Era - error (pronunciation)

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These two words are pronounced differently in British English, although some American speakers realize them in the same way.

  • An era is a period of time. It may mean a long period (as in 'geological era'), or it can indicate a stage in thew history of an organization or an individual. Such a stage is felt to be an important one. Hence politicians often use it to mean 'a stage [felt to be] significantly different from the present', as in "the Thatcher era", to describe a characteristic period in recent British history. In Britain, era is pronounced with a 'long -ee-' vowel in the first syllable: 'EE-ruh', IPA: /ˈiː rə (or ʌ)/.
  • An error is simply 'a mistake'. In Britain, this is pronounced with a short '-e-' like that in 'terror' and 'get': 'ERR e[r]', IPA: /ˈɛr ər /. For many American speakers, this pronunciation is used for both era and error.
This peculiarity of American pronunciation led to a number of bad political puns at the time of President Obama's inauguration (2009), on the lines of "It was the end of the Bush era[/error]."