Apocrypha Now II: The Revenge of Samuel Pepys

by Scott McLemee on July 16, 2007

Jerome Weeks offers another tale from the crypt:

A 17th century English lit doctoral candidate has completed her dissertation on Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist. Early on in her studies (yes, the gender makes this seem sexist, but I’m just reporting the anecdote as I heard it) she moved away from the university because of something—oh, let’s say she had to live with her parents. So she completed her work by mail. This was not that uncommon 25 years ago, and probably even less so today with the internet.

At any rate, it’s the day of her defense, she returns to the department and faces a jury of professors—who quickly realize that in all this time, no one has explained that Pepys’ name is pronounced “Peeps.” But the professors are embarrassed as well, to have one of their Ph.D. candidates get this far and never to have spoken to one of them directly. So our plucky candidate has the unnerving experience of hearing her mentors nervously coo at her for several hours.

Everytime she says “Peppis,” one of them would softly go … “Peeps.”

Maybe it actually happened. Maybe it’s academic folklore. But Jerome says he had one confirmation of the premise: He told the story to an English professor who admitted he hadn’t realized how the name was pronounced either.

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{ 193 comments }

1

John Protevi 07.16.07 at 3:54 pm

It could be that they were hip-hop fans, calling out to their peeps.

Maybe if we’re lucky Nat Whilk will show up and show us his mad Lexis-Nexis skillz to offer some help here.

2

P O'Neill 07.16.07 at 4:12 pm

This story must predate Spinal Tap, which popularised the correct pronunciation of that surname.

3

Nick L 07.16.07 at 4:17 pm

This seems pretty common in academia due to the combination of lots of independent reading and little contact time. I’ve heard the name ‘Keohane’ pronounced several different ways and I remain confused as its correct pronunciation. See also ‘hegemony’.

4

Joel Turnipseed 07.16.07 at 4:26 pm

Hmmm… as an advisor of mine once said when I apologized for something I’d written for an independent study, which had gone badly askew, and for whose error I attributed my “autodidacticism:” “We all become autodidacts sooner or later. The trick is not to be an asshole about it. Either of us.”

I’ve seen Spinal Tap, have forgotten (or just didn’t get) the “Peeps” reference, own the U of California set of the Diaries, and I thought it was pronounced “Peppis.”

Still, would have been pretty funny (and harmless) if she had everything else right, but the committee had to endure the increasing temptation to giggle at each successive “peep.”

5

M. Gemmill 07.16.07 at 4:26 pm

This is a problem for anyone who read above their grade level in school.

Some words that are/were problematic for me (in terms of pronunciation; I use the present tense because despite awareness of the correct pronunciation, I sometimes slip and say the wrong thing):

epitome (I was in college before I connected the word as written to the word as spelled)
mauve
lingerie
pedant
homogeneous

I’m sure there are others that my listeners have simply been too polite to point out to me.

Oh, and I only recently learned the correct pronunciation of Pepys myself.

6

Ginger Yellow 07.16.07 at 4:27 pm

Presumably this happened (or didn’t) at an American university. Samuel Pepys is pretty deeply ingrained in British folklore. It would be like an American PhD student not knowing how to pronounce Paul Revere.

7

Maurice Meilleur 07.16.07 at 4:31 pm

@ #5: or who had an ethnically narrow set of friends/relations. I did not know the proper pronunciation of the word “yarmulke” until I was in college.

8

ajay 07.16.07 at 4:36 pm

Sorry, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe someone gets through (at least) a BA and possibly an MA, and at the end of it decides to study Pepys, without ever having discussed Pepys with another person.

I mean, fair enough, she could have spent the years of her doctorate-by-mail without talking about it; but she spent three or four years of undergraduate work and never once had a conversation with anybody – tutor, fellow students, friends – about her prospective PhD topic? No.

9

Fats Durston 07.16.07 at 4:37 pm

It dawned on me in junior high that those “naughtsies” I’d heard about were the same guys in books I’d been pronouncing (in my head) as “nazzies”…

10

Miriam 07.16.07 at 4:38 pm

A professor at the U of Chicago had a similar anecdote about his own mangling of Pepys. And I destroyed “Froude” at a conference last year, so these things happen, alas.

This reminds me that one professor at Chicago had a favorite question for doctoral orals: he made students read a paragraph from Jane Eyre which included the name “St. John Rivers.”

11

mollymooly 07.16.07 at 4:45 pm

I discovered last year (while reading the dictionary) that outside Ireland, “woman” is pronounced with the O sounded as the U of PUT rather than the U of BUT. I still can’t hear any difference in this case. Obviously I would have found out years ago if I’d used a smaller dictionary.

Re Keohane: I discovered watching Frasier that “Mickey Spillane” is pronounced (at least by effete Harvard-educated psychiatriasts) with the vowel of PLAINT rather than PLANT; the latter is standard in Hiberno-English for names ending –ANE (Strabane, Spillane, Keohane, etc.)

Re “Spinal Tap”: but did listeners identify the spoken “Peeps” with the written “Pepys”? For years I thought the USA had separate states called “arKANsas” and “ARKansaw”.

Re “epitome”: I remember a kid in “Spellbound” being drilled by his father, who intoned EPP-ee-toam, which son spelled E-P-I-T-O-M-E. If the kid had got asked to spell uh-PITT-uh-mee in the Finals, the film would have won an Oscar.

12

Bloix 07.16.07 at 4:51 pm

I had a professor of tax in law school- a great professor, clear, entertaining, and concerned for his students – who was teaching a case about capital gains treatment of the sale of certain assets, which happened to be the rights in a play about Toulouse-Lautrec called “Monsieur Toulouse.”

For 90 minutes he discoursed lucidly and informatively about the issues surrounding the sale of rights in what he called “Mon-syoor Toolooz.” He’d been teaching this class for years and obviously no one ever had the nerve to correct him.

It made me reconsider what it means to be an educated person. I had somehow- snobbishly, no doubt- assumed that being educated includes knowing how French is pronounced. Not so.

13

Ted 07.16.07 at 4:59 pm

This happens to me a lot with proper names. Since I don’t watch television news, but do read a lot of political weblogs, there are lots of names of people and places that I’ve read dozens of times but have never heard pronounced. Occasionally I’ll overhear one when my wife is listening to NPR, and say to myself, “Oh, that’s how that’s pronounced.”

14

jacob 07.16.07 at 5:05 pm

For the record, at least at Duke, where Nan Keohane was president and both Keohanes taught for some time, the accepted pronunciation is Ko-hane, with the first syllable rhyming with hoe or row. Of course, this is a school where it has become a point of pride among the undergraduates to mispronounce the name of the new library. (It’s Bostock; the donor family pronounces the first syllable like botulism, but students at Duke insist on pronouncing it with a long “o,” like Bohemia.)

15

Ben Alpers 07.16.07 at 5:12 pm

Two names from my graduate work (and dissertation) gave me these kind of problems: film director Frank Borzage and Congressman Martin Dies.

In both cases, I knew, as soon as I encountered these names on the page, that any pronunciation I came up with was likely to be embarrassingly wrong. At least in the case of Dies, there were only two plausible options.

16

M. Townes 07.16.07 at 5:17 pm

I spent an awkward phone call talking to Robert Keohane about grad study at Duke, having asked to speak to “Professor Kee-oh-hane”. I had recently learned the correct pronunciation, “Ko-hane”, but somehow the listening neurons had not passed this on to the speaking neurons. I did not get in to Duke.

I should also report a strained few minutes listening to a professor carry on about one “Vay-bur”. I asked a colleague to write it down for me, and got it: “Weber”.

17

dearieme 07.16.07 at 5:20 pm

Benny Hill used to sing a song about a voyeur: “…but naughty Samuel peeps”.

18

Anderson 07.16.07 at 5:20 pm

(I was in college before I connected the word as written to the word as spelled)

My own embarrassment on those lines was when I finally realized that “infrared” does not rhyme with “scared.”

19

SamChevre 07.16.07 at 5:22 pm

I was in my late teens before realizing that the (written) word “misled” and the (spoken) word “mis led” were the same word.

20

Ben Alpers 07.16.07 at 5:25 pm

I once had a conversation with a friend in the late ’80s about “Bloom” and the canon, about ten minutes into which I realized that I had been talking about Allan while she had been talking about Harold.

Rather than point this out, I simply switched to talking about Harold, too, and the conversation continued.

21

tom s. 07.16.07 at 5:26 pm

“not knowing how to pronounce Paul Revere.”

- I hate to ask, but how is it pronounced?

22

Anderson 07.16.07 at 5:27 pm

“Cute as a bug,” indeed.

23

Ben Alpers 07.16.07 at 5:28 pm

“not knowing how to pronounce Paul Revere.”
– I hate to ask, but how is it pronounced?

It’s pronounced “Throatwobbler Mangrove.”

24

kelly 07.16.07 at 5:30 pm

Oh, I believe it ajay – if only because I had a prof a few years back who pronounced it Peppis, and the only reason I ever learned otherwise was chatting with a Brit doctoral student who gently corrected my pronunciation, and then said, “you’re obviously taking a class with Prof. [name] – no one has ever been able to get him to say it correctly.”

Of course, my favourite is learning a new word… in sign language. Talk about having no reference for how it’s pronounced!

25

Jim Harrison 07.16.07 at 5:37 pm

Some mispronunciations are willful. In my youth, I met Harvard philosophy profs who pronounced Kant “can’t” simply because they could. Some of them pronounced Nietzsche as if it almost rhymed with “itchy.”

26

chuckchuck 07.16.07 at 5:37 pm

A friend defended a paper on Wim Wenders pronouncing with a “W”. The whole room went up in a roar of laughter.

27

Scott McLemee 07.16.07 at 5:38 pm

In middle school, I gave a report on a myth involving a nymph who was a daughter of the Greek god in charge of rivers. That would be Peneus.

I pronounced the name correctly, for all the good it did me.

28

walt 07.16.07 at 5:42 pm

Ben Alpers has just crossed the thin line between villainy and cartoon villainy.

29

Ben Alpers 07.16.07 at 5:43 pm

@#26: There may be some names that are more safely mispronounced than pronounced correctly, like that of the Judaic studies scholar Shlomo Pines.

30

Ben Alpers 07.16.07 at 5:45 pm

@#27:

*menacingly twirls mustache*

31

Frowner 07.16.07 at 5:53 pm

A key demystification of the professoriat:

Me: “[Blah blah blah desperate scrabbling to sound smart plus various garbled terms in German]…Val-ther Ben-ya-meen in the Arcardes Project…[blah blah]“.
Fancy-pants professor: “Who? Oh. I always thought it was Walter Benjamin.”

Also, I can’t pronounce Goethe. Luckily, none of my friends are interested in him, so what I say goes.

32

HP 07.16.07 at 5:58 pm

I hate to ask, but how is it pronounced?

Revere rhymes with Sevier.

33

garymar 07.16.07 at 5:59 pm

Ben Alpers at #23:

You’re still mispronouncing it. It’s actually “Throat Warbler Mangrove”.

34

Aidan Kehoe 07.16.07 at 6:00 pm

As I understand it, Pepys’ family currently pronounces it /pips/ (“peeps”), but there’s good reason to think he pronounced it /peps/ (somewhere between “payps” (to rhyme with “japes”) and “peps”). But I’m not sure that excuses anyone.

35

mds 07.16.07 at 6:01 pm

I did not know the proper pronunciation of the word “yarmulke” until I was in college.

This is the only thing for which I owe Adam Sandler gratitude.

As a graduate student, with an MS in Physics already obtained, I gave an informal talk in which I referred to Hans “Beeth.” An attendee pointed out in written comments that Professor Bethe’s last name wasn’t pronounced that way. But heck, I had always read it.

It’s pronounced “Throatwobbler Mangrove.”

Oh, FOOCH! All this time I thought it was “Throat warbler,” as in “Common yellow throat warbler.” Yet another way in which I’ve been making a fool of myself revealed, and I owe it all to Ben Alpers, Hypervillain.

36

Ben Grad 07.16.07 at 6:13 pm

At 23 years old, I’m still discovering the “correct” pronunciation of words I’ve been reading for years. Some of my recent favorites: “quay”, “chasm”, “colonel”, and “herb” (but I pronounce it correctly in the UK!).

As an English lit student currently studying Joyce’s Ulysses, pronouncing “quay” as “kway” is especially embarrassing.

37

Bloix 07.16.07 at 6:23 pm

Jim Harrison- it is (or at least was) common in England to pronounce many foreign names as if they were English. Kant is Can’t, Nietzsche is Nicheh, Rousseau is ROO-so. Your professors had probably spent a year at Oxford and wanted to make sure you knew it.

38

P O'Neill 07.16.07 at 6:25 pm

There may be some names that are more safely mispronounced than pronounced correctly, like that of the Judaic studies scholar Shlomo Pines

Indeed eminent Indians named Dixit requires similar care.

39

Rich B. 07.16.07 at 6:30 pm

My freshman year college humiliation was Facade.

40

Bloix 07.16.07 at 6:34 pm

Every American Jew I’ve ever met pronounces it YA-ma-ka.

41

Matthew 07.16.07 at 6:52 pm

We discussed some of these on my blog recently. My contribution was a family member, who in the 1960s when doing a EFL teacher training course, said to one of the instructors “It’s on boo-un-dowry lane’, to which he replied, “I think you’ll find its Boundary lane, my dear”

A friend contributed the apparently (others had heard it) apocryphal story of an Australian friend of his who had arrived in London and was staying with someone else. He called friend up and said, “I’m at Looger-Boorooga Junction” [Loughborough].

And my favourite was someone in the office who owned up to believing that “misled” and “misled”, but pronounced “my-zuld”, were different words.

42

Ben Alpers 07.16.07 at 6:54 pm

@#33:

I appear to have been hoisted by my own petard (and I think I can pronounce that correctly).

43

marcel 07.16.07 at 7:13 pm

On one of our early dates, my (now) wife corrected my pronunciation of renege. Apparently she saw something worthwhile there (or perhaps enjoyed having an easy way to lord it over me).

A couple of other words that I have not had problems with but irk me:

niche
homage
Syracuse (local pronunciation in NYS is Sarahcuze, rather than Seeracuze)

Anyone want to hazard a guess on where the accent should be located for the 2nd word of the 2nd of the Jewish High Holidays? When I was growing up, they were pronounced in good ol’ Amercun fashion, as Yom Kippur. Ever since late 1973, it seems like it’s been Yom Kippor. Along with the substitution of kippoh for yarmulke, as well as more significant things like AIPAC and the neo-cons becoming the public face of American Jewry, I feel like that part of my heritage has been stolen from me.

#37: My recollection of the Sorrow and the Pity includes being impressed with Eden’s apparently equal facility in English and French, and his pronunciation of the French city as Kalay, when speaking French, and Callous when speaking English.

44

SEK 07.16.07 at 7:16 pm

My first semester of undergraduate work, I bungled “homogeneous.” When corrected, the professor (whose name I can’t for the life of me remember) added: “Don’t worry, son, the sure sign you’re an autodidact is that you can’t pronounce it.”

45

Stuart 07.16.07 at 7:23 pm

He called friend up and said, “I’m at Looger-Boorooga Junction” [Loughborough].

This one is relatively common I expect, I was on a train between Nottingham and Leicester last year and the American couple behind me were talking about where they had to get off, pronouncing it LOO-burr-OO (probably going to East Midlands Airport, as theres not a lot of other reason to get off there).

Personally the worst case I remember was the group of us that played D&D as kids/young adults – we had numerous adventures into The Abyss, pronouncing it with three syllables rather than two Ab-ee-ISS or something like that. It does teach you something about language though – that version was perfectly workable for us for a decade. I guess it is more likely when using a word that is very rare in normal speech (unless you are a mountaineer or something I guess).

46

Ben Alpers 07.16.07 at 7:25 pm

@#43: These are just some of the many examples of the replacement of Yiddish words with Hebrew words, and Ashkenazic pronunciation of Hebrew words with “Sephardic” (I’m not sure it’s actually Sephardic) pronunciation that corresponds to modern Hebrew. Both of these came along with the triumph of Zionism in American Judaism since World War II. Thus “shabbes” becomes “shabbat,” “gut yontif” is replaced by “chag sameach,” and so forth.

A shande un a kharpe!

47

marcel 07.16.07 at 7:31 pm

#43 – You sure of that spelling (kharpa)? You might want to take a gander at

http://shakti.trincoll.edu/~mendele/vol08/vol08.010

Search on shanda.

48

marcel 07.16.07 at 7:32 pm

I should read what I type before hitting post. Of course I meant, “Search on shande

49

marcel 07.16.07 at 7:34 pm

And stop twirling your moustache!

50

chris y 07.16.07 at 7:42 pm

I can’t get excited about anachronistically pronouncing early modern names. How many people make a point of calling Christopher Marlowe “Marley” or Edmund Halley “Hawley”? Why should they, except for pedantic snobbery? or Leveson-Gower as “Leeson-Gore” for that matter?

51

rm 07.16.07 at 7:43 pm

As a kid I was also “missiled” about misled.

My (brilliant and wonderful) diss advisor, bless her heart, could not pronounce anything French to save her life. She often made reference to the great postmodern theorist Jock DeRitta.

Darn. That would have made a great internet commenting name.

52

paul 07.16.07 at 7:54 pm

Traveling with some folks many years ago and it took me quite some time to get what they meant when they spoke of their plans to visit WarWick. I tried echoing “warrick” like the peepsing profs above, but I don’t think it took.

But yes reading above your grade level or being deaf in one ear (as one of the travelers above was) can be a serious impediment to learning how things are supposed to sound.

53

Sean 07.16.07 at 8:02 pm

54

rea 07.16.07 at 8:03 pm

It made me reconsider what it means to be an educated person. I had somehow- snobbishly, no doubt- assumed that being educated includes knowing how French is pronounced. Not so.

A seminar I signed up for in my senior year reached a state of insurrection on the first day when the professor assigned extensive readings in French. Ability to undrstand French had not be listed as a course prerequisite. The professor explained that he had assumed that any educated, intelligent person could manage to read French literature in the original language. A bold assumption, particularly at Oklahoma University . . .

55

getoffmeland 07.16.07 at 8:03 pm

At age six, during a read through (!) for a class play about cowboys, I pronounced OK as one syllable. It still burns.

At Trinity College Dublin I spent my first term telling friends I’d be over in the Ber-ke-ley library.

As a lawyer, I find plenty of confusion over pronunciation of latin terms. The bar has its own system, like a shibboleth that marks out advocates from the office bound paper pushers. But I guess the best advice is to pronounce as if english – or, just stick to english. Mind you, the title of the Aeneid and of its hero, Aeneas, is some kind of marker of thorough education.

My favourite mispron is from the usual source:
“O Mr Homer, you are so learn-ed.”
“He he. That’s learned, son. Learned.”

And how does anyone really know that the man himself pronounced it Peeps?

56

Stacy 07.16.07 at 8:10 pm

Mine was invalid, as in someone who is ill (pronounced like an in-VAL-id procedure, rather than IN-va-lid).

57

SamChevre 07.16.07 at 8:16 pm

Re #36, I learned that from a limerick in the Encyclopedia (1929, article on limericks, and yes, it says something about me that I #1 read it and #2 remember it.)

The lifeboat that’s kept at Torquay
Was intended to float in the suay;
The crew and the coxswain
Were sturdy as oxswain,
And as strong and as bold as could buay.

58

Bryan 07.16.07 at 8:19 pm

It has been pronounced for me several times, but I still hear “György Lukács” in my head as “George Lucas”. Another embarrassing confusion is mixing up “casual” and “causal”. Obviously, I know the conceptual difference by now (when I was younger I thought there was just one spelling, with two distinct meaning), but I still read “causal” in my head as “casual” sometimes, and misspell “causal” as “casual” all the time.

59

Russell Arben Fox 07.16.07 at 8:32 pm

Some of my greatest embarrassments, a couple of which I believe I’ve mentioned here at CT before: pronouncing authoritatively on the ancient Greek philosopher Soakraits; trying to figure out from a freshman dorm friend without revealing my ignorance the difference between those two hot-new 80s Australian bands, “Inxs” and “In Excess” (heard the latter on the radio all the time, but it was the former’s albums which I saw in the stores); and, my favorite, spending a year or two when I was around seventh grade showing off my pseudo-European sophistication by shouting down the school hallways some hip Italian parting that I had learned everybody in New York City said, at least according to my Spider-Man comic books: “Kaiyo!”

60

Bloix 07.16.07 at 8:40 pm

Marcel- in my parents’ house, we said “yung-kipper” for Yom Kippur and “rashashana” for Rosh Hashana, and “chanika” for Chanukah and “yamaka” for yarmulke. “Yuntif” (holiday) is a Yiddishization of the Hebrew “Yom Tov”, “good day.” Yiddish, like English, is tops for slurring vowels and eliding consonants. Hebrew, on the other hand, requires precise enunciation, like French.

61

dearieme 07.16.07 at 8:41 pm

Kirkcudbright.

62

Nash 07.16.07 at 8:43 pm

And “coxswain” (which when it does not rhyme with “oxen”, it rimes with “oxen”) of #56 is the answer to the question:

What is the only word in the English language with the consonant cluster “xsw”?

Ah, pendantry, alive and well.

63

Bloix 07.16.07 at 8:52 pm

PS- ben alpers, I wouldn’t say that the adoption of Hebrew pronunciations “came along with the triumph of Zionism in American Judaism since World War II.” The older pronunciations are Yiddish. The demise of Yiddish as a living language has a well-known cause that cannot be attributed to Zionism.

And more to the point of the thread – I learned early on to say Bor-hess, with the appropriately gutteral “h,” but I still managed to embarrass myself by pronouncing his first name as “George.”

64

Keith 07.16.07 at 8:55 pm

I’ve always had problems pronouncing Jorge Luis Borges. Bor-jess? Bor-hees? Any takers?

65

Keith 07.16.07 at 8:56 pm

oops. That’ll teach me to not read the previous frickin post.

66

Jim Parish 07.16.07 at 9:00 pm

I’ve heard a similar story concerning a British WWI vet talking about his experiences at Ypres (“Wipers”); his hostess repeatedly corrected him (“Eeps”), but he assumed she had a bad case of hiccups.

67

Michael Keyes 07.16.07 at 9:06 pm

*For years I thought the USA had separate states called “arKANsas” and “ARKansaw”*

I had the same problem but could never find ARKansaw on the map. I finally learned the correct way to say the word, but when we moved to Wichita, had to change my mind since the river than flows through is pronounce arKANsas until it crosses the Oklahoma border.

68

JP Stormcrow 07.16.07 at 9:16 pm

Don’t know when I finally figured it out, but I was right there with MY-zuld. I even had an alternate definition that was closer to “cheated”. For instance “I misled him out of $20″ – funny how it was only ever used in the past tense.

69

magistra 07.16.07 at 9:17 pm

I got through a whole early medieval PhD on the Carolingians wrongly pronouncing them with a hard rather than a soft G. While that’s not as blatantly a different pronunciation as the Pepys, it arose despite the fact that I did hear the correct pronunciation frequently. Whether the loose connection was ear to brain or brain to mouth I don’t know. I only changed because a friend of mine commented on it and I consciously worked at the different pronunciation.

But any continental medieval historian encounters so many of these problems you just get innured to it. For example, however you pronounce ‘Rheims’ it won’t make sense to some of your audience. And what counts as the correct pronounciation anyhow of the Medieval Latinized version of the Germanic name of a person who would now be considered French, like ‘Angilbertus’? You just have to smile sweetly, give it a try and put the key names on your handout.

70

y 07.16.07 at 9:17 pm

Lawyers just don’t know how to pronounce Latin–or use it, for that matter.

The classic joke about Aeneas is the one in which the student mispronounces the name, and the professor responds that surely Dido would never have been interested in a man with a short penult.

71

Ben Alpers 07.16.07 at 9:21 pm

I wouldn’t say that the adoption of Hebrew pronunciations “came along with the triumph of Zionism in American Judaism since World War II.” The older pronunciations are Yiddish. The demise of Yiddish as a living language has a well-known cause that cannot be attributed to Zionism.

It’s the triumph of modern Hebrew (an extraordinary instance of the revival of an essentially dead language) that I attribute to Zionism, not the (near) demise of Yiddish. Those Yiddish pronunciations were also, of course, used for (Biblical) Hebrew and Aramaic by Jews across Eastern Europe.

And on a subject similar to Arkansas…

Is there any rhyme or reason to the fact that there’s a town in Michigan called Mackinaw City that sits on the Straits of Mackinac, and both Mackinac and Mackinaw are pronounced “Mackinaw”?

72

Jim Harrison 07.16.07 at 9:25 pm

I wish somebody would cook up a universal pronunciation gadget that works like a spell checker—the pronunciation sites I’ve found on the internet are rather clumsy to use and limited to one language. So how do you pronounce Cao Xueqin?

73

Ellie 07.16.07 at 9:28 pm

Anyone from Dublin will be familiar with the sight of baffled tourists gazing helplessly at signposts to Dun Laoighre.

74

anna 07.16.07 at 9:34 pm

My Humanities professor was mainly an ancient Greek professor, so while teaching the classics, he also saddled us with weird pronunciations. Luckily I managed to store both “how everyone else pronounced it” and “how those people who speak Greek pronounce it.”

Achilles: not uh-KILL-ees, but … ack ih LAY oohs
Aeneus: not uh-NEE-us, but ah – NAY- oohs

I’m with the other commenter on Ben-ya-meen/Benjamin. Sometimes pronouncing it right gets you so many odd looks it’s not worth it. OK so why do so many lit theorists have impossible names to pronounce?
Foucault, Derida, Kristeva… Borges.. almost a mark of importance in a weird way.

75

garymar 07.16.07 at 9:43 pm

jim harrison at #70:

Well, Xueqin is “Shue-Chin”. I have a friend whose first name is Xuequn.

ben alpers at #42:

Remember it’s pronounced as Throat Warbler Mangrove, but it’s actually written as Raymond Luxury Yacht [yatched] !

Unfortunately, all my best mispronunciation anecdotes involve western foreigners mispronouncing Kanji, which are Chinese characters adapted to the Japanese language, in which each character has two (or more!) readings depending on context.

76

Russell Arben Fox 07.16.07 at 9:52 pm

I had the same problem but could never find ARKansaw on the map. I finally learned the correct way to say the word, but when we moved to Wichita, had to change my mind since the river than flows through is pronounce arKANsas until it crosses the Oklahoma border.

Michael, we live in Wichita too. And I have instructed my children–both of whom lived three years of their young lives in Arkansas–that I never wanted to here them call the river that flows through this city “ArKANsas”–it’s called “ARKansaw” in Colorado, it’s called “ARKansaw” in Oklahoma, and it’s called “ARKansaw” in, well, Arkansas, before it dumps into the Mississippi. Changing its name as it travels through the state is like shouting to the world, “We must take on all challengers, even innocent rivers carrying 300-year-old French-inflected Indian names, for we have no confidence in the word ‘KANsas’ to otherwise endure!” No wonder sometimes this state seems to have an inferiority complex.

77

Russell Arben Fox 07.16.07 at 9:56 pm

Remember it’s pronounced as Throat Warbler Mangrove, but it’s actually written as Raymond Luxury Yacht [yatched]!

Dinsdale!

78

Ben Saunders 07.16.07 at 9:58 pm

It’s always names I find hardest, particularly if you don’t know where it’s from and know it could be pronounced differently by different poeople. (The classic UK example being Mrs Bucket – pronounced ‘bouquet’). ‘Siobhan’ gets many people, but even knowing that I couldn’t work out ‘Meabh’…

I once pronounced the name of an Italian friend, Carolina (as in North Caro-line-uh), such that another Italian mutual friend didn’t know who I meant, until she got it ‘ah, Caro-leena’. Leading to…

#37: it is (or at least was) common in England to pronounce many foreign names as if they were English. Kant is Can’t, Nietzsche is Nicheh, Rousseau is ROO-so. Your professors had probably spent a year at Oxford and wanted to make sure you knew it.

But foreigners pronounce English names and words with foreign accents so I think it’s perfectly acceptable to do likewise. (Maybe this is an English, imperialist thing). I don’t have any philosophy of language to back me up, but I just see it as a different pronounciation of the same word, so it’s acceptable to reply ‘that’s what I said’.

I’d extend what #50 says I can’t get excited about anachronistically pronouncing early modern names. How many people make a point of calling Christopher Marlowe “Marley” or Edmund Halley “Hawley”? Why should they, except for pedantic snobbery?

79

SamChevre 07.16.07 at 9:59 pm

I live 20 miles from Buena Vista (byoonah vista), but a couple thousand miles from Buena Vista (bwaynah veestah).

80

Mark 07.16.07 at 10:02 pm

Regarding place names, this reminds me of a story on BBC radio some 20 years ago about a storm in the Irish Sea that had disrupted the ferry service from Holyhead to Dun LeHair.

Of course whether you pronounce it Dun Leary or Doon Lair-agh opens up a separate Friel-esque debate.

81

dave heasman 07.16.07 at 10:32 pm

Pepys Road is in New Cross, just up the road from Greenwich. I’ve not been there lately but the locals all pronounced it “Peppis”. Of course, it doesn’t date from the 17C, but even so.

82

Bloix 07.16.07 at 10:40 pm

#74- oh, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pronouncing foreign names as if they were English. It’s just convention – you say whatever will be understood and not attract attention to yourself. If the convention is Van Go you say that even if you know he said Fon Koch. The thing is, the Harvard profs were being snooty when they said Can’t, but the student didn’t get it so they he thought they were simply wrong.

83

jacob 07.16.07 at 10:41 pm

This is off topic to the main conversation, but:

The demise of Yiddish as a living language has a well-known cause that cannot be attributed to Zionism.

The disappearance of Yiddishkeit in the 1950s is attributable to the success of political Zionism, McCarthyism, and the closure of US immigration in 1924, in that order of importance, I’d say. The choice of Hebrew as the language for Israel and the imposition of political Israel as the sine qua non of American Judaism is by far the greatest cause for the decline of Yiddishkeit among American Jews.

84

josh 07.16.07 at 10:44 pm

Among my favourite British (mis)-pronunciations of foreign names (now largely extinct, but once apparently common among Oxbridge dons): Cervantes’s hero ‘Don Quick-sit’
(I first heard this in a recorded lecture by Isaiah Berlin, whose first name is constantly mispronounced in the US.)
My least favourite unusual pronunciation (but which I sometimes find myself falling into): Hobbesian as ‘HobbEEsheean’.

85

Bloix 07.16.07 at 10:52 pm

“The disappearance of Yiddishkeit in the 1950s is attributable to the success of political Zionism, McCarthyism, and the closure of US immigration in 1924, in that order of importance, I’d say.”

I would say that the disappearance of Yiddishkeit in the 1950′s is attributable to the murder of 5 and half million native Yiddish-speakers and the systematic destruction of the sources of Yiddish culture, but that’s just me.

86

Bloix 07.16.07 at 10:56 pm

#83- yes but how do you say it? To my ear, Donkey Ho-tey is about right, while Don ke-HO-tay is pompous as hell.

87

jacob 07.16.07 at 11:04 pm

I would say that the disappearance of Yiddishkeit in the 1950’s is attributable to the murder of 5 and half million native Yiddish-speakers and the systematic destruction of the sources of Yiddish culture, but that’s just me.

Again: In the United States. There was a vibrant Yiddishkeit culture in the US before World War II, and the Holocaust (which didn’t kill any American Jews) cannot explain its disappearance.

88

Molly 07.16.07 at 11:11 pm

One of my favorites from my undergrad days (an undisclosed number of years ago): after sitting through nearly half a semester of lectures on sociological theory, one of my classmates asked our TA if “Webber” was going to be on the exam. This happened not long after a grad student at another school related to me a tale of having to grade a paper on the sociological theories of “Max Vapor.”

89

Bruce Baugh 07.16.07 at 11:14 pm

Jim @ 71: In pinyin, the C at the start of a syllable is what Wade-Giles writes with a “ts’”. So Cao is more or less like “it’s sour” with the first and last sounds nipped. Xueqin is “shway-chin”, more or less, as Garymar already said. Tsao Shway-chin. Thus indeed do many things come to pass.

90

Bloix 07.16.07 at 11:17 pm

Jacob, at the risk of hijacking a lighthearted thread, I disagree (and then I’ll shut up.) Yes there was a thriving Yiddish-speaking community here in the US, but that community was always assimilating- in fact, its goal was to assimilate. Most parents did not educate their children to speak Yiddish. If there had been no Holocaust, even with immigration restrictions there would have been a sufficient renewal of Yiddish-speakers, to say nothing of Yiddish film, theatre, and literature, from Europe to keep Yiddish culture alive in the US. And of course, American Jews viewed Yiddish-speaking Europe as the dead past, a reason for shame, and Hebrew-speaking Israel as the living future, a source of pride (most dramatically, after the ’67 war which irrevocably tied American Jewry to Israel). Without a source of replenishment, Yiddishkeit in the US turned into nothing more than Hollywood humor and Sunday morning brunch, and even those vestiges are on their way out.

91

Bruce Baugh 07.16.07 at 11:18 pm

Jacob: Exactly the same thing happened to Yiddish culture in the US that happened to thriving cultures in Gaelic, German, various kinds of Spanish, and more. It’s often called “assimilation” and it’s been studied a bit.

92

mijnheer 07.16.07 at 11:32 pm

I once had a History in Art professor “correct” my pronunciation of the Elgin Marbles. She pronounced the word “Eljin”.

I’ve also had a ticket-seller at a London train station burst into a fit of merriment when I requested a ticket to Lewes (an hour from London, in Sussex). “You Americans always say it that way,” he guffawed. “It’s pronounced ‘Loos’.” In fact, he was wrong — both about my being American and about the pronunciation, as my Lewes (Loo-es) friends could have told him.

93

jacob 07.16.07 at 11:39 pm

I’ll follow Bloix’s lead and drop out of this thread-hijacking after this post. But I do want to point out that assimilation does not explain what we were originally talking about, which was the substitution of Hebrew for Yiddish–the replacement of shabbat for shabbos, kippah for yarmulke, synagogue for shul, etc. That is to say, contrary to Bruce Baugh, what happened to Yiddish was decidedly not what happend to Gaelic, German, and the like.

Further, to the extent that a cutting off of fresh blood is responsible (and that was, remember, my tertiary reason for Yiddishkeit’s decline), the Holocaust cannot explain it, since that cutting off happened because of American immigration policy, not the Holocaust. One might recall the refusal of the US to allow European Jews into the country in the ’30s and ’40s. Again I repeat that American Yiddish culture was not just a repetition of what was going on in Europe. The Yiddish film, theater, music, politics, etc. in the United States was indigenous and specifically American. (Indeed, the dialect of Yiddish spoken here was also specifically American.)

But ok, that’s enough, I agree. We can go back to embarrassing mispronunciations.

94

fardels bear 07.17.07 at 12:03 am

Perhaps to link together the sad threadjacking with the more lighthearted topic of the thread:

One Jew who fled the Nazis was Kurt Lewin, the great social/Gestalt psychologist. When he came to this country he took a post at the University of Iowa and was determined to Americanize. Hence he wanted is name to be pronounced “Loo-win” as it would be in English. His own accent, however, was so thick that he had trouble explaining that to people and would tell people it was pronounced, “Lah-veen not Lah-veen.”

And, may I just say that until I read this blog, I had no idea how to pronounce “Pepys.”

95

Jacob (2) 07.17.07 at 12:13 am

Indeed, the dialect of Yiddish spoken here was also specifically American

Jacob @91: There was/is no such thing (unless you mean appropriating American slang or simple mispronunciation). All dialects of Yiddish arrived here from Europe (see Jacobs, Wex, Katz, etc.).

And just to get back on topic, my most embarrassing “mis”-pronunciation involved trying to get to Beauchamp Place in London using a normal French-Canadian accent.

96

George 07.17.07 at 12:55 am

Lie groups. I’d gone to talk to a prof about something I was reading, and (quite reasonably) pronounced it, “Lye”. Every time I did, he said “Lee”. It wasn’t till some time later that I got it.

97

Gene O'Grady 07.17.07 at 12:57 am

I grew up half a block from a street called Cowper and mispronounced it until I was twenty-something — and when I was told the correct pronunciation I didn’t believe it.

By the way, what was “ah – nay – oohs?” If it’s the illegitimate son of Mrs. Hephaestus, the first and last syllables are wrong.

98

DonBoy 07.17.07 at 1:01 am

when we moved to Wichita

Which, it turns out, is not pronounced “Wi-CHEET-a”.

99

Martin James 07.17.07 at 1:26 am

Is it possible that the correct pronunciation was not discovered until now and that all his life poor Samuel pronounced his name incorrectly?

100

vivian 07.17.07 at 1:39 am

Lightly, on the loss of Yiddish: as a child of decidedly nonreligious, but proudly cultural Jews, the parents sent me to Yiddish classes, to try to recover the dying tradition. But they taught us a more German-emigrant pronounciation, and my grandparents came from east Poland (well, much of the time it was Russian) and so I couldn’t understand them well enough to converse. Five years study, in the prime of language-absorbtion childhood, all lost. But I still say Feh to the snobs who try to impose their highfalutin Hebraic on MY proud tradition.

On Nietzsche: I had a friend in high school who made a point of saying “Neetchee is Peachy” just to irritate the… more hidebound folk. He’d have supported that on general principle, though.

101

Joel Turnipseed 07.17.07 at 1:49 am

Max Vapor and the Pronunciation of Doom.

16 July, 2007. Hollywood, CA. Revolution Studios and Sony Pictures announced today that Ridley Scott would direct and Vin Diesel (as Max Vapor) would star in the adaptation of the cult graphic novel, “Max Vapor and the Pronunciation of Doom.” Michael Caine is slotted to play Vapor’s father, a professor, and Gerard Butler will take a turn as his arch-enemy, T. W. Mangrove. In the graphic novel, Mangrove attempts to steal the government’s monopoly on the use of force, so that he can seek revenge for a childhood encounter with Max Vapor’s father, who was Mangrove’s headmaster at Phillips Exeter, and who caned Mangrove silly after he overheard Mangrove remarking of Vapor Senior’s pet student, “Now there’s the face of Phillip’s exciter.” When asked about the production’s reach, studio head Joe Roth effused: “It’s ‘Harry Potter’ meets ‘Spider Man’ at a tea party with ‘The History Boys’!”

102

jacob 07.17.07 at 2:30 am

On Goethe and Neitzche: There’s a fun song by the Canadian band The Lovedaddys called Pronouncing Goethe. Among the lyrics are the warning that Goethe (or Mephistopheles–it’s unclear in the context) will “burn ya if you don’t try to get it right when you say Goethe.” And “Dead Germans are cool, yeah, when you read them.” Etc.

103

Bernard Yomtov 07.17.07 at 3:22 am

#46:

As someone with a personal interest in the matter, may I assure you that the replacement of “gut yontif” with “chag sameach” has spared me endless repetitions of a tiresome joke.

Let those named “Sameach” carry the burden from now on.

104

JamesP 07.17.07 at 4:25 am

A friend claims that she spent an entire summer convinced that her Mexican roommate was simultaneously dating two men, one called George and the other called Horhe … one of whom only left notes, and the other who called on the phone

J.

105

Cryptic Ned 07.17.07 at 4:34 am

I had a teacher who not only assigned readings by Khalil Gibran (bad enough), but pronounced his name “CAY-hill JIB-ran”. She was otherwise extremely proper in her pronunciation, even pronouncing “wh” in the unvoiced way and doing demonstrations of how Chaucer would have spoken.

106

Cryptic Ned 07.17.07 at 4:36 am

So anyway, is English unique in that a native speaker could be intimately familiar with a word for a decade without ever hearing it said, and imagine that the pronunciation is something so different from the real pronunciation that he doesn’t even recognize the word when he hears it spoken?

107

Rosalynde 07.17.07 at 6:42 am

Yeah, I worked a little bit on the English Catholic poet Robert Southwell in the last chapter of my dissertation (read: didn’t spend much time in the advisor’s office at that point). Fortunately a kind-hearted woman at church, of all places, gently informed me that it was pronounced SUH-thull, not South-well. And kindly added that mispronunciations reliably identify avid readers.

108

Gdr 07.17.07 at 7:49 am

#106: Arabic must have this problem in spades, since the written language is Standard Arabic (fuṣḥā) while the spoken language varies widely.

109

krhasan 07.17.07 at 7:52 am

I once had to ask what “surfit” was when I’d always read it as “sur-feet”

My mother in law spent her teens in China. She was once very upset when the help refused to carry out a simple household task despite repeated requests. She ultimately found out she was actually telling her to “throw the baby away”.

110

Nabakov 07.17.07 at 8:21 am

An old joke.

An Irishman with a pronounced native accent (ie: I can’t write phonetic and plausible Irish accents) applying for work at a London building site was scornfully informed by the English foreman that you bloody bogtrotters wouldn’t know the first thing about modern contruction technologies.

“Why I reckon you couldn’t even tell the difference between a girder and a joist.”

“But of course I can! Goethe wrote ‘Faust’ and Joyce wrote ‘Ulysses’.”

Thank you, thank you. Try the veal, it’ll be here all week.

111

bad Jim 07.17.07 at 8:24 am

Ceci n’est pas une peep

There was also a novel by John Sladek in which two characters conversed mutually incomprehensibly at a party, one referring to Rodin the sculptor, the other to Rodan the giant pterosaur.

As to Quixote: some of the titles of Dalís paintings render it as “Quichote”, which would accord with the usage of “x” in northern Spain (and with Pinyin, conveniently). “Txipirones” sounds somehow tastier than “chipirones” (a heckuva lot better than “squid”, anyway).

As to whether Byron pronounced “Juan” as “Jew-Ann”, I’ll note that a friend of mine whose father came from Georgia had an uncle whose name had the latter pronunciation, but I found “Hwan” accomodating when I read the silly thing.

112

Caslon 07.17.07 at 8:43 am

Since I’m usually the last one to post, I’ll change the topic slightly. I was in a high school contest where I correctly named and placed 43 of the then 48 states. Everything was going swell until I started marking the upper northeast states and found myself stumped. I turned to the jurors and told them I had no clue where the state of New England fit in.

113

Caslon 07.17.07 at 8:47 am

To poster No. 111. That second “m” in accommodating is now available.

114

Richard J 07.17.07 at 8:48 am

My personal favourite shibboleth is Torpenhow, a small hamlet in Cumberland. (Trep-PAN-na, for the curious. Also the subject of the last time anyone tried to solve a civil law issue through a duel in England.)

But the anecdotes about people correcting other’s pronunciation reminds me of the time that my best friend, a scarily bright but foul-mouthed chap from Carrickfergus, was chatting with a haut bourgeoise French student at college. Everytime he swore, she politely coughed. Which was about every ten seconds…

115

mollymooly 07.17.07 at 8:52 am

116

bad Jim 07.17.07 at 9:03 am

mmm – tasty!

117

Ed Lake 07.17.07 at 9:09 am

Jim Parish @ 66: I believe “Wipers” was an in-joke among British servicemen at the time. Seem to recall some byplay along those lines in David Jones’s In Parenthesis.

118

bad Jim 07.17.07 at 9:11 am

Caslon – if that indeed is your typeface – once, in demonstrating my geographical prowess to a select circle of mutually incapacitated friends, I drew an entire map of the states and eventually realized I’d left out Wyoming, a perfectly rectangular state.

119

chris armstrong 07.17.07 at 9:33 am

Round these parts (Hampshire, England) we’ve got a great line in calling places by fancy French names and then pronouncing them as if they weren’t French at all – take for instance Beaulieu (“Bewley”!)

120

Ben Saunders 07.17.07 at 9:51 am

Could we do things differently?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6250184.stm

121

caslon 07.17.07 at 9:54 am

bad jim – I am indeed caslon, born in a lower case neighborhood but with upper case tastes. As to the missing Wyoming on your map, it has so few inhabitants that its absence hardly mattered.

122

chris y 07.17.07 at 9:59 am

Is it possible that the correct pronunciation was not discovered until now and that all his life poor Samuel pronounced his name incorrectly?

Very possible. Oliver Cromwell was under the impression that his name was pronounced “Crummel”, so why shouldn’t Pepys have been similarly deluded.

123

Ginger Yellow 07.17.07 at 10:05 am

There’s still a fairly common ironic usage of “Quiksut” among literature/Spanish students, at Oxford anyway.

124

florentine 07.17.07 at 10:50 am

When I was in high school, on seeing a well-endowed female friend in just a bra when we were changing clothes one day, I said that I wished I were “booksome” like her. She laughed and said yes, but to be buxom was even better, and she told me that when she was a child she had thought that be-draggled was pronounced bed-raggled.

125

Adam Roberts 07.17.07 at 10:51 am

To revert to the topic of the post for a mo, and specifically as to the likelihood of this story being true … fairly late on in the Diaries Pepys has a run-in with some builders working in his house who call him ‘Mr Peppis’ and whom he is obliged to correct. Surely somebody who specialised in Pepys, even if they’d never heard another person pronounce the word, would have read far enough in the Diaries to know this. Accordingly, I disbelieve the story.

126

mollymooly 07.17.07 at 10:59 am

Bertie Ahern pronouncing im-PUG-ning while reading a speech some civil servant had written for him. Priceless.

127

dearieme 07.17.07 at 11:02 am

“Quiksut” ain’t ironic: it’s the standard Brenglish way until the age of cheap holidays in Spain.

128

abb1 07.17.07 at 11:12 am

Wow, the Yiddish sub-thread here is amazing. Assimilation, huh – all of a sudden. Folks, there’s no doubt whatsoever that Zionists were deliberately eradicating Yiddish (“jargon”) everywhere they could find it. This is not controversial. And they succeeded.

129

mollymooly 07.17.07 at 11:34 am

Two words I mispronounced avec une intonation française: “avoirdupois” (forgivable, I think) and “anglepoise” (AWNG-gluh-pwoz: just funny)

130

Bloix 07.17.07 at 11:46 am

Jesus fucking christ, abb1, will you please go away? There is just no way to have a convivial conversation without your sort of asshole popping up to provoke a fight. The Zionists eliminated Yiddish, did they? The Zionists are Nazis, white is black, up is down. Do a but-for test: If there had been Nazis but no Zionists, would Yiddish be a living language today? Answer: No. If there had been Zionists but no Nazis, would Yiddish be a living language today? Answer: Yes. So, please, take it over to Moon of Alabama or some other drooling anti-Semitic site where we can avoid you.

131

Tom T. 07.17.07 at 12:29 pm

I was led to believe that “Kant” rhymes with “pissant.”

132

abb1 07.17.07 at 1:25 pm

Sorry, Bloix, but like I said: this is not controversial. Jabotinsky and his clique were especially vitriolic opponents of Yiddish, but all of them had a hand in it. Watch your blood pressure, man.

133

mollymooly 07.17.07 at 1:27 pm

I’ll tell you what’s controversial: how to pronounce “controversy”.

134

abb1 07.17.07 at 1:54 pm

Well, if “controversy” is controversial, then so is every divergence between American and British English. “Schedule”, “garage” and so on.

135

chris armstrong 07.17.07 at 2:10 pm

“Garage” doesn’t just divide Americans and Brits. It divides Brits too. Where I come from (and I mean this more in terms of socio-economic origins than geographical ones), “garage” rhymes with “marriage” and “carriage”. But not for those who speak the so-called “Queens English”, for whom it rhymes with “barrage”.

136

Daverz 07.17.07 at 2:15 pm

When I went to graduate school in Austin, Texas, I told my department head that I was living on “hwa-duh-LOO-pay” street and was informed that “We call it gwa-duh-LOOP” here.”

137

Ted 07.17.07 at 2:20 pm

Re: 135 – That’s why I just call it a “carhole”.

Also, I had the same problem with “misled” that others have noted. I guess it must be fairly widespread.

138

mollymooly 07.17.07 at 2:25 pm

Fugue, and the horse you Rodin on.

139

garymar 07.17.07 at 2:36 pm

to misle — (1) to be mistaken about the erotic potential of an acquaintance

“That chick completely misled me!”

to misle — (2) to fall prey to to shady financial dealings; usually by a miser

“That skinflint investment advisor totally misled me!”

to misle — (3) to bamboozle others about the efficacy of high-altitude missile defense

“The Reagan administration misled the American people about the Star Wars program.”

140

Jeff 07.17.07 at 2:37 pm

My French isn’t very good…is “Foucault” pronounced “fukyew”?

141

mollymooly 07.17.07 at 2:38 pm

In American English it’s mizel. And note the preterite is mizeled, not mizelled

142

christine 07.17.07 at 3:13 pm

I had a prof who started off the semester with the “Robinson Crusoe” economy. He pronounced it “Caruso”. The Pepys weird spelling excuse doesn’t even apply there. Took every generation of students days to figure out what he meant.

143

Bloix 07.17.07 at 3:23 pm

#50 – it’s true that we don’t say Marley, but we do say John Dun and if you say Don you’ll be put down as ignorant.

144

Russell Arben Fox 07.17.07 at 3:52 pm

I was led to believe that “Kant” rhymes with “pissant.”

Yep, and “Nietzsche” rhymes with “teach ya.” My teachers were philosophers named Bruce too.

145

book/daddy 07.17.07 at 4:19 pm

#137

Actually, the famous Harvard scholar Harry Levin always pronounced “Quixote” as Kwiksit because, he explained, the word had been Anglicized as quixotic, ergo, Anglophile that he was, the name was now back-changed to Kwiksit.

Meanwhile, when I was in Barcelona two years ago, all I heard was “KEE-shoat.”

As for the various comments above the prof and the dissertation student who didn’t know Pepys is supposedly pronounced Peeps when actually it might not be the proper way to say it at all — the point of my anecdote still stands, however the name is supposed to be pronounced. That is, the two didn’t even know that there was an issue about it.

Scott, by the way, didn’t include the full supporting anecdote. For those who didn’t follow the link, not only did the lit prof not know about Peeps, he didn’t know about William Cowper (Cooper) and that 18th-century poet WAS in his specialty.

book/daddy

146

c.l. ball 07.17.07 at 4:45 pm

Occasionally I’ll overhear one when my wife is listening to NPR, and say to myself, “Oh, that’s how that’s pronounced.”

I will actually search NPR for the radio clip before going to lecture using a name I’m not sure of. The Hungarian PM Nagy, for example, threw me for loop for the longest time. LOC has a guide to pronouncing public figures’ names.

My own mess-up in middle-school was “chaos” (I said “chow-os” because I thought chaos was spelled Kaos as in Maxwell Smart)

My favorite heard one was “anecdote” pronounced as
“an-EK-dough-tee” which someone used in college.

I was saying “Kelvar” rather than Kevlar in graduate school.

147

marcel 07.17.07 at 4:53 pm

Re: #133-135

Pronounce that Central American country that had a left-wing revolution in the late 1970s, you know: Nicaragua. I first heard the wierd pronunciation from TV newscasters when spending a summer in London in the early 1980s. I’ve been giggling/snickering about it, on and off, ever since.

148

jacob 07.17.07 at 5:35 pm

I was saying “Kelvar” rather than Kevlar in graduate school.

Wait–how do you say Kevlar?

149

garymar 07.17.07 at 5:42 pm

When I was a boy, I would sometimes complain about getting a “migratory” headache.

I heard a story from a Paraguayan friend about a university lecture by a famous South American writer — Borges, maybe? Anyway, the lecturer, who was speaking in Spanish, pronounced Shakespeare as “Shak-eh-spi-YAR-re”.

One of the students asked, “Sir, isn’t it pronounced Shakespeare?” in the English fashion.

At which point, the lecturer turned on a dime and conducted the rest of the talk in perfect English, to the complete bafflement of the student, whose English was none too good.

Urban legend or contemporary myth? You decide. Sounds like Borges, anyway.

150

Bruce 07.17.07 at 6:55 pm

Until my early thirties, I thought the word meaning “not meant to be taken seriously or literally” was “fesetious.” I assumed the word “facetious” meant something entirely different and was pronounced “fa-set-ee-us.” What a strange word, I thought, I’ll have to look it up one day. Oh well, time for lunch.

151

HP 07.17.07 at 7:54 pm

Is there any rhyme or reason to the fact that there’s a town in Michigan called Mackinaw City that sits on the Straits of Mackinac, and both Mackinac and Mackinaw are pronounced “Mackinaw”

It’s from an Ojibwa (aka Chippewa, aka Anishinaabe) placename, which I’ve seen romanized variously as “michinimakinong,” “michilimackinac,” “mitchimakinak,” “mishi-mikinaak,” etc. although I’m sure there’s a scholarly transliteration that has all kinds of crazy inverted letters and superscripts and whatnot. IIRC, it means “great turtle,” and refers to nearby Mackinac Island, which somewhat resembles a giant snapping turtle rising out of shallow water.

The ac spelling comes from French attempts to transliterate the Ojibwa word using French phonology, and the aw spelling reflects English attempts to imitate Frenchmen trying to speak Ojibwa.

152

Steven Taylor 07.17.07 at 8:12 pm

#136:

The number of odd pronunciations in the Austin is rampant. The main one that comes to mind is “Manchaca” which is “man-shack” in the local tongue.

153

Marlboro 07.17.07 at 8:30 pm

Apparently no one here has been to Ohio, where

Versailles = Var-SAY-uhls
Lima = LIE-ma
Toledo = Toh-LEE-doh
Delhi = DELL-hi
Bellefontaine = BELL-fown-tan

When I moved to Massachusetts, I needed to find Worcester, Mass on a map. I called to my roommate, who kindly pointed it out. “Oh, WUR-ches-ter,” I replied.

154

abb1 07.17.07 at 8:51 pm

Worcester, Mass is, of course, known as ‘woostah’.

155

nick s 07.17.07 at 9:09 pm

This is a problem for anyone who read above their grade level in school.

Indeedy. There were a few embarrassing moments during college tutorials when I realised that my written vocabulary outstripped my spoken one.

Being part of a transatlantic marriage means there’s still, years in, occasional linguistic amusement. ‘Quay’ popped up a few months back. Placenames are fun: who knew that Macon, GA rhymes with ‘bacon’? And I now live near a road named ‘Leicester’, which very-locals know as ‘Lester’ but everyone else pronounces ‘Lie-chester’ or ‘Lie-cester’. Oh dear.

“Garage” doesn’t just divide Americans and Brits. It divides Brits too.

The most divisive word among Brits, pronunciation-wise, is ‘scone’. My sixth-form EngLit teacher was laughed out of the classroom for using the long o.

156

Ben Alpers 07.17.07 at 9:50 pm

@#148: My favorite British newscaster pronunciation is the peninsula once occupied by Israel, now owned by Egypt: SY-nee-ai

Some other fun U.S. place names….

Rolla, Missouri, which was apparently founded by a bunch of folks from Raleigh, NC, who spelled their new home like they said it.

Chickasha, Oklahoma (pronounced chick-a-SHAY)

Miami, Oklahoma (pronounced my-A-muh)

Prague, Oklahoma (pronounced PRAYG)

New Madrid, Missouri (pronounced New MAD-rid)

157

caslon 07.17.07 at 10:11 pm

Here’s one of the most common mispronunciations I know of. “Menestration” for menstruation.

158

Jacob (2) 07.17.07 at 10:30 pm

Of course, Missour-a!

159

Jacob (2) 07.17.07 at 10:36 pm

Or the Québec village where my dad spent a good part of his working life, St-Roch (read: San Rock).

160

getoffmeland 07.17.07 at 10:42 pm

#126
“Bertie Ahern pronouncing im-PUG-ning while reading a speech some civil servant had written for him. Priceless.”

Are you dissing the “teashop”? Just because he was pissed, and didn’t know how his bank account turned from debit to credit? So unIrish-American.

161

roy belmont 07.18.07 at 12:06 am

The smartest girl in fourth grade indelibly, laughingly, superiorly impressed forever on my read-above-level young mind that the class we were going to take in fifth, after summer vacation, toward which taking I’d just expressed keen anticipatory excitement, was not and never would be homonymically parallel to the magazine called National Ge-o-graph-ic.
Some few trains came and went in the London tube before I figured out in my early-on visit what Marylebone was, as it came crackling through the loudspeakers in those clipped polite syllables they have over there.
Bloix is wilfully ignorant as well as neurotically rude.

162

Ben Alpers 07.18.07 at 12:12 am

Of course, Missour-a!

That’s an interesting one. Having lived in Missouri, I can attest to the fact that for many natives of the Show-Me State, non-Missourians saying “Missour-a” are seen as being condescendingly precious. Put another way, saying “Missour-a” is a matter of a local accent, not the “correct” pronunciation.

In contrast, Oregonians get upset if you say the name of their state with both the first and third syllables stressed (it ought to be accented only on the first syllable, so it sounds kind of like “organ” with a schwa tucked in between the r and the g).

And, though in my experience less picky than Oregonians, residents of Nevada like the middle syllable of their state to sound like the “a” in “back” rather than the “a” in “bra.”

And to bring this note around full circle, the town in southwest Missouri that bears the name of the Silver State is pronounced “Ne-VAY-da.”

163

Ian 07.18.07 at 12:48 am

Genuinely true well-it-might-have-happened anecdote:
Sir Vivian Fuchs (rhymes with “books”), the mid 20th-century Antarctic explorer, was once about to give a public lecture in the north of England. He was taken aback, in a stiff-upper-lip way, to hear himself introduced by the compere as “Sir Vivian Fucks”. After the lecture, he took the compere aside and said quietly: “Look, that’s not quite the correct pronunciation of my surname, you know.” The compere replied [insert Yorkshire accent here]: “I know that, Sir Vivian, but we couldn’t very well call you Fooks oop here now, could we?”

164

Josh in Philly 07.18.07 at 5:25 am

#26: Roger Ebert pronounces “Wim Wenders” with “W”s.

Fellow English major in grad school spoke of her love for Oscar Wilde, especially the “Ballad of Reading Goal” (my reading goal is to make it through fifty books this summer). One of my profs, born in Vienna, insisted on Daniel Paul Schreiber.

My father, a self-taught biochem teacher, cannot be persuaded that “protein” has fewer than three syllables.

But what’s the mystery in pronouncing “Kristeva”? I always assumed that her native land stressed the penultimate syllable and her adopted France the last one, so you could say it either way. Am I wrong?

165

Henry (not the famous one) 07.18.07 at 7:12 am

#140 –
A former City Councilman in Los Angeles, Gilbert Lindsay, was for years designated to read off the ceremonial welcomes to representatives from Los Angeles’ many sister cities. And so when it came time to salute the delegation from Fukui City, Japan. . . .

Also let’s not forget El Duh RAY do, an oil town in Southern Arkansas. [Of course, Los AN jell us and Los AYN gull us must sound funny to a native Spanish speaker too. As would the fact that a town named Manteca exists, however it is pronounced.]

166

steven crane 07.18.07 at 9:02 am

in southern illinois, there are the following places:

Vienna (pronounced VY-anna)

Cairo (pronounced KAY-ro, or sometimes CARE-oh)

167

chris armstrong 07.18.07 at 10:15 am

I remember being puzzled about the much-under-used word “awry”, which as a bookish autodidact (yawn) I always thought was pronounced “AW-ree”

168

abb1 07.18.07 at 12:34 pm

The word ‘disorientated’. When I used to hear it in the US I always thought people were mispronouncing ‘disoriented’, but apparently this is a perfectly normal British word. Sounds wrong though.

169

The Witch from Next Door 07.18.07 at 12:44 pm

Further to the “garidge” vs “gararzhe” (this would all be a lot easier if I knew the phonetic alphabet), I’ve noticed an odd pronunciation regularity in popular music. If you have a sampler with speeded-up two-step beats and an MC with an estuary accent, you’re making “UK Garidge”, but if you get a bunch your mates together and play rock music in your mum’s house, you’re in a “gararzhe band” – seemingly regardless of who’s speaking. Or is that just me?

An odd newsreader pronunciation thing (creeping off topic) is that I swear in the 80s that the SSR of Ukraine was pronounced by Moira Stewart and the like as “You-cry-EE-na”, which is presumably a fair approximation of what its residents call it. Now everyone calls it “You-CRANE”. Did I miss a meeting?

Anyway, fear not, folks: when I fear making a fool of myself on this kind of question (and having been a teenage autodidact etc. etc.), I consult one of my favourite books.

170

john b 07.18.07 at 3:00 pm

#170 – surely that’s a class-based-accent thing? UK garridge is largely a working-class pursuit; garazge rock is largely a middle-class pursuit; so the most relevant pronunciation is used for each…

171

M. Gemmill 07.18.07 at 4:02 pm

OK, I’ll bite: how does one pronounce “Derida”? I had always heard it said “DARE-ee-dah”, but recently I heard “Duh-REE-da”…

172

The Witch from Next Door 07.18.07 at 4:05 pm

171 – I can only assume that it does derive from a class/regional distinction in pronunciation; but it’s surely relatively unusual, or at least interesting, for that distinction to be preserved across different speakers. Why don’t people from Surrey say “UK gararzhe” and “gararzhe bands”, and people from Peckham say “UK garridge” and “garridge bands”?

Of course, maybe they do. It’s not like I’ve done any empirical research.

173

M. Gemmill 07.18.07 at 4:27 pm

170: “You-cry-EE-na” — it sounds much like the weird trend for some 80s newscasters to pronounce “Nicaragua” with an exaggerated Spanish-ish accent, which was much mocked on SNL (I think). It’s not quite a rendition of the local pronunciation, but it’s close–it would be transliterated as “ukraina” (oo-cry-EE-na). The English word, however, is Ukraine (the familiar you-CRANE), just as we know the country of Rossiya as Russia. Whatever you do, though, don’t put a definite article in front of Ukraine, at least if you’re talking to a Ukrainian.

FWIW, Russian also has many words that aren’t pronounced exactly how they are spelled, but I’m not sure how opaque that is to native speakers. But since there are no hard and fast rules for deducing which syllable is stressed (which has a major impact on pronunciation), I suspect that Russian-speaking autodidacts have problems similar to English-speaking autodidacts.

174

Jacob (2) 07.19.07 at 1:17 am

@172:

Deh-ree-DA.

175

rm 07.19.07 at 5:23 am

Worcester, Mass is, of course, known as ‘woostah’.

But you see, abb1, Ohioans like me and Marlboro know that any town by that name should be spelled “Wooster,” like the town in Ohio. Presumably founded by pioneers from War-Chester, MA.

Kentucky has “AY-thens” for “Athens,” “Ver-SALES” for “Vare-sigh” and, craziest of all, “Paris” for “Paree.” What will those crazy bumpkins think of next.

176

MissLaura 07.19.07 at 7:17 am

The big moment I remember was when I was being tested for switching to private school for fourth grade. My parents tell me that the private school clearly expected me to be an uneducated savage, coming from public school, so the fact that in fourth grade I was at what was considered an eighth grade reading level should comfort my embarrassment to this day at remembering how I pronounced menagerie.

Also:

That’s an interesting one. Having lived in Missouri, I can attest to the fact that for many natives of the Show-Me State, non-Missourians saying “Missour-a” are seen as being condescendingly precious. Put another way, saying “Missour-a” is a matter of a local accent, not the “correct” pronunciation.

Try telling that to my Missouri-native mother.

On the other hand, someone else I know from Missouri sees saying Missoura as basically a statement that you’re a countrified hick.

177

Hoovooloo 07.19.07 at 9:42 am

I always mentally pronounced “misled” as a homophone of “mizzled”. Similarly “anxiety” had only three syllables… “anks-it-ee”.

You’re on a loser with British-originated place names, though. My personal favourites are Towcester, which is pronounced “toaster” (honestly), and “Mousehole”, which is obviously pronounced “mowzul” where the “mow” rhymes with “cow”.

178

chris armstrong 07.19.07 at 11:04 am

173 – you’re right – some people will say “UK Garridge” but also “Gararzhe Bands”. I guess it’s just to show faithfulness to the way the participants would describe themselves. Is that polite or condescending? I don’t know. I guess it’s the same question as whether newsreaders should use ‘authentic’ pronunciations of foreign proper nouns or not.

179

language hat 07.19.07 at 3:37 pm

Great thread! I’ve got a number of responses, so bear with me.

15. Two names from my graduate work (and dissertation) gave me these kind of problems: film director Frank Borzage and Congressman Martin Dies.

Borzage said his name “in three syllables, and g in get, bor-zay’gee” (I got this from a great little book I found at a library sale: Charles Earle Funk, What’s the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936 — Funk contacted celebrities and asked how they pronounced their names); Dies is just like the third person singular of “to die.”

50. I can’t get excited about anachronistically pronouncing early modern names. How many people make a point of calling Christopher Marlowe “Marley” or Edmund Halley “Hawley”? Why should they, except for pedantic snobbery? or Leveson-Gower as “Leeson-Gore” for that matter?

You’re mixing apples and oranges. With names from the distant past, all that matters is how most people say them now; it would indeed be pedantry to call Marlow “Marley” or Cromwell “Crummel.” But current names should be pronounced as their bearers prefer; it is politeness, not snobbery, to pronounce Leveson-Gower as “L(y)ooson-Gore” or “Leeson-Gore” (depending on the preference of the particular bearer of the name). If you don’t know how the person says it, you have to take a chance (this is frequently the case with Ivanov, which can be either ee-VAH-nuhf or ee-vah-NOF, irritatingly for the Russian student, since Ivanov is the most common Russian surname), but to pronounce it in a way that bearers of the name do not use simply because you don’t like their pronunciation is just plain rude.

70. Lawyers just don’t know how to pronounce Latin

I’m hoping this was a joke (it’s so hard to tell around here…), but just in case it’s serious: that statement is meaningless. There is no one way to pronounce Latin; Italians do it one way, Germans another, English classicists a third, English traditionalists (if there are any left) still another… Americann lawyers have their own standard pronunciation, which is just as good as anyone else’s.

82. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pronouncing foreign names as if they were English. It’s just convention – you say whatever will be understood and not attract attention to yourself. If the convention is Van Go you say that even if you know he said Fon Koch.

I can’t tell you how strongly I agree with every word of this (except that it’s actually Fahn Khokh).

105. I had a teacher who not only assigned readings by Khalil Gibran (bad enough), but pronounced his name “CAY-hill JIB-ran”

That’s a pretty common pronunciation, but I find it hard to get exercised about it, since he himself used “Kahlil” as the English version of his name istead of what I would ordinarily call the correct Khalil (since kh represents the first letter of his name in Arabic). It annoys me much more that people outside of Ireland pronounce Caitlin (the Gaelic version of Catherine) as “KATE-lin” (it should be cat-LEEN). If only Dylan Thomas had married someone else this wouldn’t be a problem!

107. a kind-hearted woman at church, of all places, gently informed me that it was pronounced SUH-thull, not South-well.

The name is pronounced both ways by its bearers; Viscount Southwell apparently says it the way your church woman preferred, but I don’t know if there’s evidence for Robert Southwell’s usage. In any case, all that’s important is how scholars today say his name; my Webster’s Biographical Dictionary gives both South-wull and South-well but no Suth-ull, so I’m guessing your church lady was wrong.

111. As to whether Byron pronounced “Juan” as “Jew-Ann”, I’ll note that a friend of mine whose father came from Georgia had an uncle whose name had the latter pronunciation, but I found “Hwan” accomodating when I read the silly thing.

I’m not sure what you mean by “accom[m]odating,” but I’d say it’s inconvenient to use what is obviously the wrong pronunciation for the poem. How did you get through the first stanza, in which “Juan” is rhymed with “true one”?

165. But what’s the mystery in pronouncing “Kristeva”? I always assumed that her native land stressed the penultimate syllable and her adopted France the last one, so you could say it either way. Am I wrong?

You can’t assume anything about Bulgarian names; the stress can fall on any syllable, and (annoyingly) it’s very hard to find out the correct way — Bulgarian reference works, unlike Russian ones, don’t tend to provide stress marks. Her name in Bulgarian is Юлия Кръстева, for which a standard transliteration would be Yuliya Krŭsteva (another version of the last name would be Krasteva: see Wikipedia); since the Russians stress the name on the first syllable, I make the risky assumption that the Bulgarians do too, in which case it would be pronounced in Bulgarian CRUST-eh-vah. I don’t know why she chooses the i vowel, but I say KRIST-e-va, and that’s the way I like it.

180

Cryptic Ned 07.19.07 at 4:47 pm

Placenames are fun: who knew that Macon, GA rhymes with ‘bacon’?

How else would you say it?

I always mentally pronounced “misled” as a homophone of “mizzled”. Similarly “anxiety” had only three syllables… “anks-it-ee”.

Me too, but “myzled” and “ankshety” (to go with “anxious”.

You-cry-EE-na”—it sounds much like the weird trend for some 80s newscasters to pronounce “Nicaragua” with an exaggerated Spanish-ish accent, which was much mocked on SNL (I think).

I thought the person upthread was saying that it was ridiculous for Brits to pronounce it “Nicaragyouwah”.

181

mollymooly 07.19.07 at 5:44 pm

Shut up, or I’ll Nicaraguan!

182

Chalmondeley 07.19.07 at 6:36 pm

Forty years later, I remember the room and the face of an instructor when it dawned on me that the German writer he was talking about, “Gerta,” was the same guy that wrote “Faust.” I had been pronouncing it like an antiquated verb. I never got the hang of umlauts either which, a couple of years later, led me to the shameless, “Eine Fahrkarte nach Cologne, bitte.”

183

Matt 07.19.07 at 6:42 pm

If you’re among physicists and pronounce ‘de Broglie’ correctly, no one will know who you’re talking about.

184

vanya 07.19.07 at 7:12 pm

LH, you almost sound like a prescriptivist! At least in New England Caitlin (KATE-lynn) and Kathleen are completely different names. Why would you get angry at people following local convention? I worked in an office that had one of each. Only die hard Irish nationalists are probably aware that they are from the same Irish original. Embarassingly enough, I wasn’t aware of that until now.

Roy Belmont, I still have no clear idea what class you were looking forward to in the 5th grade. GeoMETry? But in the US we don’t usually take that until 10th grade, if the school offers it at all.

185

Chris 07.20.07 at 1:11 am

I suspect geoGRAPHy.

I’ve had a few of these. One I haven’t seen mentioned yet: I thought “segue” was a verb, and that when you segued between two things you created a “segueway”.

186

Zackary Sholem Berger 07.20.07 at 1:50 am

For some reason, many doctors I know (not overtly snobbish in other respects) love to pronounce certain words in ways that few non-doctors do.

E.g.:

“trowma” (trauma)
“sahntimeter” (centimeter)

This is not 100% relevant to this thread, but it’s a pet peeve of mine that isn’t likely to have an interested reception anywhere else.

187

mollymooly 07.20.07 at 11:58 am

#185: I’m quite pleased that Katelynn and variants seem to be replacing Caitlin. I’m not sure whether people promote Katelynn as a cute spelling or as the response to a cutesy spelling.

#186: segue is a verb, pronounced like the noun.

#187: Merriam-Webster lists trow-ma ahead of traw-ma, though American Heritage reverses that.

188

language hat 07.20.07 at 12:20 pm

LH, you almost sound like a prescriptivist! At least in New England Caitlin (KATE-lynn) and Kathleen are completely different names. Why would you get angry at people following local convention?

I’m not angry at the people (who are, as you say, just following the only convention they know), I’m angry at the whole situation. Why couldn’t Dylan have married a Mary or a Louise, so that Caitlin would have stayed among the people who know how to pronounce it? Of course I sound like a prescriptivist; emotionally, I am a prescriptivist, like almost everyone. One of the points of studying linguistics is to superimpose an intellectual descriptivism on the natural human preference for what we grew up with or learned to value from Authorities. I can’t help disliking the use of disinterested to mean ‘uninterested’; what I can do is to realize that my personal disapproval is intellectually irrelevant and should not be brought into a discussion of the merits of the word, any more than my personal dislike of fish should influence a discussion of the human diet. This is a small but crucial step that most people seem to find almost impossible to take.

189

Eimear Ní Mhéalóid 07.20.07 at 4:15 pm

LH, you’d probably be unsurprised to know that the pronunciation of Caitlín as Gaeilge is more like “KOTCH-leen” (or “KAWTCH-leen” if spelled Cáitlín).

190

Omar 07.20.07 at 8:56 pm

#86: As a native Spanish speaker I’ve never really understood why in English people add the final “y” in “Donkey Ho-tey”. Something closer to the Spanish pronounciation would be “Don Ke-HO-teh”, where the “O” is … mmh … hard for me to explain to English speakers. In English the name of the letter “O” is a dipthong, the first half is what it sounds like in Spanish.

But I think your ear is right: what it sounds like in Spanish is not all that important. I think of “Donkey Ho-tey” as the correct name of the character in English, just as London is called Londres in Spanish or México (sounds like MEH-hee-coh) is called Mexico in English.

#106: I don’t know, but I can tell you that it certainly doesn’t happen in Spanish, where spelling is (nearly) phonetic.

191

K 07.20.07 at 10:48 pm

A few years ago when I lived in Los Angeles a woman (dark and I presume from Mexico) on the TV news spoke English very well. Yet she usually gave nouns in Spanish. With much emphasis.

Thus one heard El Presidente, Espana, Mehico, Cuidads this or that, Estados De here and there. Holidays and dates were liable to come out either way.

I visited LA a few years later and she was using English for the same words. That seemed odd since the local majority is now Spanish speakers.

Anyone who is embarassed about not knowing every word and how others think it should sound has an immense ego problem. No one has ever had such knowledge.

192

bad Jim 07.21.07 at 8:36 am

Es verdad: in Canto 1, the rhyme is introduced with “new one” and “true one”, and the rhythm of

I’ll therefore take my ancient friend Don Juan

admits no dispute. I already know I have a tin ear and a bad memory. Even so, I read the whole thing hearing “Juan” as a monosyllable and managed to enjoy it, for variable values of “enjoy”.

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Cryptic Ned 07.22.07 at 7:26 am

As a native Spanish speaker I’ve never really understood why in English people add the final “y” in “Donkey Ho-tey”. Something closer to the Spanish pronounciation would be “Don Ke-HO-teh”, where the “O” is … mmh … hard for me to explain to English speakers.

Easy, that’s because in English words don’t end with the “eh” sound. Not a single English word ends with that sound; it’s only found between consonants.

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