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February 2, 2015 8:51 AM   Subscribe

A list of shibboleth names, with correct pronunciations.
posted by Iridic (277 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
 
Worth the price of admission for Ayn Rand alone.
posted by chimaera at 8:53 AM on February 2, 2015 [45 favorites]


The Ayn Rand one makes me want to carefully re-read all the others to see if I am missing additional jokes, but life's too short.
posted by SharkParty at 9:00 AM on February 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


John Bigboote (big-boo-tay)
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:03 AM on February 2, 2015 [39 favorites]


No Brett Favre?
posted by ckape at 9:04 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jacques, Shakespeare character (jay-kwiss)

Really?
posted by GuyZero at 9:05 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't have the emotional capacity to forgive the English for ruining a perfectly hilarious surname like that. Coburn. Please.
posted by phunniemee at 9:07 AM on February 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


Don Juan, Bryon character (sic)

Not sure how much good it'll do pronouncing the character correctly if you get the author's name wrong.
posted by jedicus at 9:09 AM on February 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


We shouldn't limit this to names, though:

epitome (precocious early readers have difficulties)

espresso (there's no 'x')

sherbet (no second 'r')

February (where the 'r' in sherbet went)

mauve (moave)

often ('t' is silent)

interesting (three syllables, not four)
posted by leotrotsky at 9:10 AM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Jacques, Shakespeare character (jay-kwiss)

Really?


To be fair only one of the Jacques in Shakespeare is pronounced that way.

Compare with the English title "marquis", pronounced "mar-kwiss".
posted by jedicus at 9:14 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


In the UK we have a politician by the name of Menzies Campbell. There is literally only one person (a fellow Scot) in the whole of the media who used to pronounce his name right. Everybody else just resorted to a semi-wrong "nickname".

(PS Farquhar should rhyme with 'fucker'. And by rhyme I mean 'sound the same as'.)
posted by Thing at 9:15 AM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Interesting with four syllables is correct if you are steepling your fingers.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:15 AM on February 2, 2015 [57 favorites]


Actually, Tony, I think you’ll find it’s “Ignoramuses”.

What?

It’s from the Latin: we are ignorant. That makes it a verb, not a noun.

Oh no. What have I done?
posted by leotrotsky at 9:15 AM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


The ones that I knew already all check out as correct, so I don't think this is a joke, Rand excepted. That said?

Paul Klee is pronounced "Paul Clay?" Really?

Huh.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 9:16 AM on February 2, 2015


Compare with the English title "marquis", pronounced "mar-kwiss".

That always annoyed me, along with "leftenant."
posted by Foosnark at 9:16 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


No mention of the dreaded St. John (Sinjin) Rivers from Jane Eyre...
posted by thomas j wise at 9:17 AM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


A professor I had in college, born in Newcastle UK of German parentage, pronounced Goethe as "go-EE-thee" with confidence and authority. I always assumed that was a British-English thing (I've heard BBC announcers pronounce junta with a /dʒ/) but now I'm starting to think he was trolling us.
posted by theodolite at 9:19 AM on February 2, 2015


But why does NPR say Car-NEGIE when everyone else in America says CAR-negie?

Also: Max VAY-bur.
posted by scratch at 9:19 AM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


It disturbs me that this person appears to be doing some of the same obscure-yet-snob reading that I am doing (Sebald and Wojnarowicz in particular - I mean, there are lots of difficult names in the world). I wonder if we've read the same book reviews, or if they're the one who wrote the reviews. Is it the zeitgeist driving us both, or am I alone the dedicated follower of intellectual fashion?

Also, if you grow up around Chicago, Wojnarowicz is not a difficult name to pronounce. That's what I love about living in Minnesota - everyone gets all disturbed by any longish name with z in it.

And also, really, Lupita Nyong'o's name is not difficult to pronounce. It's pronounced just as it's written.

I went to school with a Taliaferro-pronounced-Toliver, but my favorite name of this sort is Featherstonehough-pronounced-Foon.
posted by Frowner at 9:20 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jacques, Shakespeare character (jay-kwiss)

Really?


Actually, it's usually pronounced JAY-quease by the Shakespeare scholars I know. We don't really know for sure, though, how Shakespeare's actors would have pronounced it. We do know that they gave it two syllables because of the way the lines in which his name appears scan. (Similarly for Byron's "Don Juan"--except he gives us even more of a guide by frequently using the name as a rhyme word: "Juan" rhymed with "true one," for example).
posted by yoink at 9:21 AM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


mauve (moave)

Is not!
posted by billiebee at 9:21 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


No mention of the dreaded St. John (Sinjin) Rivers from Jane Eyre...

That messed me up so much when I was a kid. (Funnily enough How Did This Get Made harped on it in their episode on View To A Kill but nobody corrected them.)
posted by kmz at 9:22 AM on February 2, 2015


Also: Max VAY-bur.

Isn't it Mocks VAYbur?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:23 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


(I've heard BBC announcers pronounce junta with a /dʒ/)

This is absolutely the only way to pronounce the word in England. If you began the word with /h/ few would know what you mean.
posted by Thing at 9:26 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Duh. Boys.
posted by themanwho at 9:27 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I took creative writing from Coetzee and we all said "c'tz-AY-uh", with the short vowel at the beginning somewhere between "cut" and "could." But this says that many South Africans pronounce it "c'tz-EE-uh" and he himself says "c'tz-EE." In any event, the first syllable definitely doesn't rhyme with "toot" as the page suggests.
posted by escabeche at 9:27 AM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


So much class anxiety.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:28 AM on February 2, 2015 [13 favorites]


i once addressed wedding invites for a friend.

they invited a family by the name of LaMontaigne.

It is pronounced Lamonty by this family, which hails from the midwest. It's like the Monty from Python, with a La in front. Not even a mon-TAY. Mon-tee.

My years of French were hurting. I felt almost physical pain at this. I may have shivered in repulsion.
posted by sio42 at 9:28 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


But why does NPR say Car-NEGIE when everyone else in America says CAR-negie?

Saith the NY Times...it's because the former is right and the Carnegie Corporation is adamant that people pronounce it correctly. They informed NPR of the proper pronunciation.
posted by inturnaround at 9:29 AM on February 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


I have a theory that Romeo (in Romeo and Juliet) is actually pronounced Row-me-oooh, because then his first and last name rhyme (as is the case with Juliet).

I appear to be alone in this theory.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:33 AM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


(precocious early readers have difficulties)

"macabre" was my Waterloo
posted by thelonius at 9:33 AM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Mine was erudite, pronounced eh-rude-itay.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:37 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am skeptical of a few of these pronunciations (or at least there are a few people here who I know a lot about and whose names I've never heard said or Anglicized exactly this way), and some of them, without a lot more information about the sociology of the speakers the author is imagining, do not seem to be shibboleths at all (who exactly mispronounces "Proust" and how?).

But others have more shibboleth value than this even acknowledges and in weirder ways. Like which parts of "Walter Benjamin" you anglicize and which you don't — there are at least three versions in active use by some circle of people who know his work well, but you can still make some guesses about a person's tribal membership depending on which one you hear them use.
posted by RogerB at 9:37 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dezső Kosztolányi (that-snaw-tuh nei-mizz-it)
László Krasznahorkai (izz-thiss sum-kain-duhv-joak)
Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (seer-ee-yuss-lee wutt-thuff-uck)
posted by DaDaDaDave at 9:37 AM on February 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


Paul Klee is pronounced "Paul Clay?" Really?

It's a Dutch name, so yes. But then if you do that you should probably also say his first name correctly, as Paul is pronounced "Pau-well" in Dutch. However Paris is pronounced "Pa-ree" in French and it's not like anyone does that when conversing in English, so I wouldn't worry about it excessively.
posted by Shatner's Bassoon at 9:38 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


uh, since we're here: how is Piet Mondrian's first name pronounced? Silent t or not?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:39 AM on February 2, 2015


My years of French were hurting.

Going to particularly Louisiana, I have no idea how to pronounce many peoples' and place names, only a comically bad and/or incomprehensible notion by local standards.

"Farve" is a great example. To me, it looks like it should have two syllables and is missing an accent on the final e. But, of course, that is wrong.
posted by bonehead at 9:39 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


sherbet (no second 'r')
Around here, that's common, along with 'ga-rarge'.

I always thought it would be cool for a math team in Texas to be called the 'Houston Eulers', but I guess that shows my age.
posted by MtDewd at 9:39 AM on February 2, 2015 [13 favorites]


I am thirty-five years old and about, oh, a month ago, I noticed that second "T" in "detritus" for the first time in my life.

I then experienced a horrifying sensation of being hurled backwards through time trying to recall every single instance where I ever wrote or said "detrius" in front of another person.

This seemed like the place to share
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:39 AM on February 2, 2015 [50 favorites]


Mine was erudite, pronounced eh-rude-itay.

Well, obviously, because erudite people eat crudites. (Which is to say, I also had this confusion.)

how is Piet Mondrian's first name pronounced? Silent t or not?

Like "Pete", if it's the same as the professor I had with the same first name.
posted by dorque at 9:40 AM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Recently learned: "Vikram Seth" rhymes with (and is equimetrical with) "Golden Gate".
posted by kenko at 9:42 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, if you grow up around Chicago, Wojnarowicz is not a difficult name to pronounce.

Goethe on the other hand...
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:42 AM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


How to Pronounce Panties.

How To Pronounce Idris Elba.

How to Pronounce Mayonnaise.
posted by four panels at 9:46 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Goethe on the other hand...

Amusingly, my father made much of the correct pronunciation of "Goethe", "Maugham" and "Evelyn Waugh" and as a result no one in my English classes ever knew who I was talking about.
posted by Frowner at 9:46 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


and here i am, trying to pronounce "foals"
posted by rebent at 9:48 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


A friend did know a guy who had read quite a lot of continental theory as basically a lonely little nerd in the provinces and for whom Michel Foucault was "Michael Fuckallt". Which seems appropriate in a number of ways.

Also, seriously, this kid had read all this Foucault totally off his own bat just because he wanted to and with no peers around to talk about it or to be motivating. Which impressed me even when I was young and snobbish.
posted by Frowner at 9:49 AM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


who exactly mispronounces "Proust" and how?

I've heard it rhymed with "roust" a lot.
posted by yoink at 9:50 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


who exactly mispronounces "Proust" and how?

I've heard it rhymed with "roust" a lot.


I've also heard the hypercorrection "proo".
posted by dorque at 9:51 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Featherstonehough-pronounced-Foon.

"Fanshaw," yes--but "Foon"? At that point someone is just pulling someone else's leg.
posted by yoink at 9:53 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Colm Toíbín (column toe-been)

This pronunciation is only surprising because they fucking spelled his name wrong. It's Colm Tóibín, fada over the o.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:53 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


... a family by the name of LaMontaigne. It is pronounced Lamonty by this family, which hails from the midwest

Let me guess, St. Louis?
posted by exogenous at 9:55 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


(who exactly mispronounces "Proust" and how?).

Monty Python, for one (in the "Summarize Proust Competition" sketch -- as noted above, pronounced to rhyme with "roust").
posted by holborne at 9:56 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Vincent Van Gogh, anyone?
posted by leotrotsky at 9:57 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Now do 'Hfuhruhurr' and 'Uumellmahaye'.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:57 AM on February 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


Ellen DeGeneres
posted by Rock Steady at 10:03 AM on February 2, 2015


Vincent Van Gogh, anyone?

Americans pronouncing Van Gogh as Van Go is a great way to feed into our European smugness. Don't go changin'. My ex and I also liked to pronounce Leicester in an "American" accent - "Say, can you tell me the way to Lie-Chester Square? Is it near Edin-boro?" (We were easily amused.)
posted by billiebee at 10:04 AM on February 2, 2015


Re: Goethe

Sacramento has several streets, parks, buildings, and schools named after Charles M. Goethe (generally pronounced "gatey" by locals), an entrepreneur, land developer, philanthropist, and conservationist who founded Sac State...

And he also founded the Eugenics Society of Northern California.

So now lots of things in the area that were initially named in honor of this racist fuckhead are being renamed. The C.M. Goethe Arboretum is now the University Arboretum, Goethe Park is now River Bend Park, and, best of all, Charles M. Goethe Middle School is now Rosa Parks Middle School.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:05 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Americans pronouncing Van Gogh as Van Go is a great way to feed into our European smugness

I imagine the Dutch would laugh just as much at our equally inaccurate "Van Goff"!

Anyway, I hope you're all pronouncing my name correctly.
posted by sobarel at 10:06 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Likert" (as in Likert scale or Likert-type item) is an obscure one that comes up in my academic and professional circles. Most people pronounce it with a long i (like urt) but the family pronounces it with a short i (lick urt). NPR (or perhaps PRI) had an interview with one of the family members a few years ago and this came up.
posted by ElKevbo at 10:07 AM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


I feel like I need to know more about who this Lazenby person is to understand "his" idea of snobbery. "He" seems to be a New Inquiry person, which maybe helps a bit to get a picture of what social circle's membership these shibboleths are supposed to mark.
posted by RogerB at 10:08 AM on February 2, 2015


The thing that made me laugh from the list was the inclusion of a place known to certain circles in my hometown as Naca-nowhere.
posted by immlass at 10:11 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


My ex and I also liked to pronounce Leicester in an "American" accent - "Say, can you tell me the way to Lie-Chester Square? Is it near Edin-boro?" (We were easily amused.)

In America, we feel that you people are just too lazy to pronounce all the syllables. Marylebone, Cholmondeley, Worcestershire...anyone else would be embarrassed.
posted by Frowner at 10:13 AM on February 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also, I grew up near Des Moines, which is pronounced Dez Moynes. And Joliet, pronounced Joelee-ette.
posted by Frowner at 10:14 AM on February 2, 2015


I don't have time for this, I'm going to go to chi-pole-te and get some lunch.
posted by jferg at 10:15 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ain't nothin' wrong with Missouri French, exogenous.
posted by BlueJae at 10:16 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


No mention of the dreaded St. John (Sinjin) Rivers from Jane Eyre...

You need only look in on the resident djinn, number seventy simmery axe!
posted by Navelgazer at 10:17 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I read an article about Jerry Brown and how his Jesuit background informed his behavior. The writer recounted an interview with William Safire in which Brown referred to "sign-eck-doash." The Safure commented using the correct pronunciation of synechdoche. Brown immediately chimed in, "Is that how it's pronounced? I've only read it."

Oh, and misprounounced French? I grew up in South Dakota, whose capital is Pierre, prounounced "peer."
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:17 AM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Ahz-weep-ay

But the grand prize for class irony has to go to Versailles, Kentucky. I have a feeling the author's head would explode.
posted by rhizome at 10:18 AM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Worcestershire

Oh cheers, I'd forgot about that one! "May I please have some Wor-chester-shire sauce?" Ahahaha! Aw, you guys. :)
posted by billiebee at 10:19 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


who exactly mispronounces "Proust" and how?

I've heard it rhymed with "roust" a lot.

I've also heard the hypercorrection "proo".


I wonder if the "proo" people would accidentally get it right with Annie Proulx, or if they'd think, "Naw, it can't be pronounced the same as Proust" and have tangled themselves up in more overcorrective knots.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:19 AM on February 2, 2015


Also, I grew up near Des Moines, which is pronounced Dez Moynes. And Joliet, pronounced Joelee-ette.

Frowner, are you thinking of Des Plaines (Dez Playnes)? Des Moines was always Duh Moyne in my neck of Joelee-ette.
posted by jabes at 10:19 AM on February 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


Is it near Edin-boro?

Yeah, everyone knows its "Ed-in-berg."
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:21 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK, so I looked it up, and I've been mispronouncing "shibboleth" wrong for forever. With a long o in the middle, and the stress on that syllable.

/rube
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:21 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think I am thinking of Dez Playnes. It's been a while, and around here everything is named all kinds of rural-utopian names - Eden Prairie and so on - which are unevocative but easy to pronounce.

Dez Playnes!!! I never actually went to Dez Playnes, though, or even Joelee-ette. They remained far, exotic destinations for my entire childhood. Gosh, I kind of miss Chicagoland.
posted by Frowner at 10:22 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK, so I looked it up, and I've been mispronouncing "shibboleth" wrong for forever.

*GASP*

FAKER!
posted by Navelgazer at 10:23 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


OK, so I looked it up, and I've been mispronouncing "shibboleth" wrong for forever.

It's an Ephraimite! Let's get him!
posted by theodolite at 10:23 AM on February 2, 2015 [42 favorites]


I like to pronounce it 'sibolet', just to brush against the nap.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:24 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some of these are correct, but some are wrong.

-"Chinua Achebe," for instance, would be said more like "CHIN-wa" than "CHIN-oo-ah"

-"Barthelme" is pronounced "BART-uhl-me," not "BARTH-uhl-me"

A lot of these boil down to idiosyncratic pronunciations of non-English words. But since we are speaking English, we really shouldn't worry too much about how a Gaelic or German or Afrikaans word is pronounced by native speakers of those languages.

I did enjoy this, however:

Ayn Rand (well-fare recipient)

Heh.
posted by clockzero at 10:25 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


In Windsor, Ontario the locals pronounce Pierre Street as pee-ree.
posted by rocket88 at 10:25 AM on February 2, 2015


I think I am thinking of Dez Playnes. It's been a while, and around here everything is named all kinds of rural-utopian names - Eden Prairie and so on - which are unevocative but easy to pronounce.

I do enjoy watching people tie themselves in knots over things like "Wayzata."
posted by dorque at 10:27 AM on February 2, 2015


oh man the Versailles... i did customer service many, many years ago and we had that city as part of our service area. sweet jesus christ it hurt me to say Ver-sales.

and the LaMontys were from Wisconsin.
posted by sio42 at 10:27 AM on February 2, 2015


since we are speaking English, we really shouldn't worry too much about how a Gaelic or German or Afrikaans word is pronounced by native speakers of those languages

I disagree when it comes to someone's actual name. It's kind of rude to get someone's name wrong and say, well I talk English so that's how I say it.
posted by billiebee at 10:27 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Des Plaines (Dez Playnes)

I grew up one town over. The extremely local pronunciation collapses the name into a single word: "Displaynes."
posted by Iridic at 10:29 AM on February 2, 2015


Oooh, a fun one. Mount Everest is named after George Everest (the Surveyor General of India), but pronounced differently.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:29 AM on February 2, 2015


Jacques, Shakespeare character (jay-kwiss)

Really?


As pointed out above, it is hard to separate the jokes from the valuable advice from the hubris-based errors, but the character in As You Like It is JAQUES, not Jacques.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:30 AM on February 2, 2015


Paul Klee is pronounced "Paul Clay?" Really?

I literally got the eye-roll response from two artists/art students when I pronounced it Klee (like Lee).
posted by sutt at 10:31 AM on February 2, 2015


Missing Leonhard Euler (oiler).
posted by palbo at 10:31 AM on February 2, 2015


"Chinua Achebe," for instance, would be said more like "CHIN-wa" than "CHIN-oo-ah"

"-wa" is just "oo-ah" said at normal speed. In other words, so long as the stress is on the "CHIN," there will be no audible difference between a person saying "CHIN-wa" and "CHIN-oo-ah."

-"Barthelme" is pronounced "BART-uhl-me," not "BARTH-uhl-me"

According to this site, his brothers pronounced their family name with a "th" (they render it "BAR-thel-me" but the effect is the same).
posted by yoink at 10:31 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Michel Foucault (foo-coe)

It's foo-coe, isn't it? Maybe they're thinking of butt-a-foo-coe?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:32 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


there's a small town around called Red Lion. i swear to god i was at least 10 before I realized it was "retline" - as close to one syllable as you can get it.

i saw a bus one day that said Red Lion on the side and this dawning comprehension came over me.


we also have a Lancaster. round these parts we say Lank-aster. If you are not from here, you probably say Lan-cas-ter. there was some movie made a loong time ago that had some Amish in it (which some people around here pronounce Aim-ish instead fo ahm-ish), and the Amish said Lan-cas-ter and the newspapers and tv news were all in an uproar because no Aim-ish would ever say "Lan-cas-ter".

sigh.
posted by sio42 at 10:32 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


The town of Buena in New Jersey is pronounced BYOO-na. Just to screw with your high school Spanish.
posted by graymouser at 10:33 AM on February 2, 2015


I live on Goethe Avenue. We south-city white trash pronounce it ['go thee], hard th. Any time I'm giving my address over the phone, I mention this, and spell it out, and make sure to note that I *do* know how to pronounce it correctly.

It's reflexive, like not stepping on cracks to break your mother's back, in case my wife's best friend - a native German speaker - would cringe so bad she'd have permanent scoliosis.
posted by notsnot at 10:34 AM on February 2, 2015


Squeeeeeeeeeeeeps! (/skweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepz/)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:35 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


dorque: I do enjoy watching people tie themselves in knots over things like "Wayzata."

My brother-in-law is from Wayzata. It took me a long time to not instinctively pronounce it as it's spelled. (The true pronunciation is something like "WISE etta.")
posted by ocherdraco at 10:36 AM on February 2, 2015


but the character in As You Like It is JAQUES, not Jacques

But it's not as if Shakespeare thought there were two different names, one "Jacques" which would always be pronounced the French way and the other "Jaques" which wouldn't. Orthography was hardly a precise science to old Wm Shakspere. By "Jaques" he meant "the french name Jacques." But he chose to pronounce it in an English fashion. This was pretty much standard practice in England up until some time in the late C19th; foreign names were "Englished" (and the French and Germans et al. did the same with English names). Byron, similarly, knew perfectly well how the Spanish pronounced "Juan." It simply wasn't the custom of the day, however, to import Spanish pronunciations along with Spanish names.
posted by yoink at 10:37 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just to be horribly pedantic: Paul Klee wasn't Dutch. He was Swiss-German.
posted by colfax at 10:38 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


My ex and I also liked to pronounce Leicester in an "American" accent - "Say, can you tell me the way to Lie-Chester Square?

I would challenge this as the correct incorrect English comedic pronunciation for oppressing our colonial chums. I would expect an American to say it as they read it, ie Lie-sess-ter, rather than with an included 'h' to give 'chester' at the end.

Having lived nearby I would also point out even UK residents are not great at getting another variant right: Bicester.
posted by biffa at 10:38 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's foo-coe, isn't it?

French doesn't give as strong preferential emphasis to particular syllables as English does (try speaking English with an equal stress on every syllable and you'll hear that it begins to sound a little bit like a bad stage-French accent). So neither's really "right."
posted by yoink at 10:39 AM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


I just remembered a local example: Thames Street, in Fells Point (named after its founder, William Fell; the disappearance of the apostrophe is a story all to itself). Thames Street is not pronounced like the river in London. It is pronounced phonetically, with a hard "th," and rhymes with "James." Legend has it that the pronunciation was changed during the Revolutionary War, out of spite.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:40 AM on February 2, 2015


(precocious early readers have difficulties)

One of my earliest reading memories is having trouble with the word "together" in one of my books. For some reason I kept reading it as "TOG-e-ther", and couldn't figure out WTF it meant. Took me weeks for the light to dawn. I guess I should have read it out loud to someone who could have corrected me...
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:41 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Always worth being careful when asking for directions to Penistone.
posted by sobarel at 10:42 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


As pointed out above, it is hard to separate the jokes from the valuable advice from the hubris-based errors, but the character in As You Like It is JAQUES, not Jacques.

There are TWO characters named Jaques in As You Like It. One is the morose lord who waits upon the banished Duke, and one who is a brother to Orlando and who is only seen at the end of the play. Most scholars and practitioners generally pronounce the former as "Jay-kwees" and the latter as "Jakes".

Why Shakespeare decided to be a dick and name 2 characters the same thing, we'll never know.

Also, there is a town in Ohio named Mantua. You would think it would be pronounced like the town in Italy: "Man-chew-uh". But no. Rural Ohioans gotta be different. It's pronounced "Man-uh-way". Hurts me just to say it.
posted by starvingartist at 10:43 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Missing Leonhard Euler (oiler).

It's there in the original Tumblr post?

We've talked at length about local placenames vs namesakes before (Milan, Versailles, Cairo, etc) on this site. My most hated local pronunciation is still Devon street in Chicago as de-VONN. Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.
posted by kmz at 10:44 AM on February 2, 2015


(And I still don't know why Manchaca in Austin is pronounced like Man-shack.)
posted by kmz at 10:45 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bicester

There was a young girl from Bicester
Whose paramour had never kicester
When he ventured to try
We said "Oh my, my
You kicester just like she's your sicester".
posted by yoink at 10:46 AM on February 2, 2015 [28 favorites]


Hyacinth Bouquet
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:46 AM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


My brother-in-law is from Wayzata. It took me a long time to not instinctively pronounce it as it's spelled. (The true pronunciation is something like "WISE etta.")

Accent's on the second syllable, actually ;) (Hilariously, when I double-checked to make sure my corner of MN doesn't just also mispronounce Wayzata, I learned this very useful fact from Wikipedia: "The name Wayzata is derived from a Lakota Sioux phrase meaning 'Wayzata'.")
posted by dorque at 10:47 AM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


The name Wayzata is derived from a Lakota Sioux phrase meaning 'Wayzata'

Deep.
posted by yoink at 10:48 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


> "Say, can you tell me the way to Lie-Chester Square? Is it near Edin-boro?"

It amuses me far too much that both of these are not the correct mispronunciations.
posted by kyrademon at 10:49 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Do Brits say sinjin when it's the surname too?
posted by brujita at 10:49 AM on February 2, 2015


how is Piet Mondrian's first name pronounced? Silent t or not?

Like "Pete", if it's the same as the professor I had with the same first name.
posted by dorque at 9:40 AM on February 2 [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


HAH! I am glad to know that the condescending questioner at my conference presentation on obscure programming languages can totally suck it for "correcting" me on this.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:49 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]




You don't even want to know how I used to say dachshund.
posted by cellphone at 10:51 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do Brits say sinjin when it's the surname too?

Yup.
posted by yoink at 10:54 AM on February 2, 2015


My ex and I also liked to pronounce Leicester in an "American" accent

That's the name of a town near Asheville NC, and even the natives can't decide how to pronounce it - and I mean real multi-generational natives. Maybe 60% of the ones I asked pronounced it LEE-sess-ter, the other 40% said LES-ter.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:54 AM on February 2, 2015


A friend of mine claims to have heard an Australian dude pronounce Loughborough as 'Loog Baroog.'
posted by colie at 10:56 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


shhh don't tell anyone how Michiganders pronounce all the French-derived street names in Detroit, because, oh god.

My favorite is Gratiot Avenue. Which is, of course, pronounced "grass-shit."
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:57 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I don't pronounce my own last name correctly because I refuse to be a subtle french pirate..
posted by srboisvert at 10:58 AM on February 2, 2015


"The town of Buena in New Jersey"

I barely kept from laughing when I heard someone IN TEXAS say "TAH-koh BYUE-noh."
posted by key_of_z at 11:06 AM on February 2, 2015


Recently learned: "Vikram Seth" rhymes with (and is equimetrical with) "Golden Gate".

I wouldn't say that Vikram Seth really rhymes with Golden Gate. The consonant at the end of Seth is not quite the hard t sound at the end of gate, but something in between that and a softer th sound. I actually have this consonant in the middle of my (Indian) name and my parents had a huge debate on whether to transliterate it into English as "tt" or "th", eventually settling on "tt". But really, it's neither but really in between.
posted by peacheater at 11:07 AM on February 2, 2015


(And I still don't know why Manchaca in Austin is pronounced like Man-shack.)

I wonder if it's related to the Manchac in Louisiana? Which is also pronounced Man-Shack, which is a reasonable enough Americanization of the way it would be said in French.

See also Nachitoches, Louisiana, and Nagadoches, Texas.

(Also is this where we talk about street names in New Orleans and the sensitive situation around Burgundy and Chartres?)
posted by Sara C. at 11:07 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's fun telling french speakers about names of places in Leicester. Beachamp and belvoir street both leave them very lost.

I've heard of people calling Loughborough loo-gah-bah-ROO-guh which is adorable.

A pretentious friend of mine has never lived down pronouncing touché as tushy in sixth form.
posted by Braeburn at 11:09 AM on February 2, 2015


It amuses me far too much that both of these are not the correct mispronunciations

That I'm being informed that there are "correct" mispronunciations is hilarious. Touché. (pronounced touchy)
posted by billiebee at 11:11 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


as Paul is pronounced "Pau-well" in Dutch.

It is?

Scheveningen, schele sukkel!
posted by MartinWisse at 11:11 AM on February 2, 2015


OMG ITS NOT NAGADOCHES, ITS NAGOCDOCHES ILL NEVER LIVE THIS DOWN

(it is pronounced like nahg-ah-DOE-chiz, though. I think? Fuck. Um I'll be over in the chili thread if anyone needs me)
posted by Sara C. at 11:12 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think the MAN-shack pronunciation of Manchaca comes from the same place as the GWADA-loop pronunciation of Guadalupe and the San Antone pronunciation of San Antonio.
I'm not sure where they come from, but they seem to be a southern drawl with the last syllable dropped.

It's the Texas pronunciations of pecan and Burnet that confuse the hell out of me.
posted by Seamus at 11:18 AM on February 2, 2015


scratch: But why does NPR say Car-NEGIE when everyone else in America says CAR-negie?
Because Andrew CarNAYgee pronounced it that way - and "everyone else in America" excludes Pittsburghers, where Andrew created several eponysterical buildings, streets, and communities.

We do call the hall in New York CARnegie, though; you own it = you name it.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:23 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


ctl-f 'willamette'

Huh.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:27 AM on February 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


MATH TEACHERS, PLEASE LISTEN UP!

L'Hopital's Theorem is NOT pronounced luh-hope-ee-towel. The apostrophe in French is NOT PRONOUNCED, any more than it is in don't (not pronounced like donut!). LO-pee-tal.

(Reenactors, take note also: "pas d'armes" is a pah-darm, not a pah duh-armz.)

DONUT SAY THE APOSTROPHE!
posted by IAmBroom at 11:28 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've assumed that Wayzata and Edina are first-day-on-the-job required learning tasks for Twin Cities broadcasters (added assumption being that they're probably not from the area anyway).
posted by gimonca at 11:35 AM on February 2, 2015


Reminds me of when my gringa ex-GF informed me that my pronunciation of Camus ( [albɛʁ kamy] ) was wrong and the correct one was 'Al-Bert Cam-Ooh'.
posted by signal at 11:35 AM on February 2, 2015




Except when sometimes Gallipolis ends with the "polis" from Minnea- or Indiana-.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 11:48 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


This post reminds me that one of my father's friends wrote a lengthy article about how to pronounce the names of Victorian classicists (a trickier problem than you might think, especially for baffled Americans). It turns out that the primary source for such pronunciations is rhyming verse written by undergraduates, of which this is the most famous example.
posted by thomas j wise at 11:55 AM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Americans pronouncing Van Gogh as Van Go is a great way to feed into our European smugness.

When I was seven, there was an exhibit of Van Gogh at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. My mother, a person who felt that raising precocious, know-it-alls was as good an occupation as any, asked me to read off the name of the artist. So, like any right thinking person I pronounced it Van Goccchhhhch. She giggled, and as other tittered because I was pronouncing it as though it were Yiddish, which made the most sense to me.

I was pretty pleased to find out later in life that I was right. Because being right is very important to precocious, know-it-alls.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:56 AM on February 2, 2015 [15 favorites]


At the age of six or seven, I was enormously fond of the "Peanuts" comic strip, because my grandmother would regularly buy me a slim paperback collection of strips whenever she went grocery shopping. Schulz's work being what it was, I encountered the words "embarrassed" and "embarrassing" quite a few times in these books, and although I was concscious of not knowing how to pronounce them, I gradually developed an understanding of the meaning just from the context: "embarrassed" was how you felt if you did something stupid in front of people, or were revealed to have been loudly and certainly wrong about something.

At the same time, I had complete facility with the spoken word "embarrased". I didn't use it a lot...more often than not, the people that I spoke to were adult family members, and most of my personal experience of embarrassment came from incidents that occurred during the day at school, that I wasn't anxious to relate...because they were embarrassing, see?

Anyway. I think I was probably nine or ten before I made the connection and realized that one word was just the written form of the other. So, how dumb is that? To know a spoken word, and it's written form, and to understand the (identical) meaning of both, but not to know that they are the same word?

Embarrassing.
posted by Ipsifendus at 11:58 AM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think sometimes, around the right people, these shibboleths can work in reverse. I can think of one specific example from when I was 15 or so, a group of us "enriched" math students were attending a talk introducing us to imaginary numbers and the complex plane. I asked the lecturer afterwards if she could explain "yew-lar's identity". Her eyes lit up and she eagerly jumped in to explaining everything from a basis everyone could understand. She explained what made Euler's number a special base for the exponential function without making anyone feel dumb for not having learned calculus yet. Then she showed how the complex exponential function worked, how to map polar coordinates to the real and imaginary axes and the more general form of Euler's formula, walking those of us who hadn't lost interest at this point right up to understanding why e+1=0. I figure part of the reason she was so excited to go down this road in a room mostly full of people who above all were just interested in extra credit was that she could tell from my mispronunciation of Euler's name that I was clearly just someone who enjoyed reading about math.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:59 AM on February 2, 2015 [15 favorites]


Anyway. I think I was probably nine or ten before I made the connection and realized that one word was just the written form of the other. So, how dumb is that? To know a spoken word, and it's written form, and to understand the (identical) meaning of both, but not to know that they are the same word?

I had exactly the same experience with "albeit." When I read the word I pronounced it "al-bate" in my head, even though I knew the spoken "all-be-it" perfectly well.
posted by yoink at 12:01 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's an Ephraimite! Let's get him!

I was previously unaware it's possible to genuinely laugh out loud at a Biblical joke, rather than chuckle politely because someone makes one at church. Thank you.
posted by The Zeroth Law at 12:02 PM on February 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


I imagine the Dutch would laugh just as much at our equally inaccurate "Van Goff"!

True, but then you can always move to hyper-snobbery: it's probably the case that the way most Dutch people pronounce the name is not the way Van Gogh himself pronounced it.
posted by yoink at 12:03 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh also, this reminds me: my dissertation work was based on work by a man who as far as I can tell was 100% English with a genuinely straightforward name, but because his efforts were revived in the 20th century by a French speaker, most current researchers are from the continent as well, and the other US researchers learned about him from the French guy, literally everyone in the field except me pronounces his name as though the final consonant cluster is silent. I have lost that particular prescriptivist/descriptivist battle.
posted by dorque at 12:05 PM on February 2, 2015


plague - plah-GOO
macrame - mah-KRAIM
hors-d'oeuvres - horse divorce (???? - WTF?)

These were the words I had translating from read to spoken language as a child.
The black plah-GOO really sounded awful.
posted by Seamus at 12:07 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


it's probably the case that the way most Dutch people pronounce the name is not the way Van Gogh himself pronounced it.

I cannot figure out what that page is saying -- is it that he (may have) pronounced it "van gawk" (with a softer K sound)?
posted by Etrigan at 12:08 PM on February 2, 2015


plague - plah-GOO
macrame - mah-KRAIM
hors-d'oeuvres - horse divorce (???? - WTF?)


My worst was "debut."
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:13 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


That I'm being informed that there are "correct" mispronunciations is hilarious.

But isn't that kind of the whole point of the idea of a shibboleth in the first place, getting the correct correspondence between (often mis-)pronunciation and speaker? The idea here, with apologies to the pedants who are always drawn to topics like this, isn't that any of these is the actual "correct" pronunciation, but that they work as markers of a certain social background. The Tumblr post is clearly about the prevailing American intellectual's and/or pseudointellectual's approximation of the names rather than getting the names "correct." And there are all kinds of interesting wrinkles beyond what the list gets into — the three-syllable "Coetzee" that prevails even though the man himself says it with two (or two and a half), or the way the different versions of "Augustine" can be markers of Anglophilia and/or religiosity, etc. But the list itself seems to be giving just the most likely American "snob" pronunciation, which is sometimes totally distinct from either the "native speaker of the name's language of origin" or even the "person who actually knows a lot about the author in question" pronunciations.

a man who as far as I can tell was 100% English with a genuinely straightforward name, but because his efforts were revived in the 20th century by a French speaker […] literally everyone in the field except me pronounces his name as though the final consonant cluster is silent

I don't know who you mean (and I'm curious) but my standby example of this particular Frenchifying dynamic is Jules Dassin.
posted by RogerB at 12:14 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I gave up Radio and got into Blogging specifically to avoid all this pronunciation garbage (as Jonathan Winters would say, 'gar-bahge', and who am I to disagree?) and now I have spell-check to make sure I get things write. (And don't talk to me about padcosting)
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:16 PM on February 2, 2015


Accent's on the second syllable, actually ;)

Indeed. I'm pretty terrible at notating stress correctly.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:16 PM on February 2, 2015


I disagree when it comes to someone's actual name. It's kind of rude to get someone's name wrong and say, well I talk English so that's how I say it.

Simply as a matter of fact, English speakers pronounce non-English words in ways that do not conform to the pronunciation in their language of origin. This is not unique to English speakers, of course, it's a universal phenomenon. I didn't mean to suggest that one should persist in mispronouncing the name of someone you're interacting with simply as a matter of principle! That would be pretty outrageous.

In terms of courtesy, I agree that making an effort to pronounce someone's name correctly when you're interacting with them or referring to them in a situation where they may be present is a good way of showing respect in spite of social/cultural/linguistic difference.
posted by clockzero at 12:17 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


is it that he (may have) pronounced it "van gawk" (with a softer K sound)

More or less. The problem here is that we're talking about two sounds neither of which feature as part of standard English. If you know what a Dutch "g" sounds like and what a German "-ch" sound like, the difference is between those two sounds. The Dutch "g" is more back-of-throat, the German "-ch" more palatal. The first sounds like you're clearing your throat, the second like a "k" that's gone a little sibilant.
posted by yoink at 12:17 PM on February 2, 2015


I don't know who you mean (and I'm curious) but my standby example of this particular Frenchifying dynamic is Jules Dassin.

Yeah, I'm afraid I'm being coy because my field is pretty small and if I said who I was talking about I might as well just attach my real name to this account, but that's exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about.
posted by dorque at 12:18 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's weird how, despite your best efforts, this subject really does bring out the anxiety and shame response in the highly educated. I have to admit that I am also self-censoring about a particular name pronunciation I have a quarrel with on the initial list, for pretty much the same reason.
posted by RogerB at 12:24 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


My parents gave me my forename, "Alasdair", which I assumed was "alas-dare", and pronounced that way. They call(ed) me Al. When I was thirty or so, I read that it is a Scottish Gaelic spelling, and therefore it's "alas-tare".

So: I mispronounce my own name?
posted by alasdair at 12:25 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


But it's not as if Shakespeare thought there were two different names, one "Jacques" which would always be pronounced the French way and the other "Jaques" which wouldn't.

Oh, I know, but the point is that there is no character named Jacques in Shakespeare/Shakepere/Shaxberd. Myself, I am not 100% sure how to pronounce that first vowel in the name of Lear's daughter Regan, but if a website confidently telling me how had her name as Reagan, I would wonder about the level of attention going into the project.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:26 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a kid, I pronounced "wholly" as "wally" in class when we were taking turns to read aloud and was mystified when people started giggling.

I never said it out loud, but I thought "idiosyncrasy" was probably pronounced "idiocy 'n' crazy," which made perfect sense based on its meaning.
posted by vickyverky at 12:26 PM on February 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


I was seventeen when I connected awry and what I thought was pronounced "aw-ree."

I had a journalism professor for a survey class on mass media who insisted on pronouncing zine like it rhymed with sign. It drive me insane. How do you explain in one sentence that a zine is like an amateur magazine and not say zeen?
posted by infinitewindow at 12:27 PM on February 2, 2015


So: I mispronounce my own name?

If you're putting the stress on the initial syllable, then there's essentially no native English speaker who would hear a phonemic difference between a "d" and a "t" in "AL-as-[d/t]er." Pretty much every American speaker would pronounce the name with "d" in that slot regardless of the spelling in any case.
posted by yoink at 12:28 PM on February 2, 2015


who exactly mispronounces "Proust" and how?

I've heard it rhymed with "roust" a lot.


I do this (even though I know better, bad habit I guess?), and it drives my SO absolutely crazy. Especially since now I catch him doing it too.

The reason I end up saying it a lot is usually because of the lovely GenjiandProust.
posted by likeatoaster at 12:31 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


The polite eyebrow raise that greeted me when I tried to pronounce "Roncesvalles" (Toronto street/transit route/neighbourhood) in anything resembling French has stuck with me. To be clear: here we pronounce it "ronce-us-vails" apparently.
posted by hepta at 12:34 PM on February 2, 2015


Most of my friends in middle school and high school were build-your-own-computer types and deep, deep AV club geeks. And sometimes I thought the word "coax," one syllable, was a special prank that the English language was playing just on them.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:35 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rochester, New York has a few amusing ones. My personal favorite is the suburb of Charlotte, which everyone knows is pronounced "Shar-LOTT."

My mother, from Detroit, used to confound me with the mangled pronunciations of street names in that city. Ye gods.

And you should see a Francophone's face when you explain the proper pronunciation of the Maryland town "Havre de Grace." (Hey, you live in the town, you fucking well get to decide how to pronounce the fucking name.)
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 12:36 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Unionized" is a similar prank on chemists.
posted by a car full of lions at 12:37 PM on February 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


"Havre de Grace."

Habberdy Grace.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:40 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


plague - plah-GOO

Seamus, you should join my Ace of Base cover band. We're called Ague of Plague.
posted by a halcyon day at 12:48 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


My personal favorite is the suburb of Charlotte, which everyone knows is pronounced "Shar-LOTT."

that's how charlotte, michigan is pronounced, too

here in sw michigan, we mostly have plain english names or potawatami names that are probably utterly mangled

oh, and it's mackinaw not mackinack

one time i was working at a motel and someone asked me how long it took to drive to sheekaygo - took me awhile to figure out she meant chicago
posted by pyramid termite at 12:49 PM on February 2, 2015


Toronto traffic reports often speak of a street called "Stron" (rhymes with Tron). It took me ages to realize that the street sign that reads "Strachan" was the street they were talking about.
posted by sardonyx at 12:53 PM on February 2, 2015


In terms of courtesy, I agree that making an effort to pronounce someone's name correctly when you're interacting with them or referring to them in a situation where they may be present is a good way of showing respect in spite of social/cultural/linguistic difference.

I worked with an Englishman named "Mark." He always pronounced it "Mahk" to my ear. I, imagining myself to be waggish, would always pronounce it the way he did. He got the joke, but someone else who noticed I always did this asked me why. I told them in my Most Serious Voice that I was trying to respect his pronunciation.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:58 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


[expletive deleted] wrote
...she could tell from my mispronunciation of Euler's name that I was clearly just someone who enjoyed reading about math.
I wish I could favorite this two more times.
posted by Songdog at 12:58 PM on February 2, 2015


I worked with an Englishman named "Mark." He always pronounced it "Mahk" to my ear. I, imagining myself to be waggish, would always pronounce it the way he did. He got the joke,

Really? He must have had a good ear. RP English, Aussie, NZ and Sth. African English are all "non-rhotic" (that is, they only pronounce Rs before or between vowels: thus "Mary" gets an "r" but "Mark" doesn't). That also means the difference between "mark" and "mahk," being non-phonemic for them, isn't noticed (or, rather, we usually only notice if someone adds the rhotic "R" sound where we're not expecting it).

As a non-rhotic speaker living in the US I often trip over this the other way around when I make a pun that works for me because I pronounce two words--one with and one without an R--identically but which, to my auditors, are self-evidently distinct.
posted by yoink at 1:13 PM on February 2, 2015


guess-tashun: the period of time from fertilization to birth.

oh-ran GOO-tan: a red-haired ape of southern Asia.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:13 PM on February 2, 2015


I disagree when it comes to someone's actual name. It's kind of rude to get someone's name wrong and say, well I talk English so that's how I say it.

So you call that guy that sailed in the Santa Maria in 1492 Cristoforo Colombo, and might maybe take a trip to Athina in the Elliniki Dimokratia?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:18 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was hoping for some insight on Choire Sicha. New York Magazine, however, has a less exhaustive (-ing?) entry that includes him.

I really want Choire Sicha's Corsica to be a thing now.
posted by eisbaer at 1:21 PM on February 2, 2015


I was embarrassingly far along in life before I realized that "misled" was not pronounced MY-seld.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:41 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


So you call that guy that sailed in the Santa Maria in 1492 Cristoforo Colombo, and might maybe take a trip to Athina in the Elliniki Dimokratia?

Place names are different - as someone said upthread few English speakers say Paree for Paris for example. But if Cristopher Columbus wasn't dead half a millennia and introduced himself as Cristoforo I'd hesitate to correct him, yes.
posted by billiebee at 1:47 PM on February 2, 2015


I understand you more betterer now and agree with you now.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:49 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was embarrassingly far along in life before I realized that "misled" was not pronounced MY-seld.

Or "mizzl'd".
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:50 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Orthography was hardly a precise science to old Wm Shakspere.

Or any of the Elizabethans, really. For instance, we have records of Christopher Marlowe's name being spelled as Marlow, Marlo, Marley, Marlin, Merling, and Morley.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:52 PM on February 2, 2015


If you want help with the pronunciation of Milan Kundera or Henry David Thoreau or Thomas Pynchon or Jorge Luis Borges or Khaled Hosseini or Jhumpa Lahiri or Matt Groening or Adrian Tomine or Salman Rushdie or Kazuo Ishiguro then click here.
posted by reuvenc at 2:11 PM on February 2, 2015


A barbershop chorus from Worchester
Had a tenor who sang like a Rorchester,
The Director aid "Zounds-
No one's uttered such sounds
Since Chief Sitting Bull massacred Corchester.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that I'm posting from Calais (cal-luss) VT.
posted by MtDewd at 2:26 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


My precocious reader mispronunciations:

tongue: TUN-jew
superfluous: super-FLEW-us

(It always seemed odd to me that we had something in our mouths called a "tun-jew" but no one ever talked about it. It must be part of the "tung"...)

It's the Texas pronunciations of pecan and Burnet that confuse the hell out of me.

Or, as folks told me when I first moved to Austin: "It's Burnet, durnit. Learn it!"

I grew up in the town of "Saxapahaw", which saw a practically English shortening in common speech. The most florid pronunciation you'd get from the locals was generally "Saxpuhuh", but amongst the real old guard it'd frequently come down to roughly "Saxpuuh".

For some reason, the nearby Altamahaw never got abused as much.
posted by jammer at 2:38 PM on February 2, 2015


Rochester, New York has a few amusing ones. My personal favorite is the suburb of Charlotte, which everyone knows is pronounced "Shar-LOTT."

"Chili", which is of course pronounced "CHAI-lie."

And then there's good ol' Irondequoit. Have fun with that one!
posted by Lucinda at 2:43 PM on February 2, 2015


The Director said "Zounds-
No one's uttered such sounds


Proper Olde Spekers would tell you those lines don't rime.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:44 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just a little north of me is a town whose name is pronounced B'lile using one syllable. I always think it sounds like an ailment halfway between bilious and bile, but it is spelled Belle Isle.

The nearest American border crossing where I live is pronounced callous. That is a truly callous way of pronouncing the name Calais.
posted by Jane the Brown at 2:48 PM on February 2, 2015


Jorge (Luis) Borges: YOR-gee BOR-jez

Sigh. I still blush over that.
posted by kitcat at 2:54 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


A British guy at Burning Man heard me say "Worcestershire" as every other Texan does, and wouldn't let me go until I had learned his way of saying it. Most of my family is from near Nacogdoches (mostly Lufkin down to Houston), and I just assumed everyone said Nacogdoches like us. And oh, do I agree with that shame thing. I still get embarrassed because I learned so many words from books, and never heard them at all.
posted by Ambient Echo at 2:56 PM on February 2, 2015


One of the bays in Newfoundland is named Bay D'espoir (Bay of hope, for non French speakers). Locals pronounce the name Bay Despair.
posted by peppermind at 2:56 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Rochester, New York has a few amusing ones.

One of my colleagues carefully explained the "Chili," "Charlotte," and "Irondequoit" pronunciations after I arrived. However, I fear that I butchered "Skaneateles" rather badly on my first attempt...
posted by thomas j wise at 2:58 PM on February 2, 2015


I read an article about Jerry Brown and how his Jesuit background informed his behavior. The writer recounted an interview with William Safire in which Brown referred to "sign-eck-doash." The Safure commented using the correct pronunciation of synechdoche. Brown immediately chimed in, "Is that how it's pronounced? I've only read it."

I love this because 1). Jerry Brown is great and 2. I had this exact conversation with my ex two weeks ago, except he was telling me about the film Synecdoche, New York, but because I am not a huge fan of Charlie Kaufman I was unfamiliar with it and so asked him if he meant Schenectady. And thus he explained the play on words and I said "Oh! I've never heard synecdoche said aloud before." It's a very common (and oddly embarrassing) problem for people who learn most of their vocabulary by reading (things other than a dictionary).
posted by elsietheeel at 2:58 PM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Talking about anicent Greek drama basically ruined me on the "pronounce words you've only read before" front.

I seriously said "Anti-gone" for Antigone.
posted by The Whelk at 3:09 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


here in sw michigan, we mostly have plain english names or potawatami names that are probably utterly mangled

Potawatomi.

Bodéwadmi if you're nasty.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:11 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Director said "Zounds-
No one's uttered such sounds

Proper Olde Spekers would tell you those lines don't rime.


Nobody pronounces Custer's name as "cooster", either*; I assumed all the not-quite-rhymes were part of the playful humor of the limerick.

* ...Do they?
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:16 PM on February 2, 2015


Another joke at the end:

Michel Houllebecq (meaningless)
posted by kandinski at 3:23 PM on February 2, 2015


So I was a super bookish kid, just ridiculously fond of reading any book I could get my hands on, and especially fond of reading sci-fi. And I recall being five or six and discovering with great disappointment that the tooth-destroying semi-hard semi-sticky square fruit-flavored candies that I bummed off of friends on the school bus were actually called "Now & Laters" rather than, as I had thought, "Annihilators."
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:33 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


> The consonant at the end of Seth is not quite the hard t sound at the end of gate, but something in between that and a softer th sound. I actually have this consonant in the middle of my (Indian) name and my parents had a huge debate on whether to transliterate it into English as "tt" or "th", eventually settling on "tt". But really, it's neither but really in between.

Indian consonants are a minefield for English speakers, but there is definitely no "th" sound (as in think) in Indian languages; it's one of the rarer sounds worldwide.

Speaking of Indian names, my mind was blown when a Bengali woman I once dated told me that Satyajit (as in Ray) was pronounced SHOT-o-jit (with the first syllable as pronounced by a British person, not an American—more or less "shawt"). Bengali is wild, and I wish I'd spent more time on it.
posted by languagehat at 3:37 PM on February 2, 2015


Reginald Pikedevant on the topic
posted by otherchaz at 3:54 PM on February 2, 2015


Meanwhile, I'm never sure whether it's "Ray" like manta ray, or "Ray" like rye.
posted by Sara C. at 4:00 PM on February 2, 2015


Oh, sorry, I should have mentioned that too—it's the latter ("rye"). In Bengali, of course; in English you should say it however the people around you do. (I would feel horribly snooty if I said SHOT-o-jit in front of anyone but a Bengali!)
posted by languagehat at 4:04 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Saht yah jeet would be fine. The "sh" sound is a bit over-pronouncey, to me (a la lisping when you say Barcelona), but honestly if I heard someone say it that way I'd assume they probably knew what they were talking about.

My own dialect doesn't make a strong enough distinction between "ah" and "oh" sounds for that to really register as a different pronunciation.
posted by Sara C. at 4:15 PM on February 2, 2015


Maybe somebody can answer or speculate on this (in a for-dummies way preferably): why is it Vee-Gun rather than Vej-unn?
posted by batfish at 4:23 PM on February 2, 2015


However, I fear that I butchered "Skaneateles" rather badly on my first attempt...

I once got a phone call from someone who pronounced Canandiagua as "Can-an-dee-AGUA".
posted by Lucinda at 4:39 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a native Kentuckian, yes, Versailles ("ver-sales," in case you haven't heard it pronounced by a Kentuckian) is kinda funny. Nearby, there is an Athens, Kentucky, pronounced "ay-thuns."

But, then, everyone is pointing out funny street names in Detroit. I always heard locals call "Gratiot" something between Grass-shut and Grass-shit, by the way; and there's "Livernois," pronounced "livernoise." However, "De-troyt" (sometimes even "Dee-troyt") is a mispronunciation in the first place. It was named by French explorers as a literal name to refer to its location by a river, so it's translation would be "the strait." Similarly, just about any place in the US with "ville" in it is mispronounced by French standards. People joke about my hometown being called "Lulvul," but a pedantically correct pronunciation would be "Loo-ee-vee-yuh," which no one would say. I don't know that any native English speaker gets uptight about "Loss Anj-uh-lus," either...
posted by Slothrop at 4:41 PM on February 2, 2015


One branch of my family has the name Terrier, which is of French origin and properly pronounced with a silent 'r' like Perrier the brand of bottled water. But good luck getting anyone to say that.
posted by bracems at 4:42 PM on February 2, 2015


> "Another joke at the end: Michel Houllebecq (meaningless)"

Happily, everyone already knows how this name is pronounced thanks to Gwen Stefani's "Houllebecq Girl".
posted by kyrademon at 4:43 PM on February 2, 2015 [18 favorites]


I have been referring to Namibia (4 syllables) as Nambia (3 syllables) since forever, until a person far, far younger than myself recently corrected me.

I just wonder how many more shibboleths I have in me. I know there must be plenty, but I'm just sitting in the dark over here.
posted by zardoz at 4:48 PM on February 2, 2015


a pedantically correct pronunciation would be "Loo-ee-vee-yuh," which no one would say.

No, the "lle" is pronounced in "ville", in French. It would be veel as opposed to vill, so the American pronunciation isn't precisely correct, but Louie-vill is fine. Then again, Louisville isn't so much mispronounced as mushed up into nothing. It's not like you're all saying Lewis Vile or something.

How has Wilkes-Barre, PA, not come up yet? It took a solid decade living in the Northeast before I realized there was no Wilksbury.
posted by Sara C. at 4:52 PM on February 2, 2015


I bristled at the sub-heading, because making an effort to learn the pronunciation of someone's name doesn't seem to me an act of privilege but one of politeness, and while the list is primarily 'highbrow' names, it includes for example the lead in a movie musical, someone who recently gained more attention for being a Beyoncé sample, and a couple of celebrated black actors whose work isn't solely restricted to difficult Oscar fare - and that's just of the performers.

Considering non-English, complicated or counter-intuitive (no-one would pronounce Worcestershire correctly the first time if they hadn't been warned or heard it before) names as a shibboleth isn't off the mark, but the list could have been curated better to get the point across - and also maybe prevent it seeming a wee bit racist in claiming only snobs would know how to pronounce odd names correctly.
posted by gadge emeritus at 4:57 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I swear at one time it seemed like half of IRC had a jaring.my hostname. I can't believe I forgot about that.
posted by wierdo at 5:14 PM on February 2, 2015


there is definitely no "th" sound (as in think) in Indian languages

As a native Hindi speaker I can attest that there most certainly is!

Maybe you're thinking of how South Indians distinguish a dental t from a retroflex one by transliterating the former as th?
posted by a car full of lions at 5:45 PM on February 2, 2015


When I first moved from the suburbs of Buffalo, NY to Augusta, GA, I was flummoxed by a nearby suburb, Martinez, being pronounced by all and sundry as Mart & EZ, rather than Mar-TEE-nez. For what it's worth, it is named for it's Cuban founder, and Wikipedia lists the pronunciation the way I'm sure the founder said it, but none of the people I encountered for the 18 months I lived there ever gave any inclination that they realized it was of Cuban or even Hispanic origin.

As for Buffalo, we have the Scajaquada (skah-JACK-kwuh-duh) Expressway. Many of the names in Buffalo are either of Polish or Native American, with pronunciations getting farther and further from their roots each decade. Here in Chattanooga, I'm surrounded by different Native American locales (Ooltewah, Etowah, Sewanee) pronounced, um, creativly, and for the first decade I lived here, I assumed what I was hearing on the radio as Ol' Jotty Bridge (really: Olgiati Bridge) was actually named for P.R. Olgiati, a long-ago mayor with Swiss/Spanish ancestry.

Precocious reader here, but the only ones I remember still getting wrong at an advanced age (eighth grade?) were awry and epitome. I honestly thought a-RYE (the word I heard) and AW-ree (the word I thought I was reading) were two different things.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 5:47 PM on February 2, 2015


here in sw michigan, we mostly have plain english names or potawatami names that are probably utterly mangled

Or just invented to sound Native: nine counties in Michigan have names that are utter gibberish thanks to Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, including Allegan.
posted by Etrigan at 5:52 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was embarrassingly far along in life before I realized that "misled" was not pronounced MY-seld.

Heh, everyone knows its "mizzled."
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:58 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hang on, sorry, it's not a fricative like in British or American English but an aspirated stop (the consonant written थ in Hindi). But they're close enough for most purposes; in Indian accents we just say think with the aspirated stop.
posted by a car full of lions at 5:58 PM on February 2, 2015


When my wife and I first moved to Honolulu and getting used to all the Hawaiian words as street names, we became enthusiastic backward mispronouncers. I still have trouble referring to Cooke street correctly without trying hard. It obviously should be pronounced "koh-okay."
posted by ctmf at 6:13 PM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Turbot is not as French as it looks :(
posted by holybagel at 6:18 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Turbot is not as French as it looks :(

Would you like a filet of turbot?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:37 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


"yew-lar's identity"

When Joan Clarke pronounced his name this way in The Imitation Game, I immediately wondered why no one corrected her but then I read a long discussion on Reddit about how it was OK to angicise his name.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:39 PM on February 2, 2015


Coming from SoCal, when I moved to Houston it took me forever to realize when people said "san PHILLP-ee" Street they were taking about "San Filipe."

Newcomers to L.A. often give themselves away by asking how to get to "SEH-pul-VEEDA" Blvd instead of "se-PULL-veh-dah." (Spelled" Sepulveda")
posted by Room 641-A at 6:43 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


All the weird L.A. things suddenly made sense to me when I discovered that a lot of them had lost their helpful accent marks over the years. SePULveda is exactly right if you know there used to be an accent mark over the u. Aside from Americanizing vowels (everything is basically a schwa all the time, so you get Luh Suh-yen-uh-guh, Pass-uh-deenuh, etc), Angelenos do pretty good.

Except for Los Feliz, of course.
posted by Sara C. at 6:46 PM on February 2, 2015


Luh Suh-yen-uh-guh

Exactly! LAH see-en-ih-guh. :-)
posted by Room 641-A at 6:54 PM on February 2, 2015


Johann_Radon

ˈyoʊhɑn ræ'dɑːn

wikipedia doesn't give a pronunciation.

I have never heard any native born American pronounce his last name in any other manner than identical to the chemical element. More than once I have seen a European person do a double take when I pronounce it unlike the chemical element.

The ones that bother me are Weber and Webern and Wagner. Americans overwhelmingly pronounce them with a "V" sound, even though the American V and the German W are not the same sound. A few times I have asked German or Dutch or Swiss or Austrian folks with a W beginning their name if they preferred we Americans to pronounce their name American "V-" or American "W-" and when they expressed a preference they told me they preferred the American "W-". If I have time to think about it I now treat such names the way actors treat Macbeth.

(This is a great list!)
posted by bukvich at 7:14 PM on February 2, 2015


Paris is pronounced "Pa-ree" in French and it's not like anyone does that when conversing in English

"Paris" has been in English for a very long time; in medieval French it was pronounced something like "Parees", and Calais was, probably, "Callays"; then English had the Great Vowel Shift, so "Parees" = modern "Paris" (and "Calais" is recorded as "Callis" in the 16th century). In this case the English pronunciation is probably closer to the original French (French spelling and orthography was originally more or less phonetic, so you can see how much it's changed in 400-500 years or so).
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 8:24 PM on February 2, 2015


The correct pronunciation of Worcestershire, for Americans too embarrassed to ask.
posted by byanyothername at 8:42 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


So are Houston and Willamette too played out at this point?
posted by elsietheeel at 8:52 PM on February 2, 2015


I wiss say this, the only security attendants to pronounce my name properly on the first go were Swiss.
posted by The Whelk at 8:53 PM on February 2, 2015


My favorite moment of my entire existence, ever, was the time, back home in heavily Cajun south Louisiana, somebody tried to frenchify my exceedingly Anglo/Irish surname by actually pronouncing the silent E at the end.
posted by Sara C. at 9:11 PM on February 2, 2015


Recently learned: "Vikram Seth" rhymes with (and is equimetrical with) "Golden Gate"

My first reaction to reading that line was to do a double-take, "Really?? "Vikram" is pronounced "Volden?"!"

You did that on purpose, didn't you?
posted by lollusc at 9:40 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Still remember how disbelieving my husband was when I pronounced Knopf (as in Alfred A.) in front of him. Carnegie too (Pittsburgh college kid represent), though not quite as incredulous. Fleur Jaeggy too.
posted by ifjuly at 1:02 AM on February 3, 2015


> Hang on, sorry, it's not a fricative like in British or American English but an aspirated stop (the consonant written थ in Hindi). But they're close enough for most purposes; in Indian accents we just say think with the aspirated stop.

Heh. That's like a person whose native language is Spanish (where there is only one /i/ sound) saying the "ee" sound is close enough to short i (as in bit) for most purposes; what's the big difference between sheet and shit anyway? But your confusion is an example of how hard it is to talk to people about linguistic stuff (if you've studied linguistics), because most people just can't wrap their heads around phonetic vs. phonemic differences, have no clue what a passive is or what makes a noun a noun, etc. I really wish everyone had to take a linguistics course in high school, just the basics, so we could all be on more or less the same page about language.
posted by languagehat at 6:52 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I bristled at the sub-heading, because making an effort to learn the pronunciation of someone's name doesn't seem to me an act of privilege but one of politeness, and while the list is primarily 'highbrow' names, it includes for example the lead in a movie musical, someone who recently gained more attention for being a Beyoncé sample, and a couple of celebrated black actors whose work isn't solely restricted to difficult Oscar fare - and that's just of the performers.

It would be rude to mispronounce Ta-Nehisi Coates's name in front of him after he introduced himself to me. It wouldn't be rude to mispronounce his name in front of someone else who was not a friend of his, but who knew I was mispronouncing it. Still, it would mark me as someone who doesn't know how to pronounce his name. The guide assumes the second situation, not the first.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:38 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


sio42 : My years of French were hurting. I felt almost physical pain at this. I may have shivered in repulsion.

Come to Rhode Island, and your flesh will crawl right off your bones: here the surname Forget is pronounced neither "for-GET" (English) or "for-JAY" (French), but "FOUR-jet."

….The hell?
posted by wenestvedt at 7:49 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


cellphone: You don't even want to know how I used to say dachshund.

Actually my MiL still does so. :7(
posted by wenestvedt at 7:56 AM on February 3, 2015


Metafilter: mef-fler
posted by mubba at 8:24 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


It would be rude to mispronounce Ta-Nehisi Coates's name in front of him after he introduced himself to me.

This comes up on MeFi a lot. I'm glad it does because it taught me something, but I have a problem when this line of thought immediately jumps to the conclusion that this is always about privilege.

No matter how hard I try, I may immediately mispronounce your name because:

1) I have some short-term memory problems
2) Medication
3) I have some hearing loss and I didn't realize I misheard you
4) I have some hearing loss, there's a lot of background noise, I didn't hear you the first three times you were nice enough to repeat it and I'm embarrassed to ask a fourth time.
5) A combination of any/all of the above

I assume that in real life people are able to make quick judgement calls about people's motives and intentions when this happens, but online the assumption of privilege or rudeness is kind of privileged, too, if you can't think of any reason why this might happen.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:36 AM on February 3, 2015


Speaking as a native of metro Detroit, I see that Livernois and Gratiot have already been brought up, but there's also:

Schoenherr (SHAY-nerr, a low German pronounciation unlike the standard German "ö" sounds)
Dequindre (Dee-KWIN-derr, not with the subtleties one might expect from French)
posted by dhens at 8:44 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I assume that in real life people are able to make quick judgement calls about people's motives and intentions when this happens, but online the assumption of privilege or rudeness is kind of privileged, too, if you can't think of any reason why this might happen.

Yes, my point was that rudeness and politeness are situational. If you learn how to pronounce a bunch of middlebrows' and highbrows' names because you believe it's rude to mispronounce them at all, then it shouldn't be a surprise if people wonder how much leisure time you have and why you have it.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:48 AM on February 3, 2015


Rustic Etruscan, I think in my mind I was half responding to the other comment above about the use of "privilege" in the subhead, so that wasn't directed at you in particular. Apologies if it came out like that.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:09 AM on February 3, 2015


Ah, okay. That makes more sense. It felt like I was talking past you and vice versa, but I wasn't sure. I have a bit of a cold and woke up late, so I'm off-balance today. Sorry for the confusion!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:16 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Watch this shit right here:

isle = "eye'l"

m+isle+d = "mild"
posted by grubi at 9:40 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


ghoti = "fish"
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:06 AM on February 3, 2015


ghoti = "fish"

I'm glad you're up on your foreign languages, Robin, they come in handy when fighting crime
posted by yoink at 10:13 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Newcomers to L.A. often give themselves away by asking how to get to "SEH-pul-VEEDA" Blvd instead of "se-PULL-veh-dah." (Spelled" Sepulveda")

Here's a handy reference for people who forget how to pronounce Los Angeles area street names.

hah hah! Now it's stuck in your head, too!
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:36 AM on February 3, 2015


Hey, all this talk about LA streetnames reminds me of a question that's been bugging me for a while. My GPS (Garvin Numi) pronounces Spanish streetnames differently at different times. Often it pronounces them hilariously incorrectly until it is close to them, when it switches to a corrected pronunciation (So I go from "Lay tidjeera" to "La Teeheera" for La Tijera, for example). Anyway know why this is? Is the name stored with different pronunciation coding in different places or does the GPS only apply some sort of "foreign word recognition" algorithm to the name when it's about to turn onto the street?
posted by yoink at 10:46 AM on February 3, 2015


yoink, I did once hear a GPS call "Ann Rd" "Ahn Road" (sounded very similar to "on").
posted by dhens at 11:05 AM on February 3, 2015


I've never noticed any method to the madness that is GPS pronunciations of Spanish street names in LA. Kind of all over the map in my experienced.

I do use Siri/various maps apps on my phone, though, and not a Garmin. When I had a Garmin the street name pronunciation was always ridiculously bad. Though I had it set to a British voice, which might have been part of the problem.
posted by Sara C. at 11:22 AM on February 3, 2015


My iPhone GPS calls St Augustine "Saint Aug-ust-ihn" instead of "Saint Augusteen". Guh?
posted by grubi at 11:23 AM on February 3, 2015


My iPhone GPS calls St Augustine "Saint Aug-ust-ihn" instead of "Saint Augusteen". Guh?

Does it then ask to borrow some Grey Poupon?
posted by batfish at 11:46 AM on February 3, 2015


Xerxes
Nietzsche
Nguyen
Batman
posted by straight at 12:13 PM on February 3, 2015


And there's the old classic, reading "segue" as "segg" and then thinking there's a compound word "segueway" when you hear it pronounced correctly. Of all the loanwords *not* to wind up with Anglicized pronunciation.....
posted by kewb at 12:18 PM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


ghoti = "fish"

This is the only thing I remember from my HS Spanish class.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:23 PM on February 3, 2015


First time I saw the name "Montague" I thought it was "Montahg".

Wouldn't you?
posted by grubi at 1:00 PM on February 3, 2015


Heh. That's like a person whose native language is Spanish (where there is only one /i/ sound) saying the "ee" sound is close enough to short i (as in bit) for most purposes; what's the big difference between sheet and shit anyway?

I guess I expressed myself really poorly because I had forgotten about the phonemic/phonetic distinction, so thanks for reminding me about that! I'm just an amateur who cares a little too much about language, so I tend to wade into discussions like this and put my foot in my mouth. What I was grasping at by the clumsy phrasing of "close enough for most purposes" was that while they are (slightly) different phones, they encode the same "th" phoneme. That is, in Indian dialects of English the phonetic realization of "th" as in think is an aspirated dental stop.

So you can see why, when you said "there is definitely no "th" sound (as in think) in Indian languages", I thought that couldn't be right, because your "th" sound is different from my "th" sound, and my "th" sound is definitely there in Indian languages. I totally get why you wrote it that way, though, because talking about the "voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative" (thanks Wikipedia!) won't get you very far in a general-interest forum like this one, and given that the audience here is largely American, saying "the "th" sound (as in think)" is probably the best way to communicate what you want to say.

But, man, your Spanish analogy, that's kinda harsh! I don't know if you meant it that way, but it really bothers me that people think of the "nonstandard" features of Indian English as second-language errors committed by non-native speakers, instead of the features of a legitimate dialect of English actively spoken by hundreds of thousands of natively bilingual speakers. So when I tell you how my compatriots and I speak to each other regularly, and it sounds like you're going "ha ha, the Indian guy is confused and doesn't know how "th" is pronounced in English, let us correct him", I don't know, it kind of hurts. It also reinforces the subconscious insecurity that I've noticed many Indians have about their use of English, even though they speak perfectly fluent Indian English. (Kind of like the situation with AAVE I guess.) So... please don't do that.

Anyway, sorry, this post kind of got away from me. I'm scared that I'm misinterpreting the situation and totally overreacting, so I'll stop here; sorry if I misunderstood you.
posted by a car full of lions at 1:07 PM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Touché.

My wife and I have started deliberately pronouncing this "TOOSH", one syllable.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 2:29 PM on February 3, 2015


> But, man, your Spanish analogy, that's kinda harsh! I don't know if you meant it that way, but it really bothers me that people think of the "nonstandard" features of Indian English as second-language errors committed by non-native speakers, instead of the features of a legitimate dialect of English actively spoken by hundreds of thousands of natively bilingual speakers.

Of course I didn't mean it that way! For one thing, all forms of language use are equally valid to me, so I certainly wouldn't use second-language errors as some sort of club. No, I was just trying to provide an example of phoneme fail that people would recognize. And the only reason you think the "th" sound "is definitely there in Indian languages" is that the aspirated dental stop of Indian languages and the voiceless dental fricative of English (and Greek and Burmese and Peninsular Spanish) happen to be commonly written with the letters t and h. If the voiceless dental fricative did happen to exist in India, it would be written with a totally different Devanagari character and it would never occur to you the two had anything in common. I hope you see what I'm getting at, and I'm sorry for any inadvertent pain I caused you!
posted by languagehat at 5:39 PM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Though I had it set to a British voice, which might have been part of the problem.

I have Siri set to a British female voice, which is pretty amusing sometimes. Most notoriously so far, she's called Chicon in east Austin "Chicken street".
posted by immlass at 8:34 PM on February 3, 2015


Thanks, it's good know that you didn't intend any disparagement. But the rest of your comment is striking me as infuriatingly condescending: Imagine (as an American) explaining to a Londoner that the British have no "r" sound because, after all, the "r" in the English language is retroflex. But I think I ought to walk away from the keyboard now. Sorry for causing a fuss.
posted by a car full of lions at 8:48 PM on February 3, 2015


Dr. Leon Adoso Sumbitches (pronounced soom-'beh cheh) is heir to the legendary Adoso family oil fortune.

Also: Vladimir NaBOKov.
posted by FrauMaschine at 8:49 PM on February 3, 2015


ambientecho: oh, do I agree with that shame thing. I still get embarrassed because I learned so many words from books, and never heard them at all.

This reminded me to hunt down and bookmark a favourite tweet: "people who mispronounce words because they learned them from reading independently are deserving of admiration not scorn"
posted by raena at 11:32 PM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


speaking of the people who were slow on the pick up that a written word and word they knew how to say were the same thing....

my name is Siobhan.

i am in no way Irish. and in the 1980s it was a very uncommon name here in the US.

there were two things that made my name make sense - somewhere around 4th grade i learned about the phoneme "sio" like in "suspension" or "extension". then i saw a jeopardy show shortly there after where a clue involved a gaelic word containing a "bh".

i swear i heard angels singing as i realized my name was not just a jumble of random letters my mom had made up.

(my mom read it in a book and found out randomly how to pronounce from seeing the credits one day on Ryan's Hope. that's how i ended up with the name. my family all that the b was a v, didn't realize that the "bh" is the v sound. i'll take Wacky Name Spelling for $1000, Alex)
posted by sio42 at 6:44 AM on February 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Imagine (as an American) explaining to a Londoner that the British have no "r" sound because, after all, the "r" in the English language is retroflex.

There are a lot of "r" sounds the British don't have--or, to put it another way, there are lots of sounds that are conventionally represented with the letter "r" in the languages that use them which a native British speaker cannot make correctly without training. Take the "r" in Māori, for example. It's an alveolar flap: in early transliterations it's often spelled with a "d" and occasionally with an "l." So a Māori person would be quite right to patiently explain to a British person that, from his/her perspective, the British "have no 'r' sound."

Languagehat wasn't making a normative claim (RP is "correct" and all other languages/dialects are distortions or corruptions); he was making a value-free comparative point.
posted by yoink at 9:44 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


sio42, I remember seeing the name Siobhan written as the name of some singer in 80s, and I just thought it was 'see-oh-ban'. Years later I was working with some Irish people and learning (a little bit) about Gaelic spelling. I had a similar OMG moment when I next saw the name and realized "that's just the way they spell 'sha-vawn'". You must have had a reaction a hundred times greater when it's your own name.

(Also, this helps me when I see your username. "Sea-oh-forty-two" never flowed well, but "Show-forty-two" is easy to pronounce. Or is it supposed to be "sio daichead a dó"? Oh Gaelic, I'll never figure you out.)
posted by benito.strauss at 10:46 AM on February 4, 2015


my name is Siobhan.

The opposite of the Jerry Brown story above, I was in marching band with a Siobhan my freshman year of high school, which I had only heard spoken and didn't know the spelling until the yearbook came out. "Wait, is 'Chevonne' a nickname or something?"
posted by rhizome at 12:09 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Unionized" is a similar prank on chemists.

Loves me some English heterophones. I collect 'em. A short sampling:

18. bases (n, n-v)
19. bass (n, n-adj)
21. bow (n, v)
22. buffet (n, v)
23. close (v, adj)
24. closer (n, adj)
31. compress (n, v)
53. defect (n, v)
58. denier (n, n)
59. desert (n, v)
65. do (n, v)
66. does (n, v)
67. dove (n, v)
69. entrance (n, v)
79. forte (n, adj)
87. incarnate (v, adj)
88. incense (n, v)
95. invalid (n-adj, adj)
98. lead (n, v)
101. lied (n, v)
102. live (v, adj)
103. lives (v, n)
104. minute (n, adj)
107. multiply (v, adv)
108. number (n, adj)
111. overage (n, adj)
113. periodic (adj, adj)
117. prefix (n-v, v)
118. present (n-adj, v)
122. putting (v, v)
123. read (v, v)
124. real (n, adj)
136. refuse (n, v)
146. resolve (v, v)
148. resume (n, v)
152. routed (v, v)
153. row (n, n-v)
155. separate (v, adj)
158. sin (n, n, n)
159. singer (n, n)
160. skied (v, v)
161. slough (n, v)
162. sol (n, n)
163. sow (n, v)
167. supply (n-v, adv)
171. tear (n ,v)
172. tier (n, n)
173. tinging (v, v)
174. underage (n, adj)
175. unionized (adj, adj)
177. use (n, v)
181. wind (n, v)
183. wound (n-v, v-adj)
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:35 PM on February 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


And somehow nobody has mentioned the Hyper-bowl, especially with all the over-the-top excitement the Superbowl generates.
Also, my personal bette noir was the architectural frontispiece the fuh-kaid. Much like an arcade, which goes into the building the facade was a front.
I knew there was the word when you put up a false front called a fussard. Strange I never heard people talking about facades, and never saw fussard written down.

I think i was married before it got sorted out (luckily I wasn't an architect).
posted by bystander at 2:21 AM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


> 158. sin (n, n, n)

I'm drawing a blank on this one.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:05 AM on February 5, 2015


I assume for sin there's different usage and pronunciation theologically vs mathematically. Mathematically it makes sense when the dictionary says "see sine".
posted by GuyZero at 9:30 AM on February 5, 2015


sin
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:46 AM on February 5, 2015


I remember my first Siobhan. She was a friend of a friend, and from Ireland. That was in the 80s, so by the time Sinead O'Connor came along I was ready.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:50 AM on February 5, 2015


sin

I'm not sure an abbreviation for another word (sine) and a word from a foreign language (the Hebrew letter) really count--though, otherwise, I love your list.
posted by yoink at 9:50 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, great list (singer #2 took me a long time to figure out), but me, I'd asterisk the sin entry. Especially as we were taught to pronounce the Hebrew letter the same way as the theological concept.

Though it does remind me of one of my favorite obscure homophones, cosh and cosh. There's a horrible joke somewhere in there about fixing something by "hitting it with a cosh", but I've yet to be able to make it.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:10 AM on February 5, 2015


I was just listening to the "In Our Time" podcast, and one of the scholars on the panel pronounced the great Persian leader Darius as "der-EYE-us".

whut
posted by Sara C. at 9:56 PM on February 5, 2015


> I was just listening to the "In Our Time" podcast, and one of the scholars on the panel pronounced the great Persian leader Darius as "der-EYE-us".

That is actually the "correct" (traditional classical) pronunciation, because the -i- is long in Latin. I will never forget this because my dissertation director corrected me when I said it "wrong" in one of our first meetings.
posted by languagehat at 2:23 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


DuBois, PA, pronounced "doo boyz."
posted by Chrysostom at 3:09 PM on February 11, 2015


languagehat: That is actually the "correct" (traditional classical) pronunciation, because the -i- is long in Latin. I will never forget this because my dissertation director corrected me when I said it "wrong" in one of our first meetings.
I can't believe I'm correcting languagehat on language, but - the "long -i-" in Latin is the phonetic long -i-, which is heard in the English word "meet", not the dipthong heard in the word "sight".

DAHR-ee-us is the Classical Latin pronunciation. DAHR-igh-us ("igh" as in "sight") is the Church Latin pronunciation, which is (mostly) frozen since Medieval Latin speakers evolved/mutated the language.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:58 AM on February 12, 2015


You are not correcting me, you are expressing your understanding of classical pronunciation, which is the modern version, a reasonable approximation to how the Romans themselves said it. There's a reason I wrote "traditional classical" (emphasis added); the traditional way to pronounce Latin words was as if they were English, so that "long i" and "long e" in, say, miles 'soldier' were pronounced exactly like "long i" and "long e" in English words: MY-leez, not MEE-lays. Thus Miles Gloriosus was traditionally pronounced MY-leez glori-OH-suss. You may think that sounds funny, but your version would have sounded equally ludicrous to a Victorian. Church Latin (which is basically Latin pronounced as if it were Italian) is neither here nor there. If you look up Darius in, say, Daniel Jones's English Pronouncing Dictionary, the only pronunciation given is də'raiəs, i.e. duh-RYE-uss. Your version doesn't even get a parenthetical "also" mention. Hence, as I said above, "der-EYE-us" is actually the "correct" (traditional classical) pronunciation.
posted by languagehat at 8:29 AM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, and the Classical Latin pronunciation (in the sense you mean) is dah-REE-us, not "DAHR-ee-us." Because the i is long.
posted by languagehat at 8:30 AM on February 12, 2015


i always thought darius was pronounced - "hoo-tee"
posted by pyramid termite at 1:32 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Heh.

My tiger-poking stick is still sharp.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:54 PM on February 12, 2015


MY-leez, not MEE-lays

Miley Cyrus will be in for an adjustment period if she's ever magically transported to Ancient Rome.

(And in Persia everyone would keep calling her "Kourosh.")
posted by Iridic at 4:46 PM on February 12, 2015


Foucault That Noise: The Terror of Highbrow Mispronunciation
In October 1937, the president of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, devised a simple way to identify the Haitian immigrants living along the border of his country. Dominican soldiers would hold up a sprig of parsley—perejil in Spanish—and ask people to identify it. Those who spoke Spanish would pronounce the word's central "r" with that language's characteristic trill; the Haitians, on the other hand, would bury the "r" sound in the throaty way of the French. To be on the receiving end of the parsley test would be to seal, either way, one's fate: The Spanish-speaking Dominicans were left to live, and the Haitians were slaughtered. It was a state-sponsored genocide that would be remembered, in one of history's greatest understatements, as the Parsley Massacre.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:21 PM on February 12, 2015


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