General Question

Mariah's avatar

Is "suh-bleem" an accepted pronunciation of "sublime" in English?

Asked by Mariah (24822points) October 12th, 2011

Saw a L’Oreal commercial today that pronounced it that way and made me do a double take. I’m wondering if somehow that bit didn’t get changed from the French version of the commercial. What do you think?

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37 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

Maybe in another country. It’s nothing new for non-americans to pronounce the letter “i” as “e”.

janbb's avatar

Not that I’m aware of.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I’ve heard this, but I also think it’s weird.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Advertisers have always played fast and loose with the language when it suited them. They hope the mispronunciation will grab your attention and make you remember the product.

There is a whole generation that thinks relief is spelled ‘r-o-l-a-i-d-s’.

rebbel's avatar

It sounds more cosmopolitan when they put a foreign word in their ads or so they think.

Mariah's avatar

@WestRiverrat Bahahaha, it worked on me. I’m asking about it, aren’t I? xD

The_Idler's avatar

The pronunciation in French is ‘soo-bleem’

And you know the pronunciation in English.

Do you have a link?

Jeruba's avatar

I imagine they’re playing on the fact that L’Oreal is a Paris-based company, wanting to plant a firm reminder of the French connection without saying it explicitly. Because, of course, you know, if it’s French, it’s better. Right?

Kayak8's avatar

Another commercial advertises sakura blossoms and pronounces it “su KUR uh” instead of “SA ku ra” as the Japanese do (and since it IS a Japanese word, after all . . .)

KateTheGreat's avatar

I heard that the other day and it really caught me off guard. Sounds so weird.

marinelife's avatar

L’Oreal is a French company, and they were pronouncing it in French (presumably to make it sound more upscale).

DominicX's avatar

They are just pronouncing it using a French-like pronunciation, as @marinelife said, to make it sound more appealing. I know there are other examples, but I just can’t seem to think of any :(

gailcalled's avatar

If someone were using the French pronunciation, the first syllable would be a sound not made in English. You shape your lips as though to say “ooh,” (lips are pursed). Then you actually say, “eeeee” through the pursed shape.

“Sou bleem” is a horrible sound of an American pretending to say it the French way and, thus, just, sounding pretentious (or “pray-ten-siuh”).

rebbel's avatar

@DominicX Lah-bow-rah-twahre Veechee Laboratoires Vichy is another one in Holland it is anyway.

bea2345's avatar

I always thought of it as pronounced as spelled: SUB plus LIME. In any case it is one of that long list of words that I don’t speak, only use in writing.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@gailcalled As a person who speaks French, I am raising an eyebrow at your pursed-lip explanation. That seems very odd to me.

gailcalled's avatar

@dappled_leaves: How would you teach an American to pronounce “sur,” “du,” or “une plume”? That trick has always worked for me.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@gailcalled I’ve never tried to “teach” anyone else to make the sound, but at heart, it is still a “u” sound, not an “e” sound – I think I would find it very confusing to be taught that.

If I think about it, I would say I am making a “u” sound, but from the front of the mouth, so to speak. It requires pursing the lips and raising the tongue. Perhaps the raising of the tongue is why you associate it with an “e” sound?

Jeruba's avatar

That same explanation (shape a ‘u,’ say ‘ee’) is used to teach pronunciation of an umlauted u (ü) in German. It’s not the way a native speaker of German forms the sound, I’m sure; but to an American or anyone else who lacks that sound in his or her own language, it seems to work as an approximation.

I imagine that we native speakers of English might be equally surprised at how certain sounds in our language are taught to those who have never had to make them before. It probably makes a big difference which language group the student belongs to, as well, because that would influence the analogies and points of reference used.

gailcalled's avatar

@dappled_leaves: It still works for me. After pursing the lips, making the “ee” sound does bring the tongue behind the lower front teeth. And the sound sounds good to me.

Here’s a similar set of instructions
Open your mouth.

Say O.

Draw out the O until your lips are where they would be to make a W sound.

Purse your lips as tightly as you can.

Keeping your lips pursed, say E.

Voilà the French U!

DominicX's avatar

Phonetically speaking, the sound is the close front rounded vowel, which means tongue forward, touching the roof of the mouth, and the lips rounded, so I think that description’s pretty accurate.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@gailcalled I am not having difficulty following your description, I am simply saying that to tell myself to say “e” when I wish to say “u” grates on my brain. The sound is a “u”, just a different “u” than English speakers are used to. Is it so much more difficult to say “now raise your tongue” as the last step in your recipe than to say “say E”? The result is the same, as @DominicX also describes.

dappled_leaves's avatar

(regardless, this is beginning to stray rather far from the actual question at hand, is it not?)

Jeruba's avatar

@dappledleaves, I think that’s because your understanding of the sound ‘u’ is like that and not like the ‘u’ we hear in English.

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Buttonstc's avatar

It’s just a ridiculous affectation; not the way real people talk in ANY language.

It’s as pretentious as some of Martha Stewart pronunciations.

She’s constantly talking about using a mareh nahhhd to make your meat tastier.

Oh for God’s sake, Martha ! It’s a mareh NAID. Like Lemonade, you nitwit.

You certainly don’t refer to it as lemo nahhhd, do you? So why the fakeyness? It just makes you sound stupid, Martha dear.

Repeat after me now: lemonade, marinade, lemonade marinade.

Do you get it now, Martha?


Everytime I heard that pretentious crap out of her, I had to restrain the urge to reach into the TV set and just bitchslap her silly until she quit doing it.

janbb's avatar

@Buttonstc But tell us how you really feel.

The_Idler's avatar

Solution: do not watch Television.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

“You put the wrong emPHasis on the wrong SylLAble.”

Mike Meyers

gailcalled's avatar

@dappled_leaves: We did get side-tracked, almost, because the question was about a pseudo-French pronunciation of sublime. But it’s interesting, no?

For an American who is learning French, the “u” and the “r” are the most difficult to get right, or close-to-right. My little trick works really well and is far more fun than dealing with “phonetically speaking, the sound is the close front rounded vowel, which means tongue forward, touching the roof of the mouth, and the lips rounded,”

As a native speaker, does your tongue touch the roof of your mouth when saying “u”?

I taught French to third and fourth graders for several years and the tricks loosened up their lips, tongues, muscles and inhibitions.

Buttonstc's avatar


Yeah, I do have my pet peeves. You noticed!

@The Idler

Actually my solution is to stop watching Martha Stewart shows. It’s a shame really cuz she generally has all kinds of useful info on cooking, crafts, home décor, etc.

But you’d be amazed at how often the word “mareh nahhhd” keeps cropping up :)

I don’t even hear it that often on all the shows on Food Network. It’s obviously one of her favorite words. Most likely because it affords her the opportunity to display her (faux) ele gahhhnce :)

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The_Idler's avatar

I meant, for the OP as well =]

Buttonstc's avatar

Oh, OK. That works for me :)

Crzyldy's avatar

I called L’oreal’s 888 number. She said it was because it was a French company. Well the commercial is in an English speaking country. Use the English pronunciation. I may be changing my hair coloring to a USA company.

Crzyldy's avatar

For everyone who commented on how “sublime“is pronounced in French. I am not learning FRENCH. I am listening to an American commercial.

It just adds to the dumbing down of the Americans.

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