Bach (English-language surname): pronunciation

Linnets

Senior Member
Hi, I would like to discuss about Bach, not in the German language, but in the English one.
I know two famous Bachs: Edward Bach, the English physician, and Richard Bach, the American author.
The first one seems to be pronounced /bæt͜ʃ/ even if some people pronounce it the 'normal' way: /bɑːk/ (the most common pronunciation in foreign countries, as far as his remedies are concerned). However, the official website states the original pronunciation of his surname was /beɪt͜ʃ/. A question: was Edward Bach of German origins or Welsh ones? In fact, Bach exists in Welsh as well and it's pronounced [baːχ].
The second one seems to be pronounced always /bɑːk/, but I ask to be sure. (There's also Catherine Bach famous for having portrayed Daisy Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard, but I bet her name is pronunced the the same as in Richard Bach.)
Thanks in advance.
 
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  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names just gives /bɑːk/* for the family name Bach, and doesn't mention any famous bearers of it who might use particular pronunciations, or any regional variation. This book is for British names, as it says, so it's not referring to the German composing dynasty.

    They also list a family name Bache and give two alternatives, /beɪtʃ/ and /beɪʃ/ for that.

    * actually /bɑk/, as they don't use length marks at all
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    As an English surname it would be toponymic: Old English bæce /bætʃə/ "stream", cognate with the German word/name, appears in various forms in English village names: -bach, -batch, -beach, -bech, -bage, -badge, and sometimes on its own as Bache. (Source: Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names)

    I'd presume* the /tʃ/ pronunciation of all these related names is the old one, and /bɑːk/ and /beɪʃ/ arose in fairly modern times from knowledge of German and French.

    * guess
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    There is also Barbara Bach, who co-starred in the James Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me. As far as I know, all the American ones are pronounced /bɑk/.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Actually yes. The unpalatalized beck is a borrowing from Old Norse, and places with second element -beck are in the Danelaw part of England. The native English bach(e) hasn't survived as a common noun into standard modern English.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    It's drifting into etymology, but the take-home point is that as a native surname, it would be toponymic, with a variety of forms in the place-name but all originally with /tʃ/. Both surnames and place-names develop slightly randomly, compared to the common words of the language, so a variety for both is to be expected.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    ... it would be toponymic, with a variety of forms in the place-name but all originally with /tʃ/...
    Neither of those is true with respect to the Welsh word "bach".

    Also, not all native British/English surnames are toponymic.
     

    Welsh_Sion

    Senior Member
    Welsh - Northern
    The BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names just gives /bɑːk/* for the family name Bach, and doesn't mention any famous bearers of it who might use particular pronunciations, or any regional variation. This book is for British names, as it says, so it's not referring to the German composing dynasty.

    They also list a family name Bache and give two alternatives, /beɪtʃ/ and /beɪʃ/ for that.

    * actually /bɑk/, as they don't use length marks at all

    Interestingly, LPD (Longman Pronunciation Dictionary) gives /bɑ:k/ but that the floral remedy firm Dr Bach (me neither) is /bᴂtʃ/.
     

    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    Hi, I would like to discuss about Bach, not in the German language, but in the English one.
    I know two famous Bachs: Edward Bach, the English physician, and Richard Bach, the American author.
    The first one seems to be pronounced /bæt͜ʃ/ even if some people pronounce it the 'normal' way: /bɑːk/ (the most common pronunciation in foreign countries, as far as his remedies are concerned). However, the official website states the original pronunciation of his surname was /beɪt͜ʃ/. A question: was Edward Bach of German origins or Welsh ones? In fact, Bach exists in Welsh as well and it's pronounced [baːχ].
    The second one seems to be pronounced always /bɑːk/, but I ask to be sure. (There's also Catherine Bach famous for having portrayed Daisy Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard, but I bet her name is pronunced the the same as in Richard Bach.)
    Thanks in advance.
    Well, native speakers vary in their knowledge of other languages. Someone who wishes to let you know that they speak German might use /x/ in Bach. Most people say /bɑːk/, because even if you do speak German, you might not want to be "pretentious" and show off your command of other languages.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    My grandmother's family of Engish origin had the surname Bach and pronounced it /bɑːk/, but perhaps centuries ago the pronounciation was /bᴂtʃ/ and it changed over time to /bɑːk/ as more and more people became literate and pronounced what they saw. It's not the first time I have heard of names/words changing pronunciation over time to match spelling. Ralph used to be pronounced /reif/ but now it is /rᴂlf/. There are other examples...
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    When I was going to school I was told that /ˈstɛfən/ (instead of /ˈstiːvən/, hence Steven) for Stephen was wrong but now it is acceptable, at least in some contexts.
    Steven, Stephen, and Stephan can be all pronounced /ˈstiː vən/, the last two can also be pronounced /'stɛ fən/ and the last one can be pronounced /stə 'fɑːn/. I always thought on of the "ph" versions was the original and pronounced "v". Then people erroneously decided it should be written "v" as pronouced. I'm not sure about that though. This is also true for the surnames Stevens, Stephens, Stephans.
    Anthony was /'ᴂn tə ni:/ then most people started saying /'ᴂn θə ni:/, so now we have two names Anthony and Antony.
    Educating people can have a strong impact on irregular pronunciations as people insist on correcting them. Of course there is a lot of good that came out of it too. Older less literate people said Missoura, Ioway and Warshington. All of these have been corrected now.
    I've got a feeling this is what happened with Bach. An educated person wouldn't look at that and immediately think it should be /Beɪt͜ʃ/. They'd say /Bɑːk/. If they heard it pronounced that way, they'd write down Baytch. By the way, until this thread I thought all the English-speaking Bachs had a remote and perhaps forgotten German origin.
     
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