Dispronunciation.

I normally look askance at made-up words, but Anand Giridharadas has come up with a good and useful one in his essay for The.Ink which I hope catches on (even as I know it won’t):

My name is Anand. It means happiness, bliss, contentment. If you’re interested in experiencing these feelings, may I suggest a name other than Anand when coming of age in the United States of America.

The other day, when Senator David Perdue, Republican of Georgia, referred to his colleague of many years as “Kamala-mala-mala, I don’t know, whatever!”, I immediately recognized him. All my life, perhaps like you, I have run up against the unwillingness and inability of many Americans to say my name correctly.[…]

The obvious word for what Perdue did is “mispronunciation.” But I would like to correct that. The proper term is “dispronunciation.” Consider that misinformation is information that merely happens to be false, whereas disinformation is false information purposely spread. Similarly, mispronunciation is people trying too feebly and in vain to say our names — and dispronunciation is people saying our names incorrectly on purpose, as if to remind us whose country this really is.[…]

In my case, I’m not even talking about the pronunciation of my last name here. Look, I would love to live in a society where both names were said right by most people. But I recognize that my last name is difficult. I have heard it mispronounced in India, where it comes from. For the purposes of this discussion, I want to share my bafflement and frustration with the insurmountable difficulty of getting people in the United States of America to say “Anand.”

It’s pronounced “AH-nund.” […] AH + nunned. Faster now — Anand. […] And what I just did is far easier to do out loud […] Yet it has been a lifelong battle to get those five letters, those two syllables, said right. There is “ANNE-ind” and “ah-NAAND” and “AY-nanned.” And those are just the ones I remember. My expectation has never been that anyone should know how to say it before being properly taught. I’m just mystified why it’s so hard after hearing it.

He has some distressing anecdotes (and a great comeback to a public-radio host who kept saying it wrong: “Y’all have no problem saying Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky”). I presume we’re all in agreement that people should make a little more effort, but as I say, I like his term for the malicious version. Try harder, mispronouncers, and knock it off, dispronouncers!

Comments

  1. David Eddyshaw says:

    Perdue is evidently a racist arsehole. I imagine he fits in fine in the GOP.
    I see from Wikipedia he approves antisemitic attack ads.

  2. Ça va sans dire.

  3. Re the correct (native) pronunciation for ‘Anand’ (or ‘Kamala’, come to that):

    Most Indian languages are syllable-timed, unlike English being stress-timed. So even a well-intentioned English speaker will find it difficult to avoid picking one syllable to stress. Then “why it’s so hard after hearing it.” is that English speakers/listeners are attuned to hearing a stressed syllable, and if they don’t they’ll guess at one.

    Then is the exercise here to pronounce ‘Anand’ with equal stress/time on the two syllables? I don’t think I’d necessarily attribute malevolence to an English speaker who failed in that.

    Not that I’m taking away from the many forms of racism some Anglo- speakers express through linguistic chauvinism, and Senator Perdue’s behaviour does indeed need calling out as racist. Perhaps we should pronounce ‘Perdue’ with equal stress as in French (another syllable-timed language). Will that sound like that’s placing stress on the second syllable?

    I can’t help feeling that “mystified” is expressing just a tad of reverse chauvinism, or at least ignorance of the prevailing sound patterns in a host country.

    Spanish is a syllable-timed language. How does it go linguistically in the U.S. with the mixing of Hispanic languages?

  4. John Cowan says:

    “But it goes even better when said!”

    I have pretty much despaired at this late date of getting people not to call me Cohen.

  5. Then is the exercise here to pronounce ‘Anand’ with equal stress/time on the two syllables?

    No, and I’m not sure where you’re getting that; he makes it very clear the stress is on the first syllable, and he gives examples of the incorrect versions he’s getting. Nobody expects English-speakers to reproduce every phonetic feature of a foreign name in a foreign language, but that’s not what he’s talking about; he’s American, not Indian. (And I don’t think it’s true that most Indian words don’t have “one syllable to stress.”)

  6. David Eddyshaw says:

    I can’t help feeling that “mystified” is expressing just a tad of reverse chauvinism, or at least ignorance of the prevailing sound patterns in a host country.

    “Mystified” is irony. As for “host country”: the guy is an English-speaking American. “Reverse chauvinism?” Not hardly.

  7. And I don’t think it’s true that most Indian words don’t have “one syllable to stress.”

    ? Where would you like to stress ‘Devanagari’ or ‘Brahmaputra’? OK an English dictionary will mark one of the syllables as stressed. Indian friends tell me I’m pronouncing it wrong, and their ‘corrections’ and mystification as to why I struggle seem very much like the above.

  8. Back when Ian Smith of Rhodesia was in the news, he was consistently called EYE-uhn in the American media. One day he was interviewed by Walter Cronkite, who managed to pronounce his name correctly for the interview. But in the next day’s newscast it was back to EYE-uhn again.

    And Colin Powell has had to put up with having his name mispronounced all through his career, it seems.

  9. Many people, American or otherwise, have no skill at all in pronouncing foreign words or names. Like Anand said, it’s the reveling in it, the dispronunciation, the “whatever” that counts. It says to his supporters, “She’s not and never will be an American, the way we are. She will never get any of the respect due One of Us, even a total stranger.”

  10. David Eddyshaw says:

    Says Macdonell’s Sanskrit Grammar:

    Since about the beginning of our era, Sanskrit has been pronounced with a stress accent (instead of the earlier musical accent) in much the same way as Latin. Thus the stress is laid on a long penultimate (Kālidā́sa), on the antepenultimate when followed by a short syllable (Himā́laya), and on the fourth from the end when two short syllables follow (kā́rayati).

    Hindi has a (predictable) stress accent:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindustani_phonology#Suprasegmental_features

  11. Where is the stress on Giridharadas? It’s a compound, no?

  12. Of course, the name isn’t hard to say. We can all say almond and dachshund. The spelling is the problem. An ordinary American sees Anand and reads it as a-NAND, rhymes with “A band.” Correcting people doesn’t help, because when they see it, the wrong pronunciation jumps unbidden to mind.

    And Americans when confronted with a name that might be foreign often choose to accent the second syllable. The Israeli politician Moshe Arens, which he pronounced AH-rents, often heard Americans say a-RENZ.

    Kamala is also is easy to pronounce but becomes difficult because the spelling. It’s enough of a problem for her that she helpfully gives people “comma” as a prompt.

    My suggestion to Anand is that he come up with a similar prompt. He could tell people, with a slight smile, “like AH-nuld.” That might help.

  13. David Eddyshaw says:

    I have now discovered that I have been pronouncing Kamala Harris’ name wrong (I don’t watch television, which is presumably how people usually avoid such errors.) That could have been embarrassing. My daughter (even woker than I, as is age-appropriate) would never have let me live it down. To say nothing of my evil Socialist co-conspirators (whom I don’t get to meet much in Real Life currently.)

    As I’ve said before, Language Hat is educational. Thanks, Bloix.

  14. January First-of-May says:

    Where would you like to stress ‘Devanagari’ or ‘Brahmaputra’? OK an English dictionary will mark one of the syllables as stressed.

    As a Russian speaker, I would fairly confidently say DevaNAgari, BrahmaPUtra. I’m not actually sure if that’s even the correct English pronunciation though.

    OTOH, I also assumed that “Anand” (as in Vishvanatan Anand, who was briefly the world chess champion a few years ago) had final stress, though I would hopefully have remembered how to pronounce the name of any particular Anand that I happened to encounter.
    (Come to think of it, I’m not quite sure where does the stress go in “Vishvanatan” either. Naively I would say VishvanaTAN, which is probably wrong.)

    Back when Ian Smith of Rhodesia was in the news, he was consistently called EYE-uhn in the American media.

    …What’s the correct pronunciation – Yahn? Yann? EE-uhn? His Wikipedia article doesn’t say.
    (The general Wikipedia page for the name “Ian” suggests EE-an, which I probably wouldn’t have guessed.)

    Back when I was at university, one of our teachers was named Ian Marshall; his first name got transliterated into Russian as Ян (as if “Jan”, as in Jan Hus), and most of our students didn’t appear to bother with anything more precise than that.
    Not being very confident in the reliability of the transliteration, one day I asked him how it was actually pronounced – at which point (to the best of my recollection) he produced something that sounded close enough to “Jan” that I decided that I might as well keep calling him that anyway.

     
    EDIT:

    I have now discovered that I have been pronouncing Kamala Harris’ name wrong

    Same. I somehow assumed it was KaMAla, like TaMAra [i.e. rhyming with “Guatemala”].
    (…Wikipedia says that the US pronunciation of “Tamara” also has initial stress.)

  15. Dispronunciation goes with, “Where are you from? No, but where are you really from?” The “No, but” is almost invariable.

  16. David Eddyshaw says:

    Where is the stress on Giridharadas? It’s a compound, no?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anand_Giridharadas

    On the last syllable. The das bit is the same Sanskrit dāsa “slave” morph as in many Indian theophoric names (like Kalidasa) and the first bit is a sort of kenning for “Krishna.”

    https://www.kidpaw.com/names/giridhar

  17. January First-of-May says:

    Vishvanatan Anand

    Viswanathan Anand, it turns out. That’s embarrassing. (To be fair, it is Вишванатан in Russian, but I really still should have looked it up.)

    Russian Wikipedia gives final stress for both parts of his name; English Wikipedia doesn’t give any pronunciation at all. His “brief” reign as chess champion apparently lasted from 2007 until 2013.

  18. Like David E, I don’t watch TV much. In particular, I avoid U.S. politics because it’s so toxic and energy-draining. (I’ve prefered to go to youtube videos of Obama speeches.)

    ‘Kamala’ I try to pronounce (in my head) as three syllables with equal stress. But if anything else, on the pattern of ‘camera’ (stress on first syllable, other syllables reduced to schwa).

    When she prompts as ‘comma’, is that to say it should be two syllables? And is that giving the vowel quality of the first syllable?

    wp has /ˈkɑːmələ/ KAH-mə-lə — not at all like ‘comma’, a lot more like ‘camera’.

    “Where are you from? No, but where are you really from?”

    It’s not necessarily chauvinistic to ask where a name is from: Is ‘Anthony’ with that ‘h’ from Greek? No, that’s a fake etymology. The ‘h’ got inserted into the Latin/gentile ‘Antony’. So despite the ‘h’, pronounce with a hard ‘t’, not /ð/.

  19. David Eddyshaw says:

    The chess champion Anand has initial stress too, it appears. Russian Wikipedia puts a stress mark on the second syllable, but links to this (decide for yourself):

    https://ru.forvo.com/word/viswanathan_anand/

    Greek Wikipedia puts a stress mark on the first syllable.
    Wikipedia’s rules for Hindi stress match Anand Giridharadas’ version; I suppose the Tamil version might actually be different, either as conserving the Sanskrit stress, or Because Tamil. Tamil phonology I know from nothing.

  20. “Ian” is a common name in Australia. It’s “EE-en”. I have a Singaporean friend called “Ian” who had people pronounce his name “ee-YEN”. Unfortunately I couldn’t bring myself to say “ee-YEN” because, well, that’s not how you say “Ian”, and “ee-YEN” is hard to say, as though you’re slipping into a foreign language. Perhaps I’m being narrow-minded, but if you’re ethnically Chinese and want to take on an English name, is it right to expect people to pronounce it according to the equivalent Chinese characters? It doesn’t worry me that he has Mongolians call him “ee-YEN” because they read it in Cyrillic, and I call him that when speaking Mongolian. But not in English. Yes, I guess I’m narrow-minded.

    My father’s name was Colin. “KOLL-en”. That’s the normal pronunciation in the English I know. So I was surprised to learn that Colin Powell was “KOLE-en”. It sounds like another weird American thing — the pronunciation of someone who’s adopted an exotic name (exotic in the US, at least) and doesn’t know how to pronounce it. But since he preferred “KOLE-en” then that’s what he should be called. At least it fits into English sound patterns.

    There is all sorts of weirdness over names that is partly due to simple lack of knowledge, by which I mean spelling pronunciations. The Mongolian translation of Harry Potter is full of strange transliterations, like Сиймас (SEEM-us) for Seamus, which should be pronounced, of course, SHAME-us. The translator simply didn’t know and never bothered to find out.

    As for Anand, I was previously only familiar with this name from Ananda Yoga (I assume it’s the same word?), which for me is “a-NAN-da YO-ga”. But Ананд is a common name in Mongolia and I have no problem saying it the proper way as (in figured English pronunciation) “UN-end”, and knowing the Mongolian I would never say it that way in English. (Just as I find it difficult to say “o-SAH-ka” in English (for Osaka) — I know it sounds strange but I always say “AWE-sucka”.)

    So Kamala is pronounced the same as “Carmela” if you’re non-rhotic? (No, “comma” doesn’t do it for me because I don’t pronounce it the same as “calmer” — which would be a better choice for me if you’re trying to tell me how to pronounce it.)

    Life is so complicated.

  21. Life is so complicated.

    Indeed. In NZ there’s a multiplicity of Gaelic/Celtic spellings as well as ‘Ian’. Should ‘Eion’ be pronounced the same, or more like ‘eeyore’? You just have to ask. Then you have to remember. You also might well need to ignore everybody around you — except then they think you’re talking about somebody else.

  22. “Where are you from? No, but where are you really from?” Ugh. Very familiar. When a stranger wants to know your biography, and you diplomatically tell them you’re “from here”, and they will not take a hint, or two or three.

  23. David Eddyshaw says:

    Apparently Colin Powell is really KOLLen comme il faut, but he took to pronouncing it differently in honour of this bloke:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Kelly

    It’s his name. He can pronounce it how he likes …
    Wikipedia does not explain how he came to pronounce his last name in such a déclassé manner. Not like our own dear Anthony. American, I suppose.

  24. the guy [Giridharadas] is an English-speaking American.

    Raised in Paris as well as Ohio, Maryland, says wp. Frequent childhood visits to India. I’d guess, then, that he grew up in a language environment that was not purely English-speaking.

    I think he should cut us benighted monoglots some slack, and not attribute mis-pronunciation to pure malice or thoughtlessness.

  25. I really really dislike this sort of critique. Everyone has different preferences. Those who run in lefty circles tend to want “accurate” pronunciation in the foreign language (and do things like include diacritical marks even when writing in English). On the other hand, I have a number of friends who explicitly introduce themselves using an “American” pronunciation (a common pattern for immigrants going back many many generations). I strongly suspect the average “Chang” or “Singh” in America goes by a pronunciation rhyming with bang and wing rather than the “correct” one, even with close friends.

    I was actually just running a large online event, and in two cases, an East Asian and South Asian speaker explicitly introduced themselves using a non-Native pronunciation of their name. If I were to pronounce it “correctly” (and in both cases, I can speak the language their name originates in), it would have been much more “othering” than using their preferred name. If you soften the d every time you refer to your friend Diego, and switch the syllable stress for your friend Anand, but don’t make these emphases for your American-born white friends Anna and Eric, what are you really saying?

    Essentially, there is a political choice being made, under the belief that assimilation of immigrants is negative. This political position is not common either among the population at large or immigrants themselves. It is a tic of a certain elite group (Anand G went to Sidwell Friends and did a *high school* internship at the New York Times, for crying out loud). We don’t need to pretend it is a universal belief.

  26. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Kevin:

    Refusing to call somebody by the way they want their name pronounced (or acting too dumb to try) is arsehole behaviour. As a left-winger myself, I am entirely open to the idea that normal politeness is the unique preserve of left-wingers; but if you’re not left wing yourself (as seems possible), you might want to think about what you’re implying here.

  27. “knowing the Mongolian I would never say it that way in English”

    What I meant was, knowing the Mongolian “UN-and”, I would never say it as “a-NAND” in English (as in “a-NAN-da YO-ga”).

    Interesting perspective from Kevin. The strange thing is that people who believe that names should be pronounced according to the foreign language often don’t know how they are actually pronounced in the foreign language. Like people who say “bay-ZHING” (“zh” as in “azure”) because it sounds “right”. (No, this one’s been done to death and I don’t want to start another digression on how to pronounce “Beijing”. Just an example.)

    One peeve of mine. I really want to call that guy “Harvey VINE-shtine”, but he is known by the totally illiterate pronunciation “WINE-steen” in the US.

    I am a bundle of contradictions.

    But yes, not even making an attempt to pronounce a name as the person wants it pronounced is arsehole behaviour. On the other hand, many English-speakers are totally incapable of pronouncing foreign names, even when told how they should be pronounced.

  28. “When she prompts as ‘comma’, is that to say it should be two syllables? And is that giving the vowel quality of the first syllable?”

    Oh dear, I’ve confused people. She says, “like the punctuation mark, comma-la.”
    https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/12/politics/kamala-harris-pronunciation/index.html

    (What she really says is “comma-luh” but it’s typically transcribed as comma-la.)

    Being both US-centric and a political junkie, I thoughtlessly assumed everyone would have heard her say this on TV. Apologies.

    I will say that she’s been the VP nominee for two months now, and I still find myself thinking “Comma-la” when I have to say her name.

  29. David Eddyshaw says:

    On the other hand, many English-speakers are totally incapable of pronouncing foreign names, even when told how they should be pronounced.

    True. In fairness, one needs to distinguish between genuine Anglophone hopelessness and deliberate rudeness (which is why “dispronunciation” is a happy coinage.)

    I’m not sure that it’s as clearcut as one might wish, though. There are intermediate shades where people who could make the effort can’t be arsed to, because they don’t see why they should go out of their way to make the effort for people who should really being going back to their shithole countries anyway (to paraphrase a great modern sage and statesman.)

    I think Bloix’s point is a good one, too, re the contaminating effect of English spelling rules. (My excuse for getting “Kamala” wrong, anyway,)

    @Kevin:

    There is actually a specific reason why Chinese speakers may favour a non-Chinese pronunciation of their given names when speaking English: it is pretty rude for almost anybody but an elder relation to call anyone by their given name in Chinese. To a Chinese speaker, the anglicised versions of their given names sound so completely different from their actual personal names that this is no longer an issue: but if you pronounced them “correctly”, that would be quite – offensive.

  30. Interestingly enough, while the pronunciation of Anand with first syllable stress is far more common, it is not universal, and some people use second final stress instead. On my dormitory floor in college, I had two friends named “Anand,” both of them American or Canadian born to Indian immigrant parents. Anand Sarwate stressed the first syllable, but Ishan Anand stressed the second.

    @David Eddyshaw: As far as I have been able to tell, Colin Kelly probably did not actually pronounce his name in the same unusual way that Colin Powell does. Powell actually had this to say about the matter:

    My parents were British subjects, and they named me Colin (KAH-lin). Being British, they knew very well how the name was supposed to be pronounced. But when I was a young boy, there was a famous American World War II hero whose name became very popular in the streets of New York City. He was Capt. Colin P. Kelly Jr. He was called KOH-lin. My friends in the streets of the South Bronx, who heard Captain Kelly’s name pronounced in the radio and by their parents and other adults, began to refer to me by the same pronunciation.

    All tributes to Kelly that I am familiar with seem to pronounce his name the conventional way. There is a middle school named after him in Eugene, Oregon that I am familiar with, and (at least when I was a kid), the school used the usual pronunciation. There are also two famous 1940s songs that refer to him by name, “There’s a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere,” by Paul Roberts and Bob Miller, which was a gold record for Elton Brit by 1944. (Brit’s pronunciation of Colin is actually intermediate between the two, but I think it sounds closer to the standard one; however, given the popularity of the song, this might have something to do with the oddity of the way the other kids in Powell’s neighborhood apparently said the name.) Later, Robert and Adrienne Claiborne wrote “Listen, Mr. Bilbo,”* which was recorded by Pete Seeger.

    * “Bilbo” here is Theodore, not Baggins, obviously. Senator Theodore G. Bilbo was one of those Deep South politicians who managed to be incredibly odious even by the profoundly racist standards of his day. Another example, from my own locality, would be “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, who still has a statue on the statehouse grounds downtown.

  31. “So Kamala is pronounced the same as “Carmela” if you’re non-rhotic?” –
    OMG, do you pronounce Carmela as CAH-mela? Don’t they have The Sopranos where you live?

    PS- it occurs to me that non-USians might not have picked up on my Schwarzenegger reference. I really do think it might help.

  32. Thanks for the link to CNN/link to the twitter video.

    She says, “like the punctuation mark, comma-la.”

    Well she’s just bloody wrong (to get the effect she wants in my idiolect). There is no way the quality of that first vowel is ‘o’. I’ve been pronouncing it right all along, as it turns out. I’ve been using a spelling pronunciation KAH-mə-lə with (moderate) stress on the first syllable, reduced to schwa on the second and third.

    And yes I’m tending to the view that Anand G is an over-privileged arse-hole — just not as over-privileged nor as much of an arse-hole as Perdue.

    Part of the reason I grew up a monoglot is my parents couldn’t afford to take the family overseas/the only foreign language I got exposed to was school French, in which crucial characteristics like stress-time vs syllable-time were never explained. Very possibly the teachers weren’t aware of that — given the dire standards of language teaching in England. When I did get to travel to actual France, I more or less had to throw away all the schooling, and use my musical abilities to mimic what I was hearing.

  33. I think in the case of Anand G., stress is sort of a red herring: using first-syllable stress is a good way to get the desired vowel qualities (a long ‘ah’ followed by a short ‘uh’).

    Some Indian languages really have very little in the way of phonetic stress (let alone phonemic), probably some have a bit more.

    There’s nothing particularly difficult about this from the point of view of English phonology (think the past tense of the hypothetical verb ‘onnen’ if you’re American, or ‘arnen’ if you’re non-rhotic) but of course the spelling trips people up just as with Kamala.

    When I was in college I refused to tell people how to pronounce my name. If I had a nametag I would just point to it. I got some decent nicknames out of it.

  34. Don’t they have The Sopranos where you live?

    Yes they do. No I’ve never seen it. I find it a gross assumption that anybody, anywhere would waste their time watching TV. More than half my life I’ve not owned a TV/not lived where there was a TV.

    The interwebs/youtube have now blurred the distinction. I’ve seen snippets of The Sopranos, played as memes. But I’ve no idea what that has to do with pronouncing Carmela.

    I do know who Schwarzenegger is, even though I’ve never seen any of his movies. But you made a reference? I can’t see it.

  35. Kolin Kelly is yet an entirely different character. I don’t know how his name is pronounced.

  36. john v burke says:

    “Americans when confronted with a name that might be foreign often choose to accent the second syllable.” Except when they don’t: NABokov rather than (as the man kept insisting in vain) NaBOKov.

  37. If I’m taking anything from this, it’s that as our world becomes more and more multicultural, it becomes less sensible to transliterate people’s names under the assumption that people can simply learn the person’s preferred approximation thereof (which can and does differ between people, though that equally holds for non-foreign names in our language…). It’s our fault for not even pretending to care about our orthography, though.

    And really? “You can pronounce Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky yet not my name?” It is of course very disrespectful to continue to pronounce someone’s name wrong after being corrected, but whoever the devil this man is putting himself on the level of the pre-eminent composer and writer in all Russian history isn’t really helping his cause in my book.

  38. David,

    Agree someone is a jerk if they don’t pronounce someone’s name the way they want it said.

    My point was that people like Anand G are actually the unusual ones in wanting the non-English pronunciation. If you don’t know how someone named “Anand” who lives in the West wants their name said, because you have just met, I strongly suspect that “a-NAND” rhyming with band is going to be much more commonly preferred in the West (just as I do not want my name pronounced in Gaelic!). The article presents that preference as weird – but it is not. Most people want to fit in with their neighbors, and to make it easy for people to say their name (as I did in China when I went by Kaiwen, rather than insisting a population with no “v” and no syllabic stress in the English sense should pronounce my name like an American!)

  39. I haven’t watched much English-language TV, especially soap operas, for many decades? How DO you pronounce “Carmela” à la Soprano? Of course it’s pronounced CAH-mela in normal English — “Carmel” with an “a” added. If you pronounce the “r” you’re rhotic. If it’s not just a matter of rhoticism then please tell me what it is.

  40. It doesn’t take much effort for a native English speaker to pronounce AH-nund when asked to do so; nor is there anything intrinsically “native-speaker-ish” in the pronunciation uh-NAND. Saying AH-nund does not require the speaker to produce any sounds alien to regular English of any of its standard varieties. Assimilation works well when there’s a pre-existing English form of a Christian or Biblical name while in the case of Anand there’s simply no English anchor to assimilate to.

    For all I know, undergrad math students at the HSE tend to call Ian Marshall EE-an these days, so times are changing after all.

  41. Bathrobe: Of course it’s pronounced CAH-mela in normal English — “Carmel” with an “a” added.

    I’d like to introduce you to Car-MEL, California.

    I’ve never seen The Sopranos, nor had the occasion to encounter a name “Carmela”, but I would confidently say Car-MEL-a [though now I guess if it was an English person I would know better].

  42. AntC – “AH-nold” is the way Schwarzenegger (with his German accent) pronounces his own name – if you say “AH-nold” to almost any American they’ll know who you mean. Just google it.

    So if Anand tells people, “It’s AH-nand, like AH-nold,” they’ll laugh and remember him.

    Bathrobe – Carmela Soprano, Tony’s wife, is “Car-MEL-uh.”

    Oh, and AntC – as to “she’s bloody wrong” – she’s not trying to be “bloody right.” She’s trying to give people a memorable way to overcome their strong tendency to get it wrong. Comma-la is close enough to get the stress right, and the vowels follow along. So it works!

  43. John Cowan says:

    When she prompts as ‘comma[-la]’, […] is that giving the vowel quality of the first syllable?

    Yes, to and by an American.

    wp has /ˈkɑːmələ/ KAH-mə-lə — not at all like ‘comma’,

    Exactly like it for almost all Americans, thank to the LOT=PALM merger: we say /ˈkɑmə/ for comma (note the absence of either phonemic or quality-locked vowel length).

    a lot more like ‘camera’.

    Not at all like it for the great majority of Americans, thanks to the lack of a TRAP-BATH split; most of us say /ˈkæmərə/.

    So despite the ‘h’, pronounce [Anthony] with a hard ‘t’, not /ð/

    I don’t know anyone who uses /ð/ in this name. But my father, my brother, and one of my closest friends in high school used /θ/, etymology be damned.

    Wikipedia does not explain how he came to pronounce his last name in such a déclassé manner. Not like our own dear Anthony. American, I suppose.

    Indeed, it was many decades before I noticed the connection between Powell and ap Hywel, as rhyming the former with dowel is very general in these parts. Indeed, the founder of the Boy Scouts is rhymed with “sadden towel”, thus doubly wrong.

    “Singh” in America

    Except perhaps in Long Guyland, where the name is doubtless pronounced correctly.

    the totally illiterate pronunciation “WINE-steen”

    W/V is indeed a spelling pronunciation and so in one sense illiterate, but the FLEECE vowel is a normal sound-change from Russian(ized) shtayn, which indeed is a spelling pronunciation of German Stein. Americans with German names (whether Jews or not) like Stein and Einstein are always “stine”; of course, the first consonant is a spelling pronunciation as well.

    Chinese speakers may favour a non-Chinese pronunciation of their given names

    Or indeed adopt rather different ones, my favorite being the Chinese diplomat. statesman, and jurist Gù Wéijūn (1888-1985), known in this country as Dr. Wellington Koo. For one thing, a close pronunciation in the wrong tone may well be worse than a palpably English pronunciation in which phonemic tone is not expected.

    I find it a gross assumption that anybody, anywhere would waste their time watching TV

    There are plenty of books I wouldn’t waste my time reading, but I don’t find it gross to suppose that people somewhere would spend their time reading books. A medium is not always a message.

    How DO you pronounce “Carmela” à la Soprano?

    À l’italienne, to be sure: that is, with penultimate stress, though with American /r/.

    It doesn’t take much effort for a native English speaker to pronounce AH-nund when asked to do so; nor is there anything intrinsically “native-speaker-ish” in the pronunciation uh-NAND. Saying AH-nund does not require the speaker to produce any sounds alien to regular English of any of its standard varieties.

    No more does COW-an. And yet.

  44. What would Americans do if faced with “Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz”? 🙂

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfKZclMWS1U

  45. AntC – one more thing and then to bed –

    You bring up Eeyore. My father loved the Pooh books and read them all to us many times over. I won’t ever forget how tickled he was by the scene in which Eeyore is one-upped by Rabbit:

    “What does Christopher Robin do in the mornings? He learns. He becomes Educated. He insti- gorates—I think that is the word he mentioned, but I may be referring to something else—he instig- orates Knowledge. In my small way I also, if I have the word right, am—am doing what he does. That, for instance, is — ”

    “An A,” said Rabbit, “but not a very good one. Well, I must get back and tell the others.”

    Eeyore looked at his sticks and then he looked at Piglet.

    “He knew? You mean this A thing is a thing Rabbit knew?”

    “Yes, Eeyore. He’s clever, Rabbit is.”

    “Clever!” said Eeyore scornfully, putting a foot heavily on his three sticks. “Education!” said Eeyore bitterly, jumping on his six sticks. “What is Learning?” asked Eeyore as he kicked his twelve sticks into the air. “A thing Rabbit knows! Ha!”

    Well, the point I’m getting at is that for 40 years at least, I – like all Americans – thought that the donkey’s name was “EE-yor.” In our benightedly rhotic, aspirated way, it never occurs to us that his name is Hee-Haw, or that it has anything to do with the sound donkeys make. And even now that the scales have fallen from my eyes, I still call him EE-yor, because the spelling is so powerful.

  46. I wouldn’t have guessed that Americans would have been unfamiliar with the correct pronunciation of Ian back then (never mind Iain). Nowadays, many Americans would be acquainted with the name at least through the actor Ian McKellen; I can’t readily think of another Ian that Americans would be familiar with.

    The Mongolian translation of Harry Potter is full of strange transliterations, like Сиймас (SEEM-us) for Seamus, which should be pronounced, of course, SHAME-us. The translator simply didn’t know and never bothered to find out.

    The widely derided Korean translation of the first Harry Potter book rendered Seamus as 시무스 Simus instead of the recommended 셰이머스 Syeimeos. It also gave a faux-French 헤르미온느 Hereumionneu for Hermione (correctly 허마이어니 Heomaieoni). They changed the translator from the fourth book on, and later decided to have the earlier books completely retranslated as well, but they decided not to alter the names of the major characters so the damage was done.

    One peeve of mine. I really want to call that guy “Harvey VINE-shtine”, but he is known by the totally illiterate pronunciation “WINE-steen” in the US.

    The Yiddish pronunciation would be closer to “VINE-shtayn” (last syllable to rhyme with “rain”). This divergence from the German pronunciation might be why many Americans adopted “steen” even as the German spelling -stein was kept.

    When Jeremy Corbyn pronounced Jeffrey Epstein’s surname as “EP-shtine” instead of the American “EP-steen”, he was immediately accused of anti-Semitism, as pronouncing a Jewish surname as if it were a foreign name was seen to be a way to reinforce the notion that Jews are outsiders. It could have been an honest mistake, but with Corbyn’s history of not being able to shake off accusations of anti-Semitism, it was unfortunate.

    Regarding the pronunciation of Carmela, we can add in the data point of Carmelo (“car-MEL-oh”) as in basketball player Carmelo Anthony.

  47. David Marjanović says:

    Issues I can see:
    1) ambiguity of English spelling as to what a as a syllable represents;
    2) the second syllable is heavy and so attracts stress (mutatis mutandis et caetera ad nauseam);
    3) graphic similarity to the French name Armand (and French is still the default foreign language for English-speakers not exposed to a lot of Spanish).

    Most Indian languages are syllable-timed, unlike English being stress-timed. So even a well-intentioned English speaker will find it difficult to avoid picking one syllable to stress.

    Syllable-timed does not mean there is no stress. The almost merciless penultimate stress of Polish is impossible to miss, for example. And in Spanish, stress placement is phonemic.

    (…Wikipedia says that the US pronunciation of “Tamara” also has initial stress.)

    Huh.

    wp has /ˈkɑːmələ/ KAH-mə-lə — not at all like ‘comma’, a lot more like ‘camera’.

    She’s talking to LOT-PALM-merged Americans. I’ve had the misfortune of being exposed to Sarah Palin referring to herself as a hockey mom [ˈhɑːːːkiˌmɑːːːm].

  48. ‘Comma’ doesn’t work for a non-American because the ‘o’ in ‘comma’ is a short vowel and is rounded. The correct vowel for me is, as I said, that in ‘calm’. So she should be ‘calmer-la’. Or ‘karma-la’.

    The different vowel systems can muck things up when comparing American pronunciations with RP (or whatever — Australian vowels have a tendency to follow the SYSTEM of RP, although they are nothing like them in quality). For many years I assumed that reading ‘data’ as DAY-ta was American and DAH-ta was non-American. Then I realised that Americans make the same distinction, but instead of DAH-ta they say /dæ:tə/. The problem is that in my English you can’t use /æ/ as a long vowel. It’s found in ‘cat’ and ‘rat’, but not in ‘data’. That’s why it’s pronounced as /dɑːtə/ in Australia and other places.

    Apparently some people get upset when non-Americans say Colorado as /kɔlərɑ:doʊ/. But the thing is, you can’t say Colorado as /kɔləræ:doʊ/ in my English without sounding strange — or drastically American. You would pronounce it that way if it were spelt ‘Coloraddo’ (short æ), but not ‘Colorado’.

  49. David Marjanović says:

    the connection between Powell and ap Hywel

    …So what is the English approximation to a stressed [ə], then?

    Americans with German names (whether Jews or not) like Stein and Einstein are always “stine”

    Except when they’re randomly “steen” as mentioned.

    (I’m not going to look for the “Fronkensteen & Eyegore” video this late at night.)

  50. John Cowan says:

    it never occurs to us that his name is Hee-Haw

    In the Scots translation, it’s spelled exactly so.

    What would Americans do if faced with “Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz”?

    Probably the same thing they do when faced with references to Łukasiewicz notation; they call it “Polish notation”. It’s names like this that induced William Safire (pronounced Sapphire) to call for a better system of transliterating Polish into the Latin alphabet.

    I wouldn’t have guessed that Americans would have been unfamiliar with the correct pronunciation of Ian back then

    I think that’s an over-negation: for unfamiliar read familiar, perhaps? People of a certain age and taste certainly knew Janis Ian, though I see that was not her birth name, and nowadays we have Debian Linux < Deb-Ian, though the stress is on the first syllable.

    There is also Ian Donald Calvin Euclid Zappa, always known to his family as Dweezil, but as the hospital registrar of births refused to accept this name, his father picked a random assortment of friends’ names. He got himself officially renamed to Dweezil at age five.

    I’ve had the misfortune of being exposed to Sarah Palin referring to herself as a hockey mom [ˈhɑːːːkiˌmɑːːːm].

    The only reason you heard it from her and not from me is that she’s been on TV and haven’t, for that is exactly what I would say.

  51. David Marjanović says:

    Then I realised that Americans make the same distinction, but instead of DAH-ta they say /dæ:tə/.

    I’ve heard all three of [deɪ̯ɾɘ], [dæɾə] and [dɑɾɐ] from Americans. (I’m pretty sure about the non-phonemic vowel harmony; the lengths of the stressed vowels depend on the general speed of speaking more than anything else like whether the syllable can be interpreted as open.)

    that is exactly what I would say

    Sure, but that would be less memorable. 🙂

  52. John Cowan says:

    less memorable

    You only say that because you haven’t heard me say it!

    I say data with FACE, for what it’s worth, just like the man himself. And as for vowol harmono, see my pronunciation of Charlotte, *Charlötte, *Charlette in German.

  53. We can all say “dachshund”.

    Well, not all. In Australia there are lots of people who call them “dash hounds”.

    Edit: Not only Australia, apparently.

    According to the Urban dictionary, the proper German pronunciation of the dog breed is DOX-HOOND, and the preferred American pronunciation is DOX-UND.

    DOX-HOOND? It’s that tricky ‘o’ again. I would write DUX-HOOND, or rather DUX-HOONT.

  54. NABokov rather than (as the man kept insisting in vain) NaBOKov.

    Huh. My pronunciation of the name is no doubt deeply colored by The Police who ( at 2:17-2:27) rhymed “Nabokov” with “shake and cough”.

    Anyone feel like transcribing their pronunciation into IPA, vs his preferred pronunciation?

  55. And really? “You can pronounce Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky yet not my name?” It is of course very disrespectful to continue to pronounce someone’s name wrong after being corrected, but whoever the devil this man is putting himself on the level of the pre-eminent composer and writer in all Russian history isn’t really helping his cause in my book.

    He’s not comparing his skills to theirs, just the simplicity of his name to the complexity of their names. How do you manage to disunderstand and disconstrue so uncharitably?

  56. I wouldn’t have guessed that Americans would have been unfamiliar with the correct pronunciation of Ian back then

    I think that’s an over-negation: for unfamiliar read familiar, perhaps?

    It was just worded clumsily, not an over-negation. What I meant: (I realized that) Americans would have been unfamiliar with the correct pronunciation of Ian back then; this is something I wouldn’t have guessed.

    Whereas Americans pronounce the names of Europeans with -stein as “stine” (e.g. Einstein), actual Americans with -stein are more likely to be “steen” than “stine”. However, some do prefer “stine”. Michael Silverstein (who himself uses “steen”) wrote about how Leonard Bernstein came to use the “stine” pronunciation. He speculates:

    If a Bernstein such as Leonard were now a cultural icon in this country, he seemed to feel, then such a person should somehow be more closely associated in people’s minds with European cultural icons. And since Leonard was now in the classical music business, the natural linkage was with the great Polish pianist Arthur Rubinstein – pronounced Rubinstine. So it was that Lennie Bernsteen ultimately became Leonard Bernstine.

    Bernstein’s moniker metamorphosis also happened to coincide with an ethnic-identity surge that had afflicted many Jews in recent years. They seemed to feel that pronouncing their names the way they were pronounced in European countries from which their grandparents fled in horror was a worthwhile endeavor. Go figure.

    The opening to his piece also ties well to this thread about dispronunciation:

    People used to have no trouble pronouncing my last name, Silverstein, with the last syllable pronounced steen. They also had no trouble with Goldstein, Bernstein, Weinstein, and all the other -steins, which were all pronounced with the same steen ending. The only time anyone used to address me or the other -steins with a stine ending was when they wanted to be offensive; such a pronunciation amounted to a backhanded ethnic slur.

  57. American composer Leonard Bernstein was a “stine,” but unrelated American composer Elmer Bernstein was a “steen,” in spite of his similar background. The two men were close in age, and both were the children of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants.

  58. NABokov rather than (as the man kept insisting in vain) NaBOKov.

    Went to Russian website gramota.ru which specializes in such things.

    The standard answer:

    “The stress in surnames is not regulated by the rules of the Russian language. It is better to clarify the pronunciation with the bearer of the surname. There are no rules for stressing surnames. The place of stress is determined by the bearer of the surname.”

  59. How is the name of The Berenstain Bears pronounced? I imagine it’s an example of the road to perdition paved with good intentions.

  60. The default AmEng rule for stressing foreign words and names seems to be “stress the ultima if consonant-final, else the penult”. For Hebrew, this almost always gets it wrong, because nouns of the form CVCVC tend to be initial-stressed segholates, while those with final vowels are most often derived with the stressed feminine suffix -a.

    Conversely, some fact about BrEng phonology seems to prevent Brits from correctly accenting Barack Obama’s first name — I think it’s that the PALM/BATH vowel sounds wrong in BrEng before a coda velar (or coda stop?).

  61. Re: Barack, the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary gives [ˈbær æk, -ək] for BrE and [bə ˈrɑːk, -ˈræk] for AmE. The Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary gives [ˈbæ.rək, -ræk; bəˈræk, -ˈrɑːk] for BrE and [-ˈrɑːk] for AmE, thereby admitting the possibility of final stress in BrE.

    I don’t think it’s that the PALM vowel sounds wrong here (cf. Bach). John Wells, the editor of the LPD, explains the stress discrepancy as follows:

    In the current (3rd) edition of LPD I give the BrE pronunciation as ˈbæræk or -ək, the AmE as bəˈrɑːk or bəˈræk. I don’t think it’s a BBC decision. It’s the usual BrE vs AmE treatment of foreign disyllables: cf cliché, café etc.

  62. If we can say “beserk” and “barrage”, what’s wrong with “barack”? I think it’s the spelling. If it was Baraque (to rhyme with plaque) I don’t think there would be a problem.

  63. He starts with a good point, that one mustn’t make fun of people’s names, and dispronunciation is a very good word for it.
    But the discussion in the comments is different.
    My 3-syllable Russian surname is stressed on the second syllable by most (but not all) eastern Europeans. It is stressed on the first syllable by most (but not all) Anglos. And in Japanese, it magically turns into six sounds. That’s part of the magic of different cultures. Embrace it with joy!

  64. The obvious word for what Perdue did is “mispronunciation.”

    This surname is pretty funny for Russians, because it sounds exactly like:

    perdet’ – “to fart”

    perdyu – “I fart”

    No mis- or dispronounciation needed.

  65. I think this is a somewhat aggressive view of having your name mispronounced. Some folks just don’t seem to be blessed with the ability to pronounce foreign names correctly. I usually go by Avi which on the surface seems like it should be fairly simple, but I’ve heard Ahhh-vi, Uh-vai, Ey-vi, etc. Thing was for the majority of those I didn’t get the sense those people had a shred of malice in their hearts, they were entirely polite and cooperative otherwise. It was just for whatever reason a hurdle they couldn’t overcome.

    Obviously, there will be folks who play it up intentionally but it’s wrong I think deny everyone the benefit of the doubt because racism still exists. The folks who act maliciously often telegraph that intent in other ways that are unmistakable.

  66. If we can say “beserk” and “barrage”, what’s wrong with “barack”?

    BrE stresses “barrage” on the first syllable, actually, which illustrates this particular cross-Atlantic difference. BrE does pronounce “berserk” on the second syllable, though. Maybe because of its compound origin?

  67. …So what is the English approximation to a stressed [ə], then?

    I’m afraid I can’t pronounce it, neither am I sure about the IPA. But if somebody can find a native of Kingston-upon-Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire, it’s the vowel when they call it ‘ull, for short. Note most Yorkshire dialects drop ‘h’ anyway.

    (As related by a friend studying Linguistics, native of Hessle, which itself has a pronunciation something like ‘əzzəl . wp has /ˈhɛzəl/, which is certainly wrong. There again no initial /h/, and the first syllable is stressed schwa.)

  68. SFReader: Perdue is pronounced in US English without a /j/, /pǝrˈdu/, but I approve.

  69. I think many speakers from Yorkshire and other parts of Northern England as well as the Midlands whose traditional dialects did not undergo the foot–strut split often use a vowel quality close to [ə] for the STRUT vowel. Many AmE speakers tend to merge the STRUT vowel and [ə], to the point that some dictionaries use ə for the STRUT vowel, but I feel that the AmE STRUT is still more open than what I hear from Northern England or Midlands speakers (which might also slightly be rounded).

  70. PlasticPaddy says:

    As SFR says, some pronunciations (if unlucky, these are the only possible ones e.g,. for Fat Fok or He Suk Yu) are unfortunate. This may influence individual preferences. For me, if you pronounce a US Hernan as Vernon, I picture Hernan as someone who enjoys homemade whisky for breakfast😊. Here in Ireland I had a doctor Bowell who pronounced his name as BohWELL

  71. David Eddyshaw says:

    I was being a bit disingenuous about Powells; the vast majority of British ones pronounce their names in Colin’s manner. In fact the the only ones that occur to me that don’t/didn’t are Anthony and Baden.

    Apologies for sowing confusion.

  72. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    So despite the ‘h’, pronounce [Anthony] with a hard ‘t’, not /ð/

    I don’t know anyone who uses /ð/ in this name. But my father, my brother, and one of my closest friends in high school used /θ/, etymology be damned.

    With one exception, all the Anthonys I’ve known pronounced it with [t]. The exception pronounced it with [θ]. I’ve never heard it with [ð].

  73. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    And Colin Powell has had to put up with having his name mispronounced all through his career, it seems.

    When this came up I’d thought the reference was to “Powell”, as I’d forgotten the weird way he wanted “Colin” to be pronounced. There was a teacher at my school called Mr. Powell, who pronounced it [pəʊ̯l]. We were told that that was the “correct” pronunciation. I suppose that’s closer to ap Hywel.

  74. @Brett: “American composer Leonard Bernstein was a “stine,” but unrelated American composer Elmer Bernstein was a “steen,” in spite of his similar background.”

    Perhaps their fathers felt that steen sounded more genteel and less “ethnic” than stine. As I’ve read somewhere, Serge Koussevitzky even suggested that Leonard Anglicize his last name to Burns but the young man declined and chose to switch from steen to stine instead.

  75. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    There was a distinguished French scientist called Monod. The French, being French, pronounce it with equal stress on the two syllables. The British, following their preference for coming as close to the first syllable as possible, say it like “Monno”. Americans, in accordance with their conviction that all French words are heavily stressed on the last syllable, say “Mno”.

    Nowadays one has the corresponding variation with Macron.

  76. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    What about Trump’s buddy Jeffrey Epstein?

  77. PlasticPaddy says:

    I think Beckett pronounced GODot in English, but I am not sure how he said it in French.

  78. just to put my oar in on -stein:

    i find the historical semantics in the Michael Silverstein piece that @Jongseong Park quoted very interesting, but i’ve got questions about how much it reflects anything outside the professional classical music world. in my experience of u.s. -stein names, “steens” and “stines” are pretty much in free variation, without any particular generational or regional leanings.

    but the yiddish-derived ones are almost always from ־שטײן [-shteyn, in YIVO transliteration].

    which may clarify things, but mostly just moves the question, since northeasterners have ײ = /ɛj/ (as does the YIVOist dialect), but southerners have ײ = /aj/. so we could expect mostly “stines” in the u.s., with some “stains” in the mix (litvish historically covering ~1/3 of overall speakers). “steens” do seem to just be an extra-assimilationist variant, as Silverstein didn’t quite say.

    (if anyone from south africa is listening: how are yiddish-derived ־שטײן names pronounced there? migration demographics would predict basically all “stains”, but i have no idea how SAEng and afrikaans would’ve affected things…)

    a mild tangent: i don’t think i’ve ever run across a ־שטײַן [-shtayn, per YIVO] surname, but a few folks in the thread cited that transliteration (though mostly, i think, from the commonsense chain that has ײ = /ɛj /= “ay” as in “bay/slay/roundelay”). so i took a quick look at the Leksikon translation project, and found 303 surnames with -shteyn, and none with -shtayn (in standard YIVO transliteration). all published writers, so not a scientific sample but a pretty decent-sized one, and centered on folks who lived during the years of mass migration.

    and @Y: it occurs to me that perhaps all of this is an explanation for the replacement of the (pre-millennial) Berenstein Bears with the current Berenstain Bears; no one to my knowledge has yet come up with a convincing proposed motive for the substitution. is it overreaching to suggest that it may have been an attempt (by an unknown clandestine YIVOist cell) to start a phonetic-epistemic chain reaction that would have replaced all -stein names with -stain versions and ultimately a complete /aj/ -> /ɛj/ vowel shift? we may never know the truth.

    and a sidenote:

    @David E:
    i think that what you describe (people who could make the effort can’t be arsed to, because they don’t see why they should go out of their way to make the effort for people who should really being going back to their shithole countries anyway) is far from a liminal case: i think it’s exactly the core meaning of dispronounciation, as Ghiridharadas is laying it out. and hardly a u.s.-specific phenomenon: just the usual white-supremacism-enacted-as-aggressive-laziness – i’m sure it operates identically (to pick a few at random) in the netherlands with indonesian and bakongo names, in russia with chechen names, in (pākehā) aotearoa with māori names…

  79. The assumption that the “original pronunciation” of -stein was the same as German Stein [ʃtaɪ̯n] is not necessarily correct. As I mentioned, in Yiddish, the corresponding word is שטיין shteyn, as you can see from the spelling -sztejn used in Polish and -штейн -shteyn used in Russian. Many American -steins are descended from Yiddish speakers, even though most use a German-style spelling.

  80. in (pākehā) aotearoa with māori names

    Yes, up to ~20 years ago, māori names got heavily Anglicised. But nowadays we have a Land Information commission for place names, which is trying to research the historically accurate name/pronunciation, and in some cases adjust the spelling.

    There was a particularly nasty episode a couple of years back when they tried to re-spell the town of ‘Wanganui’ as ‘Whanganui’. All a bit silly because the town is at the mouth of the Whanganui river. The Anglicised pronunciation of the town ‘Wong-a-noo-ee’ is an affront, so this isn’t really about merely the first consonant. The mayor at the time is a small-minded right-wing ex-MP and talkshow host, who’d been kicked out of Parliament as too right-wing even for his party. He made a stink, so the committee compromised by allowing either spelling.

    At which, the town council is supposed to change all the road signs to show both spellings. You can imagine how co-operative the mayor wasn’t.

  81. For now I pronounce “Kamala” with my LOT vowel, which seems closest to the senator’s pronunciation, since my PALM vowel is just a lengthened version of my TRAP vowel. But if those around me settle on TRAP I will conform.

    my bafflement and frustration with the insurmountable difficulty of getting people in the United States of America to say “Anand.”

    Some factors:

    1. In a single unfamiliar word heard in isolation, it can be hard to identify its sequence of phonemic segments — even presupposing, as many won’t, that the word conforms to native phonology.

    2. Many people trust a spelling more than the evidence of their own ears or someone else’e vocal apparatus.

    3. embarrassment or shyness: for many monoglots, being forced to speak a foreign language holds the same terror as public speaking. Even saying a single foreign word is something they shy away from, for fear that they will either get it wrong, sound pretentious, or both.

    4. There is a difference between completing a task under the constant close supervision of a teacher and doing it solo in the wild; repeating the pronunciation you have just been prompted with is the former, using it when greeting the same person a week later is the latter.

    5. Lots of people have trouble remembering any names at all. If I call you AnTHony instead of AnTony, you should just be glad I didn’t call you Andy or Zachary.

  82. Back when Ian Smith of Rhodesia was in the news, he was consistently called EYE-uhn in the American media

    Sorry, I find this hard to believe. I grew up in the US in the 1970s with a lot of EE-uhns running about, all of them born in the late 1960s. I have never once heard an American say Eye-uhn.

  83. I find it a little surprising that Americans who have heard the name Anand persist in mis- (or dis-) pronouncing it. Americans have no problems with recognising “a” as [a:] in “Amish”, “taco” and even “pasta”.

    A problem with transliterations of names into the Latin alphabet is this alphabet’s shortage of vowel letters. English gets by, sort of, with a complicated mish-mash of patterns which might suggest that a certain vowel is long or short, and even those patterns don’t work for all words (I say tomato…). And there’s no guarantee that those patterns will suggest the correct pronunciation, when applied to a transliteration of an Asian name.

    @rozele The Berenstain Bears were created by Stan and Jan Berenstain. The bears were Berenstain right from the first book, which was published in 1962.

  84. I wish AJP Crown were here to comment on this.

  85. I find it a gross assumption that anybody, anywhere would waste their time watching TV.

    I would think most people interested in (spoken) languages (i.e. most of the people who post here) would certainly spend time watching TV. TV helped my colloquial German and Russian immeasurably, and nothing is more bracing than thinking you speak decent Japanese and then trying to watch a Japanese language news broadcast.

    Granted, we now have YouTube but the intellectual level of YouTube is hardly superior to decent television.

  86. JC – How DO you pronounce “Carmela” à la Soprano?

    À l’italienne, to be sure: that is, with penultimate stress, though with American /r/.

    But doesn’t Tony use a non-rhotic northern New Jersey pronunciation?

  87. To pun or not to pun?
    NYT Oct 19: “Doctors May Have Found *Secretive* New Organs in the Center of Your Head.
    They appear to be a fourth pair of large salivary glands, tucked into the space where the nasal cavity meets the throat.”

  88. @Jongseong Park: “As I mentioned, in Yiddish, the corresponding word is שטיין shteyn, as you can see from the spelling -sztejn used in Polish and -штейн -shteyn used in Russian.”

    As far as Russian is concerned, the German -ei- also becomes -ей- as a rule. Whether the origin is German or Yiddish, you get Клейн(-), Штейн(-) and -штейн, and so on. There are lots of exceptions of course: for one, Wein- almost always corresponds to Вайн-.

  89. David Marjanović says:

    We can all say “dachshund”.

    Unless we actually speak German, in which case we’ve been saying Dackel since time immemorial. Dachshund, “dog used to hunt badgers”, is a Fun Etymological Fact that people may have heard of but aren’t really aware of.

    Anyway, the /h/ of Hund never disappears no matter how long the compound, and while the /d/ is always voiceless and always released (no glottalization or anything), whether it’s a lenis /d/ or a fortis /t/ varies regionally.

    Americans, in accordance with their conviction that all French words are heavily stressed on the last syllable, say “Mno”.

    Except they don’t, and can’t; they invariably insert [ə] into the foreign onset cluster, as always happens to Mnuchin.

    (I find that very noticeable because the German solution to the same problem is very different: make the [m] syllabic. German orthography doesn’t let you invent vowels that aren’t written; that’s just not thinkable.)

    …and of course French does have final stress. It’s just not word-final, it’s prepausal – the unit that gets stressed on its final syllable may be a whole sentence or whatever. (ReGARDE ! C’est Jacques MoNOD ! Jacques Monod a DIT… que… ) Claims that it has “no stress” or “equal stress” refer to the phonemic level (and are of course correct there), not to the phonetic one.

    The assumption that the “original pronunciation” of -stein was the same as German Stein [ʃtaɪ̯n] is not necessarily correct.

    Also depends on which kind of German. Just within the standard, the whole southeast (like me) doesn’t use [aɪ̯] but [ɛ̞ɪ̯] (except in more or less professional singing, where more open vowels are explicitly preferred); I even have [aɪ̯ ~ ɑɪ̯] as a marginal loanword phoneme separate from this.

    Outside of the standard, the old ei (OHG/MHG/Dutch ei; English GOAT) and the new ei (OHG/MHG î, Dutch ij; English PRICE) don’t seem to merge anywhere, and I would guess that partially explains the Yiddish situation.

    …I just noticed that Stein has the old one, Wein the new one.

  90. David Eddyshaw says:

    In the days when small highly specialised bookshops had yet to be Amazonated out of this world, there was a venerable and wonderful asian-languages-and-stuff bookshop just opposite the British Museum called Arthur Probsthain. (I believe it ekes out a zombie existence somewhere in the depths of SOAS now.)

    I’d known of the place for years before the penny dropped about the name. Ah. Touchstone. Of course! (it was the sth that threw me. I don’t think I’d ever heard the name actually spoken.)

  91. David Marjanović says:

    Dutch ei

    Wait, no, ee!

  92. David Eddyshaw says:

    Hmm. Still there in Great Russell Street, if Wikipedia is to be believed. I think I got the impression that it had shut from its sad transformation into something distinctly less wonderful last time I visited. All credit to them for keeping going at all, though.

  93. I’m a 72-year-old American and I never heard Ian Smith called anything but Eean, or maybe occasionally Yahn.

  94. David Eddyshaw says:

    At which, the town council is supposed to change all the road signs to show both spellings

    Here, where the road signs are legally required to be bilingual, it gets pretty silly sometimes. Most “English” names are just mangled versions of the Welsh, and it seems fairly pointless (for example) to help out monoglot Anglophones with the information that “Y Barri” is Welsh for “Barry.” I suppose they’d feel threatened otherwise, poor things.

    On the other hand, it would be a pity to give up the excellent place name “Llantwit Major” altogether in favour of the much duller “Llanilltyd Fawr.”

  95. Owlmirror says:

    I note that Jeffrey Epstein’s Hebrew WikiP page has his name as “ג’פרי אפשטיין”, so an Israeli seeing the name would say “-shteyn”. However, Harvey Weinstein’s He.WikiP is “הארווי ויינסטין”, so the “-steen” is more obvious.

  96. January First-of-May says:

    As far as Russian is concerned, the German -ei- also becomes -ей- as a rule. Whether the origin is German or Yiddish, you get Клейн(-), Штейн(-) and -штейн, and so on. There are lots of exceptions of course: for one, Wein- almost always corresponds to Вайн-.

    And consequently – staying on the subject of former chess champions – Kasparov’s original last name, etymologically Weinstein, is Вайнштейн.
    (IIRC, his mother changed it [essentially to her maiden name] so that it wouldn’t be too clear that he’s Jewish.)

  97. Owlmirror says:

    it occurs to me that perhaps all of this is an explanation for the replacement of the (pre-millennial) Berenstein Bears with the current Berenstain Bears; no one to my knowledge has yet come up with a convincing proposed motive for the substitution.

    There is a phenomenon called the Mandela effect where many people have a false memory of something having happened or having been different in the past. In the case of Nelson Mandela, people insist that they have memories of him having died in prison, sometimes complete with memories of a televised mass funeral and a eulogy by Winnie Mandela.

    Others insist that the name “Berenstain” used to be “Berenstein”. No-one has ever produced an actual book image showing that spelling.

    I think the current favorite conspiracy theory is universe-shifting, where people have unknowingly slipped from a universe where their memories were true to this one, where those events/things happened differently.

    YMMV!

  98. PlasticPaddy says:

    @jfom
    I suppose what you meant is that he took a name based on his mother’s maiden name Gasparian to avoid anti-semitism directed at his Jewish father’s name. The reason he did not take Gasparian (there is Petrosian) is presumably because he lived in Baku, where Armenians have not recently been “flavour of the month”.

  99. J.W. Brewer says:

    I have a theory that many of us (not meaning Hattics but Anglophones who like to think of themselves as all cosmopolitan and sophistimicated) are so habituated to thinking of English orthography as hopelessly arbitrary and then patting ourselves on the back in the belief that we successfully remember arbitrary spelling-to-sound mappings of tens of thousands of different lexemes that we often don’t realize that there are plenty of regular patterns and that we rely on them to get better-than-chance accuracy (which is not to say 90%+ accuracy!) in intuiting the pronunciation of unfamiliar words from the spelling. And more to the point that we are subconsciously relying on those patterns for the pronunciations of words we do know rather than having such impressive memories for arbitrary and lexeme-specific pronunciation/spelling pairs. This may in turn cause us to misestimate how easy or hard it ought to be for people to successfully recall a pattern-defying mapping for a particular unfamiliar lexeme.

    If you look at “Kamala” and sort of subconsciously remember that it’s supposed to get first-syllable stress, you will likely be pushed subconsciously toward rhymes-with-Pamela, which gives you the wrong vowel in the stressed syllable. Then, realizing subconsciously (if you’re American) that that’s an improbable-sounding vowel for a foreignish word (cf the AmEng/BrEng differences in “pasta” or “Nazi” etc, although the usual AmEng pronunciation of domesticated “Vladimir” is maybe an interesting counterexample), you will subconsciously realize that second-syllable stress enables you to evade that problem and produces a result that has just the right level of exoticism to be plausibly foreignish without being difficult. Problem solved quite nicely, unless the bearer of the name takes a different view.

    I was intrigued to discover, when Kamala-pronunciation discussions arose a few months ago (to a level of prominence they frankly hadn’t earlier on when she was running for President herself but not getting very far), that “Kamala” is actually one of the 44 female names in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/88_Lines_About_44_Women, which is a song I used to play over the airwaves from time to time when I was a late-night “New Rock” disk jockey back in the ’80’s. I had totally forgotten it (not that I remembered any material other chunk of the lyrics). But when you hear the name said or sung in passing w/o having in front of you a text with its spelling, you don’t get distracted by how natural or awkward the mesh between the two is.

    Finally, because of Sen. Harris’ mixed ancestry and non-South-Asian surname, it’s not immediately clear that the name is supposed to cue ones “what-do-South-Asian-names-sound-like” subset of interpretative tools even for those who think they have such a subset. If you told me w/o additional detail that someone born in Berkeley, Cal. in 1964 with an ethnically-unmarked (i.e. British-origin) surname was named “Kamala,” my first guess would not be “child of one or more South-Asian immigrant parents” but “white girl with hippie parents trying to vaguely invoke some mystical-Orient vibe.”

  100. J.W. Brewer says:

    Oh, and ditto what most other folks have said re “Ian.” I was familiar growing up in the U.S. with the EE-an pronunciation and not with anything else, and get confused byalternative spellings like Iain or Eoin or what have you because I feel like they’re trying to cue a different pronunciation but I’m not sure exactly what.

  101. Good lord, there were five comments on this post when I went to bed (two of them mine), and now there are almost a hundred! And I had to read them all while waiting for my first coffee of the day to take effect! I don’t think I’ve ever posted anything that’s gotten such a torrent of responses so quickly. I’ll respond to the things that struck me most forcibly as I blearily scrolled down.

    I really really dislike this sort of critique. Everyone has different preferences. Those who run in lefty circles tend to want “accurate” pronunciation in the foreign language (and do things like include diacritical marks even when writing in English). On the other hand, I have a number of friends who explicitly introduce themselves using an “American” pronunciation (a common pattern for immigrants going back many many generations). I strongly suspect the average “Chang” or “Singh” in America goes by a pronunciation rhyming with bang and wing rather than the “correct” one, even with close friends.

    That makes no sense. Yes, everyone has different preferences, and people should respect them. There are lots of people who spell their name Steven (my favorite being this guy), and there may even be a few Stephens who pronounce it “Steffen,” but I am a Stephen who says “Steeven,” and I will resent you if you ignore my preferences once I make them clear. Don’t call me out of my name, as the saying goes.

    Well she’s just bloody wrong (to get the effect she wants in my idiolect). … And yes I’m tending to the view that Anand G is an over-privileged arse-hole — just not as over-privileged nor as much of an arse-hole as Perdue. … I find it a gross assumption that anybody, anywhere would waste their time watching TV.

    She’s not using your bloody idiolect, for fuck’s sake. And talking of arse-holes, you’re sure trying hard to sound like one. Is that how you want to come across?

    And really? “You can pronounce Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky yet not my name?” It is of course very disrespectful to continue to pronounce someone’s name wrong after being corrected, but whoever the devil this man is putting himself on the level of the pre-eminent composer and writer in all Russian history isn’t really helping his cause in my book.

    Gee, you sound exactly like the arse-hole he was talking to. “Come back when you’re rich and famous and I’ll make the slight effort to say your name right; for the time being, screw you, peasant!’

    i think it’s exactly the core meaning of dispronounciation, as Ghiridharadas is laying it out. and hardly a u.s.-specific phenomenon: just the usual white-supremacism-enacted-as-aggressive-laziness

    Exactly.

    I’m a 72-year-old American and I never heard Ian Smith called anything but Eean, or maybe occasionally Yahn.

    Same here (except I’m only 69).

    And by this time there are probably a hundred comments…

    EDIT: Yup. And:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/88_Lines_About_44_Women, which is a song I used to play over the airwaves from time to time when I was a late-night “New Rock” disk jockey back in the ’80’s.

    I’m still pleased and proud to have been included in 2007’s 88 Lines About 44 Mefites.

  102. David Eddyshaw says:

    The time may not yet be right for a white girl with hippie parents trying to vaguely invoke some mystical-Orient vibe to be President, but it will come. Oh yes.

  103. I’ll respond to the things that struck me most forcibly as I blearily scrolled down.

    I’ll have to write more forcibly.

  104. Tulsi Gabbard might not be 100% white, but only 75% (she has Samoan grandmother). But the rest fits.

    Tulsi is Sanskrit name (तुलसी/Tulasi), she is a practicing Hindu and she ran for president in 2020.

    Maybe next time.

  105. J.W. Brewer says:

    Any surface hippie-ish gloss that Bill and/or Hillary Clinton had in their younger years completely wore off with the passage of time, but one remaining artifact of that period is a daughter (occasionally touted as a potential political candidate) named after not only a Joni Mitchell song but after that Joni Mitchell song with a strong contender for Worst Psychedelic Simile Ever, viz. “the sun poured in like butterscotch / And stuck to all my senses.”

  106. January First-of-May says:

    Some further commentary on my previous comments…

    Back when I was at university, one of our teachers was named Ian Marshall; his first name got transliterated into Russian as Ян (as if “Jan”, as in Jan Hus), and most of our students didn’t appear to bother with anything more precise than that.

    I do recall him being transliterated as Ян at least initially, but I see that his page is under Йен now.
    A naive Russian speaker would probably pronounce this as something similar to “Yen”, as in (the English name of) the Japanese currency; a slightly more savvy Russian speaker who happens to know how it’s spelled in English would probably say “Yann”.

    To get (a decent approximation of) an “EE-an” pronunciation, it would have to be Иэн – a version I distinctly recall having seen somewhere, but I don’t recall where, and it might well have been a different Ian entirely.

    i.e. rhyming with “Guatemala”

    On the subject of words that rhyme with “Guatemala”, I got yet again reminded of Bryant Oden’s Paula the Koala (previously on LH), a song whose rhymes merge at least LOT/PALM/THOUGHT (and possibly other categories as well) – leading to an exceedingly strong impression that those words are not supposed to rhyme that way.

  107. I distinctly remember Ian Gillan pronounced as Ян in the mid-1970. Now both versions are given:

    И́эн (Ян) Ги́ллан (англ. Ian Gillan; 19 августа 1945, Хаунслоу, Мидлсекс, Великобритания) — британский рок-музыкант, вокалист и автор текстов песен.

  108. This is only casual observation but, since it is my name, I have several decadesworth of close experience to go on. Mispronunciations impress themselves more on the memory, of course, than people getting it right but I’d say most people either ask or get it reasonably accurate. I’d say it is universally pronounced correctly without asking in the US. People from continental Europe often feel the need to ask and if they don’t you quite often hear EYE-uhn or, less often, Yahn. In India most people know Ian Botham so they typically get it right first time but, again, EYE-uhn is not unheard of. I wouldn’t venture any generalisations on elsewhere.

  109. J.W. Brewer says:

    Now I wonder if Tulsi Gabbard’s parents gave her the name with that spelling rather than “Tulusi” or “Tulasi” with some conscious intent to avoid the potentially much wider range of attempted pronunciations (all but one presumably “wrong”) that a three-syllable spelling might result in. Although “Tulsi” seems reasonably well-attested as an English spelling of both the goddess and the plant, which suggests that some earlier generations of writers-in-English decided on whatever pragmatic grounds that that spelling would be superior to a straight transliteration of the Devanagari.

  110. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    As a foreigner with a precarious grasp of English vowels and their baffling dialectal variation, I find the author’s excellent point (and coinage) about “dispronunciation” weakened by his subsequent complaints about “ANNE-ind” against “AH-nund.” By those standards, I’m unsure the offenders can properly pronounce Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky either. Where’s the line between mispronunciation and dialectal pronunciation?

    I understand such insouciance is much harder for a native, but I think I honestly don’t care if English speakers pronounce my own first name with TRAP, PALM or STRUT as the first vowel, so long as they correctly place the stress there.

  111. weakened by his subsequent complaints about “ANNE-ind” against “AH-nund.”

    Why? They are equally pronounceable; if you’re corrected about it, you should switch, even if they’re “not all that different.” You might as well say a Bern-“stine” shouldn’t mind being called Bern-“steen.”

    I honestly don’t care if English speakers pronounce my own first name with TRAP, PALM or STRUT as the first vowel, so long as they correctly place the stress there.

    And that’s fine. Everyone draws their own lines. But what would you say to someone who said you shouldn’t care where they place the stress?

  112. J.W. Brewer says:

    For some significant number of AmEng speakers, probably the best way to present “Giacomo” is to say it’s homophonous with “Jock-A-Mo” (lots and lots of variant spellings out there in transcriptions, because it came out of a specialized register of New Orleans dialect that was transmitted almost entirely orally) in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iko_Iko. I think of the stressed-first-syllable vowel as LOT rather than PALM, but if they’re merged I guess it doesn’t really matter …

  113. Stu Clayton says:

    People from continental Europe often feel the need to ask and if they don’t you quite often hear EYE-uhn or, less often, Yahn. In India most people know Ian Botham so they typically get it right first time but, again, EYE-uhn is not unheard of.

    I’ve lost track of what’s what here, maybe I missed the train altogether. Apart from EE-uhn, EYE-uhn and Yahn – is there some other way in which “Ian” is pronounced ? Can anyone named “Ian” bring themselves to reveal how they themselves pronounce their name (channeling Ian Fleming is permissible) ?

  114. The dispronunciation phonemena is very easy to recognize of course, but I think it’s a mistake to assume that any one person’s name can only have one correct pronunciation. I’ve meet several people who prefer to adapt the pronunciation to the language being spoken — it offends their ears to use the Swedish pronunciation when speaking English or the English pronunciation when speaking Swedish. And then I had a relative with two different pronunciations of the same name, with half the family using the one and the other half the other one, but I don’t know if said relative had a preference.

    As for spelling making it hard to pronounce names, my favourite is Hugh. It’s a short, easy name, but as soon as I see it spelled I forget how to pronounce it. Unfortunately, I see it spelled a lot more often than I hear it pronounced. I don’t feel too bad about it though, people likewise have trouble with my own short and easy name. It’s as if short names are easier to forget.

    Dachshund is a very bad example, since there are so many different pronunciations. However, I’m glad it’s mentioned, since I now know have learnt how this cute dog is supposed to be pronounced in English: dacks-ind (or dox-ind, I suppose), and also that it’s the same as the “dash hound” that you sometimes hear about. How much easier wouldn’t it be to just say “Dackel” as in German!

    On the whole, I’m more impressed with how people actually manage to remember the names of so many people, despite the illogical spellings and tricky pronunciations. Myself, I only get by with the help of memory aids and handy name guides on the internet. Currently trying to learn Nguyen… Does anyone have a tip for that?

  115. Stu Clayton says:

    How much easier wouldn’t it be to just say “Dackel” as in German!

    Exactly. Or Teckel if you run with the hunting set. In 50 years here I have never heard anyone say Dachshund. Note that there is not even a German WiPe article “Dachshund“. If you search for one you are redirected to “Dackel“.

    For extra credit: explain, by thinking about it (i.e. without recourse to DWDS), what’s behind the term Bauhund, which indicates how a Dachshund was employed a few centuries ago. Indeed it explains the term Dachshund. Hint: a story by Kafka.

  116. Can anyone named “Ian” bring themselves to reveal how they themselves pronounce their name (channeling Ian Fleming is permissible) ?

    See Ian Preston’s comment above.

    I think it’s a mistake to assume that any one person’s name can only have one correct pronunciation.

    Again, this is a straw man — no one’s saying or assuming that. The point being made is very simple: if someone tells you “This is how I pronounce my name,” then that’s how you should pronounce their name. If you happen to have a problem remembering people’s names (which is not that uncommon), just apologize and say so in case you make a mistake later on. What’s being deprecated here is not mistakes but deliberate refusal to accommodate another person’s wishes, whether out of personal hostility or because they’re not famous enough.

  117. Stu Clayton says:

    See Ian Preston’s comment above.

    I saw it. I cannot find in it an answer to my question: “Apart from EE-uhn, EYE-uhn and Yahn – is there some other way in which “Ian” is pronounced ?”

  118. Oh, sorry, I misunderstood. But I’m pretty sure the answer is “no”; in fact, I don’t think anyone with that name says it “Yahn” — that’s been brought up as a way other people thought it was pronounced.

  119. I’ve lost track of what’s what here, maybe I missed the train altogether. Apart from EE-uhn, EYE-uhn and Yahn – is there some other way in which “Ian” is pronounced ? Can anyone named “Ian” bring themselves to reveal how they themselves pronounce their name (channeling Ian Fleming is permissible) ?

    Preston, EE-uhn Preston (channeling Ian Fleming)

    I don’t think there is any other way, is there? Sorry if my earlier comment was unclear. I wasn’t meaning to suggest any of the others are correct, only to offer some casual empirical input on the frequency with which mispronunciations are encountered and where.

    When other people ask me how to pronounce it and I tell them I often get the impression that it is a sort of aha moment, as if EE-uhn were not even in the possibilities under consideration. I always assume the person must have been equivocating between EYE-uhn and Yahn.

  120. To Giacomo: I was also perplexed by those examples. Would the people who mispronounce (or dispronounce) the vowels in Anund care to pronounce names like Bob or Sarah with the right vowels? For me, those examples doesn’t feel as striking as the examples earlier in the article. Perhaps for American English speakers the difference between the different versions of Bob, Sarah and Anund is more noticeable. Then again, I don’t really have a good ear for names. *shrug*

  121. Would the people who mispronounce (or dispronounce) the vowels in Anund care to pronounce names like Bob or Sarah with the right vowels?

    Now I’m perplexed. In American English, there is only one way to pronounce those names.

  122. I mean, of course there are regional variations in the phonetic realization of the vowels, but each has only one possible vowel phoneme. Nobody says “Bobe” or “Boob.”

  123. David Marjanović says:

    The time may not yet be right for a white girl with hippie parents trying to vaguely invoke some mystical-Orient vibe to be President, but it will come. Oh yes.

    I think that would have been in the early 90s if Reagan had never happened.

    Now I wonder if Tulsi Gabbard’s parents gave her the name with that spelling rather than “Tulusi” or “Tulasi” with some conscious intent to avoid the potentially much wider range of attempted pronunciations (all but one presumably “wrong”) that a three-syllable spelling might result in.

    Or maybe the middle vowel is silent? That seems to happen a lot in Hindi; I’ve seen the script called Devnagri, with the short vowels all dropped.

    I honestly don’t care if English speakers pronounce my own first name with TRAP, PALM or STRUT as the first vowel, so long as they correctly place the stress there.

    That, together with the French practice to map TRAP to the French /a/, tells us something about Romance phonology. German maps PALM and STRUT to /a/, but not TRAP, which is equated with ä, which in turn is /ɛ/ for practical purposes – never /a/.

    For extra credit: explain, by thinking about it (i.e. without recourse to DWDS), what’s behind the term Bauhund, which indicates how a Dachshund was employed a few centuries ago. Indeed it explains the term Dachshund. Hint: a story by Kafka.

    It does, but I don’t know enough Kafka to know what that has to do with it.

    Hugh

    Rhymes with through.

  124. David Marjanović says:

    In American English, there is only one way to pronounce those names.

    How much marry/merry/Mary applies to Sara(h)?

  125. PlasticPaddy says:

    @hat
    You mean when the actor playing Hoffa in “the Irishman” referred to “Booby” Kennedy, he was not trying to use Hoffa’s real accent? I will never believe in the historical accuracy of Hollywood films again😣

  126. David Marjanović says:

    Paula the Koala (previously on LH), a song whose rhymes merge at least LOT/PALM/THOUGHT (and possibly other categories as well)

    Just these three, but at the same time it tries to be non-rhotic (taller). Unsurprisingly, it’s sung rhotically in the video.

  127. I will never believe in the historical accuracy of Hollywood films again😣

    Heh.

    if Reagan had never happened.

    I spend too much time in fruitless speculation about what that would be like. He ruined America in more ways than I can count.

  128. I’ve heard at least three English pronunciations of Sarah (the two most common being the A in Ah/Anund and the A in Anne), and the vowel in Bob can vary quite a lot. Certainly not less than the different As. Are you telling me all those vowels are considered the same phoneme in American English? I guess if the Os can be pronounced however you like, I should focus my effort on getting the As right.

    As for Ian, I’ve heard different As in that name too, but I don’t think I’ve heard it from peope actually called Ian, so it could be someone else mispronouncing the name. It’s one of those short, easy names where the spelling misleads people. In the British tv series, it’s always said the same way. (I haven’t heard it in any US tv series.)

  129. J.W. Brewer says:

    It just struck me as an interesting datapoint that the most common “wrong” pronunciation of “Kamala” has the same stress pattern, and the same vowel in the stressed syllable, as the “correct” American pronunciation of “Obama.” Subject of course to the possibility that the standard-American pronunciation is not actually the same as the “old country” pronunciation back in Kenya but was adopted for ease of use by Americans? Sheer coincidence, or is Obama itself a model “exotic” name that might have been subconsciously used as a reference point for guesses about Kamala?

    At a very high level of abstraction I don’t think a society where people are encouraged to be upset about others failing to accommodate their wishes is going to fare consistently better than a society in which people are encouraged to pursue compromise in the interests of reduced social friction. That doesn’t tell you how to handle any specific issue, of course, or what degree of compromise it is or isn’t appropriate to expect from whom. But I think part of what’s going on here is that hat etc. are assuming a more reasonable norm of “you should accommodate other people’s wishes when it doesn’t cost you anything to do so and/or the cost of doing so is trivial” and assuming away the considerable evidence that these situations keep happening because for many/most people (especially those without a statistically unusual interest in foreign languages and naming conventions) the cost is in practice often non-trivial. I think hat and others do accept and understand that when the “correct” pronunciation is one that is outside the scope of usual English phonotactics there is an unreasonable cost, but there’s a whole range of possibilities that are not phonotactically impossible but are comparatively rare or disfavored or mismatched with what the spelling suggests, and there’s imho a real cost there too. “This is an important enough issue that people ought to be willing to bear non-trivial costs” is certainly also a defensible position, but cognitive resources are limited (and perhaps more so for some folks than others) and it’s impossible for a given individual to simultaneously prioritize everything that sounds worthy and admirable when considered in isolation.

    If she is elected, I expect the median American to hear Kamala Harris’ name frequently enough out of the mouths of talking heads on tv who are pronouncing it the way she herself pronounces it that most of them will shift over to that pronunciation, precisely because that sort of exposure systematically reduces the cost for the median American to adopt that pronunciation. It’s not so much imho that people are more willing to accommodate the preferences of the famous because they are in awe of celebrities as that their very fame reduces the cost of doing so.

    I wonder if there’s any good way to get data about the extent to which Californians (who are more likely to have been exposed to people on tv saying her name before she achieved her current level of national prominence) are more likely to use her preferred pronunciation?

  130. PlasticPaddy says:

    @moa
    I think blocking errors are where there are minimal pairs like tap/tape, pop/pope, pup/poop or where stress is on the wrong syllable -maybe a minimal pair is Nancy (girl’s name) and Nancy (town in France). I think almost any short vowel can be replaced by almost any other short vowel in some native accent…

  131. Angus Macdonald says:

    And – I haven’t had my mid-morning coffee break and Reese’s peanut butter cups yet and I ‘ve had to read through what feels like two or three hundred posts in this thread – but I’ll throw another name into the ‘Stein’ discussion: there’s also a -Scottish- surname Stein, but it has nothing to do with the German surname! The Scottish surname (pronounced as if spelled ‘Steen’) is simply a reduced version of the name Steven! And, as for Kamala, no problem! It has the same stress pattern as Pamela!

  132. But I think part of what’s going on here is that hat etc. are assuming a more reasonable norm of “you should accommodate other people’s wishes when it doesn’t cost you anything to do so and/or the cost of doing so is trivial” and assuming away the considerable evidence that these situations keep happening because for many/most people (especially those without a statistically unusual interest in foreign languages and naming conventions) the cost is in practice often non-trivial.

    With respect, that’s nonsense, unless you are able to convince me about the non-trivial nature of using one easy pronunciation over another. What’s going on here is that people are xenophobic and/or lazy. And this:

    I don’t think a society where people are encouraged to be upset about others failing to accommodate their wishes is going to fare consistently better than a society in which people are encouraged to pursue compromise in the interests of reduced social friction.

    … is even worse nonsense, and I can’t help but wonder if you’re just taking the mickey. You could apply the same “argument” (to dignify it) to every case in which people insist on their rights, up to and including their right to go on living, and it can be (and has) faced the same comeback: “Just put up with it in the interests of reduced social friction.” Seriously?

  133. The Scottish surname (pronounced as if spelled ‘Steen’) is simply a reduced version of the name Steven!

    That’s great — I did not know that!

  134. I wish AJP Crown were here to comment on this.

    Amen, and jamessal too.

  135. Since no one has mentioned her yet — Maria Sharapova’s last name is correctly pronounced, I believe, with stress on the second syllable, and I assume that when she speaks Russian she pronounces it that way. But English speakers almost inevitably put the stress on the third syllable, and she follows that pattern when speaking in English.

  136. Speaking of sports — I once heard a golf announcer tell an anecdote that when Miguel Angel Jimenez was introduced to the crowd at a tournament in Australia, the emcee said something like Migg-you-el Angel (like the English word) Jimmy-knees.

  137. Since no one has mentioned her yet — Maria Sharapova’s last name is correctly pronounced, I believe, with stress on the second syllable, and I assume that when she speaks Russian she pronounces it that way. But English speakers almost inevitably put the stress on the third syllable, and she follows that pattern when speaking in English.

    Yeah, that’s an interesting situation. I have no problem with people using incorrect pronunciations when the person whose name it is encourages them to do so, of course.

    Speaking of sports — I once heard a golf announcer tell an anecdote that when Miguel Angel Jimenez was introduced to the crowd at a tournament in Australia, the emcee said something like Migg-you-el Angel (like the English word) Jimmy-knees.

    Sigh. But that sort of thing was routine when I was growing up in the ’50s-’60s; announcers called Pedro Ramos (who pitched for my Senators) “PEE-dro RAY-mohs” and no one thought anything about it (aside, of course, from Hispanic-Americans, but I didn’t know any at that tender age). Now they’re even putting Spanish accents on uniforms!

  138. I’ve been reading the various comments and googled different terms, and if I understand correctly, Sarah can be pronounced in three different ways in American English depending on the dialect, but all three are considered correct. Meanwhile, Anand can be pronounced in three different ways too, but one is correct and the other two are wrong, no matter which dialect of American English you speak. The discussion is getting a bit too technical for me to follow the finer points, so I don’t think I’ll comment more on that. I appreciate the pointers from you all on English names. I don’t understand everything, but at least I understand more than I did before.

    Brewer: It’s very interesting how different cultures see names in different ways, including how some cultures value cohesion over individuality. Living in Sweden, I’m perhaps in the middle between the theoretical culture you describe and the American culture that Hat is a proponent of. Though I don’t quite see the value in the theoretical idea. It’s much more interesting to learn about how names are actually used in real cultures around the world, including how people have individual and conflicting ideas about names. It’s never so simple as valuing one or the other. For example, in Sweden it’s quite popular with made-up surnames, but given names are often very traditional, and chosen with an eye to be easy to pronounce in both Swedish and English. And yet many people consider the Swedish culture to be very individualistic. Swedes of course “know” that Swedish culture is conformistic and not individualistic. 😉

  139. Specialized for W. C. Fields movies:

    (1) In The Man on the Flying Trapeze, the (American) office manager pronounces “condolence” with the accent on the first syllable, as if it had something to do with apartment buildings.

    (2) In The Dentist, one of the patients complains (bending from the waist to demonstrate) that a part of her anatomy was bitten by a dash-hound.

    (3A and 3B) In It’s a Gift, Egbert Souse (Fields) and the insurance salesman pronounce the O quite differently when they say, “Carl LaFong. Capital L, small A, capital F, small O, small N, small G. LaFong. Carl LaFong.” And Mrs. Souse corrects her interlocutors’ pronunciation of her own name. “It’s Sousé,” she explains. “Accent grave.”

  140. David Eddyshaw says:

    Both my first-degree-relative Sarahs are [sɛ:ɾə] (in my own not-quite RP, anyway.) I think this is the usual Brit form. [sa:ɹə]s are either foreign or posh (or, of course, both.) In either case, I would (of course) honour their own erroneous pronunciation if requested. I am not a barbarian.

  141. Now, here’s an apposite W. C. Fields quote: It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.

    Edit: Er, if he in fact said that. I’m not finding any actual citations, just attributions.

  142. Owlmirror: the WP examples (of two hideous people) illustrate an Israeli schism between accepting American pronunciations of Jewish names or reversing them to older ones. Was a time when any Jewish American Joseph or Rachel would be referred to as /yoˈsef/ or /raˈxel/. These days American pronunciations are more familiar, and some take pride in showing off their knowledge of them.
    That said, Lincoln was, is, and probably ever will be pronounced /linkoln/, if not /ˈlinkolen/.

    Now, do people from New Jersey / The Northeast know that Springsteen is not Jewish, and specifically Dutch?

  143. J.W. Brewer says:

    I think hat and I are talking past each other counterproductively and that this is not the right day to try to resolve all of our apparent differences of point of view. Let me just suggest that even accepting arguendo hat’s position that this particular genre of mistake in language is blameworthy because it stems from laziness or immorality, it is nonetheless perhaps worthwhile as a matter of basic descriptive linguistics to understand why (from a linguistic point of view) people are prone to mistakes in certain areas and why they make the mistakes they do rather than other ones — because both of those tend to illustrate deeper patterns in the language. If people guess wrong because they are guessing by analogy and the particular analogy doesn’t work, it’s still potentially useful to understand why (often at a subconscious level) the particular analogy would have struck a reasonable number of native speakers as a plausible one for getting to the pronunciation of an unfamiliar name.

    The possibility of Carmela (with second-syllable stress) being a potential factor in wrong guesses about Kamala was alluded to upthread. Let me add Camilla (not in the Sopranos, afaik, but a character in that long-running “British Royal Family” soap opera) as another name initially better-known to 21st century Americans that might well have primed people to assume that Kamala should be pronounced the same way except for swapping in a different vowel in the second and assumed-to-be-stressed syllable.

  144. it is nonetheless perhaps worthwhile as a matter of basic descriptive linguistics to understand why (from a linguistic point of view) people are prone to mistakes in certain areas and why they make the mistakes they do rather than other ones — because both of those tend to illustrate deeper patterns in the language.

    Well, sure. But I’m not seeing what this has to do with the situation under discussion, which is one in which person A flat-out refuses to use the pronunciation person B wants used. That is not a matter of patterns in the language.

  145. Seems to me we shouldn’t have to accent shift to correctly pronounce someone’s name. Adjusting the pronunciation to our accent makes sense.

    But correctly pronouncing Anand as AH-nund doesn’t require an American English speaker to use any sounds outside our normal accent.

  146. J.W. Brewer says:

    Y: Not sure if I’ve ever seen survey data but I certainly don’t have the impression that very many Americans think Bruce Springsteen is Jewish (although early in his career some printing errors on European pressings of his songs gave his surname as “Springstein”). In terms of what he is instead, I doubt “Dutch” is a popular guess and if you ignore his surname and just look at his overall affect/persona you would assume generically “some sort of stereotypically Catholic ethnicity” that is generically “ethnic” in a NYC metropolitan area sense w/o being too exotic, And his Brooklyn-born mother’s maiden name was Zerilli, which validates that assumption.

    Springsteen’s longtime (if on-again, off-again) collaborator Steve Van Zandt does have a name that most clueless Americans can peg as Dutch, but he doesn’t look very stereotypically Dutch-American, which is because he is of entirely Italian-American descent, Van Zandt being the surname of his stepfather that he was given after his mother remarried.

  147. But correctly pronouncing Anand as AH-nund doesn’t require an American English speaker to use any sounds outside our normal accent.

    Exactly! That’s the whole point of his piece. Nobody’s asking anyone to say ǂKxʼaoǁʼae correctly.

  148. Or even Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (and it would be interesting to see a compilation of attempts English-speakers have made to say his name).

  149. @Y

    That said, Lincoln was, is, and probably ever will be pronounced /linkoln/, if not /ˈlinkolen/.

    In what context is Lincoln pronounced either of those ways? I’ve only heard it as President Abraham Lincoln’s name, and things named for him, always /ˈlɪŋkən/. So I’m curious about your comment.

  150. Y was talking about Israeli pronunciation.

  151. My boyfriend was reading this comment thread over my shoulder and asked me about the meaning of /kɔlərɑ:doʊ/ and /kɔləræ:doʊ/ in one of Bathrobe’s comments. I demonstrated, and it took him a few repetitions to get the difference, which he complained was subtle. I said “but you wouldn’t say the difference between ‘hot’ and ‘hat’ is subtle?” to which he agreed. He even agreed that Nev/ɑ/da vs Nev/æ/da was not a subtle difference.

    This may speak to the point JWB is making.

    Moa: Sarah can be pronounced in three different ways in American English depending on the dialect, but all three are considered correct. Meanwhile, Anand can be pronounced in three different ways too, but one is correct and the other two are wrong, no matter which dialect of American English you speak.

    It’s more complicated than this. I’ve never met a S/ɑr/ah, but this thread suggests they exist. However, it would be wrong to pronounce S/ær/ah’s name as S/ɑr/ah, and vice versa, even though their names are spelled the same. This depends on the particular Sarah’s preference. On the other hand, S/ær/ah’s name can be pronounced with an [æ] (by those who don’t have the marry-merry-Mary merger, who are mainly from the mid-Atlantic states) or with an [e] (by those who do, the majority).

  152. @Y: I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody mistake Springsteen as Jewish. There are probably multiple reasons for this. For one thing, Bruce is a rather un-Jewish name (although that is hardly a reliable guide with assimilated American Jews; the last president of my synagogue was named Bruce Miller). More importantly, Springsteen’s music mostly evinces a very white, lower-middle-class, “hard hat” persona, which is also very stereotypically un-Jewish.

  153. It’s more complicated than this. I’ve never met a S/ɑr/ah, but this thread suggests they exist. However, it would be wrong to pronounce S/ær/ah’s name as S/ɑr/ah, and vice versa, even though their names are spelled the same. This depends on the particular Sarah’s preference. On the other hand, S/ær/ah’s name can be pronounced with an [æ] (by those who don’t have the marry-merry-Mary merger, who are mainly from the mid-Atlantic states) or with an [e] (by those who do, the majority).

    Exactly so.

  154. @Y:
    i’m from the northeast, so don’t count, but i’d be fascinated to know if anyone thinks springsteen is jewish – it never crossed my mind (and if asked, the “ee” would’ve led me to dutch)…

    How much marry/merry/Mary applies to Sara(h)?

    i (normally with no merger) seem to do either my “marry” or “mary” for the sara(h)s who don’t use the vowel i have in bar/star/remark. can’t see much of a pattern for which one, and i’m pretty sure i’m not following the people’s own usage…

    @rosie:
    that’s exactly what i meant! they started with their own name, then the eponymous bears, and had they not been foiled (probably by an equally clandestine heimish phonetic epistemology task force), the -steins would have been next! no tsvey-yudn would have been safe from their schaechterite scheme! we can only shudder at what could have followed (even… the shpitsik maxl!?!)

  155. J.W. Brewer says:

    Lots of people in lots of contexts fail to consistently or successfully adopt pronunciations modeled for them as correct/normative/authoritative. People who speak with stigmatized accents (and/or, perhaps more relevantly, have accents that aren’t that stigmatized in general but use a stigmatized variant pronunciation of some particular shibboleth that marks a stigmatized group) have generally been shown and told over and over again the correct/normative/authoritative way to do it, yet they still don’t do it. Is “refuse” the best verb to use for that situation?

    I understand that hat and others may feel strongly that someone has a moral right to have you use the pronunciation of their own name they prefer yet also feel strongly that your 8th-grade English teacher may not have a moral right to have you use her preferred pronunciations of various lexical shibboleths, because the situations are significantly different from a moral perspective. I just don’t know that they’re all that different when viewed not in terms of morality but in terms of the cognitive demands on the person who is failing to adopt the modeled pronunciation. Obviously, deliberate refusal to comply because of a subjective belief that the teacher does not deserve compliance is sometimes at play in those shibboleth situations, but it’s certainly not the only factor.

    The original narrow notion of “dispronunciation” we started off with seems to me to involve people who already have incurred the cost of learning and remembering the correct pronunciation of a name, such that it would cost them no more to do it right than wrong yet they say it wrong for some polemical purpose. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m more interested in the typically larger group of people who have not yet succeeded in getting it right but are assumed to not have gotten it right because they just haven’t tried as hard as they ought to.

  156. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Terry K:

    Exactly. It is unreasonable to expect monoglot English speakers to produce words with unfamiliar phonemes or phonotactics; moreover, even English speakers who can are likely to sound weird and affected doing it in the middle of a conversation in English, and not courteous at all.

    It’s not in the least unreasonable to expect monoglot English speakers to adhere to the form of a name preferred for English-speaking contexts by the bearer of the name, if it conforms to English speech patterns. Those who refuse to do so really don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

    I used to know a Polish lady called Ida – completely fluent in English – who got upset enough about being called [ajdə] that she specifically asked people to say [ijdə] (she didn’t expect Polish phonemes.) This seemed rather silly to me, as a matter of fact; but that was neither here nor there. It would have been just plain rude to object.

    @JWB:

    All this stuff about “cognitive demands”: doesn’t it really reduce to “I don’t see the point of making the effort”? Speaking at all involves significant cognitive demands. I’m skeptical that the effort of remembering which syllable of “Anand” to stress is beyond the cognitive capacity of even a public-radio host. It’s just an excuse. “Oops, I misspoke.”

  157. @JWB: It’s typically harder to undo an existing habit than to do something new correctly, no?

  158. PlasticPaddy says:

    @de
    This is a minefield. An Ita from Dublin is ì as in machine but an Ita from the West is i as in wine. Usually.

  159. All this stuff about “cognitive demands”: doesn’t it really reduce to “I don’t see the point of making the effort”?

    That’s my take as well.

  160. One real-life W.C. Fields name is a former councilmember of Richmond, California, Corky Boozé.

  161. Terry, I only was referring to the President. It was just a rare example of a name that resists correct English pronunciation.

  162. Lars Mathiesen says:

    My cousin Line [ˈliːnə] simply started spelling her name Lina when the family moved to California, which californians pronounce almost right. (There are issues with VOT and which schwa exactly you get, but those are nits).

    Of course people shouldn’t be forced to respell their names to get the pronunciation they want, but that’s what she chose to do. (And then Lina is a perfectly cromulent name for Danish girls, which probably lessened the hardship).

  163. J.W. Brewer says:

    @F: Sure re harder to undo. But I doubt I’m the only person who had heard enough people pronounce Kamala wrong (converging on the same wrong pronunciation) to have started off on the wrong foot and thus needed to unlearn an earlier impression.

    @Brett: The history of the rock and roll business (especially the metro-NYC part of it) is full of Jewish kids who went into it at least in part because it offered them a chance at a “tough” or “cool” persona that would contradict the “destined-to-become-an-accountant” ethnic stereotypes they felt trapped in. A lot of them adopted ethnicity-concealing stage names; others didn’t. Some who didn’t were the Shangri-Las, who were tough chicks from Queens (the Weiss sisters plus the Ganser sisters). Were they as tough in real life as their persona suggested? I dunno, but I guarantee you that the teenage Bruce loved those records. If anything, however, if you were playing the percentages you would have assumed that if Bruce really was Jewish he would have taken a stage name that was more unambiguously non-Jewish than Springsteen!

    My vague recollection from my own younger years is that some (not all and maybe not even most) Jewish kids were kind of into knowing which rock stars were “really Jewish” (e.g. two out of the four guys in Kiss) but that most-if-not-all of the gentile kids were oblivious to the point. All these decades later, I suspect that the audience for book-length treatments like Steven Beeber’s “The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s: A Secret History of Jewish Punk” remains largely Jewish, not least because, I suspect, many people have internalized the message that gentiles who keep excessively close track of exactly which X members out of a group of Y individuals with some relevant common theme are Jewish are either anti-Semitic or prone to be mistaken for anti-Semitic.

  164. David Eddyshaw says:

    Corky Boozé

    When reading the news, I am often provoked into saying “Nobody was ever called [Name][Name]”; to which, however, I am frequently constrained to add: “except in America.”

    I expect it’s actually pronounced “Colin Powell.”

  165. To rectify hat’s comments vis-a-vis J.W. and myself:

    Many people with “unusual” names for American ears do in fact use that “wrong” pronunciation themselves (Sharapova, Singh, Chang, among others mentioned in this thread). The objectionable part of Anand’s article is not that it is wrong to deliberately mispronounce people’s names (it is!), but that he claims that it should be obvious when a name is being mispronounced, even if that name is unusual and even if many other co-ethnics do not use that pronunciation in English!

    To give an example, every basketball fan knows how to say Giannis Antetokounmpo now. But only because they have heard it said dozens of times. Otherwise, no one would get it right. That isn’t racist – it’s just a very difficult name and no one will simply guess it right. To ascribe these mistakes to lazy racism is very odd to me.

  166. David Eddyshaw says:

    Boozé has a pleasing Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension vibe, now I think of it. Bigbootay. Tay. A case of the very phenomenon we’ve been discussing, too.

    (Greatly underrated movie. Star Wars, nothing. Notable especially for a remarkably realistic depiction of what neurosurgery is really like at the beginning. Trust me. I’ve been there.)

  167. The objectionable part of Anand’s article is not that it is wrong to deliberately mispronounce people’s names (it is!), but that he claims that it should be obvious when a name is being mispronounced, even if that name is unusual and even if many other co-ethnics do not use that pronunciation in English!

    That sounded weird and unlikely, but I figured maybe I had skipped that part, so I just read it again and don’t see anywhere he says that. Why don’t you quote the part you object to?

  168. J.W. Brewer says:

    To stay on the rock-music angle, something I had separately been looking for the right thread to mention in (because it seemed of general Hattic interest) is the existence on youtube of multiple interviews from different years (mostly in the 1990’s) featuring the just-deceased Eddie Van Halen and his brother/bandmate Alex being interviewed in Dutch and responding in seemingly quite-fluent Dutch, many decades after they had emigrated from the Netherlands as quite young boys and without any obvious way of keeping it up other than by speaking with their parents. That the family surname is pronounced differently in Dutch and in AmEng is mentioned in passing, and when the AmEng pronunciation occurs in Dutch it seems to come with intonational cues as if it is being put in italics or quotation marks. (The clip I’m attaching also demonstrates how “Alex” and “Eddie” are pronounced differently in the two languages.) If you focus on it, Eddie’s accent in Dutch sounds notably more “American” than Alex’s, which makes sense since he was two years younger and thus had two years less of immersion in a Dutch-speaking peer group before they came to California.

    This particular clip is fairly short and is annotated with English subtitles that can be confusing because they’re badly synchronized with the audio, but there are other longer unsubtitled ones with different interviewers that are easy enough to find. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vg9WFskPV4Y

  169. That’s a delightful clip, thanks!

  170. Apart from EE-uhn, EYE-uhn and Yahn – is there some other way in which “Ian” is pronounced ?

    My Singaporean friend uses /iˈeːn/. I think it was Иээн in Cyrillic although I’m not totally sure. He is an ESL teacher.

    I think this thread has gone beyond the original question of “dispronunciation” to that of how to pronounce people’s names in general. I don’t think I’ve seen an LH thread yet that doesn’t veer off on totally unrelated tangents, so this is a relatively well-behaved one.

  171. January First-of-May says:

    To give an example, every basketball fan knows how to say Giannis Antetokounmpo now. But only because they have heard it said dozens of times. Otherwise, no one would get it right. That isn’t racist – it’s just a very difficult name and no one will simply guess it right. To ascribe these mistakes to lazy racism is very odd to me.

    To be fair, with a name like “Antetokounmpo” it’s at least clear that something weird is going on – that final -nmpo is going to be pretty much unpronounceable otherwise. (Are there real natural languages that admit clusters like that?)
    Granted, they’d have no way to guess what exactly is going on (a particularly inconvenient interaction of Greek spelling and Yoruba phonology), but it should at least be clear that this is a “should check how it’s actually pronounced” kind of name.

    The really inconvenient case is a name that looks easy to pronounce, such as, say, (Pete) Buttigieg: if you don’t happen to have heard it spoken before – or be Maltese – you’re almost certain to say /bʌtɪgig/ (or something very similar – not sure of the exact vowel quality) and be utterly confounded by any claim to the contrary. (There’s a reason his followers just called him “Mayor Pete”.)

  172. Yes, that’s an excellent example.

  173. David Eddyshaw says:

    Antetokounmpo […] interaction of Greek spelling and Yoruba phonology

    That is wonderful. It gives me the pleasant illusion that I ought to have been able to work it out for myself. (The Ade- bit actually is a dead giveaway for a Yoruba name, but in reality I’d never have realised that was what was going on without prompting.)

    All Yoruba names should be written in Greek!
    (OK. Maybe not.)

  174. @J.W. Brewer: I remember seeing a Dutch interview with Rutger Hauer from a few years before he died. His Dutch grammar was what you would expect for a normal native speaker, but he had a very noticeable American accent. This seemed rather exceptional for somebody who had lived in the Netherlands until well into adulthood, even if he had spent the second half of his life mostly in America.

  175. I always assumed that writer Ayun Halliday’s spelling of her first name reflects a Southern pronunciation. But WP says, “pronounced ‘Ann’”. She’s a smartass, so I don’t know.

  176. David Eddyshaw says:

    I knew of a Dutch Catholic priest in Ghana who had been in Ghana more or less continuously since before independence and who was no longer able to speak Dutch. (On the other hand, he was able to preach sermons in Kusaal, making him one of a very select group indeed among Europeans.)

  177. David Eddyshaw: South Carolina has in the past sent to the U.S. Senate the worthy Coleman Livingston Blease, Burnet R. Maybank, and best of all, Alva M. Lumpkin. Their names shall live on (if nothing else. Mid-20th century Southern Democrats tended to support awful things.)

  178. David Eddyshaw says:

    Thankyou, Y.

  179. On Mayor Pete – if you know the Arabic origin of the name and even 100 words of Arabic, you will get it basically right, since he is the “father of chickens” – abu djaj, pronounced basically in all varieties of Arabic like the Mayor’s name with an “a” at the start.

    And to our host, on the relevant quote under which Anand complains about people not knowing the South Asian pronunciation of his name rather than people being jerks who deliberately get it wrong: the author deliberates splits dispronunciation (getting the name wrong on purpose) from mispronunciation, where he includes situations with people he has just met, with the implication that only non-white people face this “tax” of being called “Ah-NAAND” and not “AH-nund”: “Before virtually every encounter you have, there is this phase that other people get to skip. A phase in which everyone is reminded that you are not entirely of us, you do not belong to our default, you need to be explained, you come with instructions, you are a hard case, you take extra effort, you don’t just glide into the mix, you require extra preparation by us, you may get offended at us. The tax is paid in various currencies. Sometimes you say nothing, and in that case the tax is within, the slow grating of misrecognition, of accepting as yourself something that is not you but must be tolerated as though you. Sometimes you correct or even protest, and in that case the tax is social: you are now making a fuss, expending precious middle-school social capital, being a stickler, not chill at all, for something as seemingly trivial as the emphasis on a syllable? Sometimes the people doing the mispronouncing hear themselves failing to say what they have heard you say and, without needing to be corrected, apologize for their limitations of tongue.”

    (Incidentally, I have “two first names”: a last name which is a common first name. I have been called by this name approximately 5 zillion times in my life. My response is not that I must “tolerate this”, but rather that people make mistakes, especially people who have just met you, one of thousands they will meet in their life, and I ought not judge them for such a minor crime. But c’est la vie.)

  180. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Kevin:

    You remind me of people I’ve talked to in the Labour Party, to whom I’ve had to explain patiently that you don’t find out about the prevalence of antisemitism by introspection regarding your own (lack of) prejudice: you find out by asking a Jew.

    You seem very confident that Anand Giridharadas is constantly mistaken about his own experience. I don’t expect it’s all that similar to having a funny middle name, really.

  181. January First-of-May says:

    That said, Lincoln was, is, and probably ever will be pronounced /linkoln/, if not /ˈlinkolen/.

    The same is true in Russian, modulo some palatalization details. (Though IIRC the Hebrew /l/ is actually closer to Russian /lʲ/ than to Russian /l/.)

    Indeed, Vysotsky – if perhaps jokingly – even put final stress on Lincoln’s name in his song about antisemitism:

    Народ мне простит, но спрошу я невольно:
    Куда отнести мне Абрама Линкольна?

  182. J.W. Brewer says:

    Y & David E.: If you like that sort of name, you owe it to yourselves to browse the archives of the “Strangest Names In American Political History” blog, which has hundreds of impressive examples. https://politicalstrangenames.blogspot.com/

  183. David Eddyshaw says:

    Motherlode!

  184. David Marjanović says:

    South Carolina has in the past sent to the U.S. Senate

    Those names are not far from Blockhead J. Minolta, “who” once sent me some spam.

  185. Thank you, Brewer. I will forthwith sire a thousand or so male children, so that I may bestow upon them all the names in that blog.

  186. Getting back to the original topic, from All in the Family, the following dialog:

    Archie: [conversing with Reverend Chong, who is unwilling to baptize Joey against his parents’ wishes] No, see, what I had in mind was this, uh, I would like to slip a few dollars into the, into the poor-box, see, which don’t necessarily have to wind up there, see? And, uh, now, uh, we don’t have to tell, uh, the, uh, Reverend Fletcher there…
    Rev. Chong: Felcher.
    Archie: Whatever. We don’t have to tell him nothin’ about it, see. What do you say, Chang?
    Rev. Chong: Chong.
    Archie: Whatever…
    Rev. Chong: I say, No, Mr. Binker!
    Archie: Bunker.
    Rev. Chong: (sarcastically) Whatever.

  187. Re Corky Boozé: Richmond City Council is poorer for his absence, but it does now have Vinay Pimplé.

  188. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    Why? They are equally pronounceable; if you’re corrected about it, you should switch, even if they’re “not all that different.” You might as well say a Bern-“stine” shouldn’t mind being called Bern-“steen.”

    But what would you say to someone who said you shouldn’t care where they place the stress?

    Honestly, because of a combination of my ignorance of English and my skepticism that one can reasonably insist that others gladly and effortlessly remember to pronounce one’s name in a very precisely defined way so long as that’s pronounceable. Let me try switching to Italian examples.

    Take Cesare. The RAI pronunciation dictionary tells me it’s pronounced with an /e/ in Florence but an /ɛ/ in Rome. If you bear that name but move from one city to the other, people will keep calling you however they call Julius Caesar, even though the alternative is pronounceable in a theoretical sense. I’d be extremely surprised if people called Cesare even dreamed of trying to impose their own pronunciation for their own name.

    I imagined the same would be true of Sarah. I know some native English speakers bearing that name, but I have no idea who’s S/ær/ah and who’s S/ɑr/ah, or if they even insist on that distinction. I expected they’d be fine having their name pronounced in the same way as the matriarch’s in the speaker’s dialect. I wonder if it’s actually common among English speakers to treat S/ær/ah and S/ɑr/ah as separate names and recall who’s who, and (relatedly but not identically) if it’s common for people named Sarah to be peeved about switches.

    Take Giasone, admittedly a vanishingly uncommon name. Everyone stresses the second syllable, except pedants recalling where the stress is in Greek. If that’s your name and you stress it on the first syllable, you have to be prepared to tell everyone, and I’d bet you’ll have to tell the same person more than once unless they interact with you often. I agree it’d be intolerably rude if they intentionally refused to adopt your favorite stress. But it seems quite excusable if they forget about it and revert to whatever comes to mind first. I’d imagine it’s the same in English if your surname is Powell and you want it pronounced like Anthony instead of Colin. Perhaps also if you’re a -“stine” instead of a -“steen?”

    I’m unable to draw any clear conclusions. I agree dispronunciation is a real problem, and one I haven’t suffered from as an immigrant because Italian has become a pretty well respected ethnicity. But I still feel setting up hypercorrection as the alternative seems counterproductive.

    I suppose a decent litmus test could be how much better and more quickly people learn to pronounce the first name St John than Anand. And is the difference between /sɪndʒɪn/ and /sɪndʒən/ distinctive?

  189. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Antetokounmpo — One thing is decoding the Greek spellings of D and B when you see them in Greek, but carrying them over to the Roman alphabet makes it specially confounding. I don’t remember seeing other Greek names where that happened, but then most Greek names are built on inherited morphemes and don’t need that kind of spellings.

    Wikipedia claims that Αντετοκούνμπο is pronounced [adetoˈkumbo] — I’d have expected [adetoˈkunbo] but maybe there is some sort of assimilation going on. In Greek or Yoruba? Why not Αντετοκούμμπο, maybe it just looks weird to a Greek?

  190. Giacomo – Italians frequently suffered from dispronunciation in America, but historically tended to just give up. Most of the Baglios, Paglias, and Mantegnas I’ve met or heard about have adopted English phonotactics, e.g. “BAG-leo”. Adam Vinatieri says his last name “Vin-uh-TER-ee”. But Polish Americans have suffered greater indignations.

  191. We talked about Kosciuszko a few times.

    One of the most mispronounced Polish surnames – standard English pronunciation is /kɒziˈʊskoʊ/ or /kɒʒiˈʊʃkoʊ/.

    But actually it’s [kɔɕˈtɕuʂkɔ]

    Every single phoneme is wrong except /k/.

    Obviously general can’t object to mispronunciation of his surname – he’s been dead for two centuries.

  192. David Eddyshaw says:

    adetoˈkumbo

    Wikipedia is wrong. The situation is yet more perverse. Yoruba doesn’t have closed syllables: the n actually signifies nasalisation of the u. Evidently the Greek was transliterated from the standard Yoruba orthography, and has since been retransliterated into Latin letters.

  193. David Eddyshaw says:

    Of course, the bearer of the name may not actually speak Yoruba, so it’s possible that that is indeed how he says it.

  194. David Eddyshaw says:

    It’s lucky his name didn’t contain p, which in Yoruba orthography actually represents /k͡p/.

  195. The pronunciation [adetoˈkumbo] given in Wikipedia is the Greek pronunciation of Αντετοκούνμπο, not the Yoruba pronunciation. The assimilation of the nasal to [m] is expected in Greek.

    Most Greek names with μπ and ντ tend to be romanized with b and d respectively. So Λυμπερόπουλος becomes Liberopoulos and Ντούλα becomes Doula. But spellings such as Limperopoulos do occur, so a spelling like Antetokounmpo is not completely unheard of. But I don’t remember seeing mp or nt word initially (i.e. no Ntoula).

  196. Welp, I should have checked before I posted. There are about 72,300 Google hits for Ntoula…

  197. Lars Mathiesen says:

    We did touch on the Italian poet /dade/ (Δαντε) in an earlier thread, I think.

  198. I’ve only ever heard of Dade county myself

  199. David Eddyshaw says:

    It’s named after the Floredine poet.

  200. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    Vanya, I’m sure Italians used to suffer from dispronunciation. Whether they still do in U.S. schools I don’t know. Kids are mean. But I left Italy in my twenties, and as an adult I haven’t faced the problem. I suspect this is typical and has a lot to do with racism, as the author says. Within living memory, Italians used to be despised immigrants. Now we’re mostly busy despising immigrants to Italy, and I guess most people would call me “an expat.”

    Having said this, it also seems natural for the pronunciation of surnames to get assimilated. At some point it stops being a mispronunciation, as with the -“steens” and their Italian-American equivalents. Although immigrants including Italians and Jews have certainly been mistreated, such pronunciation change cannot be always and everywhere malevolent dispronunciation.

    I doubt many American Berkeleys pronounce their name like the English baron rather than the Californian city — which is itself mispronounced relative to its namesake, needless to say. I bet those who do have quite a bit of correcting to do. I don’t see why that burden shouldn’t fall on them. By all means, remembering if an American is a B/ɑ:/rkeley instead of a B/ɜː/rkeley is a nice touch, but I remain unconvinced it’s a requirement of basic civility and decency.

  201. It’s always easy to be unconvinced about the importance of things that one does not personally consider important.

  202. PlasticPaddy says:

    @hat
    Maybe the POV of some minority group members is that you choose where to draw the line, e.g. Hey, Gee-acomo!” is OK but “Hey, [RACIAL SLUR]” is not. But I agree you cannot tell people where to draw the line.

  203. Maybe the POV of some minority group members is that you choose where to draw the line, e.g. Hey, Gee-acomo!” is OK but “Hey, [RACIAL SLUR]” is not.

    Sure, and everybody gets to draw those lines for themselves; nobody gets to say “I think this is OK, so you should shut up about it.” (This happens, for instance, in discussions of sexual harassment, where some women are prone to tell other women they shouldn’t be so sensitive.)

  204. How you relate to things depends on your experience. My full first name is Hans-Werner, a relatively common double name among people my age. Nothing complicated about it. But still, it frequently happens that people I only meet occasionally mentally file me under “Hans-Peter”, another frequent double name, and call me that. I have worked as an expat abroad, and I can’t count how many people have written my name “Hanz”, even in e-mail responses to mails from me where the correct spelling was in the signature. Sometimes I correct people, sometimes I don’t. Crucially, in the first case, I am a German among Germans and have no reason to attribute the mis-naming to anything but bad memory or sloppiness. In the second case I am a stranger in another country who doesn’t expect to be accepted as one of them. But Anand Giridharadas is in a different situation, and I guess these mispronunciations are only one among other small signs he has experienced that people don’t accept him as belonging to the place that is his home. So that makes it hard for him to simply shrug them off. I get a vibe from some of the posts here that “it’s all harmless misunderstandings, and he shouldn’t make a fuss about it”, but we are not in his shoes, and we should cut him as least as much slack as we are ready to do for those who pronounce his name the wrong way.

  205. Exactly.

  206. J.W. Brewer says:

    A question for Giacomo and some thoughts about “Berkeley.”

    First, is the regional variation in the pronunciation of “Cesare” sort of arbitrary and lexeme specific or is part of some larger pattern of dialect difference such that if you knew the basic “rules” for transforming Florentine pronunciations into Roman and vice versa you would predict it correctly?

    One pretty clear exception (and I expect there are others) to any “use the pronunciation the bearer of the name uses” norm is how it deals with rhoticity. When Jimmy Carter was president, no one expected rhotic speakers to pronounce his name the same way he pronounced it and indeed whenever one heard rhotic speakers trying to use a non-rhotic pronunciation of his name it was likely to be in the context of mockery. Likewise, a rhotic American speaker who has learned somewhere along the way that “Berkeley” in a British context has the START vowel rather than the NURSE vowel will use their own rhotic START vowel rather than try to approximate a non-rhotic one — even though that’s not actually outside their competence, i.e. they could pronounce it as if it were spelled “Bockley” and get reasonably close. It strikes me that it might be useful if we could figure out why making one adjustment but not the other is thought to be the appropriate thing to do. I’m not saying that it’s inconsistent, only that understanding why it’s not actually inconsistent would be illuminating.

    I became idly curious about the pronunciation of the BrEng pejorative “berk,” which is of course clipped rhyming slang from “Berkeley Hunt.” According to one source I googled up, “berk” has NURSE rather than START, but that’s because there is dialect variation within BrEng in unclipped “Berkeley,” where it may have START in Posh but it’s NURSE in Cockney, and the Cockneys got to be in charge of the rhyming slang.

    I first learned the START-not-NURSE version of “Berkeley” as a college freshman reading the Bishop of Cloyne in a Descartes-to-Kant survey of major philosophers. I guess the distribution of rhoticity/non-rhoticity in the British Isles was different back then, but given that he was born off in the wilds of Co. Kilkenny I’m not sure how he pronounced his own surname but I suspect it was rather different than the way that 20th century Oxbridge dons speaking RP do. And this was FWIW at a university that has a college named for the bishop (who was an early donor) but pronounces the name of the college with NURSE.

  207. You’re quite right about rhoticity, and that’s interesting stuff about “berk.”

  208. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    When Jimmy Carter was president, no one expected rhotic speakers to pronounce his name the same way he pronounced it and indeed whenever one heard rhotic speakers trying to use a non-rhotic pronunciation of his name it was likely to be in the context of mockery.

    Not just rhoticity: British English speakers hear the American pronunciation with a d: Carder, but in practice would always say it with a t, and wouldn’t be expected to do otherwise if they didn’t want to be accused of mocking. (I realize that some Americans insist that a “flapped t” is not a d but the distinction is lost on British English speakers.)

  209. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Since no one has mentioned her yet — Maria Sharapova’s last name is correctly pronounced, I believe, with stress on the second syllable, and I assume that when she speaks Russian she pronounces it that way.

    The problem with Russian for people who know little Russian is that it’s anyone guess where the stress goes. It’s not like Navratilova, as anyone who knows she”s Czech and knows anything about stress in Czech (as easy as it is in Hungarian) knows which syllable to stress.

  210. It’s not like Navratilova, as anyone who knows she”s Czech and knows anything about stress in Czech (as easy as it is in Hungarian) knows which syllable to stress.

    I have rarely heard anyone say it with initial stress; even she, as I recall, says “na-vra-ti-LOH-va” when speaking English.

  211. Martina Navratilova on the two ways to pronounce her name:

    Yeah ,the proper Czech pronunciation and then the one English speaking (or other nationalities) people can manage:)

    Downthread she appears to agree with someone who says that the Czech pronunciation stresses the second syllable where the Czech has an accent.

  212. Kissinger and Einstein are examples of immigrants whose names could have been pronounced more “correctly” by Americans but are in fact universally “mispronounced”. I don’t know if they altered their own pronunciation of their names, but surely they must have accepted the way everyone else pronounced them. I don’t understand what made /ɪndʒər/ preferable to /ɪŋər/.

    Lars Mathiesen: My cousin Line [ˈliːnə] simply started spelling her name Lina when the family moved to California

    My sister has always lived in the US, but she changed her name from Gillian to Jillian because she was tired of people using /g/.

    Giacomo Ponzetto: I wonder if it’s actually common among English speakers to treat S/ær/ah and S/ɑr/ah as separate names and recall who’s who

    I can’t remember knowing a S/ɑr/ah, but I’ve known Kirstens who used /ɪ/ and /ɜː/ in the first syllable, and I mostly managed to keep it straight. Same with Annas who had /æ/ and /ɑ/. This is different from pronouncing vowels differently (or merging them) in different dialects.

  213. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Yes, but she wants people to know who she is. I’ve read once a complaint from her that no one said it right. Probably she’s abandoned the fight.

  214. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Many years ago when the world was young I knew an Annalisa. Nearly everyone pronounced the s as [s], but our boss (hers and mine) said it with [z]. I followed the majority opinion. She wasn’t the sort of person to fuss about how it was pronounced, and I don’t think I ever learned how she said it herself. However, her mother was German so maybe [z] was how she would have said it. Actually after a while I knew her mother quite well, but either I didn’t notice or I’ve forgotten.

  215. If you check even further, only 67 actual Google hits (not the 72,600 Google estimates) for Ntoula.

  216. I am of the opinion that Mr. Giridharadas is entitled to his well-nursed grudges regarding his own name, but that his larger linguistic point is unsound. It’s unreasonable to expect people to be as ready to pronounce unfamiliar words correctly (even if those words happen to be Personal Names) as familiar ones. And for as long as some recalcitrant pockets of America will have more Bobs than Anands the Bs will have easier time with their names than the As (that said, some people prefer to blend in and others to stand out). The larger point here is assimilation vs. multiculturalism on which Mr. Giridharadas and Sen. Purdue would never see eye to eye.

  217. I once met a German couple named Lars and Dörte. When they introduced themselves, Lars I had no problem understanding what I was hearing and being able to say it, because it was a familiar name (thanks to Lars Ulrich from Metallica). Dörte though, I could not parse at all. The German R just did not map to any phoneme. No way could I say it. Not till she said “Like Dorothy”. Then I knew the strange sound in the middle was a R.

    An unfamiliar accent and an unfamiliar word (name), and even sometimes an unfamiliar accent and a familiar word, can be hard mentally to parse.

    Which, of course, doesn’t at all explain inability to repeat someone’s name after they say it when there’s no accent difference.

  218. David Marjanović says:

    berk

    I’ve read it’s from Berkshire, not Berkeley, but I don’t think that changes anything…

    Navratilova

    Navrátilová, with two long unstressed vowels. That’s a concept that fell out of fashion in German a thousand years ago and in English a few centuries earlier than that – I have considerable trouble uncoupling length from stress myself.

    I realize that some Americans insist that a “flapped t” is not a d but the distinction is lost on British English speakers.

    I’ve read that the flap itself is identical, but when it comes from a /t/, it still triggers prefortis clipping of the preceding vowel. I’ve never paid enough attention to test that, though, and I’ve heard a native speaker report a misunderstanding between ride in and write in.

    Dörte

    The other way around, short ör [œɐ̯] is consistently treated as the closest approximation of the British NURSE vowel.

  219. In computer programming contexts I’ve been unsure whether someone is saying overwrite/overwritten or override/overridden, though I’ve known what they meant. And it took me a long time to realized that the word people were saying when talking about sports tournaments was seeded rather than seated.

  220. Mr. Giridharadas

    I can parse his surname in Sanskrit.

    Giri – mountain (cognate of Russian “gora”)
    Giridhar – One Who Holds Mountain (epithet of god Krishna)
    Dasa – servant (in Vedic Sanskrit meant “enemy”, Aryan invaders called natives “dasyu”, later it came to mean “slave, servant”)
    Giridharadas – “Servant of the One Who Holds Mountain”, in other words “Servant of Krishna”.

  221. J.W. Brewer says:

    Just on “Navratilova” I think it’s hard in English to get through a five-syllable word with four unstressed syllables. You will usually at a minimum get primary stress somewhere and secondary stress somewhere else. Come to think of it the constraint may be that you usually don’t want more than two unstressed syllables in a row, so you can get away with four unstressed syllables in a five-syllable word if the stress falls exactly in the middle, e.g. navraTILova. But I take it that’s not a common variant for the tennis player’s surname.

  222. John Cowan says:

    For me, Sara (and so Sarah as well) is an anomaly, because it’s the name of my older sister, who grew up in Philadelphia with her mother, so I pronounce it as she did, with SQUARE. Otherwise I would very likely use START. There is a family story of me coming downstairs as a small child, finding her in the kitchen, and saying “Sairy, I want eggy!”

  223. @Keith Ivey: I was confused about seeded (versus seated) initially too, when I first heard it as a kid. However, hearing the (derived) noun seed was enough for me to infer the correct firm. It was probably a decade until I learned where the terminology came from though.

    The “seeding” of the draw* for a tennis tournament refers to placing the top** sixteen players so that they cannot meet before the round of sixteen. This is a metaphor for broadcasting seeds, spreading the best players across the whole draw, so that the eventual champion has a decent chance of arising (growing, metaphorically) from any part of the draw.

    * Here draw essentially refers to the tournament bracket. The terminology refers to the fact that players’ positions are determined randomly. In the days before seeding, all entrants were randomly assigned to their bracket positions; and with seeding, all but the seeds’ positions are still assigned at random.

    Being the top seed is not necessarily an advantage over being second. Some tournaments (notably the U. S. Open) place the first and third seed in the same half of the draw. In the first half of the 1980s, there was pretty consistently a big differential between the top three seeds (who were, in whatever order, John McEnroe, Jimmy Conners, and either Ivan Lendl or Bjorn Borg) and the lower-ranked players. This meant there were a lot of hard-fought semifinal matches between the first and third seeds, while the second seed had an easier semi against someone like Mats Wilander, who was no slouch but still wasn’t on the same level.

    ** The seeds do not actually need to be the sixteen top-ranked entrants, although they very often are. However, the tournament organizers have a fair amount of leeway if they want to exercise it. I remember one U. S. Open, when an aging (and much mellowed) John McEnroe was attempting a comeback. McEnroe’s position in the world tennis rankings was way down below 100th, but as a four-time Open champion, he was made the sixteenth seed.

  224. J.W. Brewer says:

    I find “Sarah” with START very weird unless (as David E. noted upthread) it’s a “foreign-sounding” (meaning non-Anglophone, not British) pronunciation. I’m not immediately recalling knowing an American Sarah whom I knew to use something other than the SQUARE vowel. That said, I think there may be some considerable dialect differences in how the SQUARE vowel is pronounced and I wonder if that’s what’s driving a lot of the reported variation.

  225. It’s unreasonable to expect people to be as ready to pronounce unfamiliar words correctly (even if those words happen to be Personal Names) as familiar ones.

    the point (to expand rather more bluntly on what our gracious host has kept saying), is that making a good-faith effort (constrained, obviously, by the phonologies we’re accustomed to*) to pronounce people’s names as they use them when introducing themselves, and to ask for guidance if we’re uncertain (or have only seen the name written down), is so basic an act of politeness and respect that refusing to do tells us a lot about the person refusing.

    and even more so when that politeness and respect is refused to (in a u.s. context) the Anands, Nguyens, and Akinyeles but extended to the Sara(h)s, Bernsteins, and Worcesters. and even more more so when that specific differential in politeness and respect is actively defended. that simply ain’t about linguistics (aside from Giridharadas’ useful coinage) – it’s about who the names are attached to, and what kinds of people are deemed worthy of being treated with basic respect. the rule-proving exceptions are always key: most folks with yorùbá names in wisconsin aren’t going to get their names handled as respectfully by white Bucks fans as Αντετοκούνμπο will.

    it gets interesting to me when phonology itself gets tied in with expressions of respect – areas like the one JWB pointed out (regarding rhoticity), where the implications of adopting a different dialect’s features are considered so impolite that they overrides the respect imperative. to me, the Berkeley/Carter differential is pretty transparently about the different status of non-rhotic british aristocrats and non-rhotic u.s. southerners (or northeasterners, though less so). for most speakers within a rhotic-norm SAE context, mirroring the first is usually going to be ‘showing the respect due to high social position’ (and refusing to do, or doing it mockingly, can’t spoil the interlocutor’s status, to use goffman’s terms). on the other hand, not mirroring the second is ‘respectfully elevating an acknowledged inferior’ (and the link between status and dialect is so strong that mirroring almost always reads as mocking an already-spoiled status).

    —–
    * the broader the range of “accustomed to”, the more telling the refusal to make the good-faith effort – and the clearer the meaning of defending the refusal.

  226. @ Moa
    And then I had a relative with two different pronunciations of the same name, with half the family using the one and the other half the other one

    That is apparently the situation in Stephen Colbert’s family. On his earlier show (The Colbert Report, where he liked to play up the French pronunciation of his name — kohlBARE — by consistently mispronouncing some words — “report”, “sports” — in a French style), he had one of his brothers as a guest (said brother was a lawyer with expertise relevant to one of the show’s themes), and it was interesting to see him introduce his brother using the latter’s Irish-based pronunciation (KOHLbert).

  227. Ian

    Amusingly, the new Apple TV+ video-game-developers sitcom Mortal Quest: Raven’s Banquet features a boss (“Creative Director”) named Ian Grimm, who does pronounce his name EYE-uhn. This seems to be, more than anything else, a way of signaling the fact that he’s something of a pompous, pretentious ass.

  228. to pronounce people’s names as they use them when introducing themselves, and to ask for guidance if we’re uncertain (or have only seen the name written down)

    rozele, the author of the essay switches later to discussing a brave new world where everyone will be as comfortable with Anand as with Bob and the “tax” on social capital he and people around him (well meaning, polite, etc.) are paying in the current world.

  229. brave new world

    Yes, it’s a terrifying dystopian vision to imagine people routinely taking note of other people’s preferences, even when they’re not rich and famous.

  230. @Peter Erwin: One of the running jokes on The Colbert Report was that, while the “Report” in the title was pronounced as if it, like “Colbert,” were French, all other appearances of the word “report” he said with a strictly American pronunciation, including an exaggerated dental stop at the end. When he said, “a Colbert Report special report,” the difference in pronunciations always got a laugh.

  231. Another situation like Colbert’s is Newt Gingrich’s family. He pronounces the name with /tʃ/ at the end, while his half-sibling Candace uses /k/. And then there’s Dick Cheney, who started out CHEE-nee but eventually gave in to the CHAY-nee pronunciation people kept using.

  232. I remember a story in the Washington Post, I think, by a mother who didn’t like the way children’s names were all abbreviated by the other children they played with. She seemed to think it was undignified. So she and her husband chose the name ‘Ian’ for their first boy, on the grounds it couldn’t possibly be made into a shorter nickname. So of course some years later, she was greeted by one of the neighborhood boys knocking on the front door and asking if ‘Ee’ could come out to play.

    To her credit she recognized that the joke was on her.

  233. David Marjanović says:

    Colbert still introduces himself à la française on A Late Show, with the unexplained exception of one episode (probably in mid-late March).

    seeded rather than seated

    Oh yeah, there’s a lot of deep seeded prejudice on teh intarwebz.

    And then there’s Dick Cheney, who started out CHEE-nee but eventually gave in to the CHAY-nee pronunciation people kept using.

    He made himself more irregular? I’d have thought that was a dick move.

  234. Old-time teachers are infamous for spurning abbreviated names. Even as in Le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: “My other name’s Bill. I was christened Bill but Mr. Thurgood calls me William.”

    I had a teacher like that in high school. When students tried to correct her, she’d pull out her winning argument, “what is the name in your birth certificate?” and that would be that.

  235. January First-of-May says:

    I have rarely heard anyone say it with initial stress; even she, as I recall, says “na-vra-ti-LOH-va” when speaking English.

    I’d have guessed NavraTIlova, which as it turns out is exactly the stress position given by Russian Wikipedia.

    Navrátilová, with two long unstressed vowels. That’s a concept that fell out of fashion in German a thousand years ago and in English a few centuries earlier than that – I have considerable trouble uncoupling length from stress myself.

    …though IIRC the weird vowel shifts in Australian English mean that it, at least, does now have a vowel length contrast independent from the stress (as noted in this LLog comment by John Cowan).

  236. David Eddyshaw says:

    a mother who didn’t like the way children’s names were all abbreviated by the other children they played with

    This was the case with my wife’s family; her parents deliberately chose names they didn’t think could be abbreviated. Similarly, it didn’t work. (My sister-in-law Aileen is “Ai”, for example. Should have seen that coming …)

    Language will Find a Way.

  237. @David Marjanović: Just to be clear, Stephen Colbert has always used the French pronunciation in his professional career.* However, it is not universal in his family. His sister, who ran for Congress and lost to disgraced former governor-gone-missing Mark Sanford (who had previously held the seat) uses a pronunciation with the /t/.

    * He does occasionally use the other pronunciation for himself for the sake of a joke. For example, his Daily Show and Colbert Report “Stephen Colbert” character** (a “high status idiot”) would, if he seemed to be on the verge of loosing it, would sometimes talk to himself under his breath in the third person: “Keep it together, Colbert!”

    ** There was an excellent and quite clever meta joke about the difference between Stephen Colbert the comedian and “Stephen Colbert” the character on the early November 10, 2005 episode of his show. Unfortunately, while the setup for the joke can found online, the free video cuts off before the final punch; you would have to pay $0.99 for the full episode to see the real payoff.

  238. (1) On October 22, the Boston Globe headlined online, “Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto resigned Thursday amid public pressure after he appeared to mock names of people signed up for public comment during a meeting Wednesday night.” But the article is paywalled. Bostonians on the list, is it worth paying to read?

    (2) Speaking of stress patterns: in 1989 Detroit’s mayor Coleman A. Young was hit with a paternity suit by a woman named Annivory Calvert. Quiz for hatters: how do you pronounce “Annivory”? With the stress pattern of “allegory,” right?

    Wrong. Ann (as we called her in class) was an excellent student of mine at Wayne State University, so I’m in a position to tell you that Annivory is pronounced Ann Ivory.

    (And her son Coleman A. Young II is now a Michigan politician in his own right. In 2018 he lost a primary election to Rashida Tlaib.)

  239. David Eddyshaw says:

    I think I would have actually guessed Ann Ivory. If I bore the name myself (it wouldn’t suit me), I think I’d spell it AnnIvory to stop people thinking it was something to do with my eating habits.

  240. J.W. Brewer says:

    I am confused by rozele’s take on what I said about Carter/Berkeley. I understand the point that there is some potential perceived status hierarchy in which rhotic Americans are below non-rhotic RP-speaking posh Brits but above hayseed-rustic non-rhotic Southerners. But us rhotic Americans stay rhotic in both how we say Berkeley and how we say Carter. Being willing to ape the Brits in using START rather than NURSE in a rhotic pronunciation of Berkeley is just showing off our cultural-capital knowledge of a particular shibboleth that’s lexeme-specific. We know the shibboleth, but we still pronounce it with an American accent. It’s not that there’s a whole set of words where (modulo rhoticity) vulgar Americans predictably use NURSE while posh Brits use START. In fact, other Brits (okay maybe Scots) respelled Berkeley as Barclay somewhere back in olden times to make the orthography conform better to the desired pronunciation, and Americans are happy to use START for Barclay.

    Maybe the point is that using a different accent’s standard pronunciation for *any* lexeme risks coming off as mocking or impolite regardless of whether the speakers of that accent are thought to be above or below is in some status hierarchy?

    I’d be curious to know if anyone here knows of any relevant ethnographic work on proper names in non-literate societies. A lot of the problems referred to throughout the thread result from the interlocutor seeing the name as written and associating a particular string of letters with a particular pronunciation that is not the one favored by the bearer of the name. If you just heard the name said and didn’t have to worry about keeping it matched up in your memory with a particular spelling, would things go more smoothly? “Spelling pronunciations” aren’t a thing that can arise absent literacy. Or would you still have an issue where you recognized the preferred pronunciation as a minority or idiosyncratic variation of a conventional pronunciation of some reasonably common lexeme used for proper names in your society and were subsequently prone to associate the person with the “usual” pronunciation their preferred pronunciation was a variant of?

  241. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    J.W. Brewer:

    First, is the regional variation in the pronunciation of “Cesare” sort of arbitrary and lexeme specific or is part of some larger pattern of dialect difference such that if you knew the basic “rules” for transforming Florentine pronunciations into Roman and vice versa you would predict it correctly?

    The quick answer is: I don’t know.

    Most Italians perceive only five vowels anyway: we don’t make a phonemic distinction between the open and closed e and o. It may get especially bad in Piedmont, where I’m from. Wikipedia reports we only have one /e/ and one /o/, intermediate between the normative open and closed variety. That seems consistent with uneducated introspection, though I reckon I’m capable of producing the normative sounds upon request.

    The Florence – Rome axis is supposed to be the only part of Italy where people actually have seven phonemes and can distinguish the corresponding minimal pairs. In most cases both Florence and Rome have the same pronunciation, so that’s the theoretically normative one. Prescriptivists have had long quarrels over what to do when they disagree. If there’s any systematic pattern to their disagreement, it’s esoteric knowledge far beyond my depth.

    Systematically, Latin Caesar should yield C/ɛ/sare as in Rome, but I have no idea why Florence may have gone C/e/sare instead.

  242. Jonathan Morse, the full article is accessible for me when I google “michael loconto”. The relevant section:

    According to audio of Wednesday night’s Zoom meeting, shared by WCVB-TV, Loconto’s comments came after the moderator announced the next list of speakers.
    Loconto followed up by appearing to mock the pronunciation of their names. “That was like Shania, Shanaya, Shanay-nay, and Boo Boo, and David, right?”
    A few minutes later, Loconto apologized, explaining that he was speaking to someone else in his room while his mic was accidentally on.
    “I was talking about a children’s book,” he said.
    But many, including a parent who spoke later in the meeting, questioned that explanation.

    Audio here.

  243. David Eddyshaw says:

    The Barclay/Berkeley thing is orthogonal to rhotacism. The -ar- forms mostly reflect a sound change actually caused by the rC cluster originally; in words where it wasn’t carried over into what is now the standard English orthography the change has mostly been reversed by spelling pronunciation on both sides of the Atlantic, but rather more so in America. Our forefathers said “varchoo” and “univarsity” whether they were rhotic or not.

    We had a discussion about this in the context of John Martin’s poor mad brother Jonathan not long ago.

    http://languagehat.com/calf-of-god/#comment-3979170

  244. “varchoo” and “univarsity”

    Don’t forget varmin(t).

  245. J.W. Brewer says:

    Just to bolster the perennial “but you people can learn to pronounce Tchaikovsky correctly” talking point in these discussions, I am advised by facebook that four years ago today I posted the amusing-seeming news that my third-born child (now six years old, then two) had “correctly” pronounced Tchaichovsky in the phrase “No Tchaikovsky!” — uttered rather loudly to his mother to indicate that he did not want to have _Eugene Onegin_ audible in the room where he was playing with his toy trucks. By “correctly,” of course, I mean just that he successfully mimicked the pronunciation that his mother had modeled for him, which happened to be the conventional American pronunciation of “Tchaikovsky” endorsed by e.g. the usage of Chuck Berry. But it’s frankly a bit of historical fortuity that the conventional American pronunciation of “Tchaikovsky” is “correct.” We know that the conventional American pronunciation of “Nabokov” is as “incorrect” as that of “Tchaikovsky” is “correct,” and the boy adopted his mother’s pronunciation without any concern about whether it did or did not accord with the preferences of the bearer of the name. He had perhaps the advantage of being at the time totally illiterate, so there was no risk of seeing the name spelled out and having a “spelling pronunciation” create tension with what he had heard.

  246. – “Tchaikovsky” and “Dostoevsky,” being transliterations from Cyrillic, are spelled more or less like they sound. But any Slavic language that is written in Latin characters gives Americans a lot of trouble. There are examples from Polish in the thread, and any reader can think of many from other languages.

    – I was watching a wrap-up of today’s racing in the Vuelta a Espana, and the commentators were paying a lot of attention to the woes of a Colombian cyclist named Esteban Chaves, who had a bad day. Both announcers are American former pros, who spent many years racing in Europe competing against cyclists from all over the world.

    One announcer, Bob Roll, who is from California but sounds more like a rural westerner, pronounced the name Es-TAY-ban CHAH-ves. This is more or less correct for Colombian Spanish but sounds like an Anglicized spelling pronunciation in Roll’s mouth.

    The other, Christian Vende Veld, who was born in suburban Chicago and has a more neutral, educated-sounding accent, said ES-tevan SHAH-vez, which is more “Spanish” sounding but is wrong.

    Both I’m sure were making an effort. It’s hard to get these things right.

  247. I learned (approximately) how to pronounce Tchaikovsky and Dostoevsky, among other Russian names, well before I knew how they were spelled. At age six, I called into the Friday night classical music program from the Michigan State University public radio station to request they play a piece by Mussorgsky. However, it was not necessarily automatic to connect the written forms I later encountered to the spoken names that I already knew. I had no trouble decoding “Rimsky-Korsakov” or “Borodin” when I first read them on record sleeves, but others— like “Tchaikovsky,” “Khachaturian,” and “Dvorak”*—were trickier and had to be explained to me. Still, to this day, for a name like Tchaikovsky, the sound of the name is very much the primary identifier in my mind; when I encounter the spelled form, I think my mental identification process operates almost like a cross reference back to the sound.

    * I am pretty sure I first learned Dvorak’s name without any diacritical marks, although I don’t know whether they were omitted, or if I just didn’t notice them.

  248. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    The other, Christian Vende Veld, who was born in suburban Chicago and has a more neutral, educated-sounding accent, said ES-tevan SHAH-vez, which is more “Spanish” sounding but is wrong.

    I don’t understand why you say that ES-tevan SHAH-vez is more “Spanish” sounding. It sounds plain wrong to me, especially as Spanish has no SH (ʃ), though in the speech of people from Madrid s comes out about half way between [s] and [ʃ]. Also, less educated Chileans may use a long drawn out [ʃʃ] for ch. However, that last is ridiculed by other Latin Americans who sometimes ask Chileans “what is the name of the river that flows through Santiago?” (Mapocho). No [z] in Spanish, either, but I’m not sure if your SHAH-vez implies that there is.

  249. making a good-faith effort (constrained, obviously, by the phonologies we’re accustomed to*) to pronounce people’s names as they use them when introducing themselves, and to ask for guidance if we’re uncertain (or have only seen the name written down), is so basic an act of politeness and respect that refusing to do tells us a lot about the person refusing.

    It may just be telling you the person refusing is American and hopeless at languages. I have seen this happen so often in Europe that I can’t accept that it is “racism” or “xenophobia”. The CEO of an American company we worked with consistently called our Polish operating director Tomasz “Toe-MAWSH” when everyone around him was saying “TOE-mash” (or Tomek). It just wouldn’t penetrate. Another executive I worked with called our colleague Jerzy “Jerry”. Our managing director pronounced a city we were working in “Bielsko-Biała” “ Byelsko-biaTa” (an odd misreading he acquired) and would never correct himself despite hearing that name correctly literally a dozen times a day. I could provide a dozen more examples.

    Maybe that behavior does reflect some unconscious level of arrogance or executive privilege not to waste time learning things one doesn’t care about. But at least in the first case the CEO seemed to truly respect Tomasz. Some people are truly clueless.

  250. If you just heard the name said and didn’t have to worry about keeping it matched up in your memory with a particular spelling, would things go more smoothly?

    No. People would find a way to pronounce foreign names they hear in a way which makes sense to them.

    One of the most striking examples:

    Hankou, a Chinese city which later became part of Wuhan city, was an important center of tea trade and when in 19th century tea suddenly became Russian national drink, distant Hankou turned into the most important city for tens of millions of Russians – all tea they drunk every day originated there.

    So there were thousands of Russian merchants visiting Hankou every year and they needed to use it’s name often.

    As far as Chinese names go, Hankou is amazingly easy to pronounce, but nevertheless Russians subconsciously made a choice for something more familiar.

    And thus, Hankou became Khankov.

  251. David Eddyshaw says:

    It may just be telling you the person refusing is American and hopeless at languages.

    While there are certainly people who are genuinely unusually useless at language learning, hopelessness at learning a language correlates highly with lack of motivation, which in turn correlates quite strongly with their attitude to the speakers of said language.

    In Ghana, I encountered people (Ghanaian and foreign) who had spent many years in the area and never so much as learnt everyday greetings in Kusaal. This was a very good predictor of their attitudes to the Kusaasi in other respects.

  252. An American woman working for our (Japanese) company was in China temporarily and kept talking about a Tom Schmal who was arriving from the US in a day or two. I kept wondering what exactly this Tom Schmal person was like.

    When he arrived I found he was called Tom Shimao (Japanese who’d taken on the English name “Tom”). The way she said “Shimao” wasn’t incorrect at all, but in her American mouth it didn’t sound like “Shimao”, which is why I thought she was saying “Schmal”. (A propos of nothing in particular, except that getting foreign names right isn’t a piece of cake.)

  253. Giri – mountain (cognate of Russian “gora”)

    One’s mountain is another’s forest:

    giria
    Lithuanian

    giria
    Etymology 1
    From Proto-Balto-Slavic *gor-/*gir-, from Proto-Indo-European *gʷrH-. Cognates include Sanskrit गिरि (girí-, “mountain, hill”), Bulgarian гора́ (gorá, “woods”) and Polish góra (“mountain”).

    Pronunciation
    (girià) IPA(key): [ɡʲɪˈrʲɛ]
    (gìria) IPA(key): [ˈɡʲɪrʲɛ]

    Noun
    girià f (plural gìrios) stress pattern 2

    1.primeval forest
    žalia giria – a green forest
    girios paukštis[2] – a wild bird

    2 (obsolete) wilderness

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/giria#Lithuanian

  254. @ Brett

    When he said, “a Colbert Report special report,” the difference in pronunciations always got a laugh.

    Oh, yes, you’re right about the “Special Reports”. On the other hand, the “Sport Report” was always pronounced “Spor Repor”.

    Re Colbert’s last name: Stephen Colbert does indeed normally pronounce his name in the French style, regardless of whether he’s assuming a particular persona or not. My understanding is that his father decided to change the pronunciation from its original British/Irish form (his family is of Irish origin) to the French version — but told his children they could choose which version they wanted to use. So apparently about half of them do it one way and half of them do the other.

  255. David Marjanović says:

    Rashida Tlaib

    …who gets called “Talib” a lot, even by people who don’t seem to be insinuating things. Is the impossibility of /tl/ so strong?

  256. David Eddyshaw says:

    That one is perfectly forgiveable, I’d say. It’s contrary to English phonotactics and is accordingly liable to give genuine trouble to even the politest and least racist of monoglot Anglophones.

  257. One’s mountain is another’s forest

    Similarly Macedonian гора ‘forest.’

    Is the impossibility of /tl/ so strong?

    Yes. No one could expect an English speaker (or a speaker of most languages I know of) to use that initial combination.

  258. One’s mountain is another’s forest

    In Spanish, monte often means “forest,” even on atlas maps of forest cover.

    Is the impossibility of /tl/ so strong?

    Hey, just be etymological and call her “Tulaib.”

  259. In Spanish, monte often means “forest,” even on atlas maps of forest cover.

    This is something English speakers find almost impossible to assimilate. The invaluable Erwin G. Gudde (who has inspired several LH posts, e.g. 2004, 2017) says s.v. Monte:

    This Spanish word for ‘bushes, brush, woods’ was often used as a generic geographical term in Spanish times. Although Spanish dictionaries also list monte with the meaning ‘mountain’, no evidence has been found that it was so used in Spanish-speaking countries except where a hill or mountain was densely covered with trees. … However, Anglo-Americans have long believed that monte means ‘mountain’, as it does in Italian…

    E.g., the Wikipedia article for Montecito, California begins: “Montecito (Spanish for ‘little mount’) …”

  260. English speakers can’t even ask for interpreter in Czech then.

    It’s tlumočník.

  261. Re mountains, etc:

    salo
    Finnish
    Pronunciation
    IPA(key): /ˈsɑlo/, [ˈs̠ɑlo̞]
    Rhymes: -ɑlo
    Syllabification: sa‧lo
    Etymology 1
    From Proto-Finnic *salo, probably borrowed from Baltic.

    Noun
    salo

    1. a deep forest, wilderness
    2. (archaic) a forested island

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/salo#Finnish

    sala
    Latvian
    Etymology 1
    There are different opinions on the origin of this word. Some derive it from Proto-Baltic *sel-, *sal-, from Proto-Indo-European *sel-, a variant of *ser- (“to flow”); in this case, the original meaning would have been “stream, river,” from which “body of water”(cf. Lithuanian sálti (“to flow slowly”), Ancient Greek ἕλος (hélos, “swamp”) (< *selos), Sanskrit सरः (sáraḥ, “lake, pond”), perhaps also Latin insula Selke in Germany, Salate), then “something inside (a body of water),” “island.” Others derive sala from *ap(i)sala, from a verb meaning “to flow” (cf. Russian о́стров (óstrov, “island”), from Proto-Slavic *o-strovь, so that the original meaning would be “that which is surrounded by flowing (water)”). Others still consider sala to come from Proto-Indo-European *swel- (“to swell”), with as original meaning “(river) silt, deposits, sediments.” Cognates include Lithuanian salà; comparable Baltic-Finnic terms (Livonian sala (“island”), Estonian salu (“swamp island”), Finnish salo (“forest island; forest”)) are considered as borrowings from Baltic.

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/sala#Latvian

  262. David Eddyshaw says:

    Kusaal sian’ar is “forest, desert”, which makes sense if you’re thinking like a subsistence farmer. “No-good land.”

  263. This is nothing.

    Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian word for “mountain” comes from a word which in other Slavic languages means “flat land”.

    Try to assimilate that…

  264. David Eddyshaw says:

    Lucus a non lucendo …

  265. Speaking of Bulgaria:

    The Ludogorie (Bulgarian: Лудогорие, usually used with a definite article, Лудогорието, Ludogorieto) or Deliorman (Делиорман, Turkish: Deliorman), all meaning “region of mad forests” (Bulgarian: lud – “mad”, “crazy” and gora – “forest”), is a region in northeastern Bulgaria stretching over the plateau of the same name.

  266. Kusaal sian’ar is “forest, desert”, which makes sense if you’re thinking like a subsistence farmer.

    Wilderness.

  267. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I think it’s hard in English to get through a five-syllable word with four unstressed syllables.

    The only common English word I can think of with a sequence of four unstressed syllables is “necessarily”, but a great many people don’t make the effort and stress the third syllable.

    I try to say [‘nesəsərɪlɪ] but it often comes out as [‘nesəsrɪlɪ].

  268. PlasticPaddy says:

    @sfr
    Which word are we talking about? Gora means forest or mountain in these south slavic languages. Planina is from proto-slavic *polnina, which means waste land, not flat land.

  269. It definitely makes some crazy sense.

    After you replaced your normal word for “mountain” with a word which means “flat land”, then your old word for mountain needs to mean something else now, so why not “forest”…

    Ukrainian (Carpathian dialects) moved in this direction, but not quite in full – “polonina” means “flat land in the mountains”, “mountain pasture”.

  270. Planina is from proto-slavic *polnina, which means waste land, not flat land.

    proto-slavic *polnina
    From *polnъ (“barren, vain”) +‎ *-ina.

    Proto-Slavic/polnъ
    without growth on it, barren, fruitless
    flat, plain, even, smooth
    fruitless, vain, otiose

    Czech “planina” means “plain”

  271. David Eddyshaw says:

    wilderness

    Quite so. Mind you, sian’ar is used in the Bible translation both for places you go specifically in order to cut wood and for deserts where you wander for forty years.

    I think “forest” is actually the primary sense (and that was my best informant’s gloss.) There aren’t any deserts as such in the Kusaasi area, so a word for “agriculturally useless land” is a natural candidate for describing such exotica.

  272. The only common English word I can think of with a sequence of four unstressed syllables is “necessarily”

    Good heavens, I was not aware of that element of UK English; OED:

    Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈnɛsᵻs(ə)rᵻli/, /ˌnɛsᵻˈsɛrᵻli/, U.S. /ˌnɛsəˈsɛrəli/

    Brits certainly do make things hard on themselves!

  273. David Eddyshaw says:

    Secondary stresses are (for the) weak.

  274. January First-of-May says:

    One’s mountain is another’s forest

    IIRC, in FYLOSC, the root could mean either of those depending on the context – thus the infamous example sentence Gore gore gore gore, which means, in no particular order, “uphill forests burn sadder” [EDIT: previously on LH].

  275. You can’t judge someone’s language ability (or interest or effort) just on the basis of the pronunciation of one word. Was that meant as a sarcastic joke? I mostly hear those arguments from racists, followed by complaints about immigrants. I never expected to read the same arguments in this comment field.

    Hat, could you clarify your opinion on well-meaning people asking strangers how their names are pronounced? I’ve read through your comments but I still don’t know if you consider it polite or impolite to ask. From the article, I take it to be impolite (adding a “tax”). The ideal world for me would be a world where more people would explain their names and more people would ask.

  276. Lars Mathiesen says:

    This confirms that Adetokunbo is Giannos’ father’s Yoruba name. Not that I misdoubt the expertise here, I looked for it to add to WiPe but on closer reading most of the information is there already.

    Antetokounmpo became Giannis’ surname after it was spelled that way on his Greek passport instead of his birth name of Adetokunbo.

    “I know from his last name that we are from the same tribe, the Yoruba tribe. His last name, which in Yoruba is spelled Adetokunbo, means ‘the crown has returned from overseas,’ ” [Hakeem] Olajuwon said.

  277. Sportin’ Life gives necessarily a very strong antepenultimate main stress.

  278. David Eddyshaw says:

    well-meaning people asking strangers how their names are pronounced

    I do this all the time at work. (This is in the somewhat niche context of normally encountering people’s names first in writing, as I pick up their casenotes before calling them in for consultation.) I have yet to come across anybody at all who showed the least sign of being offended by it. About a quarter of those I ask say that they don’t really mind. (I also get lots of praise for having got “difficult” names right spontaneously: but then, I am a Hatter.)

    In a context like that it’s damn rude not to ask a stranger how to pronounce their name if you’re uncertain. (It doesn’t only apply to “foreign” names, either. A surprising number of homegrown names have unobvious or variant pronunciations.)

    Some names I pronounce badly. The bearers generally at least appreciate the fact that I’ve tried.

    (And how are people going to know that my own name is pronounced “Fanshaw” if they don’t ask?)

  279. David Eddyshaw says:

    Sportin’ Life gives necessarily a very strong antepenultimate main stress.

    Maybe; maybe not …

  280. “The things that you liable to read in the score…”

  281. Hat, could you clarify your opinion on well-meaning people asking strangers how their names are pronounced?

    I think it’s fine, and I don’t think Anand Giridharadas would disagree. You seem to be reading both his piece and the comments here rather uncharitably.

  282. David Eddyshaw:
    I’d hope people be more forgiving when you’ve only seen the written form. I meant in contexts like those mentioned in the article, where people might have heard a name but can’t get it right. A roll call, during small talk, social situations.

  283. I’ll add (from personal experience): I appreciate the good manners of people who ask me how to pronounce my name. I appreciate it when, having been informed, they move on. The commonplace ritual of them asking me where the name comes from, where I came from, etc. is harmless but tedious.

    (The first time I met a Tadhg, I asked him and he told me how to say his name, and that was that. Yay me.)

  284. PlasticPaddy says:

    @lars
    Re “the crown has returned from overseas” I remember a character called Arnold Horshak in “Welcome back, Kotter”. Horshak volunteered that his surname meant “the cattle are dying”.

  285. David Eddyshaw says:

    “the cattle are dying”

    I met a Kusaasi called Atimborigiya “The medicine got lost.”

    Yoruba Ade “Crown” names appear in families with the right to nominate chiefs (“Electors”, as it were.) A name like Adétòkunbọ̀ means that the boy’s father has recently returned from a stay abroad; in Yoruba it’s an àbísọ name, given about a week after the birth by family elders.

  286. grepping the not-terribly-reliable CMUDICT I find four weak syllables in a row in…

    CARicaturist, electrophorESis, EPidemioLOGical, HETerosexuALity, THEatergoer,

    …as well as some foreignisms and names I hadn’t heard of. It also lists parliamentARianism, but none of the other -arianism words.

    To these I might add…

    extraORDinarily, GRANDmother-in-law.

  287. David Marjanović says:

    Hey, just be etymological and call her “Tulaib.”

    That’s what I’d expect to happen, but the people I’ve heard never keep the diphthong in the second syllable, they all go for the dyslexic solution… I should say nookular solution.

    Yes. No one could expect an English speaker (or a speaker of most languages I know of) to use that initial combination.

    While it isn’t native in German or French, it doesn’t seem to be considered difficult there. But now that I think about it, it is pretty hard to make it apical and aspirated as expected in English; the /l/ sort of disappears in the process when I try. In French and most of German, /t/ and /l/ are laminal, and that makes a difference.

    That said, there are English accents that have turned /kl gl/ into /tl dl/. Noah Webster, for example, flat-out stated as a fact that cl gl are pronounced tl dl. There are also German dialects where this has been reported; the resulting [tl] is apical, because that sounds a lot more like [kl] than a laminal one.

    Good heavens, I was not aware of that element of UK English

    Me neither! My school teacher must have been unaware, too.

  288. John Cowan says:

    Otherwise I would very likely use START (in Sara(h))

    Post in haste, repent at leisure: I meant TRAP+/r/ across the syllable boundary, which is how I pronounce marry.

    But doesn’t Tony use a non-rhotic northern New Jersey pronunciation?

    Doubtless, but I haven’t heard him (that costs money). I myself have a rhotic northern New Jersey pronunciation.

  289. David M., There’s a paper by Blevins and Grawunder, *KL > TL sound change in Germanic and elsewhere: Descriptions, explanations, and implications, Linguistic Typology 13 (2009), 267, doi 10.1515/LITY.2009.013 .

  290. Lars Mathiesen says:

    @ˈfænʃɔː, this Adétòkunbọ̀ has become a family name, so I guess the boy whose father came back from overseas may be generations back. Giannis’ parents are Charles and Veronica. Are Western-style (first + family) names enforced for city dwellers in Nigeria or are they a lifestyle choice? (Lagos, in this case. His mother speaks Igbo).

    [ādétòkũ̄bɔ̀], right? It’s a very IPAish orthography, except for the letter N. (inú ~ /īlṹ/ ~ [īnṹ], WP says).

  291. There’s an excerpt from the Irish actress Saoirse Ronan’s appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where he asks her the correct way to pronounce a sequence of Irish names, presented on cards so the audience can see the spelling before she says the name; obviously these were pre-selected to include names with particularly-not-obvious-to-non-Irish-people spellings. (The actual name pronunciations start about 2:15 into the excerpt, if you get bored with the “Can Saoirse teach Stephen to do an Irish accent” stuff that comes first…)

    (I will admit I was pronouncing her name wrong before I saw this; her helpful aural metaphor is “Saoirse like inertia”.)

  292. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Lars:

    Not sure about “enforced” (a slippery concept in a place like Nigeria) but you do need Western-Style personal + family names for official purposes; using your father’s or grandfather’s personal name for a surname is very common. The idea that you only have one “real” name is by no means as solidly embedded as in Europe, and lots of people go by different names in different contexts. (Not unheard of in Europe: I remember encountering the “official” name of a Muslim colleague whom I’d known for years for the first time when I attended his funeral; the personal name/family name pair he always went by at work didn’t figure in his “real” name at all. And most British Muslims seem to have given up explaining to the ignorant local yokels that the “Rahman” part of a name like “Abdul Rahman” isn’t a surname, and just go with the flow. Don’t get me started on “Mrs Bibi” and “Mrs Begum.”)

    Kusaasi use their own Kusaal personal names for “surnames” in contexts where officialdom requires one, and a baptismal name (or Arabic formal given name if they’re Muslims) for the personal name. (Or they just pick an English or French name they like.) The system hasn’t yet been around long enough yet for inheritance of family names to be an established custom. The Mossi use clan names as family names, which is why practically every other Burkinabé you’ve actually heard of seems to be called Ouèdraogo. Songhay speakers do much the same. Akan peoples traditionally do have surnames, in fact double-barrelled ones rather like Spanish (what with being matrilineal and all.)

    [ādétòkũ̄bɔ̀] is quite right, yes.

  293. David Marjanović says:

    There’s a paper by Blevins and Grawunder, *KL > TL sound change in Germanic and elsewhere: Descriptions, explanations, and implications, Linguistic Typology 13 (2009), 267, doi 10.1515/LITY.2009.013 .

    Yes, I’ve read it and recommend it! The implication for Bavarian is way overblown, though (it’s probably confined to a small area; I had never heard of it or noticed anyone do it, and I clearly don’t have it myself).

  294. PlasticPaddy says:

    @PE
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Lam-HQoNYKU
    gives the pronunciation for Saoirse I am familiar with. She also pronounces the palatalised N in Niamh and has to my mind a more pleasant sounding Irish accent than Saoirse Ronan.

  295. “Saoirse like inertia” — the canonical rendering in Irish English has the stressed vowel of NEAR rather than NURSE. Of course, neither the source Irish-Gaelic accent nor the target anglophone accent are constants.

    You can hear Irish-language speakers saying the word here. (C M U stand for Connacht Munster and Ulster dialects — no relation to CMUDICT above).

    Saoirse Ronan’s own accent (speaking English; dunno how much Irish she can speak) has attracted occasional criticism in Ireland for being somehow inauthentic; the reasons I have heard are too flimsy to be worth repeating, and can be filed under either “begrudgery” or “haven’t ye have little enough to bother ye”. To me she sounds Dublin with notes of General American, which seems about right. [edit — this para composed before PlasticPaddy posted and not directed at that. FWIW Dublin accents are not my favourite Irish accents, but that’s my problem, not Saoirse’s, and not an authenticity issue.]

  296. Lindsey (“Wolfe Momma”) does have a nice accent, but I can’t say I find it more pleasant-sounding than Saoirse Ronan’s. She doesn’t give alternate versions for Saoirse as she does for many others, but I presume if Dearbhla can be both DURVE-la and DEER-vla, Saoirse can have similar variants. I wish she had included Caitlín, my pet peeve — if only Dylan Thomas’s wife had had some other name, so I wouldn’t have to hear “KATE-lin” so often. (For those who don’t know, it’s “Cotch-LEEN” in Irish — it’s from Old French Cateline ‘Catherine’ — and I realize English-speaking people can say it however they like, but it still irritates the hell out of me.)

  297. PlasticPaddy says:

    @mm
    I was waiting for you to come in😊. I think there is a part of (the Co. Dublin borders of) Wicklow where you hear a “Saoirse Ronan” accent. I did not mean that her accent is inauthentic, as you say the non-musical and harsh, nasal or “whiny” aspects are more commonly heard in Dublin (although try urban Limerick for a good whine😊).

  298. John Cowan says:

    If I try and say /tlɑ/, the [l] is not only partly devoiced, as you’d expect with the delayed VOT, but begins as a fricative: [tɬlɑ]. However, the [ɬ] is bilateral, unlike Welsh ll, which is unilateral. (I wonder if anyone’s done a study on how many Welsh-speakers have their tongue on the left, as I do, and how many on the right. Not that I speak Welsh.)

    Similarly, /klɑ/ also has a fricative component, but the details are different: [kɬɫɑ]. That reflects the fact that all my natural /l/ is laminal [ɫ] anyway. Stop + /l/ across a syllable boundary has the usual unexploded stop and doesn’t enter into this.

  299. (300 comments!)

  300. The established anglicisation of “Caitlín” is of course “Kathleen”.

    Apropos /tl/ — for me, “lightly” and “likely” are homonyms.

  301. John Cowan says:

    I met a Kusaasi called Atimborigiya “The medicine got lost.”

    Birth control pills, I suppose.

  302. David Marjanović says:

    She also pronounces the palatalised N in Niamh

    …no, not a trace of it. But her Áine is a straight-up Hungarian Anya, with [ɲ] despite the explanation as “Awn-Ya”.

    so I wouldn’t have to hear “KATE-lin” so often.

    Hi, newbie! I’m KATE-lin with a C! This is KATE-lin with a K! And this is Kate Lynn, two words!”

    (Turn your volume way up if you dare, it’s very low in the video.)

    Apropos /tl/ — for me, “lightly” and “likely” are homonyms.

    With [t], with [k] or with [ʔ]?

  303. David Eddyshaw says:

    I wonder if anyone’s done a study on how many Welsh-speakers have their tongue on the left, as I do, and how many on the right

    Yes, they have; IIRC (can’t find my copy just now ), John Morris-Jones’ Welsh Grammar claims that three out of four speakers pronounce it with the tongue on the right (though he doesn’t give a source for the claim.)

    I pronounce it on the right, so this is the definitive method, and all other methods are Utterly Wrong.

    Birth control pills, I suppose.

    This crossed my mind …
    Not a thing that a traditional Kusaasi woman of that era would have been into, though (the man would have been born about 1940 or so.) It’s evidently a birth-circumstance name, but I didn’t enquire what gave rise to it exactly. It struck my Kusaasi colleagues as an odd sort of name too.

  304. @ PlasticPaddy, mollymooly, languagehat

    That’s interesting, because listening the to clip I linked to, it does sometimes sound like she’s saying something a bit closer to SEARsha than SERsha (perhaps saying “Saoirse like inertia” is temporarily shifting her pronunciation in anticipation of making the rhyme).

    I saw another interview with Saoirse Ronan in which she admitted she doesn’t speak Irish, but knows a number of words.

    Wolfe Momma’s accent seems rather “light” to me, at times a bit closer to American than Irish, unlike Saoirse Ronan’s (which I think I actually prefer).

  305. John Cowan: “I wonder if anyone’s done a study on how many Welsh-speakers have their tongue on the left, as I do, and how many on the right. Not that I speak Welsh.”

    Not a Welsh speaker, but I just checked and it’s easier for me with the tongue to the right. Is unilateral or bilateral in Nahuatl?

  306. @David Marjanović : I think [t] ; definitely not [ʔ] . Unlike Noah Webster, I distinguish /dl/ and /gl/ (“legless” != “leadless”).

  307. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    @DM
    There’s a Grainne living in Serbia, and sure enough to us it basically sounds like Гроња.

  308. Jonathan Morse: The link to the Washington Post you gave, upon opening it gave me this popup message from facebook:

    “User opted out of platform: The action attempted is disallowed, because the user has opted out of the Facebook platform.” I had one facebook tab that I forgot about, in another window, for communicating with family. My guess is facebook (or someone who paid them) does not want people to read that particular article in the Post. Or the Washington Post does not give a shit about facebook’s extortion.

  309. I think I have not seen a popup in about a decade. How did they even manage that? And it was difficult to close: it kept recurring until I hunted out the rogue facebook tab in the other window.

    Also: nerdview; is the “user” the Washington Post or me? No idea.

  310. Is there any indication about the mispronunciation / dispronunciation of Anand’s surname. What syllables should be stressed, and which vowels are long & short? Does he want the R in his surname to be trilled and the D aspirated?

  311. zyxt: or you could, alternatively, cease your attempt to troll this discussion?

  312. David Eddyshaw says:

    To be fair, the thread is getting to the tl;dr state, and zyxt may have skipped a bit …

    @zyxt:

    The man himself says /ˌɡɪrɪˌdɑːrəˈdɑːs/.

    The consensus of wise Hatters seems to be that it’s unreasonable to expect English speakers to produce individual phonemes or sequences of phonemes not found in English, but not unreasonable to expect people to at least try to manage transpositions into English phonology and phonotactics favoured by the bearer of the name, especially when actually asked to do so; while accepting that English speakers do vary in how good they are at this, and that desperately poor attempts are not [‘nɛsəsərɪlɪ] signs of racism, given the near-legendary uselessness of Anglophones in this regard.

    [Perdue, the immediate cause of this discussion, is, however, evidently either personally racist or thinks that it may be politically advantageous to emit racist noises, which is morally worse.]

  313. David Marjanović says:

    “User opted out of platform: The action attempted is disallowed, because the user has opted out of the Facebook platform.”

    I don’t have a Fb tab open and didn’t get this message; I was, as usual redirected to a page that says “pay up or accept all our tracking cookies”.

    Perdue

    Bientôt il aura perdu.

  314. David E: Thanks, so it looks like the /d/ is plain unaspirated, while the trilled /r/ is used rather than /ɹ/
    I didn’t expect the primary stress to be on the final syllable.

    My own non-English surname confuses people when they see it in writing. I find they do make a reasonably good pronunciation when they hear it spoken though.

    V: Chillax.

  315. Stu Clayton says:

    In Germany, my full name sometimes induces uncertainty as to which part of it is the family name. More often, it doesn’t – people just grab Stuart or Clayton according to their lights.

    Many Germans pronounce Clayton correctly when they see it, but on hearing “Clayton” have no clue as to what to write down. After years of frustrating Q&A when ordering a taxi over the phone, I now identify myself as “Schmidt” when waiting outside, and with the other name on my doorbell when I expect the driver to ring (“Walther mit -th-“).

    It’s a little white lie that oils the gears of civilization.

  316. David Marjanović says:

    Like a coffee name.

  317. zyxt: take it easeeah? Seriously, what you said had been gone over multiple times over in this discussion already, with several flavours of racist. David Eddyshaw summarised the whole sordid affair quite succunctly.

    EDIT: I hope that asshole (Perdue) is not related to the former ambassador to Bulgaria (also a Perdue), who seemed to be a nice person.

  318. EDIT: probably not, he’s Pardew. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_W._Pardew

    (we (and by we I mean you) already did the farting jokes, please desist — I’m looking at you, SFReader)

  319. V: what is your problem? check before you accuse people of trolling and racism. I posted exactly 1 comment in this discussion before your accusation.

    As they say in my country: ajde u tri pičke materine seronjo.

  320. zyxt: I’m not accusing of anything, except for jumping into a discussion you had not read yet. And can you translate that for me? I don’t know Serbo-Croatian, but beginning an utterance with “ajde” seems quite rude. And you seem to be implying something about my mother’s uterus.I have no idea what the last word means.

    You are are attempting to be rude to me, but I don’t really have an idea as to what you are saying.

  321. David Marjanović says:

    Not the uterus exactly.

  322. David Marjanović: what does “seronjo” mean?

  323. V: That’s right. You have no idea.

    So don’t accuse me of trolling and racism.

  324. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    seronjo: Google Translate seems to know what it means.

  325. David Marjanović says:

    I didn’t know what it means, but it’s a vocative.

  326. It’s interesting that there are still some who have no compunction about using names for certain languages or dialects, even where the name, like – oh, i don’t know – “Kaffir” or “Serbo-Croatian” – is outdated or offensive. Then, with no sense of irony, they somehow interpret a question about a pronunciation of a surname as racism.

  327. “Kaffir” is definitely offensive, but it’s inserted here to tar by association. “Serbo-Croatian” is a useful term that many Serbs and Croats don’t like because they don’t want to be seen to have a language in common and prefer that people talk about “Serbian” and “Croatian” languages, which is silly. If talking to such a nationalist I would of course use the terminology they prefer to facilitate discourse, but I will continue to think of the language as Serbo-Croatian.

  328. Annette Pickles says:

    This thread has degenerated, but it still was worth reading to the end because it led me to learn the following curse off the interwebs:

    Dabogda ti kuća bila udarna vijest na CNNu.

    “May your house be breaking news on CNN.”

    I’m adding that to my regular rotation.

  329. The point is that they are both offensive terms. They may have been acceptable once, but now they are outdated.

    You don’t have to talk to a “nationalist” – just any native speaker.

    The message I’m hearing is that it’s OK to offend Croats, but if you ask how a surname is pronounced – which is something I am often asked – then that’s racist.

  330. You don’t have to talk to a “nationalist” – just any native speaker.

    So you’re utterly confident that every single native speaker of Croatian agrees with you. Interesting.

    The message I’m hearing is that it’s OK to offend Croats, but if you ask how a surname is pronounced – which by the way is something I am often asked, then that’s racist.

    Your hearing needs adjusting. In the first place, it’s interesting that you don’t seem to mind if Serbs are offended. In the second place, I just said that when talking to someone who would be offended by the term, I’d use whatever word they prefer, so you’re wrong. And in the third place, nobody said asking how a surname is pronounced is racist; you imagined that.

  331. One more thought to this very long conversation. Sometimes, people having trouble getting names right has nothing to do with racial or linguistic bias. When the subject of people messing up names came up in a Facebook conversation, a friend with the last name Robinson said people manage to mess that up, usually saying Robertson instead. (This in the U.S.) I can’t frankly understand that mindset of someone who would mess up those two names, either hearing them or reading them. (Well, hearing, maybe if they don’t hear well.) But apparently such people are out there.

  332. Sure, there are few generalizations that don’t have exceptions. But I would guess Anand and people in similar situations are pretty good at recognizing when people are simply forgetful rather than xenophobic.

  333. LH

    Interesting that I get accused of trolling for asking how to pronounce a surname, with the clear implication that such a question has racist overtones.

    It would be a curious situation if it were acceptable to offend or denigrate an ethnic group as long as you are not offending every single one of them.

    I am not a Serb, so I wouldn’t presume to speak for them. Serbs refer to their language as Serbian, though.

  334. Interesting that I get accused of trolling for asking how to pronounce a surname, with the clear implication that such a question has racist overtones.

    Nonsense. You got accused of trolling (and I disapprove of that accusation, just so we’re clear) because you seemed to be mocking the request for accommodation by insisting on small details (“Does he want the R in his surname to be trilled and the D aspirated?”); as it turned out, you were genuinely looking for information, and V should have been more willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. But you yourself seem little inclined to give others the benefit of the doubt.

  335. My understanding of the history of the Serbo-C****n language is that it’s basically Serbian language by origin. (DM says it’s originally Bosnian, but there probably wasn’t that much difference between Serbian and Bosnian back then)

    About 60% of Croats eventually switched to this Serbian language due to migration of Serb refugee populations into Croatian lands caused by Turkish invasions.

    Remaining Croats speak two other closely related languages, one of which is probably a dialect of Slovenian and the other is pure real 100% Croatian (but unfortunately spoken only by a small minority of Croats).

    19th century politically correct designation of the language as Serbo-Croatian was actually an attempt to avoid offending Croats.

    I mean, it would be pretty awful for Balkan ethnic relations to insist that Croats actually speak Serbian.

  336. We could go back to Illyrian. Sure it means something else, but so does Macedonian.

  337. Lars Mathiesen says:

    On occasion I have addressed my daughter with my little sister’s name (but never my middle sister’s). And the names are not remotely similar. The brain’s information retrieval is hit-or-miss and the occasional mishap needs no explanation in terms of mindset. (If it is occasional. You can also be more or less careful to file things right, which is more what this thread is about. I noticed these things a split-second later, which a careless name learner would not be able to).

    (It also happened with the name of the town I lived in at the time, sometimes the name of the town I lived in as a teenager popped out).

  338. It is of course extremely common for parents to call one of their kids by another’s name; my mom used to run through all three of our names before ending with an exasperated “Uffda!”

  339. Rodger C says: We could go back to Illyrian.

    This topic comes and goes for at least the last 15 years:
    http://languagehat.com/bosnian-in-novi-pazar/

  340. David Marjanović says:

    DM says it’s originally Bosnian, but there probably wasn’t that much difference between Serbian and Bosnian back then

    No, the three modern standards* are originally the dialect of eastern Hercegovina (because that’s where the most epic hero epics were found), with restored h (because on the eastern side of the language area as a whole it tends to get omitted). This is something the Croatian Romanticists (Ljudevit Gaj) and the Serbian Romanticists (Vuk Karadžić) agreed on.

    If you’re trying to call Štokavian “Serbian”, I don’t think that’s a good idea; but I don’t know if it ever matched the religion-based self-designations or anything else.

    * Has the proposed Standard Montenegrin gone anywhere?

    extremely common for parents to call one of their kids by another’s name

    That’s actually very rare in my experience, even though my name and my brother’s turn out to be similar enough that lots of people outside the family confuse them. My grandma has always had a 50-50 chance of calling us by the names of her two sons first – always matching us with the uncle we’re most similar to in personality and maybe looks, not by relative age. She has never used any of her four daughters’ names for my two sisters.

  341. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    My mother did that all the time: she went through my sisters’ and my names without regard to sex, eventually reaching the right one. It doesn’t happen with my twin grandchildren, who are so extremely different from one another that confusion is very unlikely. When they were born the other grandmother took one look and said that they were one French baby and one Syrian baby; I agreed but thought they were one British baby and one Chilean baby.

  342. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    Istočnohercegovački (Eastern Herzgovinian) is not a very good name for the dialect, but it stuck. The reason why it’s not a very good name is that Eastern Herzegovina is a tiny region, while the dialect was spoken over a wide area (the yellow bits on the map):
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a2/Dijalekti-%C5%A0tokavskog-nare%C4%8Dja.svg/1200px-Dijalekti-%C5%A0tokavskog-nare%C4%8Dja.svg.png

    Note that the above map shows different dialects of Shtokavian based on rural speakers (rural mid-20th c. speakers to boot).

    Also, it’s not quite true that all three/four modern standards were based on Eastern Herzegovinian, as the Serbian Serbian standard is really based on the mostly similar Šumadija–Vojvodina dialect (the medium blue bits on the above map).

  343. Hat: “Uffda”? I thought that was a Scandinavian thing. Isn’t your family Irish/British?

  344. Half English/Scots/Irish, half Norwegian.

  345. That’s actually very rare in my experience

    You mean in your family? Because you sound like you’re making a general statement, and it’s definitely not rare in general.

  346. David Eddyshaw says:

    The solution is to give all your children the same name, so as to avoid confusion.

  347. @David Eddyshaw: ”Too Many Daves” from The Sneetches and Other Stories.

    Apparently, 50,000 copies of a FYLOSC translation of the book were distributed in Bosnia-Herzegovina by NATO in 1998.

  348. David Marjanović says:

    the Serbian Serbian standard is really based on the mostly similar Šumadija–Vojvodina dialect

    Ah, that explains a few things, I think.

    BTW, are the hatched areas “dialects with unchanged yat”? If so, what does that mean?

    You mean in your family? Because you sound like you’re making a general statement, and it’s definitely not rare in general.

    My family is the example that comes to mind, but I’ve heard of other such cases of grandparents confusing generations (without any sign of dementia, and decades earlier than when dementia could be expected) and can’t remember any of parents confusing their children.

  349. They’re not confusing their children (they know perfectly well who they are), they just have trouble accessing the right name on short notice. It’s not rare, but if your own parents don’t happen to have done it, how would you know?

  350. David Eddyshaw says:

    I’ve never confused the names of my children, but my wife does occasionally, despite being considerably better at remembering people’s names in general than I am. Must be different mental modules/brain regions/larguage organs/whatever involved.

  351. Around Junior High time, a number of kids, including myself, would occasionally make momentary mistakes in addressing adults, like calling a female teacher “Mom”. I felt embarrassed about it, until I heard another kid, a clever popular one, doing it as well.

  352. like calling a female teacher “Mom”

    I remember doing that when I was about ten, and everyone laughing uproariously. The incident burns in my memory to this day.

    I don’t suppose anyone else remembers it, though.

  353. Stu Clayton says:

    momentary mistakes in addressing adults, like calling a female teacher “Mom”

    Addressing the Queen as “Mum” did not excite comment, back in the day. What a difference a day makes !

  354. I think accidentally calling a female teacher “Mom” is a pretty universal experience. Less common, probably, was the experience of my youngest brother who, when he was about three, started sporadically calling our mother by the name of his preschool teacher.

  355. John Cowan says:

    ”Too Many Daves”

    Marie-Lucie on the five Jeans.

  356. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    “BTW, are the hatched areas “dialects with unchanged yat”? If so, what does that mean?”

    Apparently, traditional rural dialects in these areas still had a different sound in historical yat words compared to the historical /e/ words (i.e. they had a six vowel system, not a five vowel system).

  357. Athelstan John Cornish-Bowden says:

    I once addressed my basketwork teacher as Mummy. She didn’t react and I don’t think anyone else noticed, but I still cringe when I think of it, 70 years later. (You can tell that it was a long time ago from the fact that I had a woman teacher and was studying basketwork.)

  358. PlasticPaddy says:

    @stu
    If AJP were here he would tell you the queen is ‘Your Majesty’ at initial greeting and subsequently ‘Ma’am,’ and not to be confused with the late Queen Mother or Mum.

  359. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    That’s the rule I’ve heard, but I don’t think they followed it too strictly in The Queen, which we saw a couple of days ago (in French, admittedly, but I think that “Votre Majesté” and “Madame” probably reflected the original correctly).

  360. Stu Clayton says:

    ‘Your Majesty’ at initial greeting and subsequently ‘Ma’am,’

    Also “Marm”, according to Firbank: “Shall I summon Whisky, Marm?” Mum’s the word, in all its forms !

  361. PlasticPaddy says:

    I am not sure if the r in marm is ever pronounced in England (but maybe in “schoolmarm”?). This may be a spelling for the benefit of non-rhotic people who pronounce the a’a in ma’am like the RP bath and dance.

  362. I only have one child, but I occasionally mix up her and my wife’s name, especially when I am upset. And my mother does the same occasionally with my brother’s and my name.

  363. David Marjanović says:

    They’re not confusing their children

    Sorry, I was imprecise (in a very widespread way). They don’t confuse their children with each other or with their grandchildren, they just mix up the names.

    It’s not rare, but if your own parents don’t happen to have done it, how would you know?

    I could have witnessed it or heard of it or read of it, and indeed I’ve read of cases like my grandma’s before.

    Must be different mental modules/brain regions/larguage organs/whatever involved.

    Quite likely.

    (Larguage organs with large laryngeals, no doubt.)

    I think accidentally calling a female teacher “Mom” is a pretty universal experience.

    Huh. In 12 years of school and a year of kindergarten I never heard of that happening.

    non-rhotic people who pronounce the a’a in ma’am like the RP bath and dance.

    Ma’am is correctly pronounced with TRAP – must be a U-RP thing to fool the middle classes into thinking they’ve finally figured it out! -marm, on the other hand, is definitely meant to spell PALM = BATH = START, and I would guess that’s the older form phonology-wise.

    Mum, on the third hand, really does have the STRUT vowel, and I think I’ve even heard it with FOOT from people who don’t make that distinction.

  364. * ma’am ==> disyllabic
    * maam ==> PALM
    * ma’m ==> TRAP
    * m’m ==> STRUT
    * ‘m ==> yes’m

  365. Stu Clayton says:
  366. January First-of-May says:

    They’re not confusing their children (they know perfectly well who they are), they just have trouble accessing the right name on short notice.

    My brother’s name is very similar to mine, so my assorted relatives call either of us by the wrong name pretty often.
    He’s about half my age [14 to my 28], and a head taller, so we don’t look that similar, though now that he’s got a moustache and starting to get a beard, we don’t look as different as we used to either. (Admittedly, he does look a lot like I did at his age – height aside – which might be relevant for older relatives who probably have an outdated mental image of me.)

    The really weird part is when I accidentally call my mother by my brother’s name. Yes, this had happened more than once. I wouldn’t quite say that they look nothing alike, but they’re not exactly easy to confuse.
    Another, slightly less weird, thing that happened (far) more than once: referring to my grandmother as if she was my mother. This is particularly common when I’m talking to my mother; perhaps some kind of remnant mirror circuits in my Asperger-addled brain catch on to the fact that I’m talking about her mother.

    the Serbo-C****n language

    There’s a reason “FYLOSC” caught on as much as it did (on LH, at least).

    Before getting caught up in that meme, I used to refer to the language in question as either some variety of “Yugoslav(ian)” or some variety of “Southwest Slavic”. I’m not sure which one works better.
    Calling it “Štokavian” probably works better than either, but has the problem of not really being understandable to people who didn’t happen to know how exactly those dialect distinctions work.

    In retrospect, “Southwest Slavic” sounds like it should refer to the entire Štokavian-Čakavian-Kajkavian branch… which I’m tempted to just call Kavian instead.

  367. Helena Bonham-Carter as the Queen Mother demonstrating the correct pronunciation of “ma’am” in The King’s Speech.

    Since both the actress and the character are native U speakers, I assume that she gets it right.

  368. @Athel Cornish-Bowden:

    Spanish has no SH (ʃ)

    Not really right if you mean phonemically, and still mostly wrong if you mean phonetically.

    Quite a few Spanish dialects have [ʃ]. You mention yourself that in some Chilean varieties /tʃ/ is realised as [ʃ], and the same happens in Western Andalusia, some Caribbean varieties and part of Mexico. In the same way, my native Rioplatense realises /ʝ~ʎ/ as [ʃ].

    And while /ʃ/ as a phoneme appears almost exclusively in loanwords and personal names, many of these are so entirely commonplace (“show”, “shorts”, “sheriff”, “pashmina”) that I have never met a Spanish-speaker who struggled to pronounce it as part of my surname. (They’ll almost invariably simplify the /nsk/ cluster, but that’s a different story.)

  369. David Marjanović says:

    Oh, this may be a good opportunity to ask: how is Ischi- in Argentinian placenames pronounced? (Ischigualasto, Ischichuca…)

  370. …less educated Chileans may use a long drawn out [ʃʃ] for ch…
    …in some Chilean varieties /tʃ/ is realised as [ʃ]…

    Surely not initially?

  371. Maurice Waite says:

    To the best of my knowledge, in Britain ‘Ma’am’ is pronounced ‘mahm’ to a superior officer in the police and armed forces, but ‘mam’ to the Queen. ‘Mum’ is a now dated/archaic form used to a female superior in everyday life, e.g. by a tradesman to a customer.

    And my wife and I have both addressed the cat by our son’s name and vice versa.

  372. @Maurice Waite: That reminds me of this clip from the 1982 Doctor Who serial “Earthshock.”* The captain of the space freighter objects to being addressed (on the bridge) as “Ma’am,” instead of “Captain.” As an American, this was something that puzzled me when I first saw the story, and it still puzzles me a bit today.

    * The story is best remembered for its highly unusual downer ending.

  373. January First-of-May says:
    In retrospect, “Southwest Slavic” sounds like it should refer to the entire Štokavian-Čakavian-Kajkavian branch… which I’m tempted to just call Kavian instead.

    You can’t go wrong if you call it what the locals call it. See my response to V in the thread that you linked:
    http://languagehat.com/trabant/

    It’s not that hard – see also this from 15 years ago: http://languagehat.com/bosnian-in-novi-pazar/

    Tip for young players: čakavian and kajkavian speakers are Croats. It’s incorrect to refer to these dialects as anything but Croatian. Croats are the only ones whose language comprises čakavian, kajkavian and štokavian dialects. Bosnians, Serbs, and Montenegrins all speak dialects with “što”, so it’s meaningless to call their dialects štokavian. The more meaningful distinction there is based on the reflex of the old Slavic JAT: ikavian, ijekavian / jekavian, and ekavian.

  374. “Nonsense. You got accused of trolling (and I disapprove of that accusation, just so we’re clear) because you seemed to be mocking the request for accommodation by insisting on small details (“Does he want the R in his surname to be trilled and the D aspirated?”); as it turned out, you were genuinely looking for information, and V should have been more willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. But you yourself seem little inclined to give others the benefit of the doubt.”

    What zyxt did looked like trolling to me. If they do not want to be seen as a troll, they should read the previous comments before commenting themself; the information they sought had been provided multiple times in the comments to this blog post before. They then tried to insult me, for some unknowable reason, and I asked David Marjanović for a translation, because I was genuinely interested what the phrase they tried to insult me with means. They replied with another attempt at insult. I don’t really mind, but I expect people to read the previous discussion before saying the same things that have been said over and over again before commenting.

  375. Why did you have trouble parsing “seronjo”?

    It’s pretty straightforward derivation from a word common to all Slavic languages.

    Proto-Slavic
    *sьràti impf
    to shit, defecate

    Descendants
    East Slavic:
    Belarusian: сраць (sracʹ)
    Russian: срать (sratʹ)
    Ukrainian: сра́ти (sráty)
    South Slavic:
    Bulgarian: сера́ (será)
    Macedonian: сере (sere)
    Serbo-Croatian:
    Cyrillic: сра̏ти
    Latin: srȁti
    Slovene: sráti (tonal orthography)
    West Slavic:
    Czech: srát
    Polish: srać
    Slovak: srať
    Sorbian:
    Upper Sorbian: srać
    Lower Sorbian: sraś

    Bulgarian “sera”, I note, is particularly close to that form.

    Popular Soviet political chastushka used this word to make fun of the former Egyptian president Nasser – calling him Gamal’ Abdel’ na-vsekh-Naser (literally – Gamal Abdel “Shat on everyone”)

  376. PlasticPaddy says:

    Here is the text:
    “Отберите орден у Насера!”
    Живет в песках и жрет от пуза
    Полуфашист, полуэсер,
    Герой Советского Союза
    Гамаль Абдель на-всех-Насер.

  377. @Y:

    Surely not initially?

    Yes, at least in some varieties, hence the jocular spellings “Shile”, “shilena”, “shileno”.

    @DM:

    Oh, this may be a good opportunity to ask: how is Ischi- in Argentinian placenames pronounced? (Ischigualasto, Ischichuca…)

    /is.tʃi/, which would be [ih.tʃi] in any of the local varieties (which all debuccalise preconsonantal /s/). I don’t know if that’s a spelling pronunciation, though (we know little about the Cacán language from which these toponyms originate), and I’m not sure how they’re pronounced across the Andes.

  378. SFReader: when you gave the Proto-Slavic root it took me half a second to get it, combined with David telling me it’s a vocative. 🙂 zyxt was, basically, calling me посерко! I love that. The “-onjo” part is what got me confused, I guess.

  379. In Russian it’s

    zasránec

    (vulgar) asshole, shitass (mean or rude person)

  380. I guess it’s also a factor that in my idiolect of Bulgarian/”Macedonian” unstressed /ɛ/ is somewhat cetralised, and the stress in the noun forms of “-сер-” is (mostly) on the second syllable. In “посерко”, for example, the stress is on the root vowel, because there is a prefix with a vowel, but if there is no prefix it goes to the next vowel. But that’s only in the noun forms.

  381. What zyxt did looked like trolling to me. If they do not want to be seen as a troll, they should read the previous comments before commenting themself; the information they sought had been provided multiple times in the comments to this blog post before.

    I agree they should have read more carefully and been more thoughtful, but that is not the same as trolling. Accusing everyone who doesn’t comment to your liking of being a troll is like accusing everyone who expresses less progressive views of being a fascist; it’s unjust and degrades the conversation. Please try to react less aggressively, no matter how annoyed you are with someone. Thanks!

  382. I was more puzzled by their reaction. I have no idea what prompted that. Cheers.

  383. January First-of-May: My mother calls me by my brother’s name sometimes, and corrects herself immediately. My grandmothers call me by my uncle’s name, once in a while, and correct themselves likewise. They just can’t immediately recall: not a big deal.

  384. January First-of-May says:

    The “-onjo” part is what got me confused, I guess.

    …so the Russian cognate is сраньё, right?

    (I’m not sufficiently confident in Croatian-or-whatever suffixes to figure out if it’s supposed to literally mean “shit” – as does the Russian word mentioned above, which AFAIK is not commonly used in reference to people, but probably could be – or something along the lines of “one who shits”.)

  385. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    sranje – shit
    seronja – one who shits
    seronjo – one who shits, vocative case

  386. This comment is only topical in a meta sense—in that it describes the current state of this comment thread.

    I always find it amusing that John Cowan’s algorithm for identifying threads with recent posts is capable, because of the way it scrapes the database, of finding new posts that are in the system but have been caught in the spam trap (and are thus not displayed). When this happens, the identifier for the individual comment doesn’t work, so the link from John’s page just drops you the top of the main post. Whenever I encounter this phenomenon, it makes me wonder who posted something that didn’t make it through vetting—whether it was an actual spammer, or one of us who posted something that Akismet, for whatever reason, didn’t care for.

  387. January First-of-May says:

    sranje – shit
    seronja – one who shits

    …Oh, right. I think the Russian cognate would then be серун, though I’m not sure if I’ve spelled that correctly.

  388. Brett: You do realize the focus of this discussion is words for defecation in Slavic languages now?

  389. John Cowan says:

    Of course, now that you have posted, this is no longer true. In normal operation, I look only at the “Recent comments” section of the home page; if a comment never gets there, I never get it, but if it gets there and is removed, I don’t notice that.

    When rebuilding a broken database, however, I have to look at every post. Unfortunately, due to various conversions and corruptions, the most recent comment and the last comment don’t always coincide.

    If anyone wants to see the bash and perl code that does the work, here’s the Github repo. It takes a number of hours to build the database, but it runs quickly thereafter; if anyone wants to run a backup service, feel free to do so.

  390. John Cowan: there is apparently a Perl 6 interpreter written in Haskell, and I have you to thank for making me know that this is a thing.

  391. David Marjanović says:

    I have a colleague from Chile who goes for [ts] rather than [ʃ]. But maybe that’s because she smiles so much.

  392. David Eddyshaw says:

    @V:

    Ah yes: Pugs! I think it was actually the first working Perl 6 interpreter.
    Apropos of which : 駱駝道, “the Way of the Camel.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rakudo

    Japanese 駱駝 rakuda “camel” has an eerie resemblance to Hausa rā̀ƙumī “camel”, but sadly that seems to be completely coincidental.

    Looking up Audrey Tang to refresh my memory, I discover that they have been seduced by the dark side (politics). On their own terms, though …

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audrey_Tang

  393. Japanese 駱駝 rakuda “camel” has an eerie resemblance to Hausa rā̀ƙumī “camel”, but sadly that seems to be completely coincidental.
    There are no coincidences. Japanese and Hausa are obviously related.

  394. David Eddyshaw says:

    Japanese and Hausa are obviously related

    Well, they are typologically very similar, but that’s clearly a Sprachbund effect.

  395. J.W. Brewer says:

    Just visually, “seronjo” gives me a strong Esperanto vibe, although the actual Esperanto word(s) for the referent(s) under discussion are apparently otherwise.

  396. It turns out, Hausa rā̀ƙumī “camel” is related to English “camel”.

    Hausa word is borrowed from Berber which borrowed from Semitic. And English word is from Latin which in turn is borrowing from Ancient Greek, but ultimately borrowed from the same Semitic source (Proto-Semitic/gamal- “camel”).

    Japanese ‘rakuda’ is borrowed from Chinese ‘luotuo’ which is borrowed from Xioungnu *dada.

    And nobody knows anything about Xioungnu, except maybe professor Vovin.

  397. >>Japanese 駱駝 rakuda “camel” has an eerie resemblance to Hausa rā̀ƙumī “camel”, but sadly that seems to be completely coincidental.

    “None of this was a coincidence because nothing was ever a coincidence.”

  398. Stu Clayton says:

    Looking up Audrey Tang to refresh my memory

    # The television news channel ETToday reported that they have an IQ of 180.[1] They have been a vocal proponent for autodidacticism[11] … #

    I’m a great proponent of “anything goes” in a general sense, but the use of “they” to refer to a person confuses me no end. Also, autodidacticism seems to pay off only for a small number of wonkish and artistic types, in a few pockets of society where money sloshes around and efficiency is not a concern. Everybody else must qualify for a job.

    Or should that be “everythey else” ? I’m willing to learn, with some acidulous reservations.

    # While as a conservative anarchist, Tang ultimately desires the abolition of Taiwan and all states, they justify working for the state by the opportunity it affords to promote worthwhile ends. #

    An Italian journalist, way back when, characterized Luhmann as an “avant-garde reactionary”. I find that to be a congenial description.

  399. David Eddyshaw says:

    Tang him/her/themself expresses admirable indifference to the pronoun thing. Others, not; and I reckon it’s polite at least to try. Also, my daughter will tell me off if I don’t. (This is the same daughter, of whom one of my aunts, after observing her playing with her elder brother for a bit, was moved to remark: “She knows her own mind, doesn’t she?” Said daughter was two years old at the time, but the comment remains valid …)

    Are we not all, all, autodidacts in the final analysis?

  400. the use of “they” to refer to a person confuses me no end

    I wonder why that is, considering you’ve had since the 14th century to get used to it

  401. David Eddyshaw says:

    I seem to remember Lameen (who would know if anyone does) expressing some reservations about whether the Berber form for “camel” is borrowed from Semitic. On the other hand, it seems to be clear that the Hausa truly is borrowed from Berber, as indeed is the Kusaal yʋgʋm, though evidently by a very different route.

    They get around, those camels. I’d love to see a Grand Unified Camel Word Theory that tied the Xiungnu word to Semitic after all. Perhaps Almeida Samo could help …

  402. autodidacticism seems to pay off only for a small number of wonkish and artistic types, in a few pockets of society where money sloshes around and efficiency is not a concern.

    Whether autodidacticism lags behind classroom settings in terms of efficient acquisition of knowledge depends on what type of classroom you’re comparing it to and on the autodidact. Consider that 4-year degrees could be completed in less than 2 years if you took out the non-major courses and there were no breaks between semesters.

  403. Stu Clayton says:

    I wonder why that is, considering you’ve had since the 14th century to get used to it

    One reason is that I’m not that old. Another reason is that “they” has not been used in this in-your-face Tang-article way for more than a decade or so, and then primarily by bourgeois épateurs.

    I’m gonna lie low until the fad fades, or hell freezes over – whichever happens first.

  404. David Eddyshaw says:

    Hah! I épatéd you good and proper there!

  405. Stu Clayton says:

    Consider that 4-year degrees could be completed in less than 2 years if you took out the non-major courses and there were no breaks between semesters.

    That’s fine for monothematic chipmunks, or Streber as we call such people here. Trump is an autodidact – or perhaps naughtodidact is a better word for them.

  406. then primarily by bourgeois épateurs.

    This is like saying “my six-year-old could paint better than that.” The gender-neutral pronoun is used primarily by those who feel uncomfortable with socially assigned gender identity, and they come from all classes. I’m afraid it is you who are the bourgeois épateur in this case, but that form of épatage is (like most épatage) pretty boring after the first épitter-épatter.

  407. David Eddyshaw says:

    And why do you (shockingly) omit all mention of bourgeois épateuses? Eh? This is gender stereotyping at its worst. Worst, I say. Women have been épating for millennia. Get with the program …

  408. Stu Clayton says:

    I wasn’t aware of being surrounded by bourgeois at this blog, of all places. Did anyone here actually feel épatized by anything I wrote ?

    As for the épateuses among us – I thought I would let them speak up for themselves. I consider myself to be as emancépated as the best of them.

  409. No, but you were trying, admit it.

  410. Stu Clayton says:

    Nope. Just saying what I think. I’m too old to give a damn. It’s one of the perks of life’s autumnal decline.

    You younger guys like the feeling that some old fart is taking the trouble to diss you. It helps you to concentrate, apparently. How fondly I remember those heady days of being a beleidigte Leberwurst myself !

  411. Hey, you’re not dissing me — I have no skin in the game. But I’ve read enough accounts by people genuinely upset by being misgendered that I am quite convinced it’s not some bourgeois acting-out.

  412. Stu Clayton says:

    I would assume so. I was not referring to Tang at all, but to the WiPe article. Tang is quoted to the effect that he doesn’t care what pronouns people use. Why should I ? All I said is that “they”, used like that, confuses me. Conservative anarchist, avant-garde reactionary – what’s the diff ?

    I like his attitude, as reported in the article. I don’t like the one aspect of the way the article is written. No one gets hurt.

  413. David Marjanović says:

    I wonder why that is, considering you’ve had since the 14th century to get used to it

    They for an unknown or unspecific singular referent is that old (if anyone wants to do that, they need to…; if someone gets pregnant, they might…). They for a known singular referent is much more recent, and also requires switching back and forth between “[name] is” and “they are”; that takes some getting used to.

    admirable indifference to the pronoun thing

    I’m sure it helps that no kind of spoken Chinese has gendered pronouns in the first place… a separate character for “she” has been introduced and is in actual use, but no new pronunciation was invented for it.

    I wasn’t aware of being surrounded by bourgeois at this blog, of all places.

    If you’re reading this, you’re probably a Bildungsbürger. (Or Google has catapulted you to a place you had no intention of exploring.)

  414. Stu Clayton says:

    Sigh. Another sarcastic dart that failed to penetrate at least one Schädel. I should return to irony, everyone recognizes that.

  415. David Eddyshaw says:

    irony, everyone recognizes that.

    That has always been my experience, too.

  416. J.W. Brewer says:

    What is the name of the class in society identifiable by its propensity to epater, including -teurs and -teuses alike? Is “epatoisie” cromulent in French?

  417. David Eddyshaw says:

    Epatentsia.

  418. Epatite.

  419. Trond Engen says:

    L’épatisserie.

  420. L’épatisserie.
    Ah, let them eat cake.

  421. Trond Engen says:

    Let them have their épatisseries.

    I believe that propensity for épation is more commonly ascribed to l’épaté(e) than to l’épateur/-euse.

    Or maybe that’s l’épatient(e).

  422. As David M pointed out, they are two different they’s.

    I have read pieces where a gay man was referring to his gay partner as “they”. It was very confusing, especially as every so often he would unconsciously slip in a “his” instead of “their”.

    Hat is always on the side of the oppressed, which is admirable, but using “they” for a single person overlaps confusingly with “they” in its normal plural meaning (subject to what David M said).

    (Don’t come back with nonsense about “you” originally being plural. Just because grammarians imply they are equivalent by using the terms “first, second, and third person” doesn’t mean they are the same.)

    There are two other alternatives. One is come up with a new pronoun altogether. That would be the best solution because it wouldn’t be confusing. The other is to use ‘it’, which doesn’t distinguish between male and female. This is also a hallowed usage, for instance for babies. Of course people don’t like this because it implies lack of humanity. But if you’re going to talk about getting used to things that “go back to the fourteenth century”, surely “it” also has perfectly good antecedents.

  423. using “they” for a single person overlaps confusingly with “they” in its normal plural meaning

    It’s only confusing when you’re not used to it. If you refuse to get used to it, that’s your choice, but the language will move on without you.

  424. No, it IS confusing for objective reasons, not out of a refusal to get used to it. In a narrative where several different people are mentioned, differentiating between ‘he’, ‘she’, and ‘they’ can be important for keeping track of actors.

    If you really feel so strongly about this, why don’t you advocate adopting a single third person pronoun for animate and inanimate, male or female, singular or plural? That would make far more sense than this ad hoc, confusing change.

    In fact, if you want gender neutrality, it would be better to get rid of ‘he’ and ‘she’ than to muddy the waters over singular and plural — which IS confusing.

  425. i adore ‘épatisserie’ and will be using it extensively in the future.

    and singular they is about as conservative a use of english as i can imagine. it’s been used in writing as far back as anyone has cared to look, and is practically universal in spoken usage (including by people who claim to oppose it).

    it went out of “educated” writen use (for the usual victorian prescriptivist latin-grammar-obsession reasons, as far as i can tell) for perhaps 150 years, and now we’re supposed to take seriously a whole caucus of the épatisserie that’s ready to disregard everyone from chaucer to shakespeare to austen in the service of yelling at trans people? all-time winner of the Transparent Attempts to Impose Language Change Through Fake History category (beating out the stiff competition from the Türk Dil Kurumu, though perhaps only because of the 3-point penalty for state-sponsored institutions) .

  426. it’s been used in writing as far back as anyone has cared to look, and is practically universal in spoken usage (including by people who claim to oppose it).

    I’m not opposed to singular “they”. It’s very common in English in particular situations and usages (as David M pointed out) and I have no problem with that at all. But it is confusing to be reading along and suddenly find ‘they’ suddenly being used, not as a way of avoiding the clumsiness of “he or she”, but as a default substitute for singular pronouns for a particular group of people (transgender — or perhaps people in gay marriages as well). It’s even confusing for people who’ve adopted it, as I pointed out.

    I’m not opposed to transgender people coming up with gender-neutral pronoun usage but in this case I wish they could come up with a better solution. I am not in favour of oppressing people; I am pointing out how this innovation isn’t optimal.

    Incidentally, I find it really interesting that proponents of a particular linguistic stance are quick to point out that a certain usage is “very old and venerable” in order to shut prescriptivists up. As a person who is sympathetic to attempts to hoist prescriptivists on their own petards, I’m quite familiar with this tactic. But it’s tired and it’s old, it’s mindless, and it’s not very convincing, especially in this case which is not about prescriptivist rules.

    As I said, ‘it’ is also a very old usage but no one takes any notice of that because it doesn’t support their point.

  427. disregard everyone from chaucer to shakespeare to austen

    I am quite happy to be shown that Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Austen used ‘they’ to refer to a single person — not as a substitution for ‘he or she’ but as a pronoun for a single person — but I would appreciate examples.

  428. Lars Mathiesen says:

    I agree with Bathrobe that using they for specific reference to a single, known person feels like a step beyond its standard use for some member of a (concrete or abstract) mixed-gender group. I do use it myself in certain contexts, but it doesn’t really feel integrated in the language yet. There is nothing better on the horizon, though, and I think we’ll get used to it.

    I also know of people who prefer to be referred to as it, but that feels even weirder. I don’t see people trying to pick homebrew pronouns any more; there used to be some zie‘s and similar around, but I don’t know what they use now.

    (Swedish can actually use den, for människan or personen, in bureaucratic registers).

  429. Bathrobe: I will tell you from personal experience that using singular “they” with a specific referent is indeed hard to get used to, but it gets easier with time, and it’s one of the easier options around (tip: if you need practice, start referring to a pet or other animal you have as “they”. They won’t mind at all.)

    On the other hand, the logical argument, of how to disentangle singular “they” from the plural, is unconvincing, as is any other appeal for less or more specificity in a language. Some languages manage fine with using the same word for ‘leg’ and ‘foot’, and doctors don’t get confused. Some languages don’t mark number on nouns. Etc., etc. and you know that already.

  430. @Y Yes, I know that, as you said. My point is that if we are REALLY going to get away from all this discrimination, English should not be coming up with a special, confusing pronoun to specifically refer to a certain very small group of people. This is a bandaid patch, and it’s not even a flesh-coloured patch (to blend in with the rest of the language — please forgive the discriminatory “flesh-coloured”), it’s a loud brown-purple-pink coloured patch (matching the colour of nipples or genitalia) to call attention to their status. English needs to get rid of gender-imposing ‘he’ and ‘she’ altogether. Only then will gender become a non-issue.

  431. Mongolian uses “this” and “that” instead of gender pronouns.

    You’ll get used to it…

  432. I’m already used to it in Mongolian. I’m used to it in Chinese (as pronounced, not written). But that’s not the case in English.

    I’ve done a little introspection in English. Yes, in colloquial English it’s possible to say of a person: “They’re coming along the street and they run into this guy…”

    This is still different from mandating “they” for transgender people and “he/she” for ordinary gendered people. That doesn’t exist in either Mongolian or Chinese.

    Get rid of “he” and “she”. That’s the only solution to this problem. And I’m sure I’ll get used to it since I’ve already got used to it in Chinese and Mongolian.

  433. David Eddyshaw says:

    I find that épatisseries go down well after a nice bildungsburger.

  434. David Eddyshaw says:

    In northern Ghana, where not even the local manifestation of Hausa distinguishes he/she, completely fluent English speakers tend to use both “he” and “she”, but more or less at random. (It was “she” applied to males that tended to confuse me.) This may be the way forward …

  435. Swedish can actually use den

    Or use hen:

    Created as an alternative to hon (“she”) and han (“he”). The coining of the word has probably been influenced by the Finnish hän, a personal pronoun used about human beings and which does not specify gender (Finnish lacks grammatical gender entirely). Hen was suggested as early as 1966 by linguist Rolf Dunås in Swedish regional newspaper Upsala Nya Tidning and was proposed again in a 1994 article by linguist Hans Karlgren, but did not receive widespread attention until around 2010.

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hen#Swedish

    And another kamala, with the right stress, for completeness’ sake:

    From Proto-Finnic *kamala (compare Ingrian kammala, Karelian kamala, Votic kamal).

    Pronunciation
    IPA(key): /ˈkɑmɑlɑ/, [ˈkɑmɑlɑ]
    Rhymes: -ɑmɑlɑ
    Syllabification: ka‧ma‧la
    Adjective
    kamala (comparative kamalampi, superlative kamalin)

    1. horrible, terrible
    se oli kamalaa
    it was horrible
    2. (colloquial) terribly, an intensifier
    se oli kamalan hyvää
    it was terribly good

  436. Bathrobe: it’s a small minority if you look at the world at large. It’s 100% of who you’re speaking to if it’s one of that group.
    I’m not talking about removing he/she from the language, but about using “they” for people who would like you to do so. I would not call “they” someone who I know wants to be referred to as “she”, unless the ambiguity was called for.

    @DE: I heard L1 Spanish speakers do the same in English, referring to people. I can’t explain why.

  437. @DE: I heard L1 Spanish speakers do the same in English, referring to people. I can’t explain why.

    I have noticed this, but so far only for possessive determiners (mixing up “his” and “her”); it’s probably because Spanish has no gender distinction for third-person possessive adjectives, with su being gender-neutral. I myself tend to mix up son and sa in French because they agree with the possessee rather than the possessor.

  438. PlasticPaddy says:

    @Y
    I always thought the “why” for this is that personal pronouns are used for emphasis in Spanish, i.e., “va a la escuela” (no emphasis) vs “ella va a la escuela” (emphasis), so that when not emphasising, either “he” or “she” sounds wrong to their ears. Does this also occur with speakers of Italian, where I think the pronouns are used more commonly, but can still be left out, especially in the past tense?

  439. Lars Mathiesen says:

    The Spanish ESL thing happens a lot with possessive determiners, but I think I’ve seen it in other contexts as well. There are a lot of reflexive object pronouns in use and the indirect object pronouns are gender-neutral as well, so I would look for gender uncertainty in corresponding contexts in English.

    I’ll have to look for correlations with the gender of the possessed noun, maybe there is something there.

  440. If you really feel so strongly about this, why don’t you advocate adopting a single third person pronoun for animate and inanimate, male or female, singular or plural? That would make far more sense than this ad hoc, confusing change.

    Because it would be idiotic, just like “advocating” for reestablishing monarchy in America or moving humanity to subterranean dwellings. Life and history aren’t about what “makes sense” but about what happens, and the transition to “they” is happening. I realize you don’t like it, but no matter how strongly you insist it’s “confusing,” people aren’t going to do what you want, so you might as well get used to it. Listen to Y:

    using singular “they” with a specific referent is indeed hard to get used to, but it gets easier with time

    I have had the same experience.

  441. Life and history aren’t about what “makes sense” but about what happens,

    So your position is essentially fatalism. That wasn’t what I got from your sharp rebuffs of people who felt uncomfortable with this new usage. And it’s pretty meek compared with your usual fulminations against things you don’t like (e.g., prescriptivism, academies prescribing correct usage, linguistic purism, etc.)

  442. I don’t understand that comment, but I guess our positions are too different to make mutual comprehension possible. I believe in using language that makes other people comfortable (especially people who in general have been given a hard time), you seem to believe in using language that makes you comfortable. Which is understandable, but it means we’re not going to approve of the same thing.

  443. Also, my fulminations (as opposed to my amused pointings-out) are not against things I don’t like but against things I feel do harm to people. I object in that way to purism not because it’s intellectually indefensible but because it keeps people down. If someone floats some crazy theory about Basque, I will laugh at them, but if they sneer at the language of people lower down on the totem pole, I will fight with every weapon at my disposal.

  444. J.W. Brewer says:

    People’s worldviews are certainly not mechanically determined by their life experiences, but let me throw out a bit of life experience that may or may not illuminate some of the hat/Bathrobe discrepancy. I am skeptical of some of hat’s worldview re “totem poles” and “comfort” etc not (as best as I can tell from introspection, which can certainly be unreliable) from having spent the vast majority of my life in the U.S. toward the top of the perceived totem pole (in terms of being white, male, a native Anglophone etc etc etc) but from the three years of my boyhood I spent living as a gaijin kid in Tokyo. That was in hindsight not only a very useful taste of what being “the Other” as a visible minority in an ethnocentric society felt like psychologically, but a very useful lesson to me as to the extent to which the world did not necessarily revolve around me, did not necessarily revolve around people who were “like me” (in terms of skin color or native language or culture etc), and was not (this is the part where maybe not everyone draws the same conclusion from the same experience!) necessarily under all that much of a moral obligation to make all that many adjustments for my benefit. I know that hat spent part of his own chldhood in Japan and that Bathrobe has spent substantial bits of his adult life as a visible-by-skin-color-etc outsider in East Asia, but maybe they have taken away different lessons from each other and perhaps different lessons than I did.

  445. In those cases, in written language environments, where we have someone’s name, but the name doesn’t indicate gender and we don’t have any other indicator of gender, to me, it feels like bad grammar if I use “they” for the person instead of “he or she”. This is outside the familiar “they” for an indefinite individual, or one spoken about indefinitely. But I do it, because it’s preferable to using a gendered pronoun when I don’t know they gender. And preferable to using “it”. Extending singular they to this case of specifically talking about a specific individual of unknown gender makes sense.

    A linguistic situation that the internet has made much more common than it used to be.

    It seems to me not that big of a leap from there to also use it for individuals of known gender whose gender is agender or genderqueer.

    As far as ambiguity, once we get used to it, it’s really not any different from sentences with multiple people being referred to as “he”, where we manage to work out which pronoun refers to who without needing to consciously work it out.

    Yeah, in the mean time, when not used to it, it can read strangely. But showing other people respect is worth a little linguistic strangeness, as well as care in wording to minimize ambiguity. People who are not me are nonetheless equally human.

  446. That was in hindsight not only a very useful taste of what being “the Other” as a visible minority in an ethnocentric society felt like psychologically, but a very useful lesson to me as to the extent to which the world did not necessarily revolve around me

    I trust you are not in any way equating that experience with what people of color in America and queer people the world over experience. Yes, I went through the same sort of things as you, but they had no effect on my ability to lead a comfortable life of my own choosing, and I would never dream of telling a person who has been genuinely oppressed “Hey, I know what you mean, people stared at me when I was living in Japan and Taiwan!” (nor even think it). I’m surprised this is such a difficult distinction for so many people to make.

    Terry K.: Thanks, your whole comment is sensible and well-put.

  447. In those cases, in written language environments, where we have someone’s name, but the name doesn’t indicate gender and we don’t have any other indicator of gender,

    Lifehack: in such situations (pretty common in multinational corporation with staff from every continent), we used to start letters with “Dear colleague”.

  448. J.W. Brewer says:

    Indeed, I agree that the experience of feeling “othered” or marginal or uncomfortable or self-conscious in a given social context is not the same as the experience of being oppressed and people ought not conflate them. Sometimes they coincide, of course, but the tricky question, whenever A and B sometimes coincide but other times don’t, is whether (and if so, to what extent) to treat evidence of A as indirect evidence of B.

  449. John Cowan says:

    I have never gone anywhere for more than a few weeks except in imagination, but that has taken me to Weinbaum’s Mars (not E.R. Burroughs’s) and Gethen and Mote Prime (and its asteroids) and all sorts of places where the true Others live. “One-one-two—yes!—Two-two-four —no!”

    My favorite reductio of the male-embraces-the-female school of writing about gender: “Man is the only animal who menstruates.”

  450. David Eddyshaw says:

    I’ve always liked the very-alien aliens in Babel-17 who refer to themselves with different pronouns depending on how hot they are.

  451. different pronouns depending on how hot they are

    Hot as in overheated, or hot as in sexalicious?

  452. David Eddyshaw says:

    Temperature. As I say, alien. Delany being a true master at this game, the point emerges in passing as a mere background detail; a lesser author would have spun the riot of ideas in that short novel out into three volumes of eight hundred pages each, in the modern manner. (No names, no packdrill …)

  453. I really must reread Babel-17; I’ve been meaning to for decades.

  454. David Marjanović says:

    “Man is the only animal who menstruates.”

    Not true, BTW, but the human form (shedding of the entire uterine lining, bleeding etc.) is rather extreme and rather rare.

  455. Turkish has “o” for both “he” and “she”, but that doesn’t mean that Turkey is necessarily more accepting on gender diversity than UK & USA.

    And before some fuçkwit acuses me of trolling again, let me just say i agree with mr. Hat on this issue.

  456. David Eddyshaw says:

    On the other hand, the Romance languages (to say nothing of Welsh) undoubtedly discriminate against inanimate objects by forcing them to adopt a masculine or feminine gender. I’m glad to say that most (if not all) Niger-Congo languages do not have this baked-in linguistic antineuterism: on the contrary, they often provide a choice of many different neuters.

  457. David Eddyshaw says:

    Now I think of it, this must in fact be a very real problem for people who don’t want to identify as male or female while speaking (say) French or Arabic or Hebrew, to a significantly greater degree than in English … I’ve a feeling that we’ve discussed this before somewhere, but I can’t recall when, exactly.

    I imagine that in many current Arabic-speaking societies this is probably the least of their worries; but how do people handle it in French or Hebrew? (No doubt the Académie Française has attempted to stick its oar in in France …) Do you just have to give up and pick one grammatical gender?

  458. “Man is the only animal who menstruates.”

    To my (non–native speaker) ear, “…that menstruates” is more correct.

  459. but how do people handle it in French or Hebrew?

    It doesn’t present much problem in French, but it is an issue in Russian where every verb ending in phrases like “I said, I went, I didn’t know” must be either feminine or masculine.

    Hard to avoid identifying as female or male with such grammar.

    But people manage. Saw this disclaimer in Russian LJ blog profile once.

    2) I am clearly female, but I often save on endings – I write and speak about myself in masculine. Never mind. I apologize to all those who are uncomfortable with this, once – here: “Excuse me, everyone.”

  460. the transition to “they” is happening.

    It’s a movement led by a small number of well intentioned idealists, much like Esperanto and with about as much chance of success long term.

    Depending what happens Tuesday of course, but I am not all that sanguine that we are heading for a progressive future.

  461. Getting rid of genders is a truly epic social engineering project based on strong Whorfian assumptions. If we don’t study linguistic relativity first (to the point of having understood it), we may end up discovering that the actual problem of LGBT people is society. Or else:

    That in a society where LGBT people feel truly comfortable and feel no pressure to be anything other than what they are they still can speak a gendered language. Or else:

    That as with n-word, it is not the literal meaning of pronouns, not your Y-chromosome in your pants, that makes some feel discomfort when you refer to them with “he”

  462. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    @PlasticPaddy:

    I always thought the “why” for this is that personal pronouns are used for emphasis in Spanish … so that when not emphasising, either “he” or “she” sounds wrong to their ears. Does this also occur with speakers of Italian, where I think the pronouns are used more commonly, but can still be left out, especially in the past tense?

    I’m curious about your underlying assumption. Is there evidence that subject pronouns are more used in Italian than in Spanish? My feeling is that their usage is very rare and emphatic in Italian too, but introspection only goes so far. However, I’d be truly surprised if the usage of subject pronouns in Italian turned out to correlate with tense.

    In any case, I haven’t noticed either Spanish- or Italian-speakers mishandling English subject pronouns. That would strike me as strange. We have identically gendered third-person pronouns for the direct object, and in Italian (but not Spanish) for the indirect object as well. The natural confusion comes from possessives alone, which agree with the subject in English but the object in Spanish (and more so in Italian).

    Anyway, Romance languages have so much gender agreement everywhere you cannot escape the need to assign every noun a binary gender. Of course, it’s just a grammatical gender: person is feminine and in Italian so are guard, guide, recruit, sentry, …

    Logically, an individual too could perfectly well have a grammatical gender independent of any extra-grammatical considerations. In practice, however, I’m unaware that anyone uses for themselves anything other than the grammatical gender that matches their non-grammatical gender identity. I bet someone must be doing it, but I’d say with reasonable confidence it cannot be a phenomenon widespread enough to be effecting meaningful language change in Romance languages.

    The only protest move that’s reasonably well-established is to use the feminine instead of masculine plural when referring to a mixed-gender group. In theory, at least in Italian, you might argue this is just making the group neuter. The vestigial Latin neuter shows up like this in eggs: un uovo, delle uova. But I don’t think anybody makes that argument.

    It would also be traditional in Italian (I’m not sure in Spanish) for someone with a male non-grammatical gender identity to be addressed in the feminine, because that’s the grammatical gender of the politeness pronoun Lei (and of honorifics like Your Excellency). But this practice has become disestablished, and its return has no political support. Those who find gendered pronouns an oppressive instrument of the patriarchy tend to have the same view of honorifics and the politeness pronoun.

  463. As for pronouns for non-binary people: Some people have indeed come up with new pronouns (neo-pronouns). Some examples are per, ve and xe. A non-binary friend of mine will settle for “they”, but xyr preference is for “xe”. According to xem, just getting people to use [i]any[/i] non-gendered pronoun at all is hard enough, let alone the neo-pronoun “xe”.

    Bathrobe: English needs to get rid of gender-imposing ‘he’ and ‘she’ altogether.

    But then, whatever pronoun we invent for the purpose, when you come across it, it’ll be _harder_ to work out whom it refers to than it does with “he” or “she”.

  464. BTW: How do you do italics on this forum? Sorry for my attempts — which patently failed. This forum used to give a poster a 15-minute window to edit their comment, but I didn’t get it this time.

  465. PlasticPaddy says:

    @gp
    I was thinking of this sort of exchange:
    -hai parlato con Silvia?
    -(1)si, lei dice che devi venire
    -(2)si, ha detto che devi venire
    Are you saying that
    (1a) si, dice che devi venire
    is more common than (1)?
    For me
    (2a) si, lei ha detto che devi venire
    sounded more emphatic than (1) but now I am not so sure 🙂

  466. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Normatively, usted in Spanish construes as a 3p pronoun with the gender of the interlocutor: Lo/la ha visto a usted.

    My Mexican friend is a bit envious of they in English because it can’t just be imported wholesale into Spanish. (First strike: Plural pronouns are gendered as well, and mixed-gendered groups are treated as masculine which is more or less the opposite of the wished-for effect). There’s a whole Wikipedia article on other efforts which I can’t evaluate as to chances of success. (Spanish is my fifth foreign language, not counting Esperanto).

    Danish has very little in the way of agreement morphemes, especially with anaphora, but adjectives in predicate position is one of those few cases where number is marked. Using de for a singular referent would cause a slight dissonance in a fair number of cases, about on the level of singular they in English; I’m sure we’d get used to it, but so far I haven’t seen anybody trying in earnest.

  467. David Marjanović says:

    How do you do italics on this forum?

    Not being a forum, it doesn’t use BBcode. It’s a blog, and like almost all blogs I’ve ever seen it expects you to spell out the HTML directly: <i> or <em>.

    It doesn’t present much problem in French

    Not in the verb system, but if you slap your forehead and want to say you’re so stupid, you have to decide: are you a he (j’suis con) or a she (j’suis conne)?

  468. Getting rid of genders is a truly epic social engineering project based on strong Whorfian assumptions. If we don’t study linguistic relativity first (to the point of having understood it), we may end up discovering that the actual problem of LGBT people is society.

    Nonsense. In the first place, nobody’s making Whorfian assumptions or trying to “get rid of genders.” People are asking other people not to misgender them; a common tool for this is the handy gender-neutral pronoun “they,” although some people prefer the neo-pronouns rosie mentioned — a misguided preference, in my view, since such invented words have no chance of being widely adopted (as opposed to “they,” which is already part of the language). In the second place, LGBT people know perfectly well the actual problem is society; how dumb do you think they are? But pending ultimate perfection, they would like to be addressed and described in ways they do not find insulting, which does not seem to me too much to ask.

  469. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    @rosie: Italics are done with the tags you tried to use, but in angle brackets instead of square brackets — angle brackets are powerful enough I don’t know how to make them appear as plain text.

    @PlasticPaddy: To my ear (1a) and (2) are normal, while (1) and (2a) sound unidiomatic anglicisms. I perceive no difference depending on the tense. In my usage, Sì, lei dice / ha detto che … pretty much requires the subsequent mention of someone else contradicting her. I don’t find it idiomatic just to emphasize that she’s the one saying something: that would be Sì, è lei che dice / ha detto che …

    @Lars Mathiesen: Yes, I know that’s the correct usage of Usted in contemporary Spanish. What I don’t know is whether this was always the case. Probably it was, since contemporary Spanish also has unambiguous notional agreement of Excelencia, Majestad, etc. Google Books reveals that’s been the case for two centuries at least; while it confirms my intuition that in Italian, instead, formal agreement used to be common and is at least not wholly obsolete.

  470. angle brackets are powerful enough I don’t know how to make them appear as plain text.

    Use & lt ; (without spaces) for < and & gt ; (without spaces) for > (lt = “less than” and gt = “greater than,” which may help remember which is which).

  471. There are online HTML editors, like this one.
    You can try it there and see what it looks like.
    <i>italic</i> gives you italic,
    <b>bold</b> gives you bold,
    <blockquote> ههه </blockquote>

    ههه

  472. a common tool for this is the handy gender-neutral pronoun “they,” although some people prefer the neo-pronouns rosie mentioned — a misguided preference, in my view, since such invented words have no chance of being widely adopted (as opposed to “they,” which is already part of the language).

    This is the nub of the question. I support a neo-pronoun; you support “they” because it “is already part of the language”.

    Not what you wrote above, that I guess our positions are too different to make mutual comprehension possible.

    You think a neo-pronoun won’t stick? That is your view. You think that forcing people to adopt a usage of “they” that they find confusing and dislike, and is just as likely to result in transgender-bashing as not, will achieve your aim better? That is your view.

    And that’s all it is about, not whether you are willing to address and describe such people in ways they do not find insulting but the best way to achieve this.

    Sheesh.

  473. Nobody’s forcing anyone to do anything. I choose to use ways of speaking and writing that don’t offend people who already have a hard time, and I recommend (note verb: not “mandate” or “demand”) that others do so as well. If they choose not to, that’s their choice. I’m an anarchist, for Pete’s sake.

    And you think a use of “they” that bothers you personally is “likely to result in transgender-bashing”? Sheesh. (Have you spoken with any actual transgender people about that?)

  474. Your powers of understanding seem to fly out the window when you go on the warpath.

    “is just as likely to result in transgender-bashing as not” means that many people will possibly find this objectionable (like Stu did) and take on an antagonistic or dismissive attitude to transgender people (i.e., transgender bashing).*

    And in this whole thread you have virtually been accusing anyone who doesn’t support your personal preference, “they”, of wanting to insult transgender people. This is not on.

    At any rate, I would be perfectly happy to use a neo-pronoun. I’m not happy with “they”, and don’t try and lay a guilt trip on me for feeling uncomfortable with it.

    * The suggestion that all public toilets should offer three options, male, female, and transgender, caused a lot of sniggering and exasperation among people who might otherwise have at least been ready, if not particularly willing, to go along with their cause.

  475. I thought I had more time.

    “take on an antagonistic or dismissive attitude to transgender people”

    should be

    “take on an even more antagonistic or dismissive attitude to transgender people”.

    Of course there are already people who engage in transgender bashing. I don’t (although I’ve only known one transgender person in my life, and that was a long time ago) and I don’t think Stu does either.

  476. Your powers of understanding seem to fly out the window when you go on the warpath.

    Do you really feel your case is strengthened by tossing in gratuitous insults?

  477. John Cowan says:

    To my (non–native speaker) ear, “…that menstruates” is more correct.

    Mmm, Hat might make the same change with his copy editor hat on. But what I wrote (or rather quoted) is not incorrect: who is definitely used of human beings, but can be used of anything perceived as sufficiently a person (in the sense of having a personality). I wouldn’t hesitate to use it to refer to my cat, for instance.

    In any case, I haven’t noticed either Spanish- or Italian-speakers mishandling English subject pronouns. That would strike me as strange.

    What is truly strange is Highland English, some varieties of which are well-documented to use she indiscriminately for he. This cannot be from the Scottish Gaelic substrate, because ScG is perfectly ordinary in this respect: the modern Celtic languages, like the modern Romance languages and all the Semitic languages, are firmly two-gender modulo the occasional survival.

    No [z] in Spanish, either, but I’m not sure if your SHAH-vez implies that there is.

    It’s usual in American English to voice the Spanish patronymic ending -ez, and I have heard L1 Spanish/English bilinguals do so when speaking English. Less edumacated English-speakers also tend to put the stress on this ending. WP says that the similar endings of Ortiz, Muñiz, Muñoz are phonetic variants of -ez, and they too get voiced and sometimes stressed. Cortez, though, is a sanctified misspelling within Spanish itself: it should be Cortés < cortés ‘polite’. Of course [θ] is never used here in either language.

  478. David Eddyshaw says:

    Your powers of understanding seem to fly out the window when you go on the warpath.

    The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

    (As we got on to Blake in the “contemn” thread just now.)

  479. Stu Clayton says:

    Of course there are already people who engage in transgender bashing. I don’t (although I’ve only known one transgender person in my life, and that was a long time ago) and I don’t think Stu does either.

    No, I haven’t encountered such bashing in real life here, nor do I bash. It is conjured up ominously in media articles by trans-fans (the transgendering equivalent of fag hags). I have no idea how frequent it is or isn’t.

    There was a guy who lived across the street from me, a man with the lugubrious size and features of Frankenstein’s monster, who dressed as a woman. He ran a flower stop for a year just around the corner. I talked with him a few times – he was pleasant enough but could fly into rages, so we had that in common. I was a bit surprised to never hear any bad-mouthing about him by the local simple folk when he wasn’t around – and believe me I kept my ears pricked. Then he died.

    There is a troupe of park cleaners on the move in the area, one of whom is a reticent, scarecrow-like man wearing old boots, stockings, a calico dress of ancient vintage, and a wig. They get along fine with each other (the troupe members, not the articles of clothing). I spoke with him once when I was with Sparky in one of the small parks where he was taking his break sitting on a bench. I remember nothing of our conversation, which just goes to show.

    I do remember wishing I knew more about fashion so I could delicately advise him on his truly disadvantageous get-up. But nobody likes such advice. I never had a faggot union card anyway, so I’m useless when it comes to color schemes.

  480. I am never sure how to pronounce the name of the nineteenth-century mathematician [Benjamin] Olinde Rodrigues—which I need to do when teaching electrodynamics, since the most useful general expression for the Legendre Polynomials the Rodrigues Formula. (As you can see, there are a fair number of other ways of defining the Legendre Polynomials, but the Rodrigues Formula is by far the easiest to prove the basic properties like orthogonality with.) In his work on spherical geometry Rodrigues also derived the simplest representation of an arbitrary rotation in three dimensions, using the unrotated vector, the rotation axis, and the cross product of the two as a basis.

    I usually end up pronouncing Olinde Rodrigues’ surname the same way I would normally pronounce the name Rodriguez—that is, with the –ez ending. However, Rodrigues was actually a Frenchman, born in Bordeaux—and although his family was Sephardic, the details of their Iberian origins appear to be unknown. So it is not at all clear to me how Rodrigues would have pronounced his name himself.

    One more fun linguistic fact: Rodrigues, who was a prominent Saint-Simonian, coined the now-customary sense of avant-garde.

  481. John Cowan says:

    To my (non–native speaker) ear, “…that menstruates” is more correct.

    Mmm, Hat might make the same change with his copy editor hat on. But what I wrote (or rather quoted) is not incorrect: who is definitely used of human beings, but can be used of anything perceived as sufficiently a person (in the sense of having a personality). I wouldn’t hesitate to use it to refer to my cat, for instance.

    In any case, I haven’t noticed either Spanish- or Italian-speakers mishandling English subject pronouns. That would strike me as strange.

    What is truly strange is Highland English, some varieties of which are well-documented to use she indiscriminately for he. This cannot be from the Scottish Gaelic substrate, because ScG is perfectly ordinary in this respect: the modern Celtic languages, like the modern Romance languages and all the Semitic languages, are firmly two-gender modulo the occasional survival.

    No [z] in Spanish, either, but I’m not sure if your SHAH-vez implies that there is.

    It’s usual in American English to voice the Spanish patronymic ending -ez, and I have heard L1 Spanish/English bilinguals do so when speaking English. Less edumacated English-speakers also move the stress to this ending. WP says that the similar endings of Ortiz, Muñiz, Muñoz are phonetic variants of -ez, and they too get voiced and sometimes stressed. Cortez, though, is a sanctified misspelling within Spanish itself: it should be Cortés < cortés ‘polite’. Of course [θ] is never used here in either language.

    The etymology is straightforwardly from Latin -ici, the genitive of -icus, Greek -ikos, English -y. But then Wikt says somewhat mysteriously “originating as a calque of surname-formation conventions of the Visigoths” without further reference or explanation.

  482. “Alyce Galvin cannot hide their liberal agenda…” ‘Tis the season. I watch too much youtube.

  483. David Marjanović says:

    The suggestion that all public toilets should offer three options, male, female, and transgender, caused a lot of sniggering and exasperation among people who might otherwise have at least been ready, if not particularly willing, to go along with their cause.

    It also sounds like a suggestion that would have come from the outside. Many, perhaps most, transgender people are not non-binary after all.

    Me, I think public toilets should offer two options: stalls and urinals. Urinals are the only reason I can see for why the gender segregation of toilets was invented in the first place.

  484. John Cowan: The case you mention of Highland English “she” as a general third person singular pronoun (This is the first time I have heard of this phenomenon: do you have (a) reference(s)?) does seem to highlight that substrate influence is only part of the equation when large-scale L2 acquisition causes changes in the target language.

    For example, in the L1 French spoken by the Metis of the Canadian prairies, the “il”/”elle” distinction is highly variable and simply non-existent for many speakers. This is often said to be due to the Cree and/or Ojibwe substrate: neither language has a masculine/feminine distinction expressed via pronouns or verb morphology.

    This explanation has always left me puzzled, because outside of personal pronouns grammatical gender in Metis French is quite unremarkable, with noun gender attribution and adjectival gender-marking morphology quite close to more mainstream varieties of French. Which is strange, since Cree and Ojibwe lack adjectives as a word class altogether and since French grammatical gender attribution rules are extremely opaque.

    Thus, one would have predicted a form of French acquired by Cree and/or Ojibwe speakers lacking the “il/elle” distinction to also exhibit massive restructuring/transformation/reduction/simplification/all of the above of the grammatical gender system. By comparison, something like the “il/elle” semantic distinction (for humans) would seem almost trivially easy to acquire.

    Do any hatters know of similar cases, i.e. where substrate effects have been used to explain the loss of some easy-to-acquire feature all the while leaving unexplained why much more complex features were left unscathed by the substrate in question?

  485. David Eddyshaw says:

    Olinde Rodrigues

    Russian Wikipedia suggests [ʁɔdʁig]. On first principles I’d have expected [ɛs] as in “Jaurès” or “Mendès France”, but I notice that neither the bod himself nor the whole family

    https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famille_Rodrigues-Henriques

    ever get spelt with a grave. So that would be overthinking it. Pronounced as written, modulo French spelling conventions.

  486. The one English speaker I remember using “she” was from Newfoundland (not a native, I think, he didn’t speak Newfie). He used it for inanimates, in other words instead of standard “it”.

  487. Do you really feel your case is strengthened by tossing in gratuitous insults?

    To be honest, I felt insulted by you for most of that topic. You get inflexible, uncooperative, and preachy on topics on which you think you’re in the right. I came out fighting because of your condescending tone.

    However, I did misunderstand your point about “Have you talked to any transgender people about it?”, for which I apologise.

  488. Vanya and Bathrobe: I think you might be under a misunderstanding. The way I see it, there is no significant call for across the board elimination of he/she. There is, however, a movement toward their replacement in specific domains. First of all, individuals who don’t want to be called he or she. That is unassailable, just as I wouldn’t want either of you he-men to have to put up with a lifetime of being referred to as “she”. Another context for “they” is that of speaking about complete strangers whose gender is unknown. It’s a matter of courtesy, which I like very much.

    A somewhat similar example is the use of “Ms.” My understanding is that it was considered at first, by its detractors, a marker of extreme and faddish feminists. Now, however, many forms allow you to state your preferred address, giving you the options of Mrs., Miss, and Ms. If I knew a woman preferred to be referred to as Mrs. or Miss, I would take care to respect her by doing so. If I didn’t know about her preference, I would go by the neutral Ms. “Ms.” has moved from being a political statement to being a neutral term, and I can see singular “they” following a similar path.

  489. David Eddyshaw says:

    Good analogy.

  490. David Marjanović says:

    For example, in the L1 French spoken by the Metis of the Canadian prairies, the “il”/”elle” distinction is highly variable and simply non-existent for many speakers. This is often said to be due to the Cree and/or Ojibwe substrate: neither language has a masculine/feminine distinction expressed via pronouns or verb morphology.

    I wonder if it’s due to the phonology of Cree and Ojibwe. Cree, in any case, has just three short vowels (i, a, o), so il & elle might just have merged phonetically, while I wouldn’t expect that to happen as easily with le & la.

    Do any hatters know of similar cases, i.e. where substrate effects have been used to explain the loss of some easy-to-acquire feature all the while leaving unexplained why much more complex features were left unscathed by the substrate in question?

    Substrate effects have often been invoked so casually that there must be a pretty long list of such examples. Maybe I’ll remember some tomorrow.

  491. “Ms” was the first example of a coined word that sprang to mind. I didn’t even think it was worth mentioning, given that Hat had dismissed the idea of a new pronoun out of hand.

    I don’t like “they” because it trespasses on too many other domains of usage, which makes it confusing. Yes, I know that people sometimes use ‘they’, usually in set contexts, for a single person. But using it in normal writing or speech is highly confusing because one minute ‘they’ is being used for a group of people; the next minute it is being used for a single transgender individual. That can be really confusing when you’re reading a narrative. I’ve read narratives like this and despite what Hat says, they ARE confusing, and not merely because I’m not used to transgender people being called ‘they’.

    (As you can see, I’ve got an entirely different take-away from your example of Ms. from what you were suggesting.)

    Moreover, I WAS suggesting that it might be a good idea if we could do away with ‘he’ and ‘she’. Much more radical but much more sensible.

  492. J.W. Brewer says:

    This thread has drifted a bit, as LH threads are wont to do, but trying to connect back to the beginning I find it interesting that there is no confusion or lack of consensus as to what pronouns to use in third-party reference to Kamala Harris, and I imagine this was true before she acquired any particular level of fame. In particular, people who had no idea how to pronounce her name and were prone to guess wrong from the spelling had no difficulty intuiting that she/her/hers were the appropriate pronouns, because in AmEng a spelling ending in -a is an extraordinarily strong signal of femaleness when it comes to given names. In Sen. Harris’ year of birth, almost 30 of the 100 most popular names for newborn girls ended in -a whereas the 205 most popular names for newborn boys didn’t. (The -a name coming in at #206 on the boys’ side of the chart was the epicene “Dana,” which was already well along its slide away from actual epicenity toward becoming an overwhelmingly female name; it was at M/F parity for newborns in 1955 but already 80% female nine years later.)

    For last year’s crop of newborns (arriving 55 years after Sen. Harris), the top 100 for girls had even more -a names than it did in 1964. On the boys’ side of the ledger, Joshua and Ezra have significantly increased in popularity, but they are conceptually in a separate “Old Testament names” bucket, and the oddity is that for whatever reasons they aren’t conventionally spelled with the usual Old Testament -ah marker, which is understood to be epicene (Elijah and Zachariah, but also Sarah and Deborah, etc.).

    I don’t know whether Sen. Harris’ parents consciously or even unconsciously thought that if they were going to give her an unfamiliar-in-the-US name it would be a good idea to give her one that would at least be correctly understood to signal femaleness orthographically even to those who were unfamiliar with it. (FWIW her younger sister’s given name is Maya, which fits the same -a pattern while also being less rare than Kamala.) But if they had, that might have been a sensible parenting strategy, in terms of limiting the number of dimensions of confusion that future classmates, teachers, employers, and even constituents of their newborn child would have to deal with.

  493. David Eddyshaw says:

    the epicene “Dana”

    The first Labour Party branch meeting I attended, the branch secretary misread my (admittedly terrible) handwriting on the attendance list, and I found myself listed in the minutes as “Dana Eddyshaw.” I explained that he [sic] was my American cousin.

  494. J.W. Brewer says:

    David E.: I accept that the history of the given name “Dana” and its M/F ratio in any given generational cohort may well have been different in the UK than the US. At least on a very quick scan of wikipedia’s list of prominent Danas (I guess “Danae” as the plural would be denying the epicenity?), the only Brit I recognize is the b-movie-actress-cum-singer Dana Gillespie. Their list does include two Danas whom I knew as fellow-students in college (one M; one F), and one who was one of my teachers in college (F, and probably the only F on her department’s faculty in those days — I may have managed to get credit toward the linguistics major for that non-linguistics course, although I’m not 100% sure of that all these years later).

  495. Bathrobe: there’s no denying that expanding the semantic domain of a word will cause ambiguities. That is true for “they” just as it is for “you”. And that is true no matter who uses it. In a room full of non-binary people, folks conducting a conversation will run into that ambiguity a lot more than most, but will still keep on using “they”. Not to make your life hard, but because that’s what the language affords them. If they all (N.B.) can manage it, surely you and I can. I know that when I speak of a third person as “they” I occasionally need to disambiguate. That happens, I’d say, about as often as I have to disambiguate the pronoun “you” (by using “you all/y’all” or rephrasing). Not the end of the world.
    People have been looking for the perfect English epicene pronoun for a very long time. If and when something better than “they” comes up, I’m sure there will be a conversation about it. For now, I am glad to show respect to certain people’s wishes by using singular “they”.

  496. David Eddyshaw says:

    The only Dana I actually know is female, and in her case the name is Persian (and particularly appropriate given that she is a Mandaean: دانا)

  497. The name Dana has tended to confuse me, because in Croatian it is a regular female name. Its meaning is a short form of Danica “morning star”, and less frequently, as a name in its own right, or as a short form of other female names beginning with Dan-

    Even in Australia, the only Danas i’ve come across have been females of Croatian descent.

    The first time I heard of a male Dana was Dana Carvey from Wayne’s World.

  498. @Y With regard to pronouns, this is not a matter of ‘semantic domains’; it’s a matter of deixis and pragmatics. This ‘respectful usage’ cuts across all areas of deixis and pragmatics in an artificial way that is politically and socially motivated. It’s similar in effect (if not motivation) to prescriptive grammar.

    In fact, I would not have felt so impelled to object if Hat had not straight-out denied that the usage was confusing. It doesn’t matter whether his motivation was benign or otherwise. I don’t appreciate it when people try to bulldoze their own position through with demonstrably shaky “facts”. If his opponent were a prescriptivist, Hat would be the first one to attack that kind of argument.

    @DM As for separate toilets for transgender people, they have already been tried in Thailand back in 2008. Not such a fringe concept.

    @zyxt: I have a niece called Dana, and she is not of Croatian descent.

  499. David Eddyshaw says:

    Danica “morning star”

    Apropos of nothing at all, “Morning Star/Venus” in Kusaal is Nwaddar, literally “male star.” (I was so predisposed by my own culture to disbelieve this, that I was only finally convinced of it when I saw the corresponding Moba form ŋmààjāl̀, where the first part is the same “star” etymon, and the second element is not cognate to the Kusaal but unequivocally means “male.”)

    [Prophesied by Björk, of course; all together now: “He’s Venus as a boy!”]

  500. Do the scare quotes around ‘respectful’ mean that you don’t think I’m using singular “they” out of respect, as I said?

    Modifying my speech for “politically and socially motivated” reasons is also why I don’t repeat offensive jokes that I hear. What’s wrong with that?

  501. 1. The quotes around ‘respectful’ meant that I was using it as a single word to adumbrate the concept of ‘showing respect to people by addressing them how they want to be’.

    2. Modifying your speech is fine. Demanding that fundamental aspects of language like pronouns (not names, not forms of address, not word usage, not semantics) should be modified for politically and socially motivated reasons is for me a bridge too far.

    Language changes. ‘Here’, ‘there’, and ‘yonder’ changed to ‘here’ and ‘there’. ‘Thou’ disappeared and was replaced by ‘you’. ‘They’ is used in certain circumstances as a way of avoiding specifying the sex of a referent, especially when it is grammatically clumsy. These changes all came about over time. But for me, demanding that the use of ‘they’ should be arbitrarily and artificially modified because one very small group doesn’t want to use binary ‘he/she’ is political correctness run wild — just as prescriptivism is a very narrow concept of ‘respectable social order’ run wild.

    I don’t accept the argument that it’s just extending an existing system. The existing system of usage came about organically. The new usage is a substantive, deliberate change that cuts across and disrupts the existing system; it’s not just a slight twigging. Those who pretend otherwise aren’t describing language as it is, they are proselytising — drumming up whatever arguments they can for what they want to implement.

    As I’ve said again and again, I would prefer a new pronoun to this awkward attempt to modify the usage of an existing pronoun.

  502. In fact, I would not have felt so impelled to object if Hat had not straight-out denied that the usage was confusing.

    I did not deny that, I said one can get used to it, and any number of us have.

    As I’ve said again and again, I would prefer a new pronoun to this awkward attempt to modify the usage of an existing pronoun.

    But your preferences have no impact on the language, any more than mine or anyone else’s. You’re welcome to prefer whatever you like; all I’ve been saying is that if someone says both “he” and “she” make them unhappy/uncomfortable/whatever, it seems only good manners to try to accommodate them. Now you’re going to tell me that “they” makes you uncomfortable, and I’m going to tell you that’s entirely different, and we’re going to give each other the side-eye and wonder why the other person is being so damn unreasonable…

  503. It’s only confusing when you’re not used to it. If you refuse to get used to it, that’s your choice

    I maintain that it is confusing, even if you “get used to it”.

    How you view this is an ideological issue. You are bending over backwards because you are committed to supporting this idea (and I am certainly not criticising your motivations).

    But if it were something you were ideologically opposed to you would not be so flexible. I will raise one example which struck me forcibly at the time.

    Iceland chooses and implements linguistic purism. It doesn’t hurt anyone and appears to be supported by the overwhelming majority of Icelanders. Objectively speaking, it’s just part of a gamut of responses that different societies adopt to come up with new vocabulary. Yet you were critical of it.

    I know why — your opposition to academies that dictate usage — but it was clear that yours was just a kneejerk, ideological position. You don’t even have a skin in the game. Your preferences have no impact on Icelandic, any more than mine or anyone else’s. You’re welcome to prefer whatever you like. But if the Icelanders are happy to implement linguistic purism, it seems curmudgeonly to criticise what they’re doing just because you “don’t like it”.

    That is why “we’re going to give each other the side-eye and wonder why the other person is being so damn unreasonable…”

  504. nobody’s making Whorfian assumptions or trying to “get rid of genders.”

    languagehat,
    it is not true.
    Many people believe that gender neutrality of everything can make the world better. That is: English-2 (hypothetical English without gender) is better than English-1 (actual English with he and she).

    Naturally gender in Arabic conjugation or genderlects are going to be seen as a “problem”.

  505. And by the way, generalized feminine pronouns are not entirely uncommon. In aforementioned Arabic for one thing.

  506. David Eddyshaw says:

    In aforementioned Arabic for one thing.

    You surprise me (in a good way.) Tell me more.

  507. Urinals are the only reason I can see for why the gender segregation of toilets was invented in the first place.

    Protecting women from men was probably the main reason.

  508. Y: The way I see it, there is no significant call for across the board elimination of he/she.

    No, and I agree with Hat on basic principles of language change. It is just that in this particular case I am extremely dubious that singular „they” will ever gain traction outside of a small social circle because I don’t see society at large moving in the direction of greater tolerance and acceptance. Quite the opposite unfortunately.

  509. I think, those Arabic dialects where gender distinction in 2 sg is neutralized usually retain the feminine form (for whatever reason).

  510. it is not true.
    Many people believe that gender neutrality of everything can make the world better.

    Yes, I was unclear: I meant nobody in this thread. Out there in the wide world, people think all sorts of things.

    I don’t see society at large moving in the direction of greater tolerance and acceptance.

    I don’t either, particularly (though I don’t see it moving the other way either — the situation is chaotic), but that’s not why the change will happen; people will simply get used to it as they read and hear it more. My grandchildren find it completely natural, and think it’s bizarre that Old Folks resist it. That’s how language change happens.

  511. David Eddyshaw says:

    I think things are changing for the better, for exactly that reason: the young are consistently better than the old when it comes to things like this, egregious individual exceptions notwithstanding. I don’t think that’s just because they haven’t had time to get bitter and twisted like us yet: it’s a real generational change.

    A good part of the nastiness and anti-democratic manoeuvring of the right-wing parties in power in much of the Anglosphere is due to the fact that they know that they are in a race against time. Eventually they’re going to run out of elderly bigots to vote for them.

  512. From your mouth to Chaos’s ear!

  513. Eventually they’re going to run out of elderly bigots to vote for them.

    But not before they’ve done a lot of perhaps irreparable damage.

  514. J.W. Brewer says:

    The independent existence of “Dana” as a female given name in one or more non-English languages may have directly or indirectly helped its popularity (and/or its increasingly female skew) in AmEng, but I expect that e.g. Croatian naming practices for daughters had no influence on the parents of the legendary football coach Dana Xenophon Bible (1891-1980). I expect it was rather an instance of the well-established pattern (by the mid-19th century in the U.S., and much more in some ethnic/social-class/geographical niches than others) of a respectable surname being repurposed as a given name. The surname in question supposedly entered the respectable American inventory via a fellow of Huguenot origin who washed up in the Massachusetts Bay colony by circa 1640. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dana_family

    Obviously the -a ending does not, in AmEng, mark femaleness when used in a surname, but the strong correlation I referred to above may have made it a suboptimal surname for adoption as a given name for boys. Yet it worked for a while, since as is often the case in linguistics the pattern I referred to is a strong statistical tendency rather than an immutable law.

  515. Bathrobe is not nobody.

  516. In Ireland, Dana’s highest ranking as a baby girls’ name was 293rd (8 individuals) in 1998. I blame the singer Dana, whose 1970 Eurovision Song Contest — winning performance makes Marie Osmond seem like Patti Smith. Her stage name comes from her childhood nickname “dána”, Irish for “naughty”, and rhymes with Lana [as in Turner].

  517. Bathrobe is not nobody.

    Very true! Did somebody say otherwise?

  518. I think drasvi “Bathrobe is not nobody” is commenting on this subexchange:

    1. languagehat nobody’s making Whorfian assumptions or trying to “get rid of genders.”

    2. Bathrobe Moreover, I WAS suggesting that it might be a good idea if we could do away with ‘he’ and ‘she’. Much more radical but much more sensible.

    3. drasvi [responding to 1.] it is not true

    4. languagehat [responding to 3.] Yes, I was unclear: I meant nobody in this thread.

    So #4 was a fair assumption before #2, but not after; since #4 is an explanation of #1 I think you cannot be accused of rewriting history.

  519. Yet more confusion! When I read “Getting rid of genders is a truly epic social engineering project” I assumed it meant eliminating gender altogether, not simply getting rid of “he” and “she” as Bathrobe prefers (since the latter does not seem to me a truly epic social engineering project). It’s so hard to even understand each other, let alone find common ground!

  520. J.W. Brewer says:

    I now learn that the English actress/singer Dana Gillespie was not actually given that name at her birth (1949) but started off life as Richenda Antoinette de Winterstein Gillespie. (Note that Richenda is a rather unusual name, but still has the highly-gendered -a ending.) Two minutes’ googling was insufficient to reveal why the young Miss Gillespie chose “Dana” for her stage name, although she appears to have done so no later than 1965, so the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest would not have been a factor.

  521. January First-of-May says:

    Richenda Antoinette de Winterstein Gillespie.

    …This sounds like a character from an over-the-top fantasy novel.
    It so happens that I’ve recently read just such a (web) novel whose protagonist happens to have the last name Gillespie; I should probably get in contact with that novel’s author to ask if they could fit this name anywhere as a relative of the protagonist.

  522. @January First-of-May: The second paragraph of her Wikipedia entry continues to sound rather over the top:

    Gillespie was born in Woking, Surrey, the second daughter of Anne Francis Roden (née Buxton) Winterstein Gillespie (1920–2007) and Hans Henry Winterstein Gillespie (1910–1994), a London-based radiologist of Austrian nobility. Her older sister, Nicola Henrietta St. John Gillespie, was born in 1946. Dana Gillespie was the British Junior Water Skiing Champion in 1962.

  523. J.W. Brewer says:

    Miss Gillespie, as she appeared in this 1974 appearance on the Dutch-tv equivalent of Top of the Pops, would have looked perfectly plausible-in-context on the cover of a number of over-the-top fantasy paperbacks that were on the market during my adolescent years. [ETA: swapped in a different link with a different/better version of the same performance]

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ASYH-NNSSQ

  524. This interview (“Dana-Gillespie: Beasts and Breasts”) discusses some of Gillespie’s early work in low-budget Hammer monster flicks.

  525. Some great quotes there:

    “But there’s so little actually happening that I don’t know really what I could do. It’s not as if I’m getting inundated with serious acting offers. But I’m not that unhappy because when I look back on my time when I was at the National Theatre, doing Shakespeare with Sir Joan Gielgud, I was the most miserable that I ever was in my whole life. I was sharing a dressing room with Julie Coyington and Jenny Agutter and I was totally miserable, because I loathe Shakespeare, I hate doing the same thing every night — whether it’s cooking or anything, I don’t want to do the same thing every night. So the theatre is not really for me.”

  526. I just ran across another great name: Hender Delves Molesworth. (I imagine AJP would have had something to say about him.)

  527. “Keeper of sculpture, Victoria and Albert Museum.” Thus the fates ordained.

  528. PlasticPaddy says:

    It’s an old name in that family:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hender_Molesworth
    I don’t know how they are related to the Irish family (there is a Molesworth St. in Dublin).

  529. PlasticPaddy says:

    Both the Irish family and the 17th century Hender can be traced to Northamptonshire in the 16th century.

  530. Language Hat: “I really must reread Babel-17; I’ve been meaning to for decades.”

    Is it interesting that five minutes before I read that comment of yours I almost asked Samuel Delaney on Facebook, then decided against it, if he liked his Bulgarian translation’s cover art for the Bulgarian translation of Babel-17 [edit: Chip’s books that were translated into Bulgarian surprisingly a lot; not unsurprisingly, Dhargen was not], and then asked his Bulgarian publisher, who’s a friend, how they got that cover art?

  531. mollymolly, Bathrobe suggested it twice:)

    Bathrobe wrote: “English needs to get rid of gender-imposing ‘he’ and ‘she’ altogether. Only then will gender become a non-issue.“, then I commented.
    Then languagehat said “nobody…”, then Y said “no significant call for elimination”.

    I objected to languagehat, Bathrobe reiterated his proposal.
    languagehat clarified “nobody in this thread”, vanya agreed that “no significan call”.

  532. David Marjanović says:

    I wonder if lots of people have reinterpreted Dana as the female form of Dan(iel). After all, not many people know anymore that Lindsey used to be a last name.

    I also wonder if that explains the pronunciations: much like data, there’s FACE and TRAP. Of the two Danas of whom I know how they pronounce themselves, the male one has FACE and the female one has TRAP.

    @DM As for separate toilets for transgender people, they have already been tried in Thailand back in 2008. Not such a fringe concept.

    Oh. Makes sense, because Thai culture more or less recognizes a third gender (which does not, however, include all people classified as transgender in the West).

    Urinals are the only reason I can see for why the gender segregation of toilets was invented in the first place.

    Protecting women from men was probably the main reason.

    …I’ve come across the notion before that women’s toilets are safe spaces that men are almost physically unable to enter. Is that what you mean? Because… of course there have been cases of men raping women on women’s toilets.

    Users of urinals expose themselves to varying degrees, and tend to be less uncomfortable with it when the people who could potentially see that share the same equipment and the same potential shames and insecurities. I think gender-segregated toilets are the flip side of the patriarchy, where men protect themselves from what, in any case, they imagine the female gaze to be like. Of course the same effect could be had by putting the urinals in a separate room from all the stalls, not just some of them – but the rest of society used to be gender-segregated enough that this simply doesn’t seem to have occurred to anybody before the 21st century.

    (It didn’t occur to me either. I saw it on Twitter or something a few years ago, and even that was second- or third-hand because I’m not on Twitter.)

  533. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Or you can just not have any urinals. Stalls and doors for everyone (and no gender segregation). The public toilets at the Stockholm Central Station is the first place I saw that, after they were renovated less than 10 years back. But there’s an attendant, so the safety issue is not in play.

    One argument I’ve heard for urinals is that men who insist on standing can do it there and not all over the toilet seat.

  534. David Eddyshaw says:

    It seems to be pretty common in France for public toilets to be unsegregated by sex, and to include both stalls for all and stand-up facilities for those inclined/equipped to use them, all in one big room. I don’t think this is because the French are particularly woke; just part of la civilisation française. Maybe it’s a manifestation of the patriarchy. Or perhaps French women are less easily shocked than their Anglo-Saxon sisters. More research is needed.

  535. David Eddyshaw says:

    men who insist on standing

    It’s not uncommon for older men to have genuine actual difficulties urinating sitting down. (I don’t want to get technical here …)

  536. Lars Mathiesen says:

    For some reason that never gets mentioned during the campaigns. (“It’s not as long as you think” stuff).

  537. In modern toilets the choice is about whether you want others to see how you urinate or not. It has always (since I know what a public toilet is maybe) perplexed me, why the former option is offered at all.

    From the “architect’s” point of view it is maybe logical. Installing an urinal is easier. So let’s also install urinals.Toilet users don’t want to be seen, urinal users don’t care. So let’s protect the former from unwanted gaze.

    But from user’s point of view:
    you turn left and urinate where everyone sees you or you turn right and urinate where no one sees you.

    Of course you may prefer urinals, or you may not want to open an extra door, or you may not want to do it “all over the seat”. But you have been using a toilet very similar to that in stalls for all your life! Then the main difference is being seen or not.

  538. Lars Mathiesen says:

    I suspect there is an efficiency aspect as well, especially in places like pubs where the activities predispose for urinal use and rent has to be paid on the area the facilities take up. Also compare the length of queues if there are equal numbers of ladies’s and gents’s. (Is there a normative way to write the plural of nouns that have already accreted one plural or possessive s?)

  539. David Eddyshaw says:

    efficiency aspect

    There’s a classic linear programming exercise waiting to be done there.

  540. Stu Clayton says:

    @Lars: (Is there a normative way to write the plural of nouns that have already accreted one plural or possessive s?)

    If a noun has “accreted one plural”, then it’s plural and your work is done – nothing need be added to make it plural.

    If a word has “accreted a possessive s”, then it’s no longer a noun and can’t be pluralized.

    “Gents” and “ladies” are fine examples of words that encourage endless, bootless discussion. My personal rule is: if a noun ends in “s”, is semantically a plural and you reely reely want something that looks possessive, just tack on an apostrophe, but not an “s” after it. The Jones’ house.

    There are people who write and say [the Jones’s house] for the house in which the Jones family lives. It don’t make a damn bit of difference. This is Taking Liberties Hall.

  541. David Eddyshaw says:

    Gentseses. Precious.

  542. Stu Clayton says:

    Here, in a CBS report from today, is a reporter trying to show that he/she/it knows when a possessive form is needed:

    # In an unsigned opinion, the high court threw out the decision by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that let the lawsuit against Mckesson move forward, sending the dispute back to the lower court for further proceedings. Only Justice Clarence Thomas noted his dissent. Justice Amy Coney Barrett did participate in consideration of the case. … Mckesson reacted to the Thomas’ dissent on Twitter, writing that the justice “is just not on the right side of any of these issues.” #

  543. Just lack of copyediting, I think.

  544. Stu Clayton says:

    Of course, that’s why the apostrophe is still there. But how did it get there in the first place, so that it needs removal by a copyeditor ? It seems a prestidigital unlikelihood that the typist hit the apostrophe key and the space bar together, by accident.

    You can’t fairly blame everything on copyeditors.

  545. No, I mean I think there were two versions, one “the Thomas dissent” and one “Thomas’ dissent,” and they got mashed into one without anybody noticing the dangling apostrophe.

  546. Bathrobe, the fact that you call “they” (in agender usage) someone’s “personal preference” to me indicates that you are rather clueless on the issue. It’s not his personal cause. It’s a general thing. It’s the most common agender choice. By all means, use the neo-pronouns for people who request them (even when it makes things more confusing for the reader or listener, due to their unfamiliarity, than “they” would). But a lot of the people we are talking about using pronouns for prefer “they”.

    Also, worth noting, many transgender people are just fine with he or she, so long as you use the correct one. Transgender people and people who prefer a gender neutral pronoun are overlapping groups, but they are not the same.

    Regarding Ms., these days forms often just have Mrs. and Ms. as choices, with no Miss.

  547. the fact that you call “they” (in agender usage) someone’s “personal preference” to me indicates that you are rather clueless on the issue. It’s not his personal cause. It’s a general thing. It’s the most common agender choice.

    But there are other choices, so it is a personal preference.

    In fact, I personally think there is a bandwagon effect here. People are following the latest trend — “Hey, someone’s out there pushing this so I’m going to use it too!”, even if they might have been happy identifying with “he” or “she” (as a new gender identification) in the past.

    I read a piece in which the person being referred to as “they” was a same-sex husband. Perhaps he (they?) was transgender, perhaps he (they) wasn’t. But it was clear from the poorly explained backdrop that opposition to the relationship was based on opposition to homosexuality, not to a relationship with a transgender person.

    I assume you mean it’s not Hat’s personal cause. Of course I’m aware of that and that there are people pushing for this. The question is whether you like that change in usage or not. Ever since I read that bullshit article in the New York Times (I think it was), full or lies and misrepresentations, I’ve been against this.

    even when it makes things more confusing for the reader or listener, due to their unfamiliarity, than “they” would)

    It’s a choice between an unfamiliar pronoun and a confusing usage. People would get used to an unfamiliar pronoun real quick. The new usage is confusing. Sorry, it is. I’ve read things by people using “they” and the switching makes your head spin. You have to consciously switch between “ordinary mode” and “transgender mode” from sentence to sentence. One minute “they” is the family or parents or friends; the next minute it is the transgender person himself or herself.

  548. even if they might have been happy identifying with “he” or “she” (as a new gender identification) in the past.

    Then the proposal to get rid of he and she looks random.


    The proposal:

    This is a bandaid patch, and it’s not even a flesh-coloured patch
    English needs to get rid of gender-imposing ‘he’ and ‘she’ altogether. Only then will gender become a non-issue.
    Get rid of “he” and “she”. That’s the only solution to this problem. And I’m sure I’ll get used to it since I’ve already got used to it in Chinese and Mongolian.

  549. Frankly, I think you are a bunch of wimps. Deferring to an ad hoc, poorly reasoned change out of ‘respect’ for our coloured transgender friends. Why single out one small group for this cosmetic change? It’s got to be implemented across the board — or not at all.

    As of now I’m going to ban “he”, “him”, “she”, “her” and their relatives from my comments here at LH. I’ll use “they” etc.

    If Hat doesn’t like it they can go jump in the lake. If Y doesn’t like it they can go jump in the lake. If rozele doesn’t like it they can go jump in the lake. If Terry K. doesn’t like it they can go jump in the lake. And anyone else who might object.

    Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. It’s easier than you think.

  550. When you need to hide something you either hide it, or you place it among many similar things.

  551. I understand it this way: you’re concerned with discrimination.

    Not with how LGBT people feel in a gendered enviroment, but rather with how the gendered environment feels about LGBT people, its tendency to oppress. I think it is a good idea to fight against oppression directly.

    Gender is not fully artificial. There are biological sexes, and many people enjoy being gendered. It means: masculinity and femininity are going to be expressed in many ways.

    If you see the source of discrimination in expression of these two (which is like fighting ethnic discrimination by erasing cultures) I’m not sure your idea can even be formulated. Is not it “promoting diversity by suppressing diversity”?

  552. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    “If Hat doesn’t like it they can go jump in the lake. If Y doesn’t like it they can go jump in the lake. If rozele doesn’t like it they can go jump in the lake. If Terry K. doesn’t like it they can go jump in the lake. And anyone else who might object.”

    Now that you write it like this… I realize how unremarkable it’s become for me. I’ve gotten used to it more than I thought I’d had!

    Also, as someone pointed out above, most transgender people probably prefer ‘he’ or ‘she’; so instead of calling it ‘the transgender mode’, maybe ‘non-binary mode’ would be better.

  553. David Eddyshaw says:

    Wouldn’t it be a whole lot simpler just to post in Hungarian?

  554. Lars Mathiesen says:

    I know transgender people, and they strongly prefer he or she as the case may be. That’s sort of the whole point of the process they embark on.

    I do know (but mainly know of) people who prefer they, but they are mostly to be found under the IQ letters (intersex and queer). The majority of LGBTA folks have a preferred binary gender expression, though of course there are overlaps.

    (Q for queer is a cover term for, i.a., genderfluid (who may change their gender (and pronouns) on a monthly or hourly basis), genderqueer (who try to mess with the binary), and non-binary (who feel most comfortable not expressing a binary gender) — neo-pronouns may be mainly a genderqueer thing, and they for enbees, but I haven’t done a survey).

    However, they is the safe choice when you don’t know the preferences of a person; I have never heard of anybody taking offence to being referred to with they. (I try to stay away from circles where offence is easily taken, but still).

  555. It does seem like Bathrobe is conflating “transgender” with “nonbinary”, which doesn’t help the persuasiveness of their arguments.

    I don’t doubt Bathrobe’s contention that they find it easier to process neopronoun “xe” (or whatever) than singular “they”, but my personal experience is the opposite, and I would require more than simple assertion to be persuaded that more people’s experience matches Bathrobe’s than mine.

    The most radical reform would be to abolish pronouns altogether for humans, and use the individual’s name for all references to xem. Some elaborate neopronoun schemes seem tantamount to this.

  556. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    It seems to be pretty common in France for public toilets to be unsegregated by sex, and to include both stalls for all and stand-up facilities for those inclined/equipped to use them, all in one big room.

    True. Very few people object to it. On several occasions I’ve been in a motorway service area (once also at Orly airport) and one or other toilet is closed for cleaning. Everyone just uses the other, and I’ve never seen any signs of embarrassment.

    I don’t think this is because the French are particularly woke; just part of la civilisation française.

    They were doing that before woke acquired its present trendy meaning.

    Maybe it’s a manifestation of the patriarchy. Or perhaps French women are less easily shocked than their Anglo-Saxon sisters. More research is needed.

    More generally, I think French people of all sexes are less easily shocked than Anglo-Saxons. Also they seem to make little association between excretion and sex. Another symptom is that graffiti are rare in French toilets, and when you see one it’s likely to be in English and to compare the sexual endowments of players for Manchester United and Liverpool.

  557. David Eddyshaw says:

    to compare the sexual endowments of players for Manchester United and Liverpool

    Si parva licet componere magnis …

  558. Lars Mathiesen says:

    In the conlang-I-never-got-anywhere-with there would one anaphoric pronoun for each possible syllable onset, just add /a/ and refer to the last nominal with that onset, including proper names.

  559. It does seem like Bathrobe is conflating “transgender” with “nonbinary”, which doesn’t help the persuasiveness of their arguments.

    I think I took my cue from Hat when they wrote: “people genuinely upset by being misgendered”. Do the non-binary crowd get upset at being misgendered? Clarification appreciated.

    (I am, however, obviously not up on the latest nuances of gender fluidity / ambiguity — intersex, queer, genderfluid, genderqueer, non-binary…. but the fact that we’re talking of a subgroup of a subgroup [I think] suggests that a very small dog is wagging a very big tail. Lars does appear to have far more exposure to these people than I do.)

  560. If Hat doesn’t like it they can go jump in the lake.

    I’ve been referred to as “they” more than once by people unsure of my gender (in the early days of the blog, a surprising number of people assumed I was female — maybe because I wasn’t blogging about MMORPGs?); not only doesn’t it bother me, it doesn’t even read oddly to me. I respect your “get off my lawn” indignation — I enjoy waving my cane around too — but I’m pretty sure your response is a lot less universal than you seem to think it is. The world is changing; that’s not a threat, it’s a statement of fact.

  561. And I’m enjoying the thought that if you continue making good on your promise and referring to everyone as “they,” you’ll get used to it yourself!

  562. David Eddyshaw says:

    A number of Hatters are (at least as far as I am aware) of unknown gender, at least to us, and I have noticed that the more careful amongst us actually do call them “they.” I am unregenerate enough to be slightly thrown off kilter by this, in the Bathrobian mode, but am practicing not to be.

    Personally, I’ve always thought of “Bathrobe” as a girl’s name (the first element is transparently bath- “daughter”, after all), but I accept that times are changing.

  563. PlasticPaddy says:

    @ de
    Der Morgenrock (masc.)
    la robe de chambre (fem.)
    Is the PIE etymon transgender?

  564. David Eddyshaw says:

    Non-binary, rather.

  565. And there is Irish cailín, (colleen, a girl), masculine.

    As opposed to Old Irish and normal European girls, who are neuter (Russian girls are effiminate, though).

  566. Do the non-binary crowd get upset at being misgendered?

    I don’t know about the “non-binary crowd” (likewise “the male crowd”, “the Jewish crowd”, etc.) but I can tell you that the non-binary people I know and who are close and dear to me flinch, then offer a correction, when someone calls them “he” or “she” (usually one of the two, based on external cues), and get pissed off if their wishes are ignored and the misgendering becomes willful rather than accidental. Just the same as a 100% binary-gendered person would if one persisted in misgendering them.

    Singular they is used for two separate purposes: as the pronoun of choice for some people, and as an emerging default gender-neutral pronoun. I think that in the discussion here the two occasionally are getting tangled together.

    I have never met anyone who was 100% indifferent to being called “he” or “she” under all circumstances, but then I haven’t been around much.

  567. David Eddyshaw says:

    I think that in the discussion here the two occasionally are getting tangled together.

    Good point; though the pronoun-of-choice use evidently derives from the default-gender-neutral use; I can’t think of any other reason why people would have adopted it to begin with, given that presumably nobody actually wanted to identify as plural particularly. It also has the not-unimportant merit of being familiar; if I were non-binary, I’d be a lot more sanguine about the likelihood of success in getting people to say “they” rather than “xe” or something.

    As a thought experiment, it would indeed be possible to object to the gender-neutral sense on some purist prescriptivist grounds, while also being sufficiently well-bred to respect any individual person’s own choice of pronoun. In fact, I would hope that the tweed-jacketed pedant would be exactly the sort of person in whom Nanny had successfully instilled the virtues of old-fashioned courtesy and respect.

  568. David Eddyshaw says:

    The world is changing; that’s not a threat, it’s a statement of fact.

    Hurrah! A pretext for linking

    https://xkcd.com/1483/

  569. the tweed-jacketed pedant would be exactly the sort of person in whom Nanny had successfully instilled the virtues of old-fashioned courtesy and respect

    Hmm, Jacob Rees-Mogg comes to my mind. The thing about old-fashioned nannies is that they instructed their tweed-jacketed charges on the rules of courtesy and respect handed down through the ages, which made no allowances for the confused and volatile opinions of the modern world. “I will refer to you as she, and you’ll be grateful, dammit.”

  570. David Eddyshaw says:

    Rees-Mogg is not the best that the world of tweed-jacketed pedants has to offer.

  571. Lars Mathiesen says:

    The sort of U boy in whom courtesy and respect was successfully inculcated would never be seen dead in a tweed jacket, except when shooting to snipe, and will never see the point of pedantry. It’s the upwardly envious middle class tweed wearer that takes to frothing at the mouth when they sense a threat to their painfully gained linguistic superiority.

    CYA section: Exceptions obviously made for any Welshperson partial to wearing their homeland’s proud tweeds.

  572. David Eddyshaw says:

    Strictly speaking, of course, what I wear is not tweed.

  573. John Cowan says:

    use the individual’s name for all references to xem

    That can get old, particularly if you insist that your one and only name is Johnjacobjingleheimerschmidt. (YouTube)

  574. you’ll get used to it yourself!

    I don’t know why you keep misrepresenting my case. I’m fine with singular they. I’m not so fine with its appropriation as a “non-binary pronoun” by the genderqueer community non-binary individuals.

    Singular they is used for two separate purposes: as the pronoun of choice for some people, and as an emerging default gender-neutral pronoun. I think that in the discussion here the two occasionally are getting tangled together.

    I am not tangling them together at all. I’ve made my position clear. A neo-pronoun is my preferred option for non-binary, but if people insist on ‘they’, they shouldn’t confine it to non-binary people because this is discriminatory against them as a group (i.e., special rule for non-binaries), on top of which it is confusing. If you really care about these things, you should be adopting your “emerging default gender-neutral pronoun” for ALL genders and situations.

    the non-binary people I know and who are close and dear to me
    I haven’t been around much

    I think you’re being modest. Unlike you, I don’t move in circles where there might be multiple non-binary people in my acquaintance so I have little exposure to this particular world.

    However, even a cursory glance at Wikipedia quickly turns up anachronistic usage of ‘they’ (for historic “non-binary” personages who do not appear to have requested that they should be referred to as ‘they’) and inconsistent usage within the same article (e.g., ‘they’ for some binary people as well as binary pronouns for other binary people). Perhaps there is no “non-binary crowd”, but there certainly seems to be some kind of movement that isn’t just isolated individuals.

  575. flinch, then offer a correction, when someone calls them “he” or “she” (usually one of the two, based on external cues), and get pissed off if their wishes are ignored and the misgendering becomes willful rather than accidental. Just the same as a 100% binary-gendered person would if one persisted in misgendering them.

    The first reference to human feelings in this thread.

  576. David Eddyshaw says:

    Hardly.

  577. David Marjanović says:

    Just don’t jump into a lake in Australia! You might accidentally get killed.

    graffiti are rare in French toilets

    Not in the Campus Jussieu! Up to and including phone numbers followed by “bonne suceuse”.

    normal European girls, who are neuter

    The Slavic ones at the very least are all feminine.

  578. David Marjanović says: The Slavic ones at the very least are all feminine.

    Except »Makedonsko devojče« (neuter)

  579. Speaking about this, “woman” originally was masculine, eh? When did he changed gender, woman?

  580. I experienced the opposite of dispronunciation monday when an American coworker struggled to parse the phonemes in /ˈɑn.dɚz/ She was very invested in getting it right because she had grandparents from norway, and since I told her that the name was reasonably common in norway it would be a blow to her identity to be unable to pronounce it. (though of course it is pronounced differently in norway (but that wouldn’t make it easier for her))

    I haven’t yet figured out what makes some american english speakers have difficulty with this name in particular when there is nothing particularly unusual about the sounds.

  581. Very odd!

  582. J.W. Brewer says:

    This thread started way back when with the pronunciation of the AFAIK very non-non-binary Kamala Harris’ given name.  I occupied myself for a while yesterday, it being U.S. election day, with looking into just how statistically unusual her name was for her generational cohort as compared to a benchmark list of what I judged the most statistically unusual names found among previous (white and male) U.S. Vice-Presidents.  I chose a sample of eight (listed in the order their bearers held the office):  Elbridge, Millard, Hannibal, Schuyler, Adlai, Garret, Alben, and Spiro.  Let me talk about frequency first and then ease of pronunciation.  

    It turns out that Sen. Harris’ year of birth (1964) was actually a pretty strong year for the name Kamala, which has never been listed among the 1000 most common names given to baby girls in the U.S. (in the SSA’s massive database) but was tantalizingly close that year, with 105 bearers compared to a cut-off of 115 to make the top 1000 on the girls’ side.  (Because the distribution of girls’ names had a fatter tail, there were plenty of names in the boys’ top 1000 with fewer bearers than that, as will be mentioned below.)  

    How does that compare with my list of eight?  Well, Kamala outpaced them all.  102 baby boys were named Garret (although about triple that number got the more common spelling variant “Garrett”), enough to make that the 760th most common boys’ name.  91 boys were named Millard, good for #792 in the standings.  There were 16 Spiros and 15 Schuylers.  The remaining four names are not listed at all, meaning they fell below the minimum threshold of at least five babies of a given sex being given the name that year.  The most interesting absence, I thought, was “Adlai,” since Adlai Stevenson II (grandson of the Vice-President with the same name) was still alive and extremely well-known in 1964.  (If “Alben” is viewed as a variant spelling of “Alban,” there were seven of the latter.)

    What has happened since 1964?  I checked against 2002, the year of birth for many Americans who were newly eligible to vote yesterday, and:  Kamala had dropped precipitately to only nine baby girls.  Millard had also dropped steeply, to only 11 boys; Spiro was down to six.  Garret on the other hand was up to 383 boys and the “Garrett” variant was over 4,000.  Hannibal surfaced with seven boys.  Perhaps most interestingly (and there will be a related follow-up below), Schuyler had revived and become an epicene name, with 64 boys and 53 girls receiving it, as had, more modestly, Adlai, with 14 boys and five girls.  Elbridge and Alben continued to languish below the minimum reporting threshold.  

    As to pronunciation, my best guess is that most adult native AmEng speakers will converge (modulo rhoticism and suchlike dialect features) on the same “correct” pronunciation for Elbridge, Millard, Hannibal, and Garret, whether or not they have ever personally known anyone with the name.  How much this is because a “spelling pronunciation” guess will turn out to be accurate versus having heard the name modeled correctly because of one famous bearer may vary. For Alben and Spiro there will be variation within a limited range (two or three possibilities)  in native speaker’s assumptions about the right vowel in the stressed syllable, although perhaps that variation feels less like “correct” versus “incorrect” and more like the dialect variation in the pronunciation of Mary in that tv-show clip from the 1950’s in the other thread. 

    Adlai may be where the “nervous cluelessness” sets in.  Too many possibilities for the final vowel and no obvious way to judge which was best, or even be sure you correctly remembered how you’d heard the famous bearer of the name referred to.  And Schuyler is totally hopeless if you just see it in writing.  Either you’ve learned it arbitrarily because it was correctly modeled for you or you haven’t.  

    Which leads to perhaps the most interesting coda.  Back when Sen. Harris and I were in our late teens, a weird-looking new name, unknown in our own generational cohort, entered the stock of U.S. given names, namely the phonetic respelling of “Schuyler” as either Skylar or Skyler, both easy to guess the pronunciation of, but both somehow more visually evocative of a science-fiction character than of someone with ancestral ties (real or imagined) to the early Dutch settlers of the Hudson valley.  But the newly-revised name prospered in both of those spellings as an epicene one that (as is typical) shifted toward a female-majority name, and in 2002 there were roughly 3500 baby girls and 2200 baby boys given the name with one of those spellings (plus a handful getting more obscure variant spellings).  Whether kids with the name in one of those spellings feel a sense of connection to the 19th century Vice President Schuyler Colfax Jr. if they hear him mentioned in passing in high school history class is unknown to me.

  583. January First-of-May says:

    I can’t think of any other reason why people would have adopted it to begin with, given that presumably nobody actually wanted to identify as plural particularly.

    You’d be surprised. (I’m in a Discord server with a bunch of people who self-identify as plural, e.g. due to DID.)
    But yeah, I doubt it’s very common (aside from perhaps the “royal we” scenario, and even that’s probably rare-ish).

    graffiti are rare in French toilets, and when you see one it’s likely to be in English

    I believe they are memetically supposed to be in Russian, but having never been anywhere near a French toilet, I have no idea what language they are actually in.

  584. David Eddyshaw says:

    having never been anywhere near a French toilet

    Something for the bucket list …

  585. The French toilets I’ve been to weren’t in any way memorable. But what I vividly remember is that many parts of Paris, and especially the Métro, smell as if many Parisians don’t even bother looking for one..

  586. David Eddyshaw says:

    a bunch of people who self-identify as plural

    That is both very interesting, and a salutary reminder (to me) not to take anything for granted. Completely outside my personal experience. The folkloric idea I’ve imbibed of such things is that it involves suffering for those concerned; I hope that’s not necessarily so. (Don’t reply if it would involve betraying any confidences, even anonymously; I’m only curious.)

  587. Following how someone else requests I speak about them is not a matter of my personal preference. Hat respecting how someone requests he speak about them is not a matter of his personal preference. It’s a matter of respecting the person we are talking about.

    And, if I didn’t know Hat’s gender, I would have wrote “Hat respecting how someone requests they speak about them is not a matter of Hat’s personal preference.”. Letting context clarify where it does, repeating the name where it doesn’t.

    And, it’s not “transgender usage”. It’s also used, as in the hypothetical example above, when gender is unknown. More importantly, as I already said “Transgender people and people who prefer a gender neutral pronoun are overlapping groups, but they are not the same.”. Which, I see you did acknowledge, but only after first ignoring it.

    And I do recognize the distinction brought out between when we either don’t know or care about someone’s gender, vs using it for someone we know to be non-binary who requests it. I don’t, however, find it a big difference, at least with regards to usage for specifically named individuals.

    And, for the record, anyone who has reasonable reason to speak about me rather than to me is welcome to use “they”. Though, of course, sometimes the appropriate pronoun is “you”, speaking to a person rather than about them.


  588. “If Hat doesn’t like it they can go jump in the lake. If Y doesn’t like it they can go jump in the lake. If rozele doesn’t like it they can go jump in the lake. If Terry K. doesn’t like it they can go jump in the lake. And anyone else who might object.”

    Now that you write it like this… I realize how unremarkable it’s become for me. I’ve gotten used to it more than I thought I’d had!

    These sentences are unremarkable for me as well. That‘s because “can” doesn’t conjugate for number. It’s not the pronoun that’s the issue, it’s using a plural verb for a singular person that drives a lot of us crazy and is confusing.

  589. J.W. – Skyler White, the fictional Breaking Bad character, is supposed to have been born in 1970. Is her name actually anachronistic for a woman of that cohort?

  590. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    The French toilets I’ve been to weren’t in any way memorable. But what I vividly remember is that many parts of Paris, and especially the Métro, smell as if many Parisians don’t even bother looking for one..

    That’s not been my experience.

    Many years ago I was hitchhiking from Istanbul to Vienna through Bulgaria. In Sofia I needed a toilet and with some misgivings I went into a public one in the city centre. It proved to be the cleanest and least smelly I had ever encountered.

  591. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    @Vanya, I’m only a non-native speaker, but I don’t find that the lack of conjugation of “can” is key to the sentence being unremarkable. It works for me with a verb that takes the usual -s for the third person singular. E.g.,

    If Hat gets worked up they need to chill out. If Y gets worked up they need to chill out. If rozele gets worked up they need to chill out. If Terry K. gets worked up they need to chill out. And anyone else who might object.

  592. Giacomo those work for me as well. It is really “they are” that I can never get my head around, and is like nails on a chalkboard. “They be” would work.

  593. January First-of-May says:

    That is both very interesting, and a salutary reminder (to me) not to take anything for granted. Completely outside my personal experience. The folkloric idea I’ve imbibed of such things is that it involves suffering for those concerned; I hope that’s not necessarily so. (Don’t reply if it would involve betraying any confidences, even anonymously; I’m only curious.)

    As I understand it, standard-issue DID is less of a true plurality and more of a Jekyll/Hyde setup, where at least one of the personalities doesn’t actually remember what another was up to; on the face of it, this would probably involve a bunch of suffering, if nothing else then just because amnesia in general usually isn’t a good thing. (I have very little idea of what it’s actually like, though.)

    However, most of the plural-identifying people on the server I’m referring to did not actually become plural through DID, but through tulpamancy (there are also several who got there by other methods); and, from what I’m hearing, tulpamancy, unlike (again, probably) DID, doesn’t actually result in (much, if any) suffering.

    In addition, I’m not sure how many (if any) of them self-identify as plural to the extent of asking for plural pronouns, though I’ve seen many of them using plural pronouns for themselves (i.e. “we”), at least when referring to the entire system rather than to individual personalities within it.

  594. David Marjanović says:

    I haven’t yet figured out what makes some american english speakers have difficulty with this name in particular when there is nothing particularly unusual about the sounds.

    I would guess it’s the spelling.

    German phonotactics would seem to prohibit the cluster /vl/; /v/ absolutely has to be followed by a vowel. Sure enough, spell it vl, and people will say [fl] by default. But spell it wl, as in Wladimir Putin, and people will say [vl] as if they’d done it all their lives.

    So, maybe an- can’t produce /ɑn/, but on- could?

    at least one of the personalities doesn’t actually remember what another was up to

    That varies.

  595. J.W. Brewer says:

    Vanya: The SSA dataset does not show either Skylar or Skyler as a female name for year-of-birth 1970 in the U.S., meaning that if either spelling was affixed to baby girls at all the per-spelling incidence remained <5. There were, however, 8 baby boys named Skylar and 7 named Skyler that year. By 1980 there were 13 baby girls named Skylar and 11 named Skyler; by 1990, 418 baby girls named Skylar and 283 named Skyler. So unless there's something about the Skyler White character that makes her unusually likely to have been born to parents who were ahead of the curve onomastically, it seems likely to be an anachronism committed by the scriptwriters. The SSA dataset is a very valuable resource for fiction writers looking to avoid anachronism or just looking for inspiration for a plausible name for a character with such-and-such year of birth, but I suspect it is not consulted by as many namers of fictional characters as could benefit from it.

  596. Considering how many fiction writers give characters supposed to be Russian idiotically impossible “Russian” names, my guess is that they don’t give much of a damn about reality — if it sounds good (to them), it is good, to quote the Duke.

  597. January First-of-May says:

    an anachronism committed by the scriptwriters

    My favorite example of such is Kayden Russell from the web novel Worm, who was supposedly born in 1982, but somehow has a name from the 2000s.

  598. J.W. Brewer says:

    On further investigation, it turns out that Sen. Harris was born in the year of Peak Kamala. It was a fairly rapid rise and fall, as can be seen by comparing the preceding and succeeding three years:

    1961 – 10 girls
    1962 – 20
    1963 – 44
    1964 – 105
    1965 – 91
    1966 – 51
    1967 – 46

    etc.

    Note that this rise-and-fall pattern does *not* at all match the slow but steady increase in the number of US-born babies with mothers of South Asian ancestry who might for that reason have an affinity with Indic-origin given names.

    By 1984 Kamala had dropped down to 13 instances, far behind e.g. Xochitl (borrowed from Nahuatl via Spanish), which was given to 49 US-born girls that year – one of whom was elected to Congress in 2018 (from the Second District of New Mexico) but apparently defeated for reelection earlier this week.

  599. Fascinating, thanks for that!

  600. David Eddyshaw says:

    Xochitl at least has a pretty meaning. But I think I’d go with Fleur if it were my daughter.

    (Or both, of course. But then the poor child would have to cope with everyone assuming that her initials stood for Francis Xavier.)

  601. The plural form of the verb?

    I go.
    They go.

    “I” is singular. Nothing plural about the plain form of the verb. The -s form is markedly singular, but the plain form is NOT markedly plural. It matches both plural and singular subjects.

  602. John Cowan says:

    tulpamancy, unlike (again, probably) DID, doesn’t actually result in (much, if any) suffering

    Naturally. The madman who believes he is Napoleon suffers greatly for it; the actor who makes believe he is Napoleon, and even believes it temporarily if he is a method actor, does not. I have seen David Suchet interviewed on-set and speaking in his own person, but with the accent and mannerisms of his Poirot; apparently it was too hard for him to switch them off for a 15-minute interview and then back on for the rest of the day.

    By the same token, it is one thing to pretend to be the Emperor Napoleon, and another thing to hold “the Emperor Napoleon” as a title in pretense (there are two of them at present, backed by those who do and those who don’t believe that Napoleon V disowned his son in favor of his grandson).

    idiotically impossible “Russian” names

    I have often suspected that some of those Russians were Yugoslav impersonators.

    Sure enough, spell it vl, and people will say [fl] by default. But spell it wl, as in Wladimir Putin, and people will say [vl] as if they’d done it all their lives.

    We have discussed the older German names of Vlissingen, namely Fliessingen and Flissingen, as well as the ability of anglophones to say Vroom! Vroom! without a problem and without epenthesis, despite the complete absence of initial /vr/.

    (Do I repeat myself? Yes, indeed, I repeat myself. Perhaps I should talk less.)

  603. Daniel Day Lewis meeting the troops as Abe Lincoln talks to a soldier named Kevin; I’m not sure what the scriptwriters were hoping it would connote, but in 1865 there were very few Kevins even in Ireland: the 1901 census records 22 aged >35, four of them nuns.

  604. David Marjanović says:

    Vlissingen

    That may not count. Northern Dutch has merged the voiced fricatives into the voiceless ones wholesale; and in southern Dutch, the w – v – f problem, where w is [ʋ]*, is apparently solved by making v a voiced fortis fricative. The German “/v/”, w, is actually [ʋ] for most people. Given that, a Dutch v as a pretty high probability of not being mapped to a German w.

    * Still [w] in West Flemish.

    Yes, indeed, I repeat myself.

    But thanks for the reminder. Without it, I would have overlooked the fact that wr- occurs in Standard German in a few Low loans: Wrack “wreck”, wringen “wring” (cloth, not hands; that’s High ringen), and various personal and place names. They tend to be pronounced slowly.

    four of them nuns

    Odd.

  605. @John Cowan: We have indeed discussed David Suchet’s on-set interview before (mostly here). That particular interview may be particularly memorable because Suchet comments at one point about still being in character, even between takes.

    Another place I remember this issue being pronounced was on the commentary track for the Stargate SG-1 episode “Changeling.” The episode was written by cast member Christopher Judge as a special episode featuring his character (although it was heavily edited to fit it into a key position in the show’s ongoing story arc). Much of the episode features a dream sequence in which Judge and frequently recurring actor Tony Amendola, both of whom normally play taciturn alien warriors, are ordinary American firemen. In the commentary, Judge talks about how difficult it was for him and Amendola to shake off their usual roles, which they had been playing for years. In particular, he says that just being on set with his regular SG-1 co-stars pushed him into character as Teal’c, while he would have had no trouble playing an entirely different character if the shooting environment were different.

  606. Not Odd for Irish nuns; compare Derry Girls.

  607. David Marjanović: “maybe an- can’t produce /ɑn/, but on- could?”

    “an-” absolutely can produce /ɑn/, in southern England (i.e. south of the TRAP/BATH split isogloss), in e.g. “answer”. As for “on”, must be some American accent feature. But then, in an American accent, “a” can be /ɑ/ in “pasta” and “taco”, and thus also before “n”, Kant it?

  608. I suspect it is not consulted by as many namers of fictional characters as could benefit from it.

    No, although in the case of Breaking Bad the contrast between “Walter” and “Skyler” emphasises (even exaggerates) the age difference between the characters, which is probably what Vince Gilligan was intending.

  609. John Cowan says:

    As for “on”, must be some American accent feature.

    Yes, specifically the LOT=PALM merger that causes all Americans (except in eastern Massachusetts) to pronounce lager and logger the same way. Very few of us have the TRAP/BATH split, though.

  610. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    lager and logger the same way

    Except those who don’t have the LOT-THOUGHT merger but have ‘logger’ in the THOUGHT set. (-og words are a bit of a mess in North American English… you all have ‘dog’ in THOUGHT I think, but the rest vary)

  611. J.W. Brewer says:

    I don’t have that merger and definitely have “log” and “logger” with the THOUGHT vowel but “lager” with the LOT vowel. I think I have the same vowel in log, dog, hog, bog. Maybe I have LOT in frog, grog and eggnog? What other -og words are out there that I’m not immediately thinking of?

  612. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    Fog? Jacob Rees-Mogg?

  613. J.W. Brewer says:

    Fog has THOUGHT. I can’t say I have ever had much occasion to say “Rees-Mogg” aloud. I feel like if I say “Mogg” in isolation I default to THOUGHT but if I say the combination “Rees-Mogg” I am inclined to put more stress on “Rees” which seems to shift the vowel in “Mogg” toward LOT. “Mog” is slang (primarily but not exclusively British I suppose) for “Morgan” as a make of sports car. If and when I ever have enough spare cash to buy one, I guess I’ll need to develop a more informed view as to its pronunciation.

  614. Another American (not from eastern Massachusetts; born in North Carolina, lived in Virginia and DC) for whom logger and lager are distinct just like caller/collar or Dawn/Don.

  615. David Eddyshaw says:

    IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP:

    If you’re going to practice saying “Rees-Mogg” be careful not to be standing in front of a mirror at the time.

  616. January First-of-May says:

    What other -og words are out there that I’m not immediately thinking of?

    Fog (as already mentioned), cog, pog, jog. There are probably others I missed.

    Admittedly you probably don’t talk about cogs or pogs often (and when they do show up they’re far more likely to be in the plural), but “jog” should be an everyday-ish word.

    (…wait, what’s the English word for a practicioner of yoga? I don’t think it’s “yog”.) [EDIT: it’s “yogi”, apparently.]

  617. Yog-Sothoth frequently comes up in conversation in New England.

  618. Of the –og words mentioned so far, I only have grog and nog with the LOT vowel. However, cog is also LOT, as are agog (and other words ending in “-gog,” such as Gog and Magog), jog, pog, tog, and wog (although the last is not part of my active vocabulary, being both offensive and a Britishism). The others are all THOUGHT. (Note how the jocular spelling “dawg” for dog emphasizes this vowel distinction.)

    The monster-god Thog defeated by Conan in “The SIithering Shadow” is a special case for me. Of course, there is the fact that the word only appears in print, but I have a (fringe?) theory that Thog is actually Clark-Ashton Smith’s Tsathoggua, also spelled “Zhothaqquah” and “Sodagui”—the latter in a story that renders Yog-Sothoth’s name as “Iog-Sotôt.” The alternate spellings suggest that “Thog” is unlikely to have the THOUGHT vowel.

  619. J.W. Brewer says:

    I have LOT in jog and cog and the Bronx toponym Throg[g]s Neck, but THOUGHT in clog and flog and slog. I didn’t know that pog was an English lexeme and after looking it up on wiktionary I remain somewhat unconvinced and have no clear intuition as to the vowel. Some speakers of the “lawyers jargon” register of AmEng say “rog” as a clipped form of the noun “interrogatory.” I don’t say it myself because I find it so unaesthetic as to not be worth the savings in syllables, but I think of it as having LOT.

    Maybe this could be called the cog-clog split?

  620. January First-of-May says:

    I didn’t know that pog was an English lexeme and after looking it up on wiktionary I remain somewhat unconvinced

    …no, “pog” as in the collectible plastic token. I dunno why Wiktionary doesn’t have that meaning.

  621. Lake Memphremagog?

  622. @January First-of-May: The only explanation is that the Wiktionary editors consider that Pog to be a trademarked proper name. In fact, the etymology that Wiktionary provides for the sense of pog it does include actually traces back (through an Internet meme) to the disk game.

  623. Never heard of pogs. There are the fine British words sprog [“infant”, derogatory] and snog [~US “get to first base with”].

  624. J.W. Brewer says:

    The mystery of the -og words may be accounted for by this wikipedia paraphrase of something John Wells apparently said in his initial publication on lexical sets: “The GenAm pronunciation of words pronounced with /ɒ/ before a velar consonant in RP [i.e. RP’s LOT vowel], such as mock and fog, varies between /ɔ/ and /ɑ/ [i.e. GenAm’s THOUGHT/CLOTH and LOT/PALM vowels] and so the words belong to no particular lexical set.”

  625. J.W. Brewer says:

    And separately, to loop back to where this thread started, I can report from multiple conversations over the last few days that many native AmEng speakers who seem very enthusiastic about the Biden/Harris ticket nonetheless continue to “mispronounce” (not “dispronounce,” presumably) Kamala, so we are not yet at a point where the “correct” pronunciation is even a reliable in-group shibboleth. Maybe that will happen in time; maybe it won’t.

    I’m not sure that the subset of Americans most supportive of Spiro Agnew during his service as vice-president ever all converged on a consensus as to the stressed vowel, and maybe he decided that achieving that sort of consensus was not a particularly important goal for him. (For much of his life he had anyway reportedly preferred to be addressed as “Ted,” based on his middle name of Theodore, but that didn’t stick for third-party reference when he became a national figure.)

  626. I don’t think it’s all that important how people pronounce the names of other people in the abstract — there’s never going to be consistency, and people are always going to say names in ways other than that preferred by the bearer unless they have repeated personal exposure to the preferred version. (How many Americans ever said Khrushchev or Qaddafi correctly?) The two important cases are 1) personal encounters (people should try to pay attention to how whoever they’re interacting with says their name and imitate it as best they can) and 2) malicious mispronunciation (or “dispronunciation”) intended to publicly disparage someone (the Perdue case).

  627. J.W. Brewer says:

    Except to your #2, it is the inevitable lot of a political candidate or office holder in the U.S. to be publicly disparaged. We don’t have lese majesty laws. Pres. Clinton did not refer to himself as Slick Willie; Pres. Nixon did not refer to himself as Tricky Dick; Pres Trump did not refer to himself as “Drumpf” or any of a number of other variants. Pres. Obama went by “Barry” as a teenager, but switched back to his full given name later in life, and those who deliberately referred to him during his presidency with his teenage nickname generally did so deliberately and with pejorative intent. Was this uncivil and impolite? Sure. Americans were uncivil and impolite in their speech about Adams or Jefferson (depending on which one they disliked) 220 years ago, even if it didn’t manifest in this particular way.

    Now, I think there’s a separate legitimate issue as to whether someone in Sen. Perdue’s particular position should use the sort of disparaging variation on a rival politician’s name that would be commonplace among opinion journalists and/or rank-and-file voters sitting in a bar yelling at the television. Perhaps back during the Nixon era sitting Democratic Senators were careful not to say “Tricky Dick” in the presence of a tv camera but left that to other members of their political coalition? But norms about whether people occupying particular social roles should speak in a more elevated register and avoid more vernacular registers are historically contingent and subject to change over time.

  628. Except to your #2, it is the inevitable lot of a political candidate or office holder in the U.S. to be publicly disparaged.

    Good lord almighty, I’m not against disparaging public figures — I do it constantly, and I am flabbergasted anyone who has read LH for any length of time could think otherwise. I thought it was clear from context, but since apparently it isn’t, let me spell it out: I’m talking about malicious mispronunciation intended to mock someone’s ethnic/racial background, which is bad not (I’d better spell this out too) because it might hurt that particular person’s feelings (Kamala Harris seems pretty well fortified) but because it adds to the burden minorities face every day in this racist and xenophobic country. The point is not that Harris will hear it and weep, the point is that lots of Indian-Americans and others who identify with disparaged minorities will feel it as yet another kick, yet another way to keep them down. Alles klar?

  629. David Eddyshaw says:

    But norms about whether people occupying particular social roles should speak in a more elevated register and avoid more vernacular registers are historically contingent and subject to change over time.

    Deliberate racist dog-whistles are not a matter of “elevated” versus “vernacular” register. There’s nothing specifically “vernacular” about the ineffable Perdue’s verbal behaviour here. I learnt how to be polite in a vernacular register long ago, and so did he.

    The idea that common decency is an elitist affectation is at the core of Trumpism. It is false.

  630. What he said.

  631. J.W. Brewer says:

    I would be fascinated by a journalist intrepid enough to go out and locate a reasonable number of the other 104 American women born in 1964 and named Kamala, to see what their experiences have been and also to learn more about their demographics. My earlier guess that the modal Kamala of that generation is the child of hippieish white people who got a paperback book of potential baby names with an “Exotic Oriental” section remains unconfirmed, but it certainly has not been disconfirmed. (The 1964 peak also makes me curious if there was some vaguely-famous Kamala in the news at the time whom we’ve now forgotten but who was a causal factor in the spike.) I would by contrast be quite surprised if a son of white hippieish parents was given a different sort of etymologically Indic name like Aniruddh or Sandip, which for whatever reasons (visual? phonological?) feels less like the flavor of exoticism that that sort of white parents would have been seeking. Consider e.g. George Harrison’s son Dhani, whose name was Indically-derived but is AFAIK not actually a common given name among actual children of South Asian ancestry.

    In other words, I suspect the Sanskrit etymology may be a bit of a red herring as to what sort of ethnic signal the name Kamala sends in a U.S. context, unless one is treating its single currently-famous bearer as prototypical, which may be a methodological mistake, or at a minimum a self-fulfilling prophecy. Indeed, I would guess that plenty of Americans unaware of the Sanskrit etymology and focused more on Sen. Harris’ paternal ancestry than her maternal ancestry have slotted Kamala into their mental bucket labeled “vaguely exotic made-up-sounding and/or African-sounding names that are stereotypically given by black parents to their daughters, a la Shaniqua.” Certainly if you’d told them some fish story like “oh, it’s Swahili for ‘brave princess,'” plenty of her political supporters would have thought that was lovely and not had their BS detectors triggered.

    More generally, if the baseline level of vituperation historically directed against white male politicians in the U.S. since the days of Adams and Jefferson is thought to be qualitatively different and more problematic if and when directed against non-white and/or non-male politicians, I think that may in practice hinder rather than help any long-run goal of diversifying the demographics of the political class. That’s an empirical/prudential judgment on my part, which may be in error, not one derived from any sort of first moral principles.

  632. If you don’t see the difference between calling someone a swine or a traitor and calling them by an ethnic/racial slur, I guess we’re not going to understand each other.

  633. David Eddyshaw says:

    @JWB:

    I wouldn’t knock first moral principles. And the argument that calling out racism only entrenches it further seems (empirically and prudentially) weak to me. The very real changes in public attitudes to diversity that have occurred over my lifetime do not appear to have been achieved by people keeping their heads down to avoid annoying the bigots.

  634. J.W. Brewer says:

    I can assure David Eddyshaw that these days elite Americans of left-of-center shades of political opinion are also frequently coarse, vulgar, and uncivil when discussing public figures (and not only white male ones) whom they dislike. It’s not, at present, a class-marker thing. I was simply wondering if there has been a historical change over the course of my lifetime. Lyndon Johnson was extraordinarily vulgar in private but in most of his public appearances as president he paid deference to certain then-existing social norms about how presidents should speak when the tv cameras were on, and senators of that generation may have observed similar distinctions. Hat’s generation waged war on the supposed hypocrisy of such social niceties, and they won.

  635. PlasticPaddy says:

    @jwb
    Since you keep bringing this up, another data point is Jimmy Carter’s hommage to “Hubert Horatio Hornblower–Err HUMPHREY”.🙂

  636. David Eddyshaw says:

    @JWB:

    There is actually (hurrah!) a linguistic point at issue here.

    If you were to call me (per impossibile) a “canting Socialist hypocrite” you would just be being rude, and I am happy to take your word for it that this is quite usual among Americans of all social strata and political persuasions (the Americans I’ve actually met personally may well all be outliers); however, if you were to call me a “canting Welsh hypocrite” you would (by Grice’s Maxim of Quantity: this is the linguistic bit) be reasonably taken to imply that canting hypocrisy is a failing particularly associated with those of my ethnic origin. The problem would not be that you were rude (ex hypothesi, acceptable in the rough-and-tumble of American political discourse) but that you were racist. (Typical bloody Saxon if you ask me.)

  637. David Eddyshaw says:

    To clarify (ran out of editing time) this would be the case whether you were addressing me directly or referring to me in the third person at a conclave of like-minded opponents of canting hypocrisy in all its manifestations. This issue is not one of in-yer-face direct personal offensiveness (to which vice Americans seem less prone, on the whole, than my fellow-countrymen.)

  638. PlasticPaddy says:

    @de
    You are joking, but among separate but equal ethnicities there is what I consider a healthy tradition of “slanging”.I would agree that this type of slanging should not be used in situations where there is actual/historical/perceived inequality, or where the audience may take away the wrong message. I would hate to see a blanket ban on slanging. For one thing, football fans would be practically silenced.

  639. J.W. Brewer says:

    David: So what do you make of people who call Pres. Trump “Drumpf” in order to variously evoke the sense of him being an imperfectly-assimilated immigrant, or enjoy the lowbrow pleasure of noting that foreigners have inherently funny names hahaha, or, via Maxim of Quantity to imply that alleged right-wing authoritarianism is a failing particularly associated with those of German origin?* It’s a perfectly fair point to say that German-Americans are in a sufficiently secure social position in the U.S. (although that’s probably what they incorrectly thought in 1916) that they reasonably ought to be expected to be thick-skinned about that sort of thing whereas certain other immigrant-descended groups are not in a comparably secure position and thus ought not be reasonably expected to react the same way, but that’s a conceptually different point than the one you are making. (And for what it’s worth, the President’s late father Fred Trump is said to have falsely claimed to business associates during the WW2 era and its aftermath that the Trump family was of Swedish descent, in order to avoid perceived anti-German ethnic animus in the particular social contexts in which he was trying to make money.)

    *Another US example. Mayor de Blasio of New York (currently unpopular with folks all across the political spectrum) was originally surnamed Wilhelm. The standard story seems to be that he abandoned that surname in favor of his mother’s maiden name after his parents had an ugly divorce in which he took his mother’s side. That’s perfectly understandable as a matter of psychology regardless of the ethnic signals of the two surnames. Nonetheless, some of his political opponents like to call him by his original surname, not just to evoke the notion that there’s something suspicious and shifty about name-changing in the first place (it didn’t help that he’d changed his first name as well), but because Wilhelm evokes Kaiser Wilhelm and thus a Teutonic threat to American democracy. (I guess Kaiser Wilhelm was sometimes jocularly called Kaiser Bill, but Bill is a sufficiently unmarked name that it doesn’t evoke that.)

  640. The 1964 peak also makes me curious if there was some vaguely-famous Kamala in the news at the time whom we’ve now forgotten but who was a causal factor in the spike.

    Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, one of the most widely read books of the hippie generation of 1960s, features Kamala, main love interest of the hero.

    In April 1964 new edition by New Directions publishing house came out and became a bestseller.

  641. David Eddyshaw says:

    what do you make of people who call Pres. Trump “Drumpf” in order to variously evoke the sense of him being an imperfectly-assimilated immigrant, or enjoy the lowbrow pleasure of noting that foreigners have inherently funny names hahaha, or via Maxim of Quantity to imply that alleged right-wing authoritarianism is a failing particularly associated with those of German origin?

    Excellent example. I’m agin it. More questions?

  642. David Eddyshaw says:

    I think that’s the Maxim of Relation, rather than Quantity, though. My own example was probably a bit of both, too. But it’s all Grice to the mill.

  643. Stu Clayton says:

    More questions?

    Warum?: Von der Obszönität des Fragens

    Spoiler: it’s a rather trying book to read. You probably shouldn’t even try. How German it is.

  644. J.W. Brewer says:

    Ding ding ding! I think SFReader wins the prize! I read Siddhartha myself in I think 9th or 10th grade (so circa 1980), just as a consequence of growing up in the cultural shadow of the sort of white Boomers who had found it profound when they were teens circa 1964. But I didn’t remember the names of the characters other than I guess the title one.

  645. David Eddyshaw says:

    Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

    Ah yes. I remember attempting to read it …

    I did manage to get through The Glass Bead Game, but was disappointed to find that the text doesn’t provide enough information to actually play the game. In hindsight, it may be that I missed the point a bit …

  646. J.W. Brewer says:

    The same white-Boomer-hippie demographic that was reading Siddhartha was also around the same time (as to some material percentage) reading enough other paperbacks giving a popularized account of Buddhism/Hinduism to become familiar with the trippy-sounding concept of “maya” (i.e. what may appear real but is in fact a veil of illusion distracting us from the important things). Maya as a given name for US-born girls has become increasingly popular over more recent decades (finally entering the top 100 in 2002), but it seems unlikely that that would be the inspiration since that sort of maya is a Bad Thing? Sen. Harris’ younger sister Maya Harris, born 1967, was definitely an ahead-of-the-curve bearer of the name although I did have a classmate at the American School in Japan with that name who would have been a year or two older than the younger Miss Harris.

  647. David Eddyshaw says:

    Personally, if I was going to be a Buddhist, I’d go for the Lotus Sutra. When recommending positive female rôle models for my daughter when she was younger (apart from the obvious choice of Wu Zetian) I always suggested the Dragon King’s Daughter:

    https://www.nst.org/articles/tales-from-the-gosho/the-dragon-kings-daughter/

  648. J.W. Brewer says:

    David, it’s a pity that you canting Calvinists (regardless of ethnicity) question the canonicity of the so-called Apocrypha, given such positive female role models as https://art.famsf.org/lucas-cranach-elder-and-workshop/portrait-lady-saxon-court-judith-head-holofernes-195474

  649. Female name Maya is European, Indian, Hebrew, Japanese and who knows what else.

    Russian too.

    And there is a certain pesky bee.

  650. Stu Clayton says:

    I did manage to get through The Glass Bead Game

    You really must donate your brain to science. Mine was so numbed by the first 40 pages that the book fell from my nerveless grasp.

  651. David Eddyshaw says:

    @JWB:

    Judith is indeed a worthy rôle model.

    https://allpoetry.com/Judith-Of-Bethulia

  652. J.W. Brewer says:

    In one of the internet’s most obscure parallels to Godwin’s law, it is held by some that whoever first cites a poem by John Crowe Ransom that is not gratuitous in context wins the thread. I yield to Dr. Eddyshaw, having foolishly given him the opening.

  653. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, one of the most widely read books of the hippie generation of 1960s, features Kamala, main love interest of the hero.

    I join in the chorus of appreciation. As a paid-up member of my college cohort (Class of ’72), I gave Hesse a try, but like Stu I gave up quickly, and the Siddhartha connection would never have occurred to me.

  654. David Eddyshaw says:

    I join in the chorus of appreciation

    Yes indeed. Fact is, SFReader is just hipper than the rest of us.

  655. My sense was that most lefties use “Drumpf” to mock Donald’s hypocrisy and class striving. At least we WASPs use it that way. It is a bit snobbish, granted.

    My real question for J.W. – do you have any sense how the other 104 American women born in 1964 named Kamala pronounce their names? Penultimate stress for most I would guess.

  656. Sen. Harris’ younger sister Maya Harris, born 1967, was definitely an ahead-of-the-curve bearer of the name

    I knew a Maia growing up in New Hampshire, born 1968. Her father is a fairly well known novelist who was a big Whitman – Kerouac fan, her name probably came from that same 1960s indophilic hippie vibe.

  657. @J.W. Brewer: According to Wikipedia: de Blasio “changed his name to Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm in 1983 and finally to Bill de Blasio in 2001 to honor his maternal family.” So he has kept part of the Wilhelm element all along, although now reduced to “Bill.” It does make me wonder when he started going by “Bill”—whether it was a surname based nickname he picked up, before he made it his official prenomen.

    My father averred (and I can’t say he was wrong) that Siddhartha should be read back-to-back (or even simultaneously) with Zelazny’s Lord of Light. Both give pictures of their putative Buddhas as rounded human beings. Maya also features in Lord of Light, although she is mostly just there to be seduced by Sam’s son.

  658. J.W. Brewer says:

    Vanya, the possible range of pronunciations is one of the things I’d be interested in learning from whatever freelance writer can sell a magazine editor on the “let’s go interview the other 1964-born Kamalas” project. The only datapoint I have is that as mentioned way upthread there’s a Kamala in “88 Lines About 44 Women” (she’s Woman #8 in sequence) and on both the 1981 indie-label version and the 1984 major-label rerecording Kamala is pronounced with first-syllable stress, not penultimate stress. On the 1984 version it’s definitely the LOT vowel in the first syllable, not the TRAP/BATH vowel an analogy with Pamela would give you; on the earlier version it’s maybe a little less clear and I’m not gonna invest the time this evening to listening to the same little excerpt over and over again to be more sure. I would also be separately interested in a survey of people who read Siddhartha in paperback English translation in the 1960’s to see how they pronounce the name of the Kamala character, because maybe the Exotic Oriental setting of the book and character primes different guesses at a spelling pronunciation than you might get without those cues?

    I think my ASIJ classmate (born 1965 if she was typical of our class) was a Maya rather than a Maia but I’m not 100% on that.

  659. I’d say to go to imdb and search for characters named Kamala in US/UK-made movies, so you could hear the names pronounced, but I can’t find a way to do that.

  660. There is an audiobook of the German version of Hesse’s novel available on Youtube. The narrator pronounces Kamala with penultimate stress, although that is of course not definitive proof that Hesse would have said it that way.

  661. PlasticPaddy says:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rXELJl00WLY
    Hesse has for me an agreeable, if a bit declamatory reading voice, but expresses in this extract a bit of a Blut-und-Boden aversion to the coining of new words like Rentabilitätsschwankung.

  662. Stu Clayton says:

    Rentabilitätsschwankung fails to meet general bloody soil requirements only because of Rentabilität, since that’s furrin. There is no objection to coining a word like Gewinnschwankung, which means pretty much the same. To get closer to ReSchw, you’d find a combination that expresses the time-differential, proportional, ROI sense.

  663. Stu Clayton says:

    Ertragsverhältnisschwankungen. Something like that. I rarely pay verbal attention to the differences between Gewinn, Ertrag, Einkommen etc. The German IRS gently reminds me of them. My tax accountant takes care of the details.

  664. David Marjanović says:

    Not Odd for Irish nuns; compare Derry Girls.

    Ah. I understand. 🙂

    “an-” absolutely can produce /ɑn/, in southern England (i.e. south of the TRAP/BATH split isogloss), in e.g. “answer”. As for “on”, must be some American accent feature.

    Yes; the context was American, so I deliberately made American assumptions.

    (…though on itself has a north-south split in the US; on one side, I forgot which, it has PALM/LOT, on the other THOUGHT/CLOTH, possibly influenced by the CLOTH word off.)

    Blut-und-Boden

    *twitch*

    That term is thoroughly… not even skunked; AFAIK it was coined in a Nazi context. (Spengler talked about both Blut and Boden a lot, but as a pair of opposites, one of the pairs of opposing forces that shape history.)

    For “down-to-earth” I’d use bodenständig.

  665. @Plastic Paddy: it doesn’t surprise me at all that someone like Hesse, who advocated a simple, unalienated life, also prefers old, basic vocabulary over words needed for the modern, technologically and socially complex world.

  666. PlasticPaddy says:

    @dm
    In the reading he contrasts the words he does not like with words that derive from die Erde and das Volk, so I do not think I am being too unfair. I agree with Hans that these sentiments were part of a general “back to nature and simpler forms of life” tendency that was common in the time of Hesse’s youth, i.e. late 19th, early 20th century.

  667. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    @David

    The Northern on is LOT and the Midland/Southern/Western on is THOUGHT. But of course more and more people have them merged anyway…

  668. John Cowan says:

    the much duller “Llanilltyd Fawr.”

    In the Kingdom of Kemr it has the same name, but the etymology is naturally different: ‘church of the all’, i.e. of All [the] Saints, < L totum. I don’t know what the Brithenig word for ‘big, great’ is, but Fawr may have been retained, as place names are often conservative right through even a complete language shift.

    the last president of my synagogue was named Bruce Miller

    Indeed. Until a few days ago I had no idea that Michael Tilson Thomas, whose double-barreled surname makes him sound like a High Church Anglican, is not only Jewish, but a T(h)omashevsky, the grandson of the Tomashevskys who had much to do with the founding of the Yiddish theatre in NYC.

    Bill is a sufficiently unmarked name that it doesn’t evoke that.

    As is well-known to the Hattics, my grandfather Woldemar [sic] Schultz was known as Bill to his American cow orkers perhaps because he was a draftsman who signed his work “W. Schultz”. But he was Wally to his American third wife.

  669. Name Waldemar in Russian memory is forever linked to this popular joke.

    A history lesson a few years after the war. The teacher asks children who helped with what during the war. A girl gets up and says:

    – My mother and I knitted socks for our soldiers.
    – And what did they tell you?
    – Thanks!

    Another girl says:

    – My mother and I cooked food for our soldiers.
    – And what did they tell you?
    -Thanks too!

    -Well and you, Vovochka (Little Vladimir), what did you do during the war? the teacher asks.

    -I brought them ammunition!
    -And what did the soldiers say to you?
    -Sehr gut, Waldemar! Sehr gut!

  670. John Cowan says:

    -og words

    I knew I was going to get in trouble with them. But in fact PALM vs. LOT has a fairly low functional load. This list contains such pairs but almost all depend either on non-rhoticity or the TRAP-BATH split, and as such are inapplicable to most AmE. Of the rest, Ghana/gonna fails for me at least because gonna is STRUT, and sahib/sob fails because AmE makes sahib two syllables, except for those of us particularly familiar with them, at least in literature.

    So, what I should have said: “Yes, specifically the LOT=PALM merger and non-distinctive vowel length that causes all Americans (except in eastern Massachusetts) to pronounce Mali and Molly the same way, assuming they know how to pronounce Mali.”

  671. Sehr gut, Waldemar! Sehr gut!

    Made me laugh!

  672. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    @John Cowan

    There’s a Ramones song rhyming mommy and salami and Commie. 😀

    Also, there’s this:
    https://external-preview.redd.it/Bhj0HkXGiInOvUIC1JhH4_kuIm7EB-dXksO1iXx_aQw.jpg?auto=webp&s=428f7dd8290b366df0fbbf183091a16f7033ff03

  673. Tom Lehrer rhymed “mommy” and “commie”. Captain Beefheart rhymed (I think) “mommy” and “mummy”.

  674. John Cowan says:

    Sehr gut, Waldemar! Sehr gut!

    “Woldemar, Woldemar! That is who I are.”

    Thanks for the additional minimal pairs, everybody.

  675. J.W. Brewer says:

    Is there any AmEng dialect in which mommy/Commie/salami have *different* vowels in the stressed syllable? The rhymes may be charming in context, but as with the slightly later Ramones song that rhymes “Second Avenue” with “chicken vindaloo” there’s nothing unusual about the pronunciation that makes the rhyme work. (You do need to be non-rhotic for the rhyme in “send a salami to your boy in the Army” to work, of course.)

  676. Re “mommy”:

    It is a interesting distinction. It doesn’t exist in Australian. Instead “mummy” is used for both, and pronounced identically for both words.

    If i came across an American text with “mommy” it would be unnatural for me to pronounce it differently to “mummy”

  677. @J.W. Brewer: I don’t know if it’s dialectal or just a personal idiosyncrasy, but I have a longer vowel in salami than in mommy or commie.

  678. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    @J.W. Brewer

    I think Eastern New England? LOT is different from PALM there, so mommy and commie would have one vowel and salami a different one (a fronter vowel).

    @zyxt afaik, the American LOT ‘mom’ comes from certain dialects of England; I’ve heard it from at least one Birmingham speaker (middle class, born in the early 80s).

  679. . I agree with Hans that these sentiments were part of a general “back to nature and simpler forms of life” tendency that was common in the time of Hesse’s youth, i.e. late 19th, early 20th century.

    Hesse would probably be an anti-vaxxer if he were alive today.

  680. the American LOT ‘mom’ comes from certain dialects of England; I’ve heard it from at least one Birmingham speaker (middle class, born in the early 80s)

    I’m a Birmingham-born speaker, raised in the 60s and 70s, and indeed I say and write ‘Mom’ as did everyone else where I lived growing up.

    See here for regular examples of British people telling a Birmingham politician she is inauthentic, too influenced by America, can’t spell, doesn’t understand her own language and so on for using ‘Mom’.

  681. Munster Irish mamaí maps closer to ‘mommy’ than to ‘mammy’ or ‘mummy’. (And mumaí is the Egyptian corpse.) There is a separate mommy enclave in South Dublin, as in Fionnuala O’Carroll-Kelly’s misery-lit bestseller, “Mommy, they’ve never heard of Sundried Tomatoes”.

    All of which adds to the difficulty of translating “Aujourd’hui, maman est morte.”

  682. John Cowan says:

    What’s always puzzled me is Louisa May Alcott’s fictional mother, whose children call her “Marmee”. Boston was then entirely non-rhotic (many people there are non-rhotic to this day except for NURSE), so once you realize that, you see that it sounds very much like most Americans’ mommy. But Eastern Mass (as noted above) doesn’t have the LOT-PALM merger, so that mommy and *mahmee wouldn’t sound at all alike. In the movies, all this is stuffed under the rug, and the “little women” all say [mɑ˞ˈmi], which I dare say no American has ever said as a pronunciation of mommy.

    On “Eastern Mass” vs. “Eastern New England”. Rhode Island is east of Mass and has no LOT-PALM merger though it is non-rhotic; per contra Vermont (north of western Mass) has the merger but is rhotic. New Hampshire (north of Eastern Mass) shares some of the Eastern Mass features but is losing them faster.

    Maine has all the Eastern Mass features: it was politically united with Mass until 1820, when it became a separate free state to counterbalance Missouri, admitted at the same time as a slave state. In addition, it is the last bastion of unmerged NORTH-FORCE in the northeastern U.S.; this merger is almost complete nationwide, but unmerged pronunciation also hangs on in St. Louis, Dallas, New Orleans, and in some flavors of AAVE.

  683. Rhode Island is east of Mass

    ?

  684. January First-of-May says:

    ?

    Yeah, it’s east of CT but mostly south and/or west of MA.

  685. I think he meant that if Rhode Island was part of Massachusetts, it would have been in eastern part of Massachusetts.

  686. J.W. Brewer says:

    @Brett, I sometimes think I have a vowel-length difference between longer PALM and shorter LOT but I don’t trust my introspection and maybe a neutral observer/recorder would find no length difference or at least one explained by other factors (such as adjoining consonants or whatever). But is your difference between salami and mommy at all a phonemic one? Is there a minimal pair that illustrates it?

    @SFReader, that was my assumption as well as to what was probably meant. If you extend the western border of R.I. north you more or less hit Worcester, Mass., which is generally said to be more Boston-like in its speech, with the real intra-Massachusetts divide (as to rhotic/non-rhotic etc) occurring west of Worcester but east of Springfield.

  687. J.W. Brewer: No, the difference is not phonemic. I can use the shorter vowel in salami, and it sounds fine; it’s just not normally how I saw it. If I use the longer vowel in mommy, it sounds like I’m whining. (“Mommy, why can’t I stay up past nine like Curry?”)

  688. Tom Lehrer rhymed “mommy” and “commie”.

    Also “salami”: “Remember, Mommy, I’m off to get a commie, so send me a salami, and try to smile somehow.”

  689. Tom Lehrer, “So Long, Mom (A Song for World War III)“; Mommy/commie/salami at 2:30.

  690. The Beefheart song is When I See Mommy I Feel Like a Mummy, here, live, or here, studio, both starting around 0:49.

  691. John Cowan says:

    Nah, I was just muddled and should have looked at the map. But it is true that the bit of Mass that’s east of R.I. talks like R.I.: speech variety boundaries never align perfectly with political boundaries unless the variety becomes politicized itself. The line between Scots and English used to go far south of the political border at the eastern end, but it now hews very close to that border.

  692. David Eddyshaw says:

    Tom Lehrer also rhymes “dollars” and “Valhallas.”

  693. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    Ah, so Ramones, I can only assume, got it from Lehrer!

    Oh, also, I just remembered, in the TV show How to Make It in America there was an energy drink called Rasta Monster /rɑːstə mɑːnstə/.

  694. J.W. Brewer says:

    Here is an interesting assortment of excerpts from various song lyrics where “mommy” is rhymed (sometimes in ways that are so loose that “slant rhyme” almost seems to overstate the similarity) with various other words, including not only Commie and salami, but pastrami and tsunami. http://www.rhymezone.com/r/rhyme.cgi?typeofrhyme=exa&loc=dmapi&Word=mommy

    Whether the Ramones were directly influenced by Lehrer or independently stumbled into the same pattern is not entirely clear to me. Maybe the issue was posed in an interview at some point in the past but if not all relevant Ramones are now dead so it will be hard to get confirmation either way.

  695. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    If it were just mommy and salami, sure. But this the trifecta of mommy, commie and salami, in three consecutive verses. Very unlikely to be independently stumbled upon.

  696. John Cowan says:

    Katz’s Deli still has its WWII sign posted inside: “Send a salami to your boy in the Army”, reflecting the non-rhotic NYC accent. The deli has been at Houston and Ludlow since 1888, though it moved to its current corner during the construction of the subway under Houston St., presumably in the early 1930s.

  697. (^700th comment^)

  698. John Cowan says:

    Very unlikely to be independently stumbled upon.

    Per contra, English has had rhyming dictionaries for at least a century, to make things easier for authors of light verse, song lyrics, and so on. The best-known and probably the most comprehensive rhyming dictionary on the Internet is Rhymezone. A search there for mommy produced the following:

    2 syllables:
    -gnomy, almy, ami, balmy, brahmi, chromie, commie, commy, cromie, dommie, draw me, dromi, fahmy, gnomy, gnom e, homie, kamae, ngami, palmy, pommie, pommy, rami, romie, saami, saw me, swami, tommi, tommie, tommy, twomey

    3 syllables:
    adame, adami, agami, ajami, akamai, asami, badami, beltrami, calame, cerami, dagame, esami, gourami, hanami, inami, islami, itami, karami, khatami, kolami, lathami, lomami, masami, mazame, minami, nagami, nanami, nizami, onami, pastrami, salami, tatami, tsunami, tunami, umami, unami

    4 syllables:
    antinomie, blasingame, blassingame, fillingame, izanami, kawakami, kirigami, mattagami, murakami, ramaswami, yanomami

    5 syllables:
    aegospotami, epithalami, hippopotami, hypothalami, kumarisami, laryngectomee, organigramme, ramanavami

    The emphasized words are those Rhymezone considers to be common words (including all three of the Lehrer/Ramones triplet), though how they can think that Aegospotami, the site of the last battle (naval) of the Peloponnesian War, can be more common that a lesser-used plural of hippopotamus defeats me.

    Warning! These lists are over-inclusive and based on a simplistic model of English pronunciation, and cannot be trusted. Homie, for example, has GOAT, not LOT=PALM, and draw me and saw me are only valid in the (admittedly large) area of THOUGHT=LOT=PALM=CLOTH merger. Blassingame is a rare proper name: I am reasonably sure it is trisyllabic /’blæsiŋgeɪm/, though I cannot find a reputable source. As for Twomey, it is one of those rough and ready anglicizations so common for Irish names, in this case Ó Tuama, so it is plainly /ˈtumi/, though for all I know there are some name-bearers who have accepted /ˈtwɒmi ~ twami/. I also have no idea what *gnom e is doing there at all; it looks like a typo for gnome /nəʊm ~ noʊm/

    So if you should find it necessary to commit light verse, be sure to look at a good dictionary to make sure the name is pronounced and spelled the way that Rhymezone says it is.

  699. J.W. Brewer says:

    I am sure one or more Ramones (probably all of them, considering how much time they spent in parts of Manhattan within a short walk of Houston & Ludlow) would have known the Katz’s slogan, and the Ramones song in question is, perhaps not coincidentally, military-themed although it does not include the word “army.” Plus the Ramones specify “kosher salamis,” for a further Katz resonance (although Katz’s is strictly speaking a “kosher style” establishment not kosher proper). Not saying the Tom Lehrer connection is improbable, just that I’m not convinced it’s impossible for it to be a coincidence without causation (of course, there are intermediate possibilities where after two of the rhyming words are already in the draft lyrics someone suggests the third not remembering that they were relying on something they once heard from someone who knew the Lehrer song). The best information we have on which Ramones wrote which songs (not always clear from the original “official” credits) suggests that the Ramone I would be the most money on having had familiarity with Lehrer (Joey) did not have a role in writing “Commando.” But that’s again not what you’d call dispositive evidence either way.

    EDITED TO ADD: The Katz’s slogan may itself well have been an influence on Lehrer, since his line is “send me a salami” and the first-person narrator is presumably his mommy’s “boy in the army.”

  700. >>Tom Lehrer also rhymes “dollars” and “Valhallas.”

    As does Chico Marx:

    Prosecutor : Something must be done! War would mean a prohibitive increase in our taxes.

    Chicolini : Hey, I got an uncle lives in Taxes(Texas).

    Prosecutor : No, I’m talking about taxes – money, dollars!

    Chicolini : Dollars! There’s-a where my uncle lives! Dollars, Taxes(Dallas, Texas)!

  701. I was wondering whether there were systematic databases of rhymes in lyrics; RhymeZone is a step in the right direction!

    …with several dimensions of error. Parsing hiphop is a particular challenge. How did RhymeZone decide [for “Steal The Show” by Uncle Sam] that “Mommy” and “lobby” rhyme with each other but not with “hobbies” or “probably”?

  702. My grandmother once got very pleased with herself when she realized that dollars and Yiddish dallus ‘poverty’ (from Hebrew דַּלּוּת dallūt) were homophones, at least as she heard them, /dal̴əs/. She made some clunky joke to frame this pun, which I don’t remember.

  703. @e-k: I think it’s interesting that, of the Marx Brothers, Chico was the only one who kept his foreign accent shtick after they became famous. The brothers (except Zeppo,* who was too young) all started out as dialect comedians.** However, as their stage act became successful, they all left their foreign accents behind except Chico. Harpo developed his silent humor, relying heavily on props; Groucho became the wiseacre persona that we remember today; and Gummo, who did not really enjoy performing, quit the act. However, Chico kept his Italian ethnic persona (although he joked during and after the Second World War that he was switching his character to Greek).

    * Zeppo was supposedly uproariously funny in person, but he was always cast as the straight man in the brothers’ films, up until he left the act and went into manufacturing. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, because he was the youngest brother, he was slotted into the troupe’s already developed act where there was a need. The three oldest brothers all had their comedy shticks, which left the straight role in the films for Zeppo. (Gummo, the second youngest, had also often been the straight man before he left the stage act.) The second reason was that his funny persona was very similar to Groucho’s, which made him rather superfluous as a source of humor in the movies.

    **A lot of American comedians (especially Jewish comedians) did dialect comedy, even though their ancestors might have been in the United States for generations. Another famous example is El Brendel, who was born in Philadelphia and spoke perfect American English, but who (along with his wife and vaudeville partner Flo Bert) specialized in playing European comedy characters—mostly German early on, then Swedish.*** I mention Brendel specifically here, because he managed to take his German dialect comedy persona into a silent movie, 1927’s Wings

    *** In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 send-up of the terrible 1956 horror film The She Creature (a pun on “sea creature” in this case—adding a linguistic element to this digression) the riffers at one point refer to Brendel and Bert, who have small roles as a pair of diminutive European servants, as “hobbits.”

  704. J.W. Brewer says:

    @Brett, in terms of the varieties of dialect comedy, I am somewhat familiar with pre-WW2 Comical Irish Stage Dialect and Comical Jewish Stage Dialect and Comical Negro Stage Dialect, but I don’t know that I’m familiar with Comical Swedish Stage Dialect. Is there a clip on youtube that exemplifies it?

  705. @J.W. Brewer: I only really know Brendel’s version of it, but here is the beginning of a typical comedy short, starring his Oley character.

  706. Brett, I do not mean to criticize, not at the slightest, but have you given a thought to topologically more interesting footnotes? You know, text B can start as a footnote to something in text A and contain reference to something in text A, preferably before reference from A to B. Possibilities are enormous.

  707. Are you alluding to the dreaded Möbius Footnote?

  708. Gamaleya, Gamelaya, whatever …

    the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow
    […]
    the Gamaleya vaccine
    […]
    Gamaleya
    […]
    Gamaleya
    […]
    Gamaleya researchers
    […]
    In 2017, Gamelaya received approval in Russia for a vaccine that also used the adenovirus 5 vector to deliver the surface protein gene from the virus that causes Ebola.

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/08/russia-s-approval-covid-19-vaccine-less-meets-press-release

  709. Stu Clayton says:

    the dreaded Möbius Footnote

    Our friend has a mild case of adnotatio. So far the footnotes have been mostly of the Russian doll kind. It would be nice to have a Quine atom or similar, as D.O. suggests.

  710. LH, I don’t know what Möbius Footnote is. But it sounds about right. At least, on the right side. If you excuse the pun.

    Stu Clayton, you are way ahead of me.

  711. LH, I don’t know what Möbius Footnote is.

    That’s because I just made it up, on the analogy of the Möbius strip.

  712. John Cowan says:

    Vowol reductien, tha curse uv Englesh and Russien spelleng; not ta bee cunfused with vowol harmono.

  713. David Marjanović says:

    …though potentially a precursor of it. I’m convinced it’s already observable in the three pronunciations (vowel-wise) of data.

  714. i suspect robert anton wilson of möbiusing his footnotes*, if not kleining them.


    * in novels**, no less.

    ** especially*** the historical ones set in the 18thC.****

    *** but maybe the joycean* pastiche, too.

    **** christian reckoning.

  715. אַ קלייןע הערה

  716. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Vowol reductien, tha curse uv Englesh and Russien spelleng;

    And Portuguese! If you can read Spanish you can read Portuguese (with a high degree of success), but the spoken language is another matter.

  717. We had a lively discussion of that back in 2013.

  718. January First-of-May says:

    Gamaleya, Gamelaya, whatever …

    Previously on LH.

  719. @D.O.: I add footnotes to my comments when I have digressions that take me in an entirely rather different directions. I have been encouraged to elaborate in these comment threads enough times that I do not feel self conscious about sharing whatever tangential commentary I have about the topic at hand.* However, when my comments become less germane to the ongoing discussions of what others have previously said—and diverge into commentary on my own prior commentary—I feel like it is worth marking them as digressions.

    In terms of adding a more elaborate and humorous footnote structure, I can only say there are some who have done that far better than any attempt I might make. For example, there are footnotes to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy interactive fiction game. A more complicated footnote puzzle appears in xkcd 1208. However, my favorite fun with footnotes is from “The Annotated Calvin and Hobbes. (You have to view the actual page image to get the gags properly; the scanned-in text is not adequate.) I do not really want to compete with these (and other) better attempts, so I have no inclination to give my footnotes any dependency graph that is not a rooted tree.

    * Previously, I might have refrained more from including my more abstruse digressions, out of respect for the valuable time of anybody who was might be reading. I was taught the going on too long about my own ideas was rude. But I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.**

    ** Some people may prefer the Dylan original of that song, but I think that The Byrds’ versions of Dylan’s compositions were usually significantly better performances than the originals.

  720. However, while I don’t think I necessarily have the skill to create a particularly humorous or ironic nonlinear document of the sort D.O. and others have suggested, I do like the idea. In fact, I wrote once about a whole book filled with overlapping text and footnotes—and the magical effects of reading that book:

    The cloth enfolding it was blackened with grease and decay. Yet the thick, once fluffy fabric wound many times around its covers had protected the small book from harm. The binding, of some reptilian hide dyed orange-red, glistened in the sunlight. The oil gave it an iridescent sheen, and the leather’s scaly irregularities shimmered like tongues of fire as Damel turned the volume over in his hands. A title, The Fireback, was tooled into the spine, and on the front the author had added a group of runic characters. The written forms of these common ideograms varied greatly by place and time. The wizard stared hard at this particular set, trying to puzzle out their meaning. The start of the message looked straightforward: “This book is….,” but the last character seemed problematic. It appeared to combine aspects of the symbols for “powerful,” “protected,” and “dangerous,” but Damel felt that the precise connotation eluded him. Still, he took great care as he opened the tome, ready should the book launch a magical attack against the new wizard who had claimed it.

    The binding felt very stiff, as if in all the time the book had lain in the wizard’s atelier, the owner had never once perused it. It had not many leaves, made of thick, rigid vellum. The runes began directly on the overleaf, and at first they proved simple to decipher. Damel breezed through the first few pages of varia, filled with poetic and philosophizing commentary on the nature of humankind’s condition. Then, the text suddenly became much more abstruse, at the same time revealing the first of the volume’s secrets.

    Up to that point, Damel had read linearly, proceeding rune by rune in the scribed order. When the interpretation of the irregular characters abruptly became more difficult, the wizard switched to a scanning mode. He planned to thumb through, digesting what he could, and to come back later to the subtler passages if he thought their contents might prove useful. He skimmed two opposing pages, then casually moved to flip over the next leaf. It refused to budge. The vellum was gummed in place, and the heavy page seemed to resist all his best efforts to work it free. He tried skipping over the stuck page, but to no avail. Damel realized that the whole remainder of the volume had fused together into an unmalleable mass, as if there were no separate pages there at all.

    With a queerly titled treatise, found in the remains of an enchanter’s workshop, one could maybe expect such curious behavior. An itchy shiver ran down Damel’s spine. He flipped back a page, then forward again with no problems. This only confirmed his expectations, so he directed his full attention to the knotty passage laid out before him.

    The symbols ran together, with the meaning of each one subtly shaded by how it interlocked with its neighbors. Reader, you were warned (or perhaps apprised), it began. One cannot consume The Fireback yet remain benighted. One delves deeper only through penetration. It went on a bit longer, sometimes the declarations seeming direct and forceful but more often maddening in their circumlocution. Damel worked through the whole text and, once all the meanings seemed plain, again went to flip the page. This time, the book yielded lightly to his touch, revealing a new and yet more intricate mosaic of overlapping sigils.

    For a while, the subject remained the book itself, although often the runes quite literally departed on tangents. A string of characters might detach itself from the main body and trickle down the page, offering sidelong commentary on the primary material. Such digressions might at some point feed back into the main thrust—or not; however, they were never excepted from the regulation that the reader must consider and master every scrap of material before continuing to the next page. As The Fireback examined the magical preparations that gave the volume its power and allowed it to make such unusual demands on the reader, an offshoot rambled on for several pages, discussing the aesthetic merits of constructing the book in this way. This marginalia was quite critical of The Fireback’s author, citing great artistic unoriginality. The concept of a spell book, endowed in its later sections with a protection that the reader could only overcome by mastering the earlier material was old and orthodox. Such volumes already existed not only in fact but also in the sagas and literary accounts that popularized wizards’ feats. Moreover, the annotations warned Damel not to interpret the digression itself as mitigating the writer’s creative failures; that the artist understood the deficiencies of his work did not excuse him from having created them.

  721. The Byrds’ versions of Dylan’s compositions were usually significantly better performances than the originals

    Hearing Dylan in Gale’s boyfriend’s mother’s basement, and what the mother thought of him.

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