How do you say “Oui”?

Remarkably, the pronunciation of this little word has engendered all sorts of discussion in our family over the past several years.  I am sure that, as we were, you have been taught that the correct pronunciation is “wee”, occasionally with a soft “h” rising at the end.  My Rosetta Stone course rigidly enforces this pronunciation and every dictionary that I have gives the same phonetic too.  However, sitting in the bars and cafes of south-western France listening to the conversation humming around you, you realise that the word that sounds like “way” is, in fact, “oui”.

Keen to do anything that I can to mitigate my obvious foreignness and to integrate by assimilating local customs I decided that I would adopt this pronunciation.  Much easier than  pastis and strong black coffee for breakfast with a chaser of Gauloises!  So, from that moment on this is what I did – say “way”, not “wee”.  Graham was more than dubious about this decision.   I have remained steadfast in my pronunciation since then, merrily “way”-ing my time away in France, slipping only occasionally and using “wee” when I’ve forgotten.

Graham, after listening some more, decided that “way” is slang and, when he was pressed to speak at all (usually in combination with “une grande pression s’il vous plait”) remained equally determined to “wee”, not “way”. 

The other day we were sitting having a post-work afternoon drink on the terrace when our friend Catherine, the notaire’s assistant, dropped by to say “hello, and welcome home”.  Just as she was leaving she answered “Way” to a question, not “wee”.  I jumped on the pronunciation and asked her about “way” vs “wee”.  Catherine’s reply was simple: “We teach our children to say “wee”, but we say “way”.  “Wee” is the correct pronunciation but “way”, particularly in the south-west, is how we say  ‘oui’.”  So, for me at least, “way” it is.

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