reading this, I'm going to say it once more for the people in the back. The only correct way to pronounce emu is "ee-mew".

This story 'Ee-mew' or 'ee-moo': The emu who created the 'Nemesis of Australia' first appeared on The Canberra Times.