General pronunciation: foreign proper nouns, especially in BE

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Jazztronik

Senior Member
Spanish, Spain
Picasso wasn't Catalan. He was born in Málaga (Andalucía).
But anyway, why could someone think he had foreigner ancestors because of the 'ss'? The 'ss' is very common in Catalan/Valencian as James Brandon said (assassí --> killer assassin; carabassa --> pumpkin; essencial --> essential; assolellat --> sunny... there are hundreds).

The only thing that makes me doubt about the origin of the surname Picasso is the fact that words that end in 'o' are very typical in Castilian, but rare in Catalan/Valencian, and they use to exist because of some castilianization of Catalan and even more in Valencian Catalan. It might be a Castilianized Catalan surname or the opposite.
 
  • timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Jazztronik said:
    Picasso wasn't Catalan. He was born in Málaga (Andalucía).
    But anyway, why could someone think he had foreigner ancestors because of the 'ss'? The 'ss' is very common in Catalan/Valencian as James Brandon said (assassí --> killer assassin; carabassa --> pumpkin; essencial --> essential; assolellat --> sunny... there are hundreds).

    The only thing that makes me doubt about the origin of the surname Picasso is the fact that words that end in 'o' are very typical in Castilian, but rare in Catalan/Valencian, and they use to exist because of some castilianization of Catalan and even more in Valencian Catalan. It might be a Castilianized Catalan surname or the opposite.
    This is utterly bizarre.

    To paraphrase you -

    -Picasso wasn't Catalan he was born in Malaga.
    -Why would you think he had foreign ancestors because "ss" is common in Catalan.

    Well, and forgive me if I'm being too simplistic here, if Picasso wasn't Catalan but his surname has linguistic qualities that are not common in Castilian but are in Catalan, is this not something to comment on?
     

    Jazztronik

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Spain
    timpeac said:
    -Why would you think he had foreign ancestors because "ss" is common in Catalan.
    I didn't ask the question that way.

    I meant: Why would you think he had foreign ancestors just because the 'ss' is not common in Castilian Spanish?

    The answer was, because apart from Castilian, there is Catalan/Valencian, Basque, Galician (is this the name in English?), and Bable, and for instance in Catalan the 'ss' is very usual to find.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Jazztronik said:
    I didn't ask the question that way.

    I meant: Why would you think he had foreign ancestors just because the 'ss' is not common in Castilian Spanish?

    The answer was, because apart from Castilian, there is Catalan/Valencian, Basque, Galician (is this the name in English?), and Bable, and for instance in Catalan the 'ss' is very usual to find.
    Ok, I think I see what you mean;)

    But the point is that even if he is Spanish but not not of "Castillian" origins, or indeed from outside the borders of Spain, then these dialects and other languages have their own pronunciation rules and habits. The first message in the thread questioned why British English speakers didn't use the "a" of "castle" to pronounce "Picasso" "like it is pronounced by the native speakers". I reply to that, well in my opinion if you are talking about Spanish they don't pronounce it that way themselves anyway but moreover if the idea is to mimic "native" pronunciation as closely as possible shouldn't we acertain firstly which language or dialect it is we talking about first. By extension I'm also saying that attempting native pronunciation for foreign words in a language is not very feasible, even for reporters whose job it is is to "communicate".

    If Dr Quiza is correct above then by Carol's argument we should all, or at least the reporters, be stressing the final syllable of "Picasso" in the French way, rather than the second.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    timpeac said:
    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.
    Has it moved on? You say it sounds posh, so I assume posh people still use it.
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    It has shifted a lot. That accent has more or less died out. About the only person who speaks like this these days is the queen who manages to pronounce the a in family as though it was an e - "my femily and I"
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Maybe the actual sound has undergone some changes (yes, the Queen sounds different), but my main question is this: do you pronounce the a in man the same way as the a in castle? In other words, do you pronounce man just like Mann in German?

    My impression is that Scotsmen do that, but not most Englishmen...
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Outsider said:
    Maybe the actual sound has undergone some changes (yes, the Queen sounds different), but my main question is this: do you pronounce the a in man the same way as the a in castle? In other words, do you pronounce man just like Mann in German?

    My impression is that Scotsmen do that, but not most Englishmen...
    I'm English and the way I say the two As os identical. I am come from the north where As are short. Go south of Birmingham and the A gets longer. Bath down south rhymes with garth, grass with arse.

    And to answer your question whether man in English sounds like Mann in German, yes it does.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    cirrus said:
    And to answer your question whether man in English sounds like Mann in German, yes it does.
    I have heard some Brits pronunce it that way, but it didn't seem to be the standard pronunciation...
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Re. Picasso, I thought his surname (if not his origins) was Catalan. Yes, he was born in Malaga. I did not know his surname was French or he was of French origin (some members of his family at any rate). The name "Picasso" does not sound French to me at all, I must say. Endings in "o" are rather rare in French, far more common in Spanish. But I have not researched Picasso's life.

    Re. pronounciation, I believe there remains a difference, phonetically, between the Midlands and N England, where "castle" is pronounced almost like "cat" (phon., /ae/). In S England, "castle" has a long "a" sound, like "to bark", "farce", etc. I would pronounce Picasso by stressing the second syllable and pronouncing it like a S English "a" in "castle"...

    This is tricky because you have different pronounciations and dialects in Country A being transferred into various accents and languages in Country B. The tendency in the UK in the last 10-20 years has been, I believe, to pronounce non-English names in a way as close as possible to "the original". It often leads to funny or pretentious phonetics...
     

    Jazztronik

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Spain
    To me, to pronounce Picasso by stressing the last syllabe would sound extremely weird, hehehe.

    Anyway, if he and his own family considered their own surname had to be stressed in the second syllabe, I think it has to be this way, no matter where this surname comes from. That's similar to cases in Argentina with German origins and with castilianized surnames, like Esnáider instead of Schneider. Everyone knows Esnáider comes from Schneider, but it has to be pronounced the way the surname owners do (ess-nye-derr), not sh-nye-da).
     

    Jazztronik

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Spain
    speaking about pronunciations. I've heard in the UK some people pronounce 'day' like d-eh-y, like Americans do, but many others pronounce it close to 'die'. The same happens to 'like' or 'time', some say it close to the American way but a little more open, and some others extremely open like 'loike' or 'toime'. I think the most extreme case is the Cockney accent (similar to Australian in many cases), but which other places in the UK use this pronunciation and which ones the other one closer to BBC English?
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Outsider said:
    Has it moved on? You say it sounds posh, so I assume posh people still use it.
    No, only a very tiny proportion of people, even amonst the poshest. The queen does from what I've heard.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Outsider said:
    I have heard some Brits pronunce it that way, but it didn't seem to be the standard pronunciation...
    Definitely is. A friend of mine was an English language assistant for a year in Germany and he told me he used to pull his hair out trying to get the kids to pronounce "man" the right way. He said he told them to just pronounce it like "Mann" but he couldn't convince them!!
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Would you say that British television newscasters in general pronounce man and castle with the same kind of a?
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Outsider said:
    Would you say that British television newscasters in general pronounce man and castle with the same kind of a?
    No, only northerners. Southerners pronounce the "a" of "castle" like "ah" when you go to the dentist.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Well, I think that's the main point. Whether or not the a in cat and man is pronounced as a near-open front unrounded vowel by most Englishmen, it is still pronounced differently from the a in castle. It is this difference which I believe foreign students of English and their teachers attempt to reproduce (not always with much success, I'm willing to concede).

    On the other hand, to my ears the German a in Mann sounds like the English a in man, pronounced with a Scottish accent, but the Scottish pronunciation sounds different from what I'm used to hearing in the British media. So, I'm not sure I agree with you that they are the same.
     

    deafen11

    New Member
    U.K.
    I think you'll find that the correct Spanish pronounciation of Picasso is in fact Picasso with the 'a' as in cat.
    For an example, find a clip of the Oscars last night when one of the make-up artists for Pan's Labyrinth thanked Picasso in her speech.
    The American pronounciation always gets on my nerves.
     

    nuri148

    Senior Member
    Argentina, Spanish
    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
    <snip>
    I think some people intentionally pronounce foreign words incorrectly for fear of being laughed at and thought of as full of it.
    This is so sadly true. This miserable attitude does nothing but keeping people from learning other languages, making them feel it's some sort of snob thing to do.
    I'm from Argentina and there people is pretty open to foreign words (even a tad too much: I hate it when shops advertise "Sale" instead of "Liquidación"), and correctly (or almost) pronounce lunch, buffet-froid, jogging, peeling, paillettes, démi-glace, and basically all celebrities' names.
    In Spain, though, where I lived for two years, I -and my husband-was sistematically got that "you-are-so-pretentious" look when we spoke foreing words or names commonly used in language and which the Spaniards massacre marcilessly: /espEEderman/ (Spiderman) /OOm-fray/ (Humphrey) Bogart, /ball-IT-eh/ (Woolite(tm)) and so on.

    As for the Picasso debate, I think the correct pronounciation is somewhat not as shot as cat, yet nos as long as castle. Either way, I don't mind the "ah", what ticks me is when they say "Picassow" making the o like in "no" when it's a pure sound, like in "saw"
     

    winklepicker

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    1) In defence of British English speakers, another reason we do not say fon Hoke, fon Ayk, RrrahkmanEEnoff, (or even Paree, Lijboa, Noo York or Moskva!) is because it would be deeply pretentious. US proponents of consistency please back off: how do you rationalise Kansas/Arkansaw? :)

    2) If the foreros on this thread can come to an agreed pronunciation of Picasso I promise always to pronounce it that way (as I skate on the surface of hell!).

    3) We do care. There is the Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation : The essential handbook on the spoken word - review here. And this BBC page is helpful in explaining how we get to where we get to.

    4) As for man = Mann, to my ear Thomas Mann is Munn, as is Scots man.

    5) My own local offerings: Meopham (meppam), Trottiscliffe (trosly), Wrotham (rootam), Cowden (cow-den), and many lovely others...
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    No, Brioche, it is pronounced quite differently. In most of Argentina and Uruguay, they use 'River Plate' Spanish or Castellano where the 'll' is pronounced something like a soft 'j', very difficult to describe. The same applies to the 'y' in 'yo', for example.
     
    Interesting to see this thread kept alive for so long - but it is an interesting topic, anyways...
    Seriously, I have to wonder if a bit of colonial mindset isn't at work here - I get this feeling every time I watch the BBC. They tend to pronounce most French and German names the proper (native) way - though these names aren't exactly easy for an outsider. e.g., Jaques Chirac. On the other hand, despite ruling over the Indian subcontinent for a century, these chaps still want to pronounce 'Punjab' as 'poonjawb'. Even the guys reporting from within India. Now, come on! Indian spelling is not always perfect, but how else would you spell 'Punjab'? (I am not from Punjab, by the way - I just picked some example at random).
    On the other hand, people of foreign ancestry, but now working for the BBC have to pronounce THEIR OWN NAMES in an anglicized fashion!
    I can't help feeling that a bit of colonial superiority (try saying 'superiority' in the British style - it's so cool :) ) is still at play here - it's nothing to do with how difficult or easy the foreign proper nouns themselve are!
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    I am puzzled by the idea that the correct pronunciation of Picasso in Spanish would be with the /a/ as in English "cat", i.e. /Kaet/ in phonetics - since the /ae/ sound, to the best of my knowledge, does not exist in Castilian!... Does the contributor mean that this is the correct pronunciation in English? As for the Castilian pronunciation, I am not sure I understand what it is supposed to be, bearing in mind the fact that 'Picasso' is not a Castilian name but a name of French/Catalan origin, if I understood earlier posts correctly.

    As for the pronunciation of 'foreign' names in English, the trend is clearly, in the UK today, including on BBC, to pronounce them in the way that an educated British person (there are still a few here and there) believes those foreigners pronounce it. As a result, instead of the natives' pronunciation (be it a European or non-European city, etc.), and instead of the 'traditional' Imperial/British pronunciation, one gets a 3rd type, which is neither one, nor the other, but one that is pleasing to the politically correct brigade.

    Pronunciation does not arise in a vaccum. Certain names of, say, French cities or regions are known to an English-speaker because one is going back centuries (e.g.: regions that have an English name, such as 'Burgundy', often linked to the wine trade or medieval times, when half of France or more was under English rule, at one stage...). It is perfectly understandable that placenames in India would be pronounced in the way familiar to British speakers, and that is, in the main, harking back to the days of the Raj, because that is when that part of the world became first known to British colonialists, officials, merchants, soldiers, etc. This is just the way language evolves. The rest is academic and belongs to the re-writing of history.

    Otherwise, British people ought to demand that every Frenchman say 'London' instead of 'Londres', or 'Canterbury' instead of 'Cantorbéry' - those cities have French versions of their names because they are familiar to French people, going back centuries, and also due to geographical proximity. To blame it all on colonialism is plain whinging of the worst kind.
     

    xarruc

    Senior Member
    England
    Yet a general disregard for the pronunciation of local place names I consider to be a bit disrespectful.
    I totally disagree. When I speak in English my mouth forms a different shape to when I speak Spanish, which is different to when I speak Catalan. The rhythm is also different. When I speak in English I anglicise all Spanish or Catalan words to a compromise between the correct pronunciation for a local and what rolls off the tongue in English. When I speak Spanish or Catalan I do the same with English words. I find I am understood better that way. I find it more natural.

    To pronouce San Feliu de Guixols as a Catalan would, in the middle of a conversation in English would sound unnatural and pretensious. Hence I say San Fel-oo rather than San Fal-ee-oo, but would never pronounce it San Fel-oo when speaking Catalan. It's not ignorance, nor disrespect, simply a natural phenomeon. You could argue that just as Londres is London, San Feliu is San Feloo - different words in different languages for the same thing.
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    The issue of how to pronounce placenames is very sensitive because it is an issue of ownership: I own it, hence I name it. If you name it (differently), and/or pronounce it differently (and your own way), you are taking away from me, what is mine.

    The debate quickly becomes dogmatic and pretentious, and intensely political. It has nothing to do with language (as previous post stresses) and all to do with pride and politics.

    The re-naming of placenames follows the same logic: St Petersburg is once more St Petersburg because Leningrad was a Bolshevik name, and Communism has collapsed in Russia. St Petersburg was itself not a typically Russian name, but an imperial construct of a concept/word - i.e. it reflected the Russian tsar's desire to mimic Prussia/Germany.

    Hence, Bombay is now Mumbai, and the ongoing debate over pronunciation.

    This is all fine, provided people realise this is not about language per se, but about power and politics. There is no way that is "right" or "wrong" linguistically. It has to do with history. But, of course, he (or she) who names, has power. (The parents choose the name of their child...)
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    I totally disagree. When I speak in English my mouth forms a different shape to when I speak Spanish, which is different to when I speak Catalan. The rhythm is also different. When I speak in English I anglicise all Spanish or Catalan words to a compromise between the correct pronunciation for a local and what rolls off the tongue in English. When I speak Spanish or Catalan I do the same with English words. I find I am understood better that way. I find it more natural.
    .
    When I speak English, I pronounce Berlin in the English way; when I speak French, in the French way; when I speak German, in the German way.

    Ditto for Paris, .... and my own home town.

    And Maxiogee can say Baile Atha Cliath if he likes, but I'll stick with Dublin.

    Though I will admit to being irritated by people who have changed from Peking to Beijing, and then pronounce the j like a French j. It's jing [almost] like jingle bells.
     

    winklepicker

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    To pronouce San Feliu de Guixols as a Catalan would, in the middle of a conversation in English would sound unnatural and pretentious.
    Exactly right. There was once a BBC newsreader who tried to do exactly this, and was well and justly lampooned:

    "Good evening and here is the news. In Zeembaahbwaeay the president, Mr Moogaahbaeay..."
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Seriously, I have to wonder if a bit of colonial mindset isn't at work here - I get this feeling every time I watch the BBC. They tend to pronounce most French and German names the proper (native) way - though these names aren't exactly easy for an outsider. e.g., Jaques Chirac.
    I disagree. You will still find English people using old placenames eg saying Munich, Cologne. If you say Muenchen, Koeln sounds plain daft if you are speaking English and don't get me started on people pronouncing copenhagen making the hagen rhyme with hargen.

    As far as people can manage foreign people's names they will at least have a bash. I still cringe at how Spanish names are stressed but recognise that unless you speak the language it isn't always obvious where the emphasis lies.

    As for India you will find that modern usage tends to be use both the modern and colonial names eg Mumbai/ Bombay Chenai / Madras. The latter are used because people aren't always familiar with the new name. As people get used to it, I imagine the newer names will become the default not least as India's economy grows ever bigger and more important.
     

    I.C.

    Senior Member
    D
    Yet a general disregard for the pronunciation of local place names I consider to be a bit disrespectful.
    I totally disagree.
    Feel free to do so.
    When I speak in English I anglicise all Spanish or Catalan words to a compromise between the correct pronunciation for a local and what rolls off the tongue in English.
    Yet if you don’t mind, I’ll nevertheless agree with this, at least as I understand it. I fail to see a contradiction.
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    As a matter of fact, policy choices are made regarding these issues at the BBC, from what I can see (or hear). The trend has clearly been to pronounce all names of people or places in the "local" way, as opposed to an English adaptation of it, and/or an anglicized form of the name, and/or old colonial/imperial names one might have been using. So, for editors at the BBC at any rate, there is a contradiction. In essence, indeed, there is a problem.

    But the Catalan/Spanish contributor gave obvious examples where one can see very clearly that, taken to its logical consequences, this politically correct view is simply preposterous and untenable. Reductio ad absurdum. And the pronunciation of Latin is yet another - related - subject that would deserve 25 Threads all by itself...
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    In fairness, what sounds comical and pretentious to Peter may sound quite 'natural' to Paul, and vice-versa. I believe most Americans find British English phonetics rather comical and pretentious, when referring to middle-class and upper-class speakers; and downright impenetrable, when the person speaking is working-class and/or has a strong regional accent!... (But American contributors will, no doubt, confirm this if they wish to do so.:D )

    PS - I know social classes are not supposed to exist any more in the UK and it is bad, bad, bad, to even use those terms. But we haven't got all day to explain...
     

    I.C.

    Senior Member
    D
    As a matter of fact, policy choices are made regarding these issues at the BBC, from what I can see (or hear). The trend has clearly been to pronounce all names of people or places in the "local" way, as opposed to an English adaptation of it, and/or an anglicized form of the name, and/or old colonial/imperial names one might have been using. So, for editors at the BBC at any rate, there is a contradiction. In essence, indeed, there is a problem.
    If you met someone whose name does not have an established pronunciation in English and as far as phonetics are concerned would roll off your or any other Anglophones' tongue most naturally, but it came in a spelling that wasn’t complicated, yet deviating from what would be expected in English, how would you pronounce it?
     

    jess oh seven

    Senior Member
    UK/US English
    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.
    You can´t really generalise "UK" and "US" pronunciations of the letter A since they vary even through the two countries. Someone from the North of England is probably going to pronounce the A in castle completely differently from someone from London. I wish I had the phonetic alphabet font on here so I could show you.

    But in relation to the original topic, it does hurt my ears when an English speaker pronounces Spanish or Portuguese words completely incorrectly. But then again it also hurts my ears terribly when Spanish or Portuguese speakers pronounce English words equally as badly. You can´t win, really. Nobody is going to have comprehensive knowledge of the pronunciation of all the languages in the world, so they adapt them into a familiar pronunciation pattern.
     

    jess oh seven

    Senior Member
    UK/US English
    speaking about pronunciations. I've heard in the UK some people pronounce 'day' like d-eh-y, like Americans do, but many others pronounce it close to 'die'. The same happens to 'like' or 'time', some say it close to the American way but a little more open, and some others extremely open like 'loike' or 'toime'. I think the most extreme case is the Cockney accent (similar to Australian in many cases), but which other places in the UK use this pronunciation and which ones the other one closer to BBC English?
    Generally, the further you radiate out from London, the less "BBC-like" the pronunciations will be. The Cockney accent derives from the London area, but I can´t see many similarities pronunciation-wise with an Australian accent. They're both quite sort of "bouncy" though... that makes no sense, I know, but I can't think of another word to describe it.

    I have a phonetic chart of all the English vowels in most of the major British accents. I will try to scan it in at some point.
     

    lizzeymac

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I often think Americans don't hear things properly and go for what they think (completely wrongly) is cultured. Take ballet for example. We English pronounce it nearly like the French with equal stress on both syllables. Americans insist on saying ball-AY which is nothing like the french. It sounds pretentious and comical to English ears.
    That is an interesting if somewhat snarky-sounding assumption/generalization. ;)

    While I think you may be correct in stating that most Americans pronounce it ball-AY, not all Americans do - many of us studied french & our teachers corrected us.

    I am under the impression that French is or has been until recently the most popular foreign language studied in school in the UK so that may be the reason that some residents of the UK have a lovely French accent.

    In America, a larger percentage of students take Spanish & speak it fairly well, and there is a strong Hispanic/Latino sub-culture making most Americans reasonably familiar with some basic Spanish phrases.
    With all due respect, hearing some residents of the UK pronounce "taco" or "macho" or "rellenos" leaves even us gringos gasping. :)

    -
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    To reply to I.C., I agree with your point 100% regarding the way that a PC BBC is trying to ape localized phonetics. This is precisely the point I was making: if you push this reasoning to its logical conclusion, it makes no sense, so you might as well desist. Yet, they, at the BBC, clearly stick to it. (Hence "BBC English" no longer makes any sense, as a concept - it stood for what is known as "RP" or "Received Pronunciation", in the main what features in the phonetics of words in dictionaries - because, of course, those phonetics are not neutral...)

    A few rude or semi-rude remarks have been made about American English in this Thread, so I think it may be time to be rude about Australian English and cockney. The joke goes: 'Australian English sounds like cockney English (since most of them were convicts originally hailing from those parts), only with the mouth shut - that is because, as soon as they got off the boat, there were swarms of flies all around them.' :p
     

    jess oh seven

    Senior Member
    UK/US English
    With all due respect, hearing some residents of the UK pronounce "taco" or "macho" or "rellenos" leaves even us gringos gasping. :)

    -
    Hehehe, I second that. Add "jalapeños" to that list as well. Before coming to the UK, I´d NEVER heard anyone say djuh-LA-peh-noze. I nearly die everytime someone comes out with that!!
     

    lizzeymac

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I'd have said this post was snarky-sounding lizzeymac not a harmless comment about ballet. By the way I LOVE snarky, did you make it up just now?
    I am glad to hear you meant as a harmless post because it sounded pretty classist to me.

    I'm also glad snarky pleased you.

    (Pause to giggle)

    Snarky is an old-ish English (BE) expression.

    (Seriously attempting to not to be snarky now)

    "The adjective snarky is first recorded in 1906. It is from dialectal British snark, meaning 'to nag, find fault with', which is probably the same word as snark, snork, meaning 'to snort, snore'. (The likely connection is the derisive snorting sound of someone who is always finding fault.) Most dictionaries label snarky as "Chiefly British Slang." But for the last five or more years, it has become increasingly common in American publications, maybe ones infiltrated by British or Canadian writers and journalists."​

    As to the other - I would never attempt to characterize a foxfirebrand post - especially as I feel that particular post is fairly even-handed & yet absolutely on target about "Nicaragua" - just thinking about it gives me the heeby-jeebies.

    -
     

    I.C.

    Senior Member
    D
    The joke goes: 'Australian English sounds like cockney English (since most of them were convicts originally hailing from those parts), only with the mouth shut - that is because, as soon as they got off the boat, there were swarms of flies all around them.'
    Youtube hosts a sketch, it can be found searching for “monty python bruce”.
    To reply to I.C., I agree with your point 100% regarding the way that a PC BBC is trying to ape localized phonetics. This is precisely the point I was making: if you push this reasoning to its logical conclusion, it makes no sense, so you might as well desist.
    That does mean you would pronounce this person’s name (whom you’ve been introduced to) as you yourself see fit, according to an English pronunciation of the spelling, even if that significantly changes the original phonetics, which to adhere to you'd have no problem, doesn’t it?
    But, of course, he (or she) who names, has power. (The parents choose the name of their child...)
    You’ve just assumed power over me.

    I’ll tell you what at least according to my experience Germans and are likely to do, and this is concerning personal, not place names.
    Paul and Peter also are German names, but the vast majority of Germans I know will pronounce an English Peter or Paul as English as they can. Mary will not become Marie.

    If someone tells me her name is Anica, “c” as in “pizza”, then I’ll do as good as I can to match her pronunciation of her name. Getting it wrong, nevertheless, is another matter. I’ll try not to call her Annika and if I do so out of accident, I’ll gladly accept her correction. If someone’s name is Cem, then I’ll try to match his pronunciation of the name. How the spelling for the same phonetics would be in German does not concern me. Not to try I’d find very rude of me, ignorant and condescending.

    Regarding place names, of course there are established pronunciations and some sounds would not fit into the speech flow of most (to explain what I personally do there would take longer). But most or all Germans I know who know of the English pronunciation of Edinburgh or Worcester will make an attempt to match it. Depending on setting (family dinner, say) someone who does not may be corrected by others. Not trying to get it right may be viewed as ignorant or uneducated.

    Cultural issues involved?
     

    jess oh seven

    Senior Member
    UK/US English
    Ooh another one that really really bugs English people is the American Al-oom-in-um. A whole syllable is missed! As in aeroplane - syllable gone - poof!
    Well, both those words are spelled differently in AE too! :)

    Aluminum
    Airplane

    Therefore, there aren't any syllables missed! ;)
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    IC appears to believe my position is untenable and intolerable, but I am not sure what he thinks my position is... Anyway, I understand the general point that one will try (and, perhaps, should try) to adapt to the phonetics recommended by the locals. (If someone says to you: 'By the way, my first name is not pronounced XYZ but ABC', you would be rather churlish if you carried on calling that person 'XYZ'.)

    What I meant was that attempts at 'localizing' placenames' pronunciation systematically - even when there is a perfectly well-known anglicized form of it for historical reasons - are generally futile at best, hypocritical at worst. Should we stop calling Koln 'Cologne', as do the French?

    In other words, there has to be compromise and common sense, or else you will have to re-write history, change phonetics, and modify maps across the world - that is called totalitarianism. (Rhetorical effect, here.)

    As for foreign-sounding words, if you have not got a clue how to pronounce them and you are English, you just do your best. When they are too awkward, you give up: 'Peter What's-his-name rang the other day.' Such is life. :D

    PS If I do not respond to comments in real time, it will be because I am having to do a spot of remunerated work.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    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!
    Nick-a-rog-wah sounds terrible, I know Americans have trouble with pronouncing some words correctly but really....:p

    Seriously however when it comes to countries I'm afraid Americans don't have a leg to stand on.

    You (by you I mean what I've generally heard in the American media) pronounce Qatar as Cutter :confused: :warn:, Iraq as I-Raq :thumbsdown:, Tunisia as Tunisha :thumbsdown:, Saudi Arabia as Sawdi Arabia and the list goes on.....

    I also heard the movie Babel being pronounced ba-bel at the Oscars :( It sounded absolutely atrocious, the correct way of saying it is bay-bel.

    As regards to British pronounciation I've noticed they tend to pronounce Doherty as Docherty, I'm at a loss to explain it. There is no c sound in the name.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I also heard the movie Babel being pronounced ba-bel at the Oscars :( It sounded absolutely atrocious, the correct way of saying it is bay-bel.
    Actually, this is a good example within the context of this discussion. I would agree that it should be "BAY-ble", with the accent on the first syllable, not the same as "babble". It's certainly the way I'd expect to hear "The Tower of Babel" pronounced in church. The people who actually made the film, though, pronounced it "bah-BELL", with the accent on the second syllable, presumably because that is the way the word is pronounced in their language.

    So which do you choose when referring to the film - the anglicized "BAY-ble" or the pronunciation the filmmakers used? :) I don't think there will ever be a way that everyone will agree on pronouncing everything. We all make our choices and live with the ragging from one faction or another.
     

    winklepicker

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    they tend to pronounce Doherty as Docherty, I'm at a loss to explain it. There is no c sound in the name.
    I can explain it (me sir, me sir!). There are some Doherty families in the UK who pronounce themselves Dockerty. (Maybe they've just caved in, but there it is.)

    Mind you, we Brits won't take any stick shillelagh from the Irish on this one, though: Irish spelling is even weirder than ours. :) Shelagh for Sheila? Aoife for Eva? Tuathmumain...
     

    Anglo-Greek

    Senior Member
    English
    I haven't read this whole thread, but I read on the first page a report of British people pronouncing "tortilla" like it's spelt. I live in England and have never heard anyone pronounce it any way other than "tor-TEE-ya". If someone were to pronounce it otherwise I would imagine they would get ridiculed.
    A monolingual English friend of mine once pronounced fajita with an English-sounding j, and he was much ridiculed (in my experience British people usually pronounce it "fa-HEE-ta"). That same friend once pronounced "centimes" like "sent-imes" with the last syllable rhyming with "times", much to my amusement.
    As for "croissant", British people usually pronounce it relatively Frenchly, though sometimes with English "nt" at the end. Occassionally people pronounce it more like it's spelt.

    I would say that to pronounce words like these as they would be in their language of origin wouldn't come across as pretentious, but to pronounce Paris like it is in French definitely would.

    I am a proponent of using endonyms and native pronounciations, for example pronouncing "México" like "Mehico", but it often doesn't feel natural. Though I pronounce "ll" as a "y" sound if a word looks Hispanic.

    I try hard with Italian words, but I find it awfully confusing. For example, I used to pronounce the surname of famous guitarist John Petrucci as "Pet-rush-ee", but now often say it more like "Pet-rutch-ee".

    I am often suprised by poor pronunciation on TV, you'd think they'd learn to pronounce things properly if they're going to be broadcast saying them across the world.
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    When referring to people's names, I fully agree that one should try and emulate the owner's pronunciation of their name as a matter of simple courtesy. If you don't know how they say their name, well you just have 'have a go'. How could a foreigner (or even many English people, for that matter) ever be expected to know that Mr. Featherstonhaugh calls himself Mr. Fanshaw?

    Moving to regional pronunciation, I once remember desperately seeking the 'loo' in a particular Cornish pub whose owner was a bit of a joker. I found the 'Ladies' easily enough but I wanted the 'Gents'. The only other sign I could see over a door was one that read 'yer tez', which of course meant absolutely nothing at all. However, after a few minutes anxious thinking I realised that it was a joke and actually read ´'Here It Is' - Blessed relief was close to hand! The Cornish accent can be quite difficult at times.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I am a proponent of using endonyms and native pronounciations, for example pronouncing "México" like "Mehico", but it often doesn't feel natural.
    I disagree. Mexico is a proper noun in English and has it's own pronunciation. It would be like saying Danish speakers should pronounce England as it is in English simply because it's spelled the same.

    Besides that, the mehico pronunciation is mostly used in English to make fun of Mexicans (and Spanish speakers in general) by comedians.
     
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