In Ronin, when Robert De Niro's character is trying 'interrogating' Sean Bean's character, he mispronounces the place name 'Hereford'*.

In the film he constantly says 'Hear-ford' as opposed to the proper pronounciation of 'Hair-Re-Ford'.

I can see two explanations:

  1. Out of universe: It's just the 'normal' American mis-pronounciation of UK place names. However, I'd have thought Robert De Niro would have known better and certainly Sean Bean (being English) would know how to pronounce it.

  2. In universe: It just proves that Robert De Niro's character is purely messing with Sean Bean's character as he doesn't know how to pronounce Hereford either, which he would if he'd visited and/or trained there.

So, which is it? Or, is it something else? Is there any secured information if this was part of Robert De Niro's character's plan of calling out Sean Bean's character as an impostor?

*Note - Hereford is where the SAS are based in south-west England.

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    Why would an American know that it's pronounced "hair-re-ford"? "here" is an English word and it's pronounced the same way as "hear". Brits constantly mispronounce "fillet" as "fill-et" instead of "fill-ay"... no one tries to fix that, either. – Catija Aug 15 '16 at 15:20
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    @Catija actually, the Old French pronunciation would have included the t, thus the British English is correct and Americans just sound like they're trying to be fancy :p – OrangeDog Aug 15 '16 at 17:53
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    @maguirenumber6 It bugs me because I only live 20 miles from Hereford ! – Pat Dobson Nov 9 '16 at 15:13
  • @PatDobson Really? Where abouts, if I might ask? :) – maguirenumber6 Nov 9 '16 at 20:04
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    @maguirenumber6 - Forest of Dean – Pat Dobson Nov 10 '16 at 8:12

I think you're reading too much into that dialogue. DeNiro's character is definitely someone with a very American accent. It has a Bronx/New Jersey flavor to it, I think. Even so, while he doesn't distinctly pronounce with three syllables, it's not distinctly two, either. It sounds like he wants to pronounce it with three, but is too linguistically lazy to enunciate it. That's a matter of opinion, though, for sure.

But that's really besides the point. There is nothing to indicate that Sean Bean's character doesn't know how to pronounce it. With DeNiro's character in his face, confronting him for being a fraud and choking him, his not taking the time to say "Hold up, mate, you're pronouncing that like a Yank" really has no particular significance. Also, when the German later asks about it, he does use the three syllable pronunciation, but doesn't bother to discuss or correct DeNiro's pronunciation, so whether or not someone takes note of it, it has been demonstrated that you can know the correct one, and not take issue with a secondary or slightly mispronounced usage by someone else.

An American, talking with an American accent.... none of these mercenaries, worrying about a gun fight and getting paid, cares enough to get pedantic about it if they know what he's referring to. I don't think that implies some sort of deeper subterfuge on his part, because even never having been there, there's no doubt Bean's character from the UK, so that wouldn't effect how he'd pronounce a British city spelled that way.

  • I agree (mostly), and I think it is extremely unlikely that a Brit would not know the pronunciation of Hereford. I also, however, think it would have been a bit better if the De Niro character had have pronounced it properly. If he had then it would be more convincing that he, personally, was familiar with SAS/ ex-SAS personal (I am kind of presuming he probably is, regardless of whether they were mercs or otherwise). – Cheesus Toast Dec 9 '18 at 21:51
  • @CheesusToast - One of our recent presidents had the launch codes to decimate the planet, but couldn't be bothered to pronounce "nuclear" correctly. I correctly used the term "voila" since I was a child, but only recently recognized it for what it was in written form. Sometimes I know I'm not pronouncing a word or place like a native speaker does, but figure that butchering everything else and then being pedantic about one word just looks foolish and pretentious. There's nothing about him pronouncing it like an American that detracts from the idea that he knows where the SAS base is located. – PoloHoleSet Dec 10 '18 at 16:29
  • yes, I guess he could have simply looked it up/ read it and not known any SAS people himself. Maybe Sean Bean's character could have gotten out of trouble by saying, "What boathouse?" All would have been fine then and he wouldn't have ruined his trousers and got scolded by hot coffee. – Cheesus Toast Dec 14 '18 at 5:27
  • @CheesusToast - when a Sean Bean character does not perish in spectacularly gruesome fashion, that's considered a win. – PoloHoleSet Dec 14 '18 at 14:51

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