To Err (air?) or to Err (urr)?

Just out of curiousity, how do you pronounce "err" when you pray the Venite?

Growing up in Boston, my natural way of pronouncing it was to "air" because, well, you were just dropping the second syllable of "error," and you don't say "ur-ur," right?

But then I was told here in Ottawa I was wrong, and must say "urr."

Then, I was listening to the downloadable Bible I now have on my BlackBerry and Playbook. It has a great feature where some actor with what sounds like a British accent is reading the King James Bible.  Quite dramatic.  Maybe I'm cheating a bit when, as I pray my office, I have the actor read out loud from my phone or tablet, but hey, I'm at least doing the office, so don't complain!

And, guess what! He says "air" in your hearts.

What say you? Msgr. Burnham?

Author: Deborah Gyapong

Deborah Gyapong is a member of the Sodality of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary ( in Ottawa, a former parish of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (Traditional Anglican Communion) whose members were received individually and corporately into the Roman Catholic Church on April 15, 2012 by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast at St. Patrick’s Basilica. Under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, the community will celebrate an approved Anglican Use liturgy and hopes to soon join with other sodalities across Canada to form the Canadian Deanery of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter under Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary. As we wait for our priest(s) to be ordained as Catholic priests, God willing, Archbishop Prendergast will provide priests to celebrate our Sunday Eucharist according to the Anglican Use. Deborah is a journalist who covers religion and politics in Canada’s national capital, writing primarily for Roman Catholic newspapers since 2004. Her novel The Defilers, published in 2006, was not a best seller, alas. She spent 17 years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in news and current affairs, including 12 years as a television producer.

13 thoughts on “To Err (air?) or to Err (urr)?”

  1. you don't say "ur-ur," right?

    No, but neither do I pronounce error as "airer", which is something I put my clothes on when they come out of the wash (or "Éire", the Irish name for Ireland).

    Here in the UK, I've never heard it pronounced as anything other than the vowel sound in "nurse".

  2. 'some actor with what sounds like a British accent'…It all depends on which part of Britain the 'British accent was from….

      1. On second though, that actually has gotten me interested, now that I've mentioned it; I'd rather like to hear a book reading with heavy Estuary or Yorkshire accent.

        1. "I'd rather like to hear a book reading with heavy Estuary or Yorkshire accent."
          That's easy; just switch on the BBC.

          1. I thought they have the Received Pronunciation?

            Anyway, I stopped being interested and became filled with dread once, in my search of Estuary accent book readings, I found out that former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey approved a Cockney Bible.

            1. You'd probably get different pronunciations from Mgr Burnham and Mgr Newton respectively!

  3. Virginia, USA.

    I always pronounced it "air" until corrected by an Anglican priest after pronouncing it that way while reading the epistle. I double checked the dictionary when I got home, confirmed that he was correct, and have pronounced it "urr" ever since.

  4. To my English ear, it sounds perfect when I say 'err', and when said by an American it probably sounds perfect to the American ear, but when we listen to each other saying 'err' how difficult it must sound to our ears.
    Conclusion: Does it matter when one is lost in prayer to our Lord and God, our diversity is lost in our baptismal union with Christ.

  5. It's urr, although most in some parts of Canada now say 'air'. While we are on the subject, though, keep in mind that people from different areas not only say their vowels in particular ways but also 'hear' others say them in particular ways. I remember as a boy in camp in Canada that we had American boys up from Ohio. They could not say the o in hot to save their lives. It came out, to my ears, as the a in hat. However, they would say h-a-t and h-o-t in ways which, although identical to me, were clearly different to them. So pronunciation is not only about what we say but can also be about what we hear. The mind must interpret the sound.

    To my ears, the a in any, when said by nearly any American, comes out as the i in 'iny'. They also tend to say e in Senator as if it were 'Sinater'. And as for the ou sound in out, about, lout, shout, tout, stout, &c., it all comes out as a long-drawn ow, although it is not identical to the ow in cow but a longer sound.

    Whatever. Here in Canada, an older generation said I'll as 'aisle' instead of as 'all'; and it said you're as ewer, not as 'yore'. We also used to say our medial letters t as tees and not as dees, so that metal was not identical to medal. Some of us keep the distinction but it is being lost as medial tees slide into dees.

    Canadian English was greatly affected by American sounds from 1930 to the present owing to radio and then, in particular, television. Then the B.B.C. t.v productions became wildly popular in the 1980s, no doubt having their own effect. But they seem often to use Northern or Estuary accents. I cannot think of examples of how recent British English from these B.B.C. mysteries has had an effect, but our accents likely shift without us knowing it. As a youth, I visited Northern Ontario and found, to my surprise, that the accent was like the the one I had used on the streets in Toronto but had forgotten. It had unconsciously slided into something else.


  6. I agree with Francis. It's ur as in nurse or fur, and I've never heard anyone in Britain say "air". I'm from Yorkshire, by the way. Maybe "what sounds like a British accent" isn't one after all.

  7. Dear Deborah, do check out hymn #64 in the Blue Hymn Book (Anglican, Canada 1938: "The LORD will come and not be slow, His footsteps cannot err; Before Him righteousness shall go, His royal harbinger." It would appear that John Milton was thinking "urr". DJH+

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