Rio Olympics 100 Days To Go: OK Everybody, It's Time You Learned How To Pronounce The City's Name Properly

27/04/2016 3:10 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
Raphael Dias via Getty Images
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - FEBRUARY 08: Performers dances during Salgueiro performance at the Rio Carnival in Sambodromo on February 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Despite the Zika virus epidemic, thousands of tourists gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the carnival. (Photo by Raphael Dias/Getty Images)

It's 100 days this Wednesday until the Rio Olympics. They run from August 5 to August 21. Exciting times ahead.

But there's something you should know about Rio. You already know it's one of the world's most beautiful cities. You know, or should know if you've been reading our site lately, that its facilities are 98 percent ready for the Games.

But do you know how to pronounce the city's name? You probably thought you did, but we're guessing you actually didn't.

Brazilian Portuguese is a tricky tongue. Its vowels are all phonetic in sound (which means you say them as you see them), but the consonants have a wicked sense of humour. For example, the letter "t" is often pronounced as a "ch".

The letter "r" is another trap for the unfamiliar. Often it's pronounced more like the letter "h". This applies at the start, middle or end of words. Just to confuse things, you also sometimes say it like a regular "r", albeit with a good healthy tongue roll.

Which brings us to Rio, which as you've probably just guessed, is not pronounced "Rio" at all. It's more like "Hio". Seriously, that's how you say it. "Hio" de Janeiro.

rio carnivale

Yep, that r is pronounced like an h. Heally! We mean really.

But world, we're getting the Janeiro bit wrong too. Two consecutive vowels in Brazilian Portuguese always maintain their individual sounds. You don't run them together as you do in English. Brazilian vowels are staunch individualists. They samba alone.

So you say "Hio de Ja-ne-i-ro". Note that the "ne" part of Janeiro is more "neh" than nee".

But even that's not the whole story. Pronunciation varies from city to city within Brazil. Listen to this audio from HuffPost Brazil's extremely helpful and friendly editor Diego Iraheta and you'll see what we mean. Or at least, you'll hear what we mean.

As Diego explains, the way you say Rio de Janeiro depends on whether you're from Rio or not. Rio natives are called Cariocas. Residents of Brazil's largest city São Paulo are Paulistas. Needless to say, Paulistas and Cariocas have a very different take.

Paulistas, in keeping with their general character, pronounce Rio de Janeiro with with a minimum of flair.

Cariocas pronounce their own city with a dose of Rio attitude. They linger over the pronunciation, drawing out the second last syllable as though to remind you that this is a place like no other.

There's almost a tinge of sarcasm in the pronunciation. It's as though the Cariocas are saying "Hey, you think your city is good? Ha! Well, you haven't been to Hio de Ja-neee-iro, have you?".

But soon we'll all visit, or at least remotely as we watch the Olympics from the couch. Whatever our vantage point, at least we'll know how to pronounce Rio properly. Obrigado, Diego!

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