Radio Show

Two Ways of Pronouncing ‘Amen’

Even after all these years on Sirius XM, a radio listener can still call the Busted Halo Show with a question for Father Dave that he’s never been asked before. That’s what happened on a recent show when a caller asked: “AH-men versus AY-men … Is there a correct way to pronounce it?”

Brett says that, for him, it depends on the context: “It’s a split. There are certain times when it’d be AY-men and certain times when it’d be AH-men.” For example, it would sound funny to him to hear someone say, “Can I get an AH-men?” when we’re used to hearing it pronounced “AY-men” in that instance. On the other hand, while singing “The Great Amen” during Mass, you would sing “AH-men” instead of “AY-men.”

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Father Dave highlights the fact that the caller wants to know if one of the pronunciations is more legitimate than the other: “I would imagine that you would bump into people who would say ‘AH-men’ is more traditional or more reverent … However, it’s one of these words that doesn’t — like ‘Alleluia’ — [perfectly] transliterate into all languages, [so] there’s gonna be different pronunciations. If you’re in the English-speaking United Kingdom or Australia, I’m banking that they’re saying ‘AH-men,’ so it’s more of an [Americanized] version of this English word that’s been carried over from the [Latin] … But like anything else, people sometimes feel a little bit more ‘high church’ or highfalutin if you [really anglicize] it and say ‘AH-men.’”

At the end of the day, though, Father Dave says: “I’m going to very confidently say that there is no official teaching [on the pronunciation] — aside from singing, where you might see a liturgical music [preference].”

But that’s not the end of the discussion. Father Dave was so interested in this question that he came back to it the next day. While recording his homily, Father Dave decided to let the microphone continue recording as he distributed Communion, so that he could hear the congregants’ pronunciation of “Amen” upon receiving the Body of Christ. Though it’s hardly a wide enough sampling to be considered scientific, Father Dave, Brett, and Mike listen in on the responses and find that there’s a fairly even split between “AH-men” and “AY-men.”

So, AH-men or AY-men? How do you say it? (Original Air 05-03-17)


Photo credit: Alyssa Brooks at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia. (CNS/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)