Wednesday 8 June 2011

E. coli and HUS

credit: BBC
As we probably all know medical jargon is abundant in terms derived from Latin and Greek. None of us, I assume, spent their speech-forming years in an environment in which Classical Latin and Greek were the usual parlance of social life. As a result we are forced to map somehow the Greek and Latin letters and their sound correspondences onto the system of our mother tongue. This task may be easier for a classicist than for the uninitiated who does not hold a Ph.D. in Classics or is a bacteriologist such as Hugh Pennington, Emeritus Professor at Aberdeen University.

He pronounced E. coli as /ˌiː ˈkəʊlaɪ/ in a recent interview to the BBC; this is what LPD offers. (It also contains the pronunciation of Escherichia - q.v.) He did not pronounce the acronym 'HUS', which stands for the full term Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome. What he did use was the full form, which he pronounced as /ˈhiːməlɪtɪk jʊˈriːmɪk ˈsɪndrəm/. But what about the abbreviation. Should it be given an orthoepic or a spelling pronunciation?

credit: BBC

In another interview a BBC journalist asked Dr Dilys Morgan, a representative of the Health Protection Agency, what she thought about /hʌs/ in adults. To which Dr Morgan replied that it was unusual for adults to develop /eɪʧ juː es/.

So you have a choice there!


  1. For Escherichia LPD gives \ˌeʃ ə ˈrɪk i ̮ə\ which is no dout a reliable account of how it's sed in the UK at least by those who use it.
    On finding that it was named after a German scientist called Theodor Escherich whose surname Duden gives (unsurprisingly) as [ˈɛʃərɪç] I'd've been inclined to say /eʃə`rɪxiə/ not being comf·table with [ç]. Looking via Google at the "Free Dictionary" I found $ and £ spoken versions which I he·rd as respectiv·ly [ ˎɛʃərə`ʧiːə] and [ˈɪsˈʧə`rɪʧiə]! What riches!

  2. @JWL:
    To pronounce Escherichia with a velar fricative in between two front vowels is much less comfortable at least for MY articulators. Merriam-Webster online has the same pron as LPD.

  3. Kraut, you can hear some more pronunciations of "escherichia" on FORVO: