The Korean DMZ is all over the news at the moment – in print and being talked about in broadcast news.
As you may know, the letter Z is pronounced differently in British English (Zed) and North American English (Zee). I’ve been asked how Australian news readers and reporters should pronounce DMZ.
In my professional opinion, as a former TV news Deputy News Director and now as a Broadcast Journalism tutor and guest lecturer:
- favour the US pronunciation or Z when saying DMZ
- make sure the newsreader pronunciation is consistent with the pronunciation in the recorded package.
Yes, technically, in British English, Z should be pronounced ZED – but I argue that DMZ is an ‘expression/term’ not just a letter.
When saying Z by itself, I’d say ZED but when it’s said as part of the letter combination, I’d say ZEE.
- DM ZED sounds wrong because we are so used to hearing DM ZEE.
- There have been many DMZ’s throughout history. The Korean DMZ was set up by North Korea, South Korea, the US and the United Nations – and DMZee was the prevalent English pronunciation.
As a young TV news reporter, I once used DMZee and copped lots of complaints from angry viewers who argued Australians should say ZED not ZEE. I understand the Australian resistance to US pronunciation.
However, in the Korean case, I would argue for DMZee.
On first reference, I’d call it by the full title Demilitarized Zone. If I needed to use the abbreviation DMZ, I’d add something like: ‘the DMZee as it’s called in Korea.’
It’s interesting that this is such a momentous and historic event at the DMZ and word nerds are ‘quibbling’ over whether it should be Zed or Zee.
I’m a British English speaker used to saying ZED – but in this case, I personally say and advise media professionals to say DM ZEE.
For the purists, DMZ is also called the DZ – because technically Demilitarized Zone is two words, not three. But in the Korean DMZ, we are used to the three letters – DMZ.