Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Note On Pronunciation

President Bush is Copenhagen, Denmark today. Patting the local Poodle-minister on the head for his 500 troops in Iraq. No real news there.

NPR is reporting this visit in a way that annoys me greatly. The capitol of Denmark is Koebenhavn (pronounced something like Ke ben hawn). The English name for the city is Copenhagen (pronounced Ko pen hay gen). But lately pseudo intellectuals who don't speak foreign languages but want people to THINK they do have taken to pronouncing the capital of Denmark as "Ko pen hoggen" as if they have learned the correct pronunciation. This is compounded by the similarity between this new trendy pronunciation and the GERMAN word for Denmark's capitol. Of all languages to use! Repeated German invasions of Denmark have been the worst calamities to hit the Danes in the last 150 years! Imagine if we all started calling France "Frankreich."

Here is my appeal. If you can't pronounce the Danish word (and most can't and it many wouldn't recognize it anyway), just say it in English for crying out loud!

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

No one would ever call France "Frankreich". It's harder to pronounce than Ko pen Hoggen". ;-) It doesn't roll off the tonguem you might say. But the Italian "Fran Shoesh ish" is sort of fun to say!

 

// posted by USWest

US West said...

Oops, correction that wasn't Italian, it was German for "French". He He he he! (She laughs nervously just before a hundred Frenchmen and women armed with stale baguettes pounce on her!)So much for trying to make a quip. I'll stop before making it worse!

Dr. Strangelove said...

NPR is saying "Copenhagen" in English. Both the American Heritage Dictionary and Merriam-Webster list "hog" and "hay" as equally valid English pronunciations.

Anonymous said...

In the mid-1980s, led by Dan Rather and Peter Jennings, the press began to pronounce Moscow to rhyme with Roscoe, not as "Ma's Cow." The Russian is "MoskVA", so the change was not an more authentic at all - not even the correct accented syllable. Rather, it was (if anything more than an exercise in trying to be snotty) a shift from the German "Moskau" toward the French "Moscou." Incredibly irritating to anyone who knew better. This is rather like the change that happened in 1992, when we stopped saying "Prague" to rhyme with "plague" and started saying "Prague" to rhyme with "frog." What crap. The Czech "Praha" has a guttural "kh" where the "h" is. The same people universally say "Paris" rather than "Paree" which is closer to the (ever unattainable) proper pronunciation. I argue there is little reason to pronounce foreign names "properly" when they don't mesh with English intonation, particularly as "properly" is beyond the possibility for most of us. The English names of foreign places are fine, and I wholeheartedly agree that pseudo-correct pronuciations only show the speaker to be an insecure social climber.

Out here in California, we have a whole separate issue with placenames of Spanish origin. My favorite example is the town of Vallejo. It is pronounced "Vallay-ho" honoring the spanish "j", but not honoring the ll as "y" or the V as "b" (Mexican spanish only). The original name sounded like Bah-yeh-ho, but we only go half way today. Ditto Los Angeles (with "j" not "h"), Los Feliz (Los FEELiz, not Los FeLEESE), and every San and Santa with nasal "a" (rhymes with can, not Khan). Many Latino broadcasters make a BIG point about "properly" pronouncing the names of some places in Spanish, but, of course, our placenames are what we say they are. They're not "really" Spanish names - they are Anglo names of Spanish origin. Schwarzenegger does NOT say "California" more authentically than we do, just because his version sounds more like the Spanish would be. Same thing happens to American kids named "Hernandez" who pronounce it with English vowels and a consonantal "h" (not Err-NAHN-dess), and are told that they are mispronouncing their own names. An excercise in political correctness gone awry. Liberals should know that a person has a right to name himself or herself.

And also (as with place names) a person can have names in more than one language. When studying abroad in Russia, I adopted a Russian pronuciation (among other things, there's a "th" in my name that they cannot handle), and spelling (different alphabet) and a patronymic when needed. There was nothing *wrong* with a foreign version of my name. I pronounce my English name with Authority, but I wasn't so good at my Russian name. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Well, since we are rattling on: My favorite is Iran and Iraq. I was sternly correct by my Arab friends in 1991 for saying EYE-Raq and EYE ran. I was told it was E-Rock and E-RON, closer to their native pronouncation.

The work I do requires me to do studio recordings. I always have trouble with Qatar. ca-TAR, CUTTER or Ka-ter? Suddenly journalists are told to say CUTTER, which is supposed to be closer to the native pronuncation, but is not. The native pronounciation has no English equivalient that I am aware of and I learned good old American Ca-tar.Works for me. The other I have to make real efforts to reach is Oman (the country) and Amman ( Jordanian city). When said too quickly in English, they sound nearly the same because we tend to drop the first vowel just slightly and we don't usually have the double M to pronounce in English.

This is what globalization does. Before, we only had ourselves to rely on for pronouncation. Now, we are exposed to all sorts of different langauges and ways of pronouncing things. Is it snobby? Or an attempt to be more polite or accurate? I think it depends on who is doing it and the context.

When I speak French and I have to disucss American place names, I pronounce them as the French would because otherwise, they may not understand me. In addition, it is very hard to switch pronouncation modes in mid-sentence. In some cases, it isn't a problem isnce many of our places names come from French. Des Moines is never DEZ-Moin-ez. But what do you do about Pierre, S.D.? I call it Pee-aire. My mother, a SD native says "Pier". I say San Hosay, not San Jozee. So it is hit an miss with place names and their roots.

My name is often mispronounced by people. Sometimes they can't help it because of their accents. I let it slide.

I say Copen-hag-en and and Prah-ga. I know no other way to do it. 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

I agree with LTG that we should stop trying to impress people with attempts at "authentic" pronunciation that are almost entirely affectation.

Some of my other favorites: Sepulveda Blvd in LA is pronounced with the emphasis on the 2nd syllable but the same street name in San Francisco (I'm told) is pronounced with the emphasis on the 3rd syllable. Also, there is Berlin, OH which was pronounced with the emphasis on the 2nd syllable prior to 1917 and with the emphasis on the 1st syllable ever since. Then there is the case of Illinois. Ask anyone who lives there and they will tell you that the "s" is silent "cause it's French."

For the record, NPR started out saying Copenhagen the way I wanted them to but midway through Morning Edition they switched.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

USWest brings up an interesting point. When I was learning Hebrew at college as part of my bizarre desire to study Greek, Hebrew and Latin as if I were a medieval scholar, I was admonished NOT to say American place names as if they were Hebrew words, but use the standard US pronunciation (such as it is). Like USWest, I found it difficult. Listen to recent immigrants, however, and you will find they do just that in English. They seem normally to gabble on in a foreign tongue and then insert an American place name exactly as a native speaker would say it. Spanglish follows the same rules. When a Latino says "mi hermano es en el army" (not "el ejercito") the word "army" is usually pronounced exactly as he/she would have heard it from an American. Perhaps that's why.

At any rate, I'm glad we're all in agreement that pronouncing a place name with a "better" pronunciation is pure affectation, especially when the pronunciation is rarely more authentic by any measure. Pseudo-intellectualism is only marginally better than anti-intellectualism, but more insipid. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Oh the irony of seeing Americans argue about correct pronounciation...

Interestingly one line of thought here seems to be pronounce as closely to the original as you can. A wonderful way to show respect for the culture and language of each country. I'm sure the Danish "poodle-minister" would be delighted.

Ballyho, chaps! 

// posted by Koala Boy

Dr. Strangelove said...

I shudder to think how George W. "Noo-kyoo-lur" Bush pronounces Copenhagen. I'll bet he can fit six syllables in there.

Anonymous said...

Well, Kola Boy, I direct to "Do you Speak American" , a PBS documentary on American dialects and pronunciation. (I am getting good at this link feature!) It is sort of fun and very interesting.

Americans are almost as snobby about accents and as the Brits. But we often don't think about it.

I can fully understand, however, why reading our comments would be amusing to you. We tend to get slammed for our "poor" English rather than our precision. But as you can see, we have strong feelings on the issue.

What is more interesting to me is our agreement that faking intellectualism or putting on pretensions and airs is unacceptable behavior. This is also very American. Posing is not allowed! That is why I laugh at people like William F. Buckley (I am convinced he faked that accent) and Gore Vidal because they sound like clichés when they speak! And GW seems to fall in the same category. Is he really that "folksy" or is he faking it? Hard to tell!
 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

GWB's entire family is from New England, both Kennebunkport and Connecticut, where his grandpa was Senator. Now it's a truism that children get their accent from their peers rather than their parents, but even so who are his peers? I don't know know where he got his Midland accent, but it wasn't from Andover, Yale, or Harvard.  

// posted by LTG

The Law Talking Guy said...

I disagree with Koala Boy's comment that we should pronounce "as close to the original as we can" would mean that we would have start pronouncing almost every foreign city and country differently. From Shqipërisë (Albania) to Sakartvelo (Georgia). The question is not whether we begin using unfamiliar tonguetwisters, but whether we say "Albania" to rhyme with "mania" and make fun of those who try to sound more high-falutin' by pronouncing it to rhyme with "I con ya."

Anonymous said...

Yeah, maybe it isn't even ironic to me, but it is a good way of getting a rise out of people. Maybe being protective of language is another way of being holier than thou. Coming from Australia, it was obvious how large a place like the USA is simply from the dialects. We don't have the population for that.

In the spirit of sharing, check out the following  for a witty, if dated, list of language confusions. 

// posted by Koala Boy

Anonymous said...

Well, I think Koala Boy is amused because he thinks two things: 1) dialects spoken on the British Isles are superior in their authenticity to dialects spoken in North America. 2) dialects spoken in Australia are closer to those spoken on the British Isles than are those spoken in North America. Those assumptions are debatable (I've read that most North American dialects can be traced directly to regions in Great Britain and Ireland), but that's beside our point.

What we object to is the practice of affecting a pronunciation other than the one normally adopted in your own culture for no other purpose than to show off.

Here is an interesting dialect annecdote. When I was a child, I sang in our church's boy choir (this was before I was cured of religion) in North-Central Indiana. Our choir director was not from arround there and he HATED the way we pronounced anything with an "r" in it. We would sing out those twangy Hoosier "r's" with such nasal gusto that it drove him batty.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I could, but won't, spend half an hour discussing what is wrong with the UK/US English "confusions" on the link Koala Boy provided. 1/4 or more are innacurate for one reason or another. For example, "buns" in the USA also mean baked goods - e.g., hamburger buns.

The author gives his sensibilities away when he says he prefers "Autumn" (both) to "Fall" (archaic UK, currently US only). Anyone with a lick of aesthetic sense will agree that "Fall" is far more poetic.

He also missed one of the best: sod. In the USA, it means turf, particularly cut blocks of turf such as made sod houses in the prairie or for new lawns. No scatological meaning at all. In the UK, it is a rude word for shit.

Also, "shag" hasn't meant "dance" for ages in the USA, if at all. The common use of the term is from sports, to return a ball into the play of field, usually during a practice. We speak of "shagging balls" over here with no embarassment.  

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

According to my dictionary, the etymological orgin of "sod" is Old Frisian via Middle English. It meant the grass covered surface of the ground.

So it seems that in this case (as I'm sure in many others), the North American meaning is closer to the original than the current British usage.

As for shag: My dictionary has a number of histories for this word. For the noun and adjective the origon is Old English and Old Norse and the original meaning was beard. The modern Scandinavian languages still use this word to mean beard today. There are three verb meanings/histories. The first, with origins in the 16th century, is related to the aforementioned noun - "to fall or hang in shaggy masses" (not a very clean definition). The second is "to chase after; especially to chase after and return a ball...to chase away." This meaning appeared first in 1904 with unknown origons. The third verb meaning appeared in 1914 and means to "move or lope along." This has its origons in lumber jack slang.

By far the most common American usage of shag is its adjective form - shaggy - meaning hairy especially in an unkempt way. Dogs and hippies are often refered to as shaggy - right Scooby? The dancing definition appeared in American English first in 1938 and refered to a particular dance step. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I recently had a discussion with an American guy who plays rugby with a bunch of local Brits. According to him, his teammates say he is stuffy or formal because he actually pronounces all of the words in sentences and such, whereas they drop words and tend to run them together. They are reported to say that American English is much more formal/proper than Brit. English. Interesting observation, I think. We here tend to think the opposite. 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

Rugby? Where is Dr. Von Brawn when you need him! He is a bit of a rugby freak you might say. I think he told me his position was called a "hooker" but he might have said "guttersnipe" I could be mixing them up. Would Herr Doktor Von Brawn care to clarify? 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

It's fair to say that American English is more deliberate than many working class British accents (outside of California, where speaking very quickly is common). But I suspect your friend doesn't play rugby with the Cambridge set. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

This comment is five years after the last comment! I came here because I wanted to learn the real pronunciation for Copenhagen.

Right now, late 2009, President Obama is there (in Copenhagen) for climate talks, and all the people on TV are saying, CO-pen-hay-ghen. But Danny Kaye sang, CO-pen-hah-ghen, in the Hans Christian Andersen movie.

Anyway, great thread! One addition: It's okay to say old place names according to their old Latin names, in the old English accent of Latin.

Example: Albania. This has nothing to do with what Albanians call therir country, and it is not the old Latin pronunciation. That would be Ahl-BAHN-iah.

Not that the English pronunciation has three different sounds for the three A's in the word.

Nitpicker said...

Just a nitpick: Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark, not the capitol. The latter word refers to a building (as in the building that houses the U.S. Congress); the former refers to the city where the government is located.

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