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How do you pronounce ‘cinema’?

August 13, 2016

How do you pronounce the word cinema? Do you say it with an unstressed final syllable, like camera? Or do you put a stress on the final syllable so that it rhymes with bra?

Personally I belong to the former camp. Elongating that last syllable sounds a bit showy and unnecessary to me. One doesn’t do it with other words ending in -a: arena, rotunda, pagoda, pizza. Yet my impression is that cinemah is gaining ground. I haven’t observed any particular pattern; it doesn’t seem to be connected to region, or class, or age, or tribe. I wonder perhaps if it’s people who really love the cinema – film buffs, aficianados of the silver screen – who emphasise that last syllable, as if to emphasise the dignity and importance of the medium?

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3 Comments
  1. Simon Carter permalink

    Agree with your pronunciation. In films from the 30’s it was often pronounced as Kinema which seemed interchangeable with cinema. Now kinema feels like the sort of word sit com writers use to portray someone as a bit of a character.

  2. Mark Brafield permalink

    I think you are right about the film buffs who, linguistically, try to invest their chosen medium with a false sense of its weight and cultural significance. I always enjoy their portentous reference to ‘film’ rather than ‘films’ or just ‘the cinema’. Mind you, when my late father was a medical student in India in the thirties, he enjoyed going to ‘the bioscope’, which name he continued to use, without any sense of irony, late into his life.

  3. Simon Carter permalink

    I still call it “going to the pictures”. My dad called films “flicks” which now sounds quite a hipster expression. For some reason “up the pictures” meant broken. As an aside The Biograph cinema in Victoria used to be managed by Henry Cooper’s twin brother George who must have got tired of the double takes he received from people buying a “drink on a stick”.

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