How to Mispronounce at 29,000 Feet

Tibetans call this mountain Jomolungma, or ‘Holy Mother’. Most of the rest of the world knows it as Mt Everest, the highest peak in the world. It’s named after Lieutenant George Everest, British Surveyor-General of India. Or is it?

Mt Everest

photograph by Steve Evans

George Everest oversaw a substantial section of the Great Trigonometric Survey of India, a massive undertaking by the British in the 19th century, to record the topography of the Indian subcontinent, including the heights of the enormous Himalayan peaks. The survey brought Mt Everest to the attention of the British for the first time. Everest’s successor recommended the peak should be named in his honour to recognise the time he had spent surveying the region. In 1865, the Royal Geographical Society formally adopted Mt Everest as the mountain’s name.

George Everest

George Everest: Wikipedia Commons (Public Domain)

So the answer is yes, it was named in honour of George Everest. But the name that we’re familiar with is not quite the same as the Surveyor-General’s surname, because it’s now universally mispronounced. In The Great Arc, a book about Everest’s surveying work in India, author John Keay writes:

“The name … was pronounced not ‘Ever-rest’ (like ‘cleverest’), but ‘Eve-rest’ (like ‘cleave-rest’). That was how the family always pronounced it, and the Lieutenant would not have thanked you for getting it wrong.”

Everest died in 1866, one year after his name was adopted for the world’s highest peak.

How high is Mt Everest?

8,848m (29,029ft) is the officially accepted height of Mt Everest. Recently, Nepal and China have been engaged in a dispute about the height; Nepal arguing for the official height, and China claiming the peak is 4m shorter. That 4m is the difference between the height of the mountain with or without snow.

Archived under Geography.

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