General pronunciation: foreign proper nouns, especially in BE

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CarolSueC

Senior Member
USA--English
For a long time I have been puzzled by the fact that educated speakers of British English still anglicize the pronunciation of foreign proper nouns (names of individuals and groups primarily) instead of pronouncing them as the native speaker does. I'm not referring to sounds which do not occur in English. For example, why would one pronounce "Picasso" with the sound of "a" as in "cat" instead of the sound of "a" as in "castle" as pronounced by a British speaker. I frequently listen to BBC World Service, and this is becoming annoying. I notice that experts being interviewed often pronounce words such as "Hamas," "Fatah," and "Islamic" as Middle Eastern speakers do, but the BBC newsreaders still use the pronunciation I refer to above. Is this perhaps related to colonial attitudes of the past?
 
  • maxiogee

    Banned
    imithe
    I think it is more likely to be done as it is the way the ordinary viewer might expect the words to be pronounced.
    They will have seen the word in print, probably before they have heard it being pronounced 'correctly', and will have applied what they think is the correct pronunciation, according to how they pronounce the character-string in English.

    Thus a place which cropped up regularly in the 1960s-1990's news coverage of Ireland was Dundalk - Irish people pronounce this as Dun-dawk, but the British newsreaders pronounced the 'l' - Dund-all-k.

    I don't think there's any colonialist or imperialist hangover, it's just how the character-strings are read.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I agree that many British people seem particularly prone to the "insular" approach in pronouncing foreign place names-- notably more than we Americans, who are pretty bad at it ourselves.

    Americans say Nick-a-ROG-wah, not really too bad. Brits say Knicker-RAGG-you-wah. Bloody atrocious! Clean up your act now, you people!

    Of course we say KYOO-ba, which is a similar mistake-- how hard is COO-ba to master?

    I agree that the short-a æsh sound is to blame. Sri Lænka instead of Sri Lonka. Oh, and we can't leave out Check-a-slo-VÆCKY-yah. Why can't we say Slo-VAHH-kia?

    You've got some catching up to do-- Americans are even starting to say ih-ROCK instead of ih-RACK, or worse, EYE-rack.

    I trust the expanded news coverage of worldwide events, driven by technology, will eventually take off these rough edges. In the meantime-- fingernails on the blackboard!
    .
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If you think these examples are strange, you should hear the BBC wrestle with Irish place names. And I don't mean the names that actually are Irish. I mean places like Coalisland. Now wouldn't a normal person look at that and see Coal island? Not the BBC. Ko-'al-is-land.

    OK, I can see they might need tuition for Ballymageogh or Ahoghill:D
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Yeah, I live in a backwater too-- when out-of-the-way places get briefly limelighted (limelit?) by attention from the media, the local pronunciation usually gets bent out of shape. Nearby Missoula gets pronounced with unvoiced esses, for example.

    I have to admit when I'm doing genealogical research most of the British placenames I come across are probably pronounced in ways I couldn't even guess-- and I don't just mean the ones in Wales. There should be a worldwide lookup website with *.wav-file snippets everyone can refer to, provided by local people-- with pranksters screened out, of course. There would be the rub.

    edit:
    By the way, I saw Co-ALL-is-land too.
    .
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    foxfirebrand said:
    I agree that many British people seem particularly prone to the "insular" approach in pronouncing foreign place names-- notably more than we Americans, who are pretty bad at it ourselves.

    Americans say Nick-a-ROG-wah, not really too bad. Brits say Knicker-RAGG-you-wah. Bloody atrocious! Clean up your act now, you people!

    Of course we say KYOO-ba, which is a similar mistake-- how hard is COO-ba to master?

    I agree that the short-a æsh sound is to blame. Sri Lænka instead of Sri Lonka. Oh, and we can't leave out Check-a-slo-VÆCKY-yah. Why can't we say Slo-VAHH-kia?

    You've got some catching up to do-- Americans are even starting to say ih-ROCK instead of ih-RACK, or worse, EYE-rack.

    I trust the expanded news coverage of worldwide events, driven by technology, will eventually take off these rough edges. In the meantime-- fingernails on the blackboard!
    .
    This is a ticklish point.

    When I speak German, I pronounce Berlin in the German way, and Paris in the German way, and London in the German way - and I call France Frankreich, and Warsaw Warschau.
    When I speak French, I pronounce Paris, France and Berlin in the French way, and I call England Angleterre, London Londres and Warsaw Varsovie.

    When I speak English, I pronounce Berlin, Paris, France &c in the BE way. I call Deutschland Germany, Shquipera Albania, EllaV Greece, 中國 China.
    I have no idea how the locals pronounce Republika e Shqipërisë, so I say Albania.

    Cuba for me has the same u as cube. Chile the country sounds the same as chilly weather. I don't velerize the l in Portugal - as for the u see Cuba.
    The ds in Madrid are still d.

    Picasso will have to put up with me saying what I see.
    If he wanted to be pronounced arse instead of ass, he should have changed the spelling.

    If the Irish wrote Coal Island, we'd see Coal Island.

    I know how the Dutch pronounce van Gogh, but if I say it that way, who will know who it is?
     

    moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    I think foreign proper nouns are pronounced according to the local pronunciation in most countries. The trouble is when they are mangled out of recognition. When British people pronounce Capri as /ka'pree/ (the 'a' reduced to a barely audible schwa)instead of /kapri/ it's hard for an Italian to understand what they mean. On the other hand the Italian pronunciation of Birmingham is something like "bee-rrr-mean-gum":)
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I think it's simply that they do not know how to pronounce the names in the original. Besides, it rolls off one's tongue more easily. Switching back and forth between two accents while you're speaking can be a nuisance.
     

    Aupick

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    English speakers don't anglicise foreign place names when they speak. They just don't "foreign-ise" them. I suspect the same can be said of most people in the world. I speak French and German and usually pronounce French and German place names according to French and German rules, but I'm met with incomprehension when speaking to other anglophones who don't speak French or German. I think I know how the H is used in Italian and can make myself understood in Italy, but I had a hard time when ordering bruschetta in the US last summer and had to break the rule to get served. I expect the experts on TV are motivated by the same (admirable) desire to communicate rather than show off their linguistic skills.

    I have no idea how Spanish or other languages are pronounced -- what can I do but guess based on the sounds the letters make in other languages that I know? I don't carry around a quick pronunciation guide to all languages in the world in case I need to refer to a given place. Besides, place names often break the rules.

    And when it comes to the difference between the two A sounds, the distinction doesn't exist in my accent. I pronounce cat, castle, Picasso and Iraq with the same vowel sound, and I believe a good portion of British speakers do the same (those in the North, notably). Besides, I have a hard time believing that the long A of castle is any more suitable a pronunciation for Picasso or Iraq as the short ones.

    In short, if Brits are speaking to non-Brits, they should make an effort to pronounce the place as a native would, because that's how they're going to be understood. If Brits are speaking to Brits, they should use whatever conventions have grown up about the pronuncation of that name in English, because that's how they're going to be understood.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    moodywop said:
    I think foreign proper nouns are pronounced according to the local pronunciation in most countries. The trouble is when they are mangled out of recognition. When British people pronounce Capri as /ka'pree/ (the 'a' reduced to a barely audible schwa)instead of /kapri/ it's hard for an Italian to understand what they mean. On the other hand the Italian pronunciation of Birmingham is something like "bee-rrr-mean-gum":)
    In 1958 Frank Sinatra [an American of Italian descent!] released the song Isle of Capri, and made it rhyme with tree.
    So blame Old Blue-eyes!

    'twas on the Isle of Capri that I found her
    Beneath the shade of an old walnut tree
    Oh, I can still see the flowers blooming round her
    Where we met on the Isle of Capri
     

    anything

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    moodywop said:
    it's hard for an Italian to understand what they mean. On the other hand the Italian pronunciation of Birmingham is something like "bee-rrr-mean-gum":)
    You should hear the erroneous pronunciation of certain British place names by educated speakers of American English. :D
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    CarolSueC said:
    For a long time I have been puzzled by the fact that educated speakers of British English still anglicize the pronunciation of foreign proper nouns (names of individuals and groups primarily) instead of pronouncing them as the native speaker does. I'm not referring to sounds which do not occur in English. For example, why would one pronounce "Picasso" with the sound of "a" as in "cat" instead of the sound of "a" as in "castle" as pronounced by a British speaker.
    I don't understand this (I don't know how middle Eastern people pronounce their words so I can't comment on the second bit of your statement).

    The way we pronounce Picasso, with the a of "cat" rather than the "ah" of "castle" sounds much more like the Spanish pronunciation of that vowel. I really don't see your point. If anything I would have said exactly the opposite (eg why do Americans consistently get it wrong) - and funnily enough now you've brought it up the other way, I will -

    Americans seem to go out of their way to pronounce Spanish words wrong (in the English speaking context, I mean, I don't mean to suggest they necessarily pronounce them wrong when speaking Spanish). Why do they say "Carlos" with the o of "most" when the Spanish is a short rather open vowel? Why do they pronounce "a" like "o" so that "las vegas" sounds like they are saying "los vegas" (I mean "los" as a Spanish speaker would pronounce it)? And vice versa why do they pronounce "o" like "a" so that "los angeles" sounds like "las angeles"? I suppose at least they don't say "lowse angeles"!

    I hope I don't sound defensive there - I find it very funny. I was honestly going to get round to asking why Americans don't respect local pronunciation so much - particularly Spanish when there is a huge Spanish contingent in the country - and then you ask the same about the British!!:D

    I honestly don't understand your point about Picasso though, it really seems to my ear to be the other way round!

    Having seen people such as FFB whose opinion I respect agree with you I can only presume that each people is hearing their own pronunciation as being more appropriate.

    Other than a fist-fight which would be fun but rather unpractical I think the only way to settle this is to ask a Spanish-speaking native with knowledge of both accents -

    which variety BE or AE pronounces your words best within the English speaking context, eg not when actively trying to speak Spanish?

    Whatever the answer to that, I think we could say that the average pronunciation in either country of a foreign name is far from that of its original language - but in the foreign languages I know they are no better at respecting original pronunciation of other languages as far as I'm aware.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Aupick said:
    And when it comes to the difference between the two A sounds, the distinction doesn't exist in my accent. I pronounce cat, castle, Picasso and Iraq with the same vowel sound, and I believe a good portion of British speakers do the same (those in the North, notably). Besides, I have a hard time believing that the long A of castle is any more suitable a pronunciation for Picasso or Iraq as the short ones.
    Yes - I agree, but would go even further and say it is a more appropriate approximation. The Spanish "a" of "la" is pretty much the same as the French "a" of "la" since I know you do speak French (which you would agree is more like the "a" of "cat" than the "a" southern "castle", no?)
     

    anything

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    timpeac said:
    Yes - I agree, but would go even further and say it is a more appropriate approximation. The Spanish "a" of "la" is pretty much the same as the French "a" of "la" since I know you do speak French (which you would agree is more like the "a" of "cat" than the "a" southern "castle", no?)
    That's what I thought too. In fact, the mispronunciation of the Spanish "a" as a longer "a" sound is one of the characteristic errors of a native English speaker speaking in Spanish.
    Having said that, I'm not sure if Picasso is actually a Spanish (or at least Castilian) surname, since it has a double "s", so maybe CarolSueC was referring to the pronunciation in some other language (Italian, I guess).
    Being a Northerner, like Aupick, I agree about the "a" in "cat" and "castle" having the same sound anyway. :D
     

    thrice

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    A lot of languages pronounce vowels and dipthongs very differently, and unless you know exactly what language the word comes from, and you know the rules of pronunciation for that language, a lot of guesswork has to be done. My last name, Crisanti, is Italian, and you should hear some of the guesses people make at the pronunciation when they call trying to sell long distance phone service and such... "Christian"(???????) is somehow a ridiculously common one. I guess some people just shut down and make a guess as soon as they come across a foreign looking word. I do believe that figures in the media should be knowledgable and worldly enough to make a correct pronunciation, however.

    I was taking a few courses in Italy last semester at a school with predominately British students, and I noticed a few interesting things. For example, I noticed that when they said "tortilla" they pronounced it as "tor-TILL-uh", which is excruciating to my Texan ears. I asked them about it, and they said that if you were to pronounce it properly in Britain like a native Spanish speaker would, you could come across as being pretentious (coming from a Northern Irish student). However, when they said "croissant", they pronounced it as one would in French. I've never heard anyone in the U.S. (especially here in Texas) pronouncing "croissant" any way other than "cro-SAWNT", and they might come across as pretentious and full of it if they said it the correct, French way. Does anyone else find this to be true?

    I think some people intentionally pronounce foreign words incorrectly for fear of being laughed at and thought of as full of it. I've found that the subject of meteorologists suddenly speaking with a foreign accent for one or two foreign words while they give their forecast is common with stand up comedians :)

    Anyways, this is just my two cents. I'm sure others have different opinions and experiences, and I'd love to hear them. :)
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    thrice said:
    I was taking a few courses in Italy last semester at a school with predominately British students, and I noticed a few interesting things. For example, I noticed that when they said "tortilla" they pronounced it as "tor-TILL-uh", which is excruciating to my Texan ears. I asked them about it, and they said that if you were to pronounce it properly in Britain like a native Spanish speaker would, you could come across as being pretentious (coming from a Northern Irish student). However, when they said "croissant", they pronounced it as one would in French. :)
    Tortilla is not a good example! The pronuciation of ll is very variable in Spanish-speaking countries. And tortilla means omelet in Spain.

    English folk are more likely to make an effort of pronounce French words "properly". May be it's because French is most-taught foreign language in UK.

    They'll know how to say champagne, chablis and Châteauneuf du Pape, but don't let them near a German spätlese.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Brioche said:
    Tortilla is not a good example! The pronuciation of ll is very variable in Spanish-speaking countries. And tortilla means omelet in Spain.

    English folk are more likely to make an effort of pronounce French words "properly". May be it's because French is most-taught foreign language in UK.

    They'll know how to say champagne, chablis and Châteauneuf du Pape, but don't let them near a German spätlese.
    Well, it's a great example on the west bank of the Atlantic, where it means the same thing (and is pronounced roughly the same way) in both Spanish and English-speaking areas.

    I think the Brits are still partly French, not only from proximity to France itself, but to their/our own history-- the Normans and all that.

    In the U.S., German words are sometimes pronounced pretty well, especially culinary ones-- in part because 40% of us are at least partly of German descent, and in part because Yiddish has such currency in the American idiom, via the entertainment industry.

    I agree that LOSS Vegas is grating to the ear. A lot of Anglo-Americanos pronounce Spanish place names a lot better than others, though I'm sure Montana will always rhyme with Oh! Susanna.
    .
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    foxfirebrand said:
    Well, it's a great example on the west bank of the Atlantic, where it means the same thing (and is pronounced roughly the same way) in both Spanish and English-speaking areas.
    Is tortilla pronounced the same way in Argentina as in Mexico?
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Brioche said:
    Is tortilla pronounced the same way in Argentina as in Mexico?
    Well, I said roughly. Do they have tortillas in Argentina? Are they the same as the ones in México? Or are they omelettes? If not, do they know about those North-Latin-American tortillas, from howevermany thousand miles away? And do they pronounce them according to their dialect like an American saying BOOLY-uh-base-- or in the Mexican way, kinda like a Brit saying bwee-ya-BEZZ?

    Or to address your question more directly, is bouillabaise pronounced the same way in Argentina as in México?
    .
     

    moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    I agree with what Aupick, Timpeac and Thrice have written in their posts. My personal, unsatisfactory compromise solution is to pronounce, say, Birmingham in a way which is in-between the original pronunciation(which would sound affected) and the Italianized version. Interestingly, I have noticed that Brits living in my town(quite close to Capri) pronounce "Capri" as /'kapri/ when speaking English to each other but /ka'pri:/ to relatives or friends who are just visiting.

    With reference to BBC broadcasters, I've found some interesting information about the BBC's attitude to the problem and its "Pronunciation Unit":

    The BBC has an excellent Pronunciation Unit, but most people are not aware that
    it has no power to persuade broadcasters to use particular pronunciations


    http://news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ukfs/hi/newsid_4600000/newsid_4607200/4607243.stm
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Remember when there was the shooting war in Nagorni Karabakh? The utter relish announcers showed getting their tongues round that one?
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I've never heard anyone say "tor-TILL-a" and it would be excrutiating to my ears too. The way I've always heard it here in Britain is like "tor tee ya", which isn't so bad since there are some Spanish who pronounce the "ll" like a "y".

    Similarly people go on holiday to "Mar bay uh" "Marbella".
     

    thrice

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Brioche said:
    Tortilla is not a good example! The pronuciation of ll is very variable in Spanish-speaking countries. And tortilla means omelet in Spain.
    I don't think the fact that different Spanish speaking countries pronounce "LL" differently makes "tortilla" a bad example. In my conversation with the British students the type of tortilla in question was understood to be the traditional Mexican flour or corn tortilla, not the Spanish omelette. "Tortilla" in this context can only have one meaning, and, I assume since we're talking about a Mexican food, one pronunciation (the Mexican Spanish pronunciation).

    This brings me to another thought I had - Since many different countries may share the same language, with presumably different accents, should a public figure, like a BBC reporter, change their pronunciation of a foreign proper noun even if the foreign noun is of their native language? For example, should a BBC reporter pronounce New York with an American accent, since it's an American location? For that matter, should we all be pronouncing New York as a New Yorker would? Of course, this is an exaggeration which may be a little unreasonable, but I think that a BBC reporter anglicizing foreign nouns could be an effort to avoid having to deal with the decision of whether a word should be pronounced like a native would say it or simply pronounced with normal English pronunciation. Making a policy of anglicizing all words (though a bit ignorant) would remove any doubt while speaking, and also remove any discrepancies or biases (For example, cringing at the the sound of "tort-TILL-uh", but being fine with "cruh-SAWNT" :)) . These are all just thoughts as they come to mind, (and it also happens to be 5:00 AM), so I apologize for any rambling or silly ideas. :)
     

    thrice

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    timpeac said:
    I've never heard anyone say "tor-TILL-a" and it would be excrutiating to my ears too. The way I've always heard it here in Britain is like "tor tee ya", which isn't so bad since there are some Spanish who pronounce the "ll" like a "y".

    Similarly people go on holiday to "Mar bay uh" "Marbella".
    Mexicans pronounce "LL" as an English "y", so the "tor tee ya" pronunciation you've heard is correct when talking about the Mexican corn or flour tortilla. Even the Spanish pronunciation of the "LL" in "tortilla" hurts my ears a bit from being so used to the Mexican pronunciation. I really don't think I've ever met a Spaniard here in the U.S., but here in Texas you can hear Mexican Spanish being spoken almost anywhere you go.
     

    xav

    Senior Member
    France
    foxfirebrand said:
    bouillabaise
    :D ... I'm not able to translate what this writing means in French, but it's rather funny (bouille-à-baise ! with the ambiguity of "baise").
    The correct writing is bouillabaisse, and "ss" expressly means you have to pronounce "s" and not "z". This small mistake is interesting, since apparently the different AE ways to pronounce this word all include a "z" or even "zz" end. I didn't think this rather difficult noun was used out of France ! So, I'd like to know, if it's relevant to this thread,

    1) how it is pronounced in BE, and if possible in other English "dialects"
    2) if this word is known out of the English-speaking countries, and how it is pronounced there
    3) more widely, what is the lexical and geographical extent of this "z" pronounciation of hard and double "s"s... It spreads a bit into French.
     

    Aupick

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    thrice said:
    For that matter, should we all be pronouncing New York as a New Yorker would?
    Indeed, expecting people to use the local accent when pronouncing place names would require an impossibly encyclopedic knowledge of accents and would lead to embarrassing and comical mangling most of the time. Even people who have been learning a language for years can't usually match the accent. Surely I can be forgiven (and understood) for saying New York without pronouncing that American R. In return I forgive Americans for pronouncing the R on the end of my native Manchester. It doesn't shock me: it just sounds normal. An attempt to pronounce it in a Manchester accent would just sound like the speaker was taking the piss.

    There are some changes that are easy to make, and it would be nice if TV presenters or "experts" would make the effort, assuming they know (hopefully "experts" do) or can be told. It's easy enough for Brits to avoid pronouncing the second C in Connecticut (although pronouncing the Ts almost like Ds is too much to ask), or the C in Tucson, but only for those who know something about the US. Similary, it's nice if Americans pronounce Worcester and Leicester as two syllables instead of three, but go ahead and pronounce those Rs.
     

    Aupick

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    timpeac said:
    Yes - I agree, but would go even further and say it is a more appropriate approximation. The Spanish "a" of "la" is pretty much the same as the French "a" of "la" since I know you do speak French (which you would agree is more like the "a" of "cat" than the "a" southern "castle", no?)
    I agree that the short "a" of cat is closer to the French "a" and would have imagined the same for Spanish. It's also true for German, although Germans tend to "umlaut" the "a" in certain foreign names: Manchester is pronounced as Mänchester (ie Menchester). If I remember rightly the Big Mac is even spelt "Big Mäc". I've never understood why. :confused:
     

    I.C.

    Senior Member
    D
    It's great fun when English speakers try to pronounce "Gewürztraminer" in any way they see fit. A sommelier might do well to learn a decent pronunciation, the average person may not feel the need. That’s fine with me.
    Yet a general disregard for the pronunciation of local place names I consider to be a bit disrespectful.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Aupick said:
    Indeed, expecting people to use the local accent when pronouncing place names would require an impossibly encyclopedic knowledge of accents and would lead to embarrassing and comical mangling most of the time.
    Good point - and if we look at one of the original examples "picasso" it gets even more convoluted. Double "ss" is not usual in Spanish, so is this a Spanish word? Is it a Spanish dialect? Were his parents immigrants from some other country? Which native accent is the British speaker supposedly falling so short of in using the "a" of "cat" in "Picasso" and which are the Americans supposedly mimicking so well by using that of "castle"?
     

    CarolSueC

    Senior Member
    USA--English
    moodywop said:
    I agree with what Aupick, Timpeac and Thrice have written in their posts. My personal, unsatisfactory compromise solution is to pronounce, say, Birmingham in a way which is in-between the original pronunciation(which would sound affected) and the Italianized version. Interestingly, I have noticed that Brits living in my town(quite close to Capri) pronounce "Capri" as /'kapri/ when speaking English to each other but /ka'pri:/ to relatives or friends who are just visiting.

    With reference to BBC broadcasters, I've found some interesting information about the BBC's attitude to the problem and its "Pronunciation Unit":

    The BBC has an excellent Pronunciation Unit, but most people are not aware that
    it has no power to persuade broadcasters to use particular pronunciations


    http://news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ukfs/hi/newsid_4600000/newsid_4607200/4607243.stmhttp://news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ukfs/hi/newsid_4600000/newsid_4607200/4607243.stm
    Thank you for this reference to BBC policy. I really opened a "can of worms" with my question. I wasn't referring to the man in the street who wouldn't have encountered the names before or know about the pronunciation of words in other languages but to those in the media who would be aware of how native speakers pronounce these names and would educate by example. I'm not anti-Brit at all, and I do recognize that many Americans slaughter the pronunciation of foreign nouns. But since American network broadcasters do a better job with foreign names, I guess I am inclined to expect it of the highly regarded BBC.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    xav said:
    ... I'm not able to translate what this writing means in French, but it's rather funny (bouille-à-baise ! with the ambiguity of "baise").
    Ooops! This is at least the third time I've gotten in trouble with baiser, so you'd think I'd learn. Cognates of this verb in other Romance languages don't pose similar problems-- or maybe I'm in for an unpleasant surprise.

    I mostly hear BOO-ly-uh-bayz. But it should be bwee-ya-BESS?

    I think it's fair to say the word is commonly known in the U.S.-- I don't doubt Julia Child batched some up, back in her heyday, and who could forget something like that?
    .
     

    Jazztronik

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Spain
    Something similar happens to us Spaniards. We use to 'castilianize' English, French, German names, etc.

    As German is so hard for us to pronounce, we have our own names for cities like Köln (Colonia), München (Munich), Aachen (Aquisgrán), Nürnberg (Nurenberg), Basel (Basilea), ... French names: Bourdeaux (Burdeos), Marseille (Marsella), Genève (Ginebra)... English names: London (Londres), ....

    Regarding pronunciation, many people say 'doh-beh' to pronounce 'dove', 'eh-space' to pronounce 'space', 'cloob' for 'club', 'soffware' for 'software', 'harware' for 'hardware', etc

    We pronounce Chicago, with the 'ch' like in 'cherry', not like 'shicago'. Cincinnatti like 'thin-thee-nat-tee' (except in some parts of Southern Spain), Seattle like 'see-at-tell' or 'see-tell' instead of 'see-attell'.

    There're opposite situations, like 'Lossanjaylis' for Los Angeles (real pronunciation is Los-an-heh-less), 'sain-dyeh-go' for San Diego (instead of pronouncing 'San' like the English word 'son' but even more open, and 'dye-goh' without closing the 'oh'), etc.
     

    Jazztronik

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Spain
    thrice said:
    Mexicans pronounce "LL" as an English "y", so the "tor tee ya" pronunciation you've heard is correct when talking about the Mexican corn or flour tortilla. Even the Spanish pronunciation of the "LL" in "tortilla" hurts my ears a bit from being so used to the Mexican pronunciation. I really don't think I've ever met a Spaniard here in the U.S., but here in Texas you can hear Mexican Spanish being spoken almost anywhere you go.
    To increase your curiosity: another different pronunciation of 'LL' in Spanish, in Chile but most particularly in Argentina: 'tor-tee-shah'. They pronounce the 'LL' like 'SH'. :)
     

    jdenson

    Senior Member
    USA / English
    anything said:
    You should hear the erroneous pronunciation of certain British place names by educated speakers of American English. :D
    Now, that's hardly fair. A person would have to have a Ph.D. in Bizarre British Place Name Pronunciation to have any chance of getting some of them right.
    I'm reminded of the time I asked a friend, a distinguished professor of English Literature, why words like C
    halmondely, Beaufort, and Worchestershire are pronounced as they are, and he responded (with tongue firmly in cheek) - "When it comes to English, the English are always so wrong".
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    There are several brilliant examples of this near where I come from. There is a small town called Slaithwaite pronounced Slow- it (the ow here rhymes with ow I've trapped my finger) and Tideswell which is called Tidzer.

    Can't imagine either will ever be on Al Jazeera, CNN or BBC world though.
     

    CarolSueC

    Senior Member
    USA--English
    Aupick said:
    Indeed, expecting people to use the local accent when pronouncing place names would require an impossibly encyclopedic knowledge of accents and would lead to embarrassing and comical mangling most of the time. Even people who have been learning a language for years can't usually match the accent. Surely I can be forgiven (and understood) for saying New York without pronouncing that American R. In return I forgive Americans for pronouncing the R on the end of my native Manchester. It doesn't shock me: it just sounds normal. An attempt to pronounce it in a Manchester accent would just sound like the speaker was taking the piss.

    There are some changes that are easy to make, and it would be nice if TV presenters or "experts" would make the effort, assuming they know (hopefully "experts" do) or can be told. It's easy enough for Brits to avoid pronouncing the second C in Connecticut (although pronouncing the Ts almost like Ds is too much to ask), or the C in Tucson, but only for those who know something about the US. Similary, it's nice if Americans pronounce Worcester and Leicester as two syllables instead of three, but go ahead and pronounce those Rs.
    If you reread my original question, I was primarily concerned with names of persons and groups, not place names. I am also more concerned with those in the media, who could, if they chose, educate the average person, who would not have any idea of how to pronounce those names. See above my response to another member.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    CarolSue, I partly agree with you, and I partly disagree. I do think that TV reporters have a responsibility to be better informed about how to pronounce foreign names than the average citizen, and sometimes I hear mispronunciations which make me cringe and are totally unjustified. (BBC News reporters seem to be very careful and well-informed with respect to the pronunciation of foreign names, though! :thumbsup: )
    On the other hand, it's impossible for reporters to be acquainted with all the languages of the personalities they will have to mention, and, because of that, some mispronunciations are inevitable. I think this is a simple extension of Aupick's point, who, by the way, was replying to Thrice in the post you quoted, not to your original question.
    Another reason, already mentioned in this thread, is that reporters want to use a pronunciation that the average viewer will understand. If most Britons are used to saying and hearing [p i k ae s o w], they may not understand what you mean if you say [pikaso].
    As reporters, they're in a position to correct public habits a little bit, true, but if they try to go too far, they will simply fail to get their message across, or sound pretentious.

    I invite you to read this earlier discussion. Some Americans were offended that reporters were not pronouncing "New Orleans" as the locals do. But it seemed that even the locals had more than one way of pronouncing the name of their city...
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Actually there are some places which if you pronounced them properly would be utterly unintelligible to the vast majority of English speakers.

    Take Lodz in Poland. On the BBC this is pronounced to rhyme with hods, the pronunciation unit recognises this is wrong. The rationale is that if it was pronounced as Łodz, as pronounced by Poles, most people would think where on earth is Wudge?
     

    sailingbikeruk

    New Member
    English, England
    Most British people can't even agree on the pronunciation of english words and places. How can they ever be expected to get foreign place names correct?

    There is always local discussion on the pronunciation of places such as Solihull or Bedworth.

    Referring to the original post, the a in cat and castle is the same to me as is the a in path, bath and grass.

    Lets not get started on the pronunciation of the word scone!

    People mostly learn their speaking skills from their immediate family and probably from parents and siblings....who in turn have learnt from there family. One of the hardest things I have learnt in my french studies is how NOT to anglicise pronunciation, but I have had to learn how it wold sound when spoken by a native to do so.

    Given that most people would have no idea how these words would sound when spoken by a native surely we are bound to anglicise them and in so doing different people would apply their "standard" pronunciation given what they learned in their early years.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    CarolSueC said:
    If you reread my original question, I was primarily concerned with names of persons and groups, not place names. I am also more concerned with those in the media, who could, if they chose, educate the average person, who would not have any idea of how to pronounce those names. See above my response to another member.
    But you have in no way proved that the British media are any worse than anyone else at pronouncing foreign places. As I say, to my ears the standard American pronunciation - and that used by the media - of many foreign words is wrong. And in my opinion, further from the native pronunciation than that of the British.

    As a specific example, I dispute that pronouncing "picasso" (assuming it should be pronounced with a "Spanish" accent) with the "a" of "cat" is worse than the "a" of "castle". In the various Spanish I have heard spoken around the world - and the rest of the Romance languages, and German - the "a" of "cat" is in fact more appropriate than the "a" of "castle". I had wondered why American's go out of their way to say "picahso" (and same for other languages "Rackmahninoff" for example)etc. In terms of Spanish, at least, it sounds wrong to me.
     

    thrice

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    timpeac said:
    But you have in no way proved that the British media are any worse than anyone else at pronouncing foreign places. As I say, to my ears the standard American pronunciation - and that used by the media - of many foreign words is wrong. And in my opinion, further from the native pronunciation than that of the British.

    As a specific example, I dispute that pronouncing "picasso" (assuming it should be pronounced with a "Spanish" accent) with the "a" of "cat" is worse than the "a" of "castle". In the various Spanish I have heard spoken around the world - and the rest of the Romance languages, and German - the "a" of "cat" is in fact more appropriate than the "a" of "castle". I had wondered why American's go out of their way to say "picahso" (and same for other languages "Rackmahninoff" for example)etc. In terms of Spanish, at least, it sounds wrong to me.
    This is confusing to me.... the "a" in "castle" and "cat" are exactly the same in the standard American accent. I'm guessing one of these sounds more like the Italian pronunciation of "a" or the "o" in "dog", but I don't know which.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    thrice said:
    This is confusing to me.... the "a" in "castle" and "cat" are exactly the same in the standard American accent. I'm guessing one of these sounds more like the Italian pronunciation of "a" or the "o" in "dog", but I don't know which.
    Thrice - refer way back to the first post in the thread. The "a" of "castle" is meant to be that of (southern) UK where it is pronounced "ah" like you say at the dentists.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    As a speaker of a Romance language who has listened to Spanish many times, here are my $0.02:

    U.K. castle --> Yep, close enough to Spanish a (although the aspirated consonant before it in this word makes it sound a little odd)
    U.S. castle --> Sounds more like a Spanish e, but is really a diphthong, to my ears
    U.K. cat --> Nope, this is the weird one we have trouble pronouncing.
    U.S. cat --> Identical to the a in U.S. castle.
     

    boonognog

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    timpeac said:
    As a specific example, I dispute that pronouncing "picasso" (assuming it should be pronounced with a "Spanish" accent) with the "a" of "cat" is worse than the "a" of "castle". In the various Spanish I have heard spoken around the world - and the rest of the Romance languages, and German - the "a" of "cat" is in fact more appropriate than the "a" of "castle". I had wondered why American's go out of their way to say "picahso" (and same for other languages "Rackmahninoff" for example)etc. In terms of Spanish, at least, it sounds wrong to me.
    Why would it not be pronounced with a Spanish accent? From Wikipedia:

    Pablo Diego José Santiago Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Crispín Crispiniano de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz Picasso was born on October 25, 1881 in Málaga, Spain, the first child of José Ruiz y Blasco and María Picasso y López.
    I have never heard any Spanish speakers pronounce the 'a' as in English -- at least the American English I know -- in 'cat'.

    As for the pronunciation of Rachmaninoff/Rachmaninov, the typical English pronunciation, at least as far as I am familiar with it, is derived from the prevailing German pronunciation, as German publishing houses held the reins on most music coming out of Europe in the late 19th Century and leading into the 20th.

    -Tim
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Outsider said:
    As a speaker of a Romance language who has listened to Spanish many times, here are my $0.02:

    U.K. castle --> Yep, close enough to Spanish a (although the aspirated consonant before it in this word makes it sound a little odd)
    U.S. castle --> Sounds more like a Spanish e, but is really a diphthong, to my ears
    U.K. cat --> Nope, this is the weird one we have trouble pronouncing.
    U.S. cat --> Identical to the a in U.S. castle.
    I find this surprising. Having specifically studied courses at university post-degree level where we had to transcribe sounds from a huge selection of languages from around the world, I know that the way I personally pronounce the "a" of "cat" (I'm a standard southern England speaker of English) is almost identical to the "a" in German, Spanish, French (the "a" of "la" not the "a" of "las" in some people's speech). I know that the "a" of "cat" is traditionally written "ae" in dictionaries. This represents an old pronunciation of the vowel (which you can still hear clearly in old films from the 50s and 60s and before). To my ears, and those I studied with, it is now "a" for all but the poshest .01%.

    And while we are talking about this - German speakers - if you are going for British English "a" just say that of German. It is not Big meck, it's big mack just as if it were a German word written "mak"!! And my friend Mandy will thank you not to be called Mendy when she goes to Germany!! ;)
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    timpeac said:
    I find this surprising. Having specifically studied courses at university post-degree level where we had to transcribe sounds from a huge selection of languages from around the world, I know that the way I personally pronounce the "a" of "cat" (I'm a standard southern England speaker of English) is almost identical to the "a" in German, Spanish, French (the "a" of "la" not the "a" of "las" in some people's speech). I know that the "a" of "cat" is traditionally written "ae" in dictionaries. This represents an old pronunciation of the vowel (which you can still hear clearly in old films from the 50s and 60s and before). To my ears, and those I studied with, it is now "a" for all but the poshest .01%.
    Well, I suppose the B. English we learn and hear around here is the one of those poshest .01%. :)

    timpeac said:
    And while we are talking about this - German speakers - if you are going for British English "a" just say that of German. It is not Big meck, it's big mack just as if it were a German word written "mak"!! And my friend Mandy will thank you not to be called Mendy when she goes to Germany!! ;)
    Have you ever stopped to wonder why they do that? Could it be that they also hear a difference?
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    boonognog said:
    Why would it not be pronounced with a Spanish accent? From Wikipedia:
    I agree - I was playing devil's advocate for Carol who started the thread who was suggesting that all words should be the way "it was intended to be pronounced". Since (as I did explain above) Picasso contains double s this is not normal for a Spanish word ( can you name another one?) so I was saying if we are supposed to be pronouncing this word in its "proper" way perhaps Picasso is a dialect word of Spanish or even an immigrant name and so should be pronounced in the manner of that people. Just trying to show how silly it is to expect people of one language to know all the pronunciation rules of every language around the world really.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Outsider said:
    Well, I suppose the B. English we learn and hear around here is the one of those poshest .01%. :)

    Have you ever stopped to wonder why they do that? Could it be that they also hear a difference?
    Yes, I have stopped to consider that. I actually had a whole hour lecture on it. The general consensus is that this was how German teachers were taught a while ago and they are still passing down the message although the pronunciation has moved on. No other foreign teachers do it, and the funny thing is that the German pronunciation of "a" is gererally fine. Think "Mann" and use that vowel to ask for a big Mac next time you're in England!!
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    I believe Picasso was Catalan, hence the double 's', which is found in Catalan but not in Castilian, Castilian being the Spanish language that became the dominant and national language of the whole country, historically (and this is no value judgment on my part). To the best of my knowledge, the double 's' is pronounced 's', and that is it, also in Spain/Spanish languages.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    James Brandon said:
    I believe Picasso was Catalan, hence the double 's', which is found in Catalan but not in Castilian, Castilian being the Spanish language that became the dominant and national language of the whole country, historically (and this is no value judgment on my part). To the best of my knowledge, the double 's' is pronounced 's', and that is it, also in Spain/Spanish languages.
    And the vowel "a"? This whole debate started from Carol saying that British journalists pronounced foreign words wrong, and an example being that they pronounced "Picasso" with the "a" of "cat" rather than the "a" of "castle". She did not comment on which language this pronunciation was falling short of, but from the time I lived in Barcelona I can't remember noticing any significant difference between the vowel "a" in Catalan and Spanish. Perhaps they both sound like the "a" of big mäc.
     
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