General pronunciation: foreign proper nouns, especially in BE

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I.C.

Senior Member
D
IC appears to believe my position is untenable and intolerable, but I am not sure what he thinks my position is...
Well, I.C. asked James Brandon a question to clarify it, what he'd do if he met someone who..., and his reply was:
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
What was the ignorant I.C. to conclude? (To me “ape” doesn’t really sound complimentary and I suspect “PC” here may not be meant nicely, either. I’ll especially point out that even without making use of a plethora of smilies here, I'm not upset in any way, I’m just stating stuff.)

I'd expect of newsreaders they make an attempt to pronounce people's names correctly in the same way as I'd expect people make an honest try to pronounce the name of the person in front of them. My own name gets butchered all the time (though not on the news, of course), doesn't bother me. I don’t mind the name, but for me it’s just a tag, to myself I have none. But I know others who see that differently and in my opinion it isn’t so nice to give someone a different name without asking, which changing the pronunciation radically in my opinion does. On the other hand, I thought I noticed some people get slightly annoyed, take ill when they would have to make an effort to memorise an unusual name. More often than not I either mention my name and offer a different, adopted one instead or I’ll offer an adopted one straightaway. I’d rather avoid correcting. Also prevents not reacting when someone calls me a completely different name that I may not recognise. But I’ll try to get other people’s names right and it's interesting to see who after I’ve said “just call me X” still makes an effort to speak my given name – which is easy. My experience has been, those who care get it right, those who don’t do not.

Regarding place names, I would not expect newsreaders to pronounce foreign place names just as the locals do when this would neither fit into the flow of their speech (that might differ) nor be understood by their audience. I don’t expect they radically change names that have a strong history, like Munich or Cologne, say.
For those not yet firmly established place names which in their English versions can't be pronounced close to the local twang without turning them into tongue twisters, I would wish readers will try to settle for a comprise that takes local pronunciation into consideration. By "general disregard" I meant a practice that when forming a pronunciation for people's names (which I consider to be particularly touchy) or place names without a strong history wouldn't give a damn how those natives call that guy or thing.
Personally I also don't mind if traditional spellings or pronunciations are edged closer to local ones, but it may be useful not to do this all too radically.

If I were to give directions how to get to Quedlinburg, say, and an Anglophone didn’t have an ear for languages or I suspected a German pronunciation would make things harder for him, I’d anglicise the name to the point of total distortion if only that helps. Other circumstances, other guidelines.
 
  • James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    I do not disagree fundamentally with any of the points made by IC. What I was trying to say was basicallly that, yes, in theory, it would be nice if no one ever mispronounced a foreign-sounding name out of indifference or ignorance. But, in practice, it is simply impossible to expect a native of Burma to know how to pronounce every placename in Denmark in the Danish way, or vice versa. So, people will try, and society decides where to draw the line.

    Meanwhile, PC commentators maintain - against all the evidence - that it is desirable and possible to pronounce "in the local way" every placename and person's name under the sun. Sometimes, one needs to move away from "what should be" and into the realm of "what is (feasible)". When attempts at pronouncing placenames in a "local" way, say, on BBC, are manifestly silly and dogmatic, I believe the verb "to ape" is rather apposite. I make no apology. Good night. ;)
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    I seem to recall that some years ago, around the middle 50s, I think, a criterion was established (possibly by the BBC) that place names in the Britsh Isles should be pronounced in accordance with the way the local inhabitants pronounced them, much in the same way as personal names. However, somebody screwed up and for quite a few years the BBC and the British public in general, pronounced Cirencester as 'sissester' until someone discovered that the locals actually called it 'sirencester'. I imagine that somebody had been thinking along the lines of Worcester (pronounced 'wuster'). It drives me nuts when I hear some of our friends from across the ditch saying 'warcester'!
     

    lizzeymac

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I seem to recall that some years ago, around the middle 50s, I think, a criterion was established (possibly by the BBC) that place names in the Britsh Isles should be pronounced in accordance with the way the local inhabitants pronounced them, much in the same way as personal names. However, somebody screwed up and for quite a few years the BBC and the British public in general, pronounced Cirencester as 'sissester' until someone discovered that the locals actually called it 'sirencester'. I imagine that somebody had been thinking along the lines of Worcester (pronounced 'wuster'). It drives me nuts when I hear some of our friends from across the ditch saying 'warcester'!

    Hmm... This is a good example of the regional differences in America - I live in the Northeast - the region is also known as "New England. " We have a couple of Worcesters & all the Worcesters I know of are a variation of "Wuster."

    I am not sure how many Worcesters there are outside of "New England." I think it is possible some of the mispronunciations you have heard may be a result of the speaker being unfamiliar with the spelling even thought they may have heard the name. If you lived 2200 miles from the nearest Worcester, say in Tempe Arizona, you might never have read the name on a map.
    Just as a reference, the distance from Tempe Arizona, USA to Worcester Massachussetts, USA is about the same as from London, UK to Alexandria, Egypt.

    The most well known Worcester in the NE is on the coast north of Boston & it is pronounced "Wustuh" by locals.

    I imagine Americans in the NE would be more familiar with place names originating from England just as people in Texas, New Mexico, Callifornia, Montana, Utah, Florida, Arizona, etc., are more familiar with Native American & Spanish origin names, and people from the Midwest & north Midwest are familiar Native American & French origin names.

    Let's not forget fabulous BE words like Featherstonehaugh, which I believe is pronounced Foon (?)

    :)
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    The last 2 posts are especially relevant, in my view, because the issue of how to pronounce in the "local" way also affects English itself, as the examples illustrate - in other words, it is not just about being contemptuous of 'foreign-sounding' names.

    English, like French, and unlike Spanish, does not provide spelling that is a good guide to phonetics. This applies to placenames (and surnames) in one's own country.

    In England, if you have not heard it said before, how would you know how to pronounce 'Lewes' (in Kent, I believe)? (It is pronounced /'lu:-is/ in 2 parts, with the 's' sounded at the end, like 'Lewis', the name, and not like 'loos', which is just as nice for the locals. "I live in loos" would not be very appealing...) :D
     

    xarruc

    Senior Member
    England
    Cirencester as 'sissester' until someone discovered that the locals actually called it 'sirencester'.
    I've heard this particular debate in terms of people coming from the hard vs soft school of latin. Not that that means anything to me. If anyone can answer.....

    Besides the locals say soy-ran-sester, or did at least when I lived there.

    In England, if you have not heard it said before, how would you know how to pronounce 'Lewes' (in Kent, I believe)? (It is pronounced /'lu:-is/ in 2 parts, with the 's' sounded at the end, like 'Lewis', the name, and not like 'loos', which is just as nice for the locals. "I live in loos" would not be very appealing...) :D
    Well the people in Looe seem to not mind!
     

    Bonjules

    Senior Member
    German
    Hola,
    You can find examples for this without end.
    It is not only a British/US problem, it is truly world-wide.
    Case in point:
    I am/was looking all over the island of Puerto Rico for a certain type lawn tractor, a 'Gravely', a well known American make.
    After finally localizing the only business that supposedly deals with them over here, this happened to me yesterday:
    I explained to the ladies what I was looking for in Spanish, but, naturally, said 'Gravely'.
    They did not understand for a long tome and I was ready to leave until it dawned on one of them. 'He is talking about a 'Gra-ve-lly', on of them said, just like the French
    'grave'.
    Now this is a business, and most folks who are likely to look for one of these machines come from the US, knowing them by their common name...
    One would think the manager would have taken the time
    to explain to them what it sounds like in English!
    No such luck.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    'He is talking about a 'Gra-ve-lly', on of them said, just like the French
    'grave'.
    How is 'Gra-ve-lly' like the French 'grave'? What do you mean?
    Now this is a business, and most folks who are likely to look for one of these machines come from the US, knowing them by their common name...
    One would think the manager would have taken the time
    to explain to them what it sounds like in English!
    What's its common name - and what does it sound like in English?

    I'm sorry but I'm lost by your anecdote here.
     

    lizzeymac

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    The "a" in grave (French) is "ah"
    The "a" in grave (English) is "ay"

    I have only heard the tractor called a Grah-vell-y but that was by an Cajun in Lousiana.

    -
     

    curly

    Senior Member
    English - Ireland
    Wouldn't gravely with an "ay" sound be gravelly meaning in a grave manner? And gravelly with an "ah" mean gravel the noun,like the little stones you find on a path?
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    As I understand, what Bonjules said was that he pronounced the name of the piece of equipment in the English way (/ei/ sound) but the Puerto-Rican shop assistant did not understand. You would expect the locals to pronounce the word in a Spanish-sounding way, but Bonjules said the way they pronounced it was French-sounding. In any case, they did not understand the trade name as pronounced in an English/American way in the mainland US. Come to think of it, the flat /a/ sound in Spanish would indeed be similar to a French /a/ here, so it would have been as much a Castilian pronunciation as a French one. (The /a/ sound in 'Castilia' or 'Valencia' in Spanish is similar to the /a/ sound in French words 'Castille' or 'Valence'...)
     

    Gwennhadu

    Senior Member
    o
    Hi
    It was stated in the original post that in British English "they" tend to anglicise names.
    Well, I'd say that's just but natural. Anyone, native speaker of any language, would pronounce names the way they tend to pronounce any other word, according to their language.
    And, as it's been already pointed out, especially a journalist would rather get the message across than show off their perfect pronunciation of a foreign name...
    By the same token, I may give in to the temptation of complaining about how annoyed I am (as an Italian and Spanish speaker, and half French in nationality) that in American English "they" tend to americanise every single name they come across.
    Or maybe they are really convinced they are pronouncing names the
    "proper", "native" way...
    How would I want to call this? Cultural imperialism or...?
    But, of course, I know better than expressing such views...

    P.S. No offense meant to Americans here, I have family throughout North America...
     

    lizzeymac

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I am getting the feeling that you might prefer the reason to be cultural imperialism. ;)

    Alternately (& unfortunately), I suggest that for Americans in areas lacking a significant Italian-American population - there are many such barren wastelands in my country - the cause of the "bad" pronunciation ranges from a lack of exposure to spoken Italian (other than The Sopranos on TV) to not giving "native pronunciation" much thought as long as the waiter at the restaurant understands "lasagna." I really think the pronunciation that offends you is, for the most part, entirely passive & unconscious, and not based in disrespect.

    Now, is that better or worse? :)

    -
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    A lot of it is due to pure phonetics: if a sound does not exist in your own language, you cannot hear it, hence you cannot reproduce it... Think of the "hard TH" in English, which exists in English (thatcher, theft, theory, etc.) and in Spanish as spoken in Spain (Zaragoza, zapatos, etc.). A French native speaker, for instance, will find it almost impossible to replicate, simply because the sound does not exist in French. This is not cultural imperialism, but phonetic and linguistic limitations, much of the time.
     

    Gwennhadu

    Senior Member
    o
    Hi :)
    Na, I don't care about the imperialism thingy,
    not in this context, anyway IoI
    I am not offended at all.
    I was offended on reading the first post.
    Maybe you didn't read the rest (which is too long anyway...)
    Mine was just a reply to the original post, which I find...I can't find a proper word...
    And actually, it's endearing when a foreigner pronounce a word in Spanish or Italian in their curious way, really.
    So, it's not better nor worse. It's not an issue to me.
     

    Gwennhadu

    Senior Member
    o
    I notice people are NOT reading my post carefully...
    I am not talking about Imperialism...
    Please read the original post that triggered the whole discussion
    to understand my reply before judging...
    Thank you
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Point taken! The theme of 'cultural imperialism' (or not) runs right through this Thread, so that is also why contributors will have referred to it.

    It is amusing that the 1st post blamed the BBC for such 'cultural imperialism'. As I have pointed out, in recent years (probably the last 15 to 25 years...), the BBC has actually been bending over backwards to try and adjust to 'local' pronunciations, particularly of placenames. So, the BBC is not guilty, if 'guilty' is the right word in this respect.

    That contributor must have been thinking of the BBC 50 years ago. Regional British accents are all the rage on the BBC World Service, now. Also, many news readers are not British but Canadian, or from other English-speaking countries, on BBC WS. Hence the demise of 'BBC English'. All this despite the fact the BBC is funded by British tax-payers in Britain, not by Canadians, Australians or others...
     

    Gwennhadu

    Senior Member
    o
    So, finally we agree on something...
    What I meant is that I am not accusing anyone of colonialism
    or imperialism just because of their pronunciation )unlike the first contributor)...I was only being sarcastic...
    Hope that is clear by now
     

    Bonjules

    Senior Member
    German
    Wouldn't gravely with an "ay" sound be gravelly meaning in a grave manner? And gravelly with an "ah" mean gravel the noun,like the little stones you find on a path?
    Sorry for confusing everyone. It was just like lizzeymac
    explained it, the open ahhh, the 'true vowel' 'a' as in the Romance languages and German.
    The 'a' in gravel is still something else, more like the a in 'hat', or the German 'umlaut' a (with 2 dots on top).
    The point was: Changing a vowel like that alters the word completely. In a business that relies on name recognition - how many customers did they lose, because they didn't even realize what one was talking about? But it's the same thing IMO, a certain laziness to
    not want to go through the trouble of pronouncing foreign names or places correctly which seems pretty universal. Exacerbated by 'superior' attitudes or not.
     

    mrbilal87

    Senior Member
    English (NAmE)
    This is an interesting post. Apparently according to the original poster, anglicizing the pronunciation of words borrowed from foreign languages is not a common practice in the US. In Canada it's actually pretty common among some speakers, including myself. Out of habit I myself tend to anglicize the pronunciation of words borrowed from foreign languages. For example, "Pi-kah-so" instead of "Pi-koh-so"; "Ko-lo-rah-do" instead of "Ko-lo-roh-do." Could our accents really be that different despite how geographically close we are?
     

    Pnevma

    Senior Member
    English,USA
    I tend to say Colorado like you, but my mom almost stresses the "a" (as in "off") sound. I think the Anglicization is rather ubiquitous, insofar as it is done everywhere. I think the poster tends to hear British broadcasters anglicize more than American broadcasters, if I am not mistaken.
     

    mrbilal87

    Senior Member
    English (NAmE)
    I tend to say Colorado like you, but my mom almost stresses the "a" (as in "off") sound. I think the Anglicization is rather ubiquitous, insofar as it is done everywhere. I think the poster tends to hear British broadcasters anglicize more than American broadcasters, if I am not mistaken.
    I never really thought about any of this before but as I do I actually think Americans in general tend to anglicize less than Canadians do as well, according to what I've noticed as I listen to news broadcasts from the US.

    For example:
    Canada Pass-tah vs. US Paw-sta
    Canada Ham-mass vs. US Haw-moss
    Canada Jaah-vah vs. US Jaw-va

    And another one I noticed:
    In Canada we generally say "pro-cess" while in the US I usually hear proh-cess.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    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.....
    Given the rationale for your objection to the pronunciations of the other country names you mention above, it's ironic that you object to the "cutter" pronunciation of Qatar.

    According to Brendan I. Koerner's article "How Do You Pronounce 'Qatar'?" in the online magazine Slate, "The most accurate English estimate [for the correct pronunciation of 'Qatar'] is something halfway between 'cutter' and 'gutter.'"

    A Cornell University Web page here goes into even more detail.

    What we can conclude from these sources is that the "cutter" pronunciation of Qatar is an attempt by speakers of English to copy the pronunciation of the people of Qatar themselves.

    I have a Merriam-Webster's Collegiate, "principal copyright 1973," which doesn't have the "cutter" pronunciation. However, it does have the pronunciations "cotter," "gotter," and "gutter." That last pronunciation was another attempt to copy an Arab pronunciation of Qatar.
     

    winklepicker

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    "The most accurate English estimate [for the correct pronunciation of 'Qatar'] is something halfway between 'cutter' and 'gutter.'"

    I have a Merriam-Webster's Collegiate, which... does have the pronunciations "cotter," "gotter," and "gutter."
    See? This is why we anglicise them!
     

    CarolSueC

    Senior Member
    USA--English
    I'm somewhat hesitant to respond since I'm the one who started this thread. I'm afraid I offended a lot of people without intending to. I was not referring to the ordinary person, who would not have knowledge of foreign pronunciations. And I was not thinking primarily of place names, many of which have recognized English forms. I was concerned that BBC newsreaders, whom I hear daily on BBC World Service, have access to a wonderful research department for pronunciation and yet continue to anglicize personal names and names of organizations even when the sounds involved in those names are common in English. (One early post informed me that the newsreaders can ignore the suggested pronunciations.) To me it is a matter of respect for the other person to try to pronounce the name as closely as possible to the way the individual does.

    I'm going to add a short item from National Public Radio, the closest thing we have to the BBC, which addresses pronunciation. Note that it mentions being sensitive to local preferences.

    You say Hez-BOH-lah, I say…

    July 26, 2006 · Over the last couple of weeks, I've heard people on NPR saying the name of that guerrilla group a lot of different ways. Is it HEZ -boh-lah or HIZ-boh-lah? Hez-boh-LAH or hez-BOH-lah? I asked NPR reference librarian and pronunciation maven Kee Malesky about it.
    <<Excess text removed - see the link below>>
    4:18 p.m. EST | 7-26-2006 | permalink

    One final comment on my unfortunate reference to colonialism: I remember many years ago speaking with an American friend who had spent two years in Kenya. I used the pronunciation "Keenya," and he replied, "So you pronounce it like the British do." Realizing that the people of that country would not use the long "e" sound, I have never pronounced it that way again.
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    A very good point, CarolSuec. One thing I have noticed recently on BBC World TV is the habit of pronouncing a sort of throaty 'h' when saying names like 'Baghdad' which sounds extremely awkward and unlikely to be adopted, although certainly understood, by viewers. Quite honestly, I feel it it somewhat ridiculous and pretentious. What is wrong with a simple 'Bagdad', surely Arabic speakers will not be offended.

    Interesting also about Kenya. As most Brits do, or did, I had always pronounced it 'Keenyah' until I went and spent some time there and learnt the pronunciation 'kenya'.
     

    winklepicker

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    pronouncing a sort of throaty 'h' when saying names like 'Baghdad' which sounds extremely awkward... ridiculous and pretentious. What is wrong with a simple 'Bagdad'...
    Agreed. On the other hand though, why do reporters say Aff-ga-ni-stan when natives (often interviewed immediately afterwards!) always say clearly Aff-ha-ni-stan?
    ... I had always pronounced it 'Keenyah' until I went and spent some time there and learnt the pronunciation 'kenya'.
    I think this is now almost universally adopted. I haven't heard Keenyah for many years. It sounds quite 1950s!
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Let's compound the problem of how a British or other non-native should pronounce a place name, and try to avoid offense of any and all 'normals', let alone the oversensitive types. A while back we had another thread about pronunciation of city names. I believe the centerpiece was New Orleans. Baltimore was also examined.
    Both of those cities have more than one local, native pronunciation, and each of the local styles is different from the pronunciations most frequently used by outsiders from the same country. What's a poor Brit to do with that?

    Reporting from Bawlmer, or is that Báll tee more, or should one say Bal Tim Or, this is Robin Ludwig for BBC 4.
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    Getting back to the basics of CarolSuecs original complaint, let's just consider the question of the BBC. What is its purpose? Simply to communicate mainly news to English speakers around the world. The programmes are not aimed at foreign, non-English speaking people so it seems perfectly logical that personal and place names should be pronounced in the anglicized form that the listeners can readily understand. This does not in any way imply a denigration of the original, but it simply the easiest means of communication to native speakers.

    When one is listening to the news or related programmes one does not wish to be distracted by trying to figure out who or what they are reporting on when suddenly hit by an unfamiliar sounding word.

    Slightly diverging, but definitely relevant, is the use of regional accent newscasters. In the past the BBC used RP pronunciation, which I imagine was understandable to any native speaker regardless of the region or country from which he hailed. However, in their quest to be 'politically correct', the policy was changed and we have a wide variety of sometimes confusing accents reading the news. If some of these are difficult for a Brit to understand, heaven help the rest.

    They should remember that their only reason for existence is to communicate and for that very reason I believe the BBC should return to RP, which everybody can readily comprehend, provided it is not overly exaggerrated as it is by some members of the Royal Family.

    I want to be able to listen to the news without having to concentrate on trying to fathom out what the newsreader is saying.
     

    Murphy

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    Interesting also about Kenya. As most Brits do, or did, I had always pronounced it 'Keenyah' until I went and spent some time there and learnt the pronunciation 'kenya'.
    "As most Brits do, or did". Really? I've always pronounced it "Kenya" with the same "e" as in "Kent". (I would never have dreamt of saying "Keent":D ) However, I noticed a "posh" friend of mine pronounced it "Keenya", so I just figured it was due to the "class" difference.

    And the only Brits I know that say, for example, "paasta" (long "a") instead of "pasta" (short "a") are the ones who are, or think they are, "posh".
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    I believe "Keenya" (with long "ee" sound) was the preferred pronunciation of White/British settlers in colonial Kenya. Today, I would say it sounds old-fashioned and/or upper-class. The more common pronunciation today, i.e. "Kenya" (as in "Kent") was perhaps introduced as an alternative at the time of independence, I don't know.

    As for the BBC and accents, it is not accurate to say the BBC - we mean the BBC World Service here - is aimed at English-speakers around the world only (if one means people whose first language English is): a lot of English-language BBC WS programmes are listened to by non-native speakers. But, and that is where I agree totally with the contributor pointing this out, this is precisely why they ought to stick to conventional RP-style accents and avoid strong regional accents: not because the latter are bad or inferior; merely because learners of English in foreign countries, in the main, rightly or wrongly, learn RP-style English. The phonetics in every dictionary are those of RP, by the way!
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    Perhaps you are right, James Brandon, if you are referring to the WS on radio. However, I do believe that 'BBC World' on TV is primarily aimed at native English speakers, be they from the UK, US, Australia, et al., rather than second language English speakers. I make this assertion based on the content of the programmes which on BBC World are more of interest to native speakers. The WS, by contrast airs what I would call more educational programmes. It's only my idea and I could be wrong.

    The sad thing is that you get more RP on Deutchewelle's English language programs than on BBC World.
     

    Petrie787

    Senior Member
    English, United States
    I was tired of reading the great number of posts but from where i left off..

    As an American, the "a" of castle or of cat are not the same as the "a" of Picasso... I didn't think any English speaker would pronounce Picasso in any way besides "Pik-ah-so" but that just goes to show that even in the same language people don't always agree and understand why some pronounce words how they do.

    Also, sometimes when people try to pronounce words in ways they would be in their languages of origin and they don't get it EXACTLY right, it is kind of embarassing so people just choose to say it in a way that anyone would understand.

    Besides, words like cowboy and weekend are stolen from english to be used in French and they are not at all pronounced in the way they are in English, and very common words like cliché and naïve are stole from French and i would not interject a very french-inized pronunciation of those words into my everyday English.
     

    winklepicker

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    As an American, the "a" of castle or of cat are not the same as the "a" of Picasso... I didn't think any English speaker would pronounce Picasso in any way besides "Pik-ah-so" but that just goes to show that even in the same language people don't always agree and understand why some pronounce words how they do.
    Yup. And we're inconsistent too: :warn: AE speakers are assholes; we are arseholes. :D
     

    mrbilal87

    Senior Member
    English (NAmE)
    Yup. And we're inconsistent too: :warn: AE speakers are assholes; we are arseholes. :D
    Hehe we say "arseholes" here too. :D I also agree about the inconsistency. In Canada we may anglicize some words but not others, but I would say that most words are anglicized.
     

    The MightyQ

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    Does anyone think that there's a political dimension to this too?
    Is it a stretch to think that saying AY-rab and EYE-rak might be deliberately intended to wind people up?
    How else to explain why Bush mangles these words so consistently?
    And let's not forget the apocryphal tale of Churchill's pronunciation of Nazi.
    Isn't this fun?
     

    mrbilal87

    Senior Member
    English (NAmE)
    Does anyone think that there's a political dimension to this too?
    Is it a stretch to think that saying AY-rab and EYE-rak might be deliberately intended to wind people up?
    How else to explain why Bush mangles these words so consistently?
    And let's not forget the apocryphal tale of Churchill's pronunciation of Nazi.
    Isn't this fun?
    I always viewed pronouncing Iraq as "eye-rak" as optional, even though in Arabic I think it's more like "ee-rok" and I tend to pronounce it "Ir-rak" myself, just as it looks. However, pronouncing "Arab" as "Ay-rab" strikes me as offensive and depreciative.
     

    Petrie787

    Senior Member
    English, United States
    ay-rab? im not sure how that is offensive?... or for that matter how that would even be pronounced...
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Does anyone think that there's a political dimension to this too?
    Is it a stretch to think that saying AY-rab and EYE-rak might be deliberately intended to wind people up?
    How else to explain why Bush mangles these words so consistently?
    And let's not forget the apocryphal tale of Churchill's pronunciation of Nazi.
    Isn't this fun?
    I think it unlikely that there is a political dimension to "AY-rab" and "EYE-rak," no. "AY-rab," was used for many years among Americans who had never met a single Arab. "EYE-rak" follows the pattern of "EYE-ran" and "EYE-talian": Merriam-Webster's Collegiate shows those two pronunciations to be standard variants, setting off "EYE-talian" with the label "also," meaning it is a noticeably less common pronunciation, but not doing so with "EYE-ran." For that matter, the Collegiate has "AY-rab" also, but precedes it by the usage label "dialect also."

    Historically, there was a political dimension in the US to the use by Southern segregationists of the word :warn: Nigra, which appears to have been an intentional distortion of the word Negro, influenced by the word :warn: nigger.
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This thread has stopped being a discussion of the pronunciation of foreign proper nouns and has become a general discussion on vowels around the world, offensive vs inoffensive labels, accents appropriate for non-native listeners ..............
    Closed for refurbishment.
     
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