EDO.

The name of Tokyo until 1868 was Edo (江戸), pronounced /edo/. (Once upon a time, it was pronounced /yedo/, but we won’t get into Japanese historical phonology just now.) That’s not one of the more difficult foreign names; you’d think pretty much any English speaker with the slightest exposure to foreign languages would pronounce it correctly. And yet in Magic Tree House #37: Dragon of the Red Dawn, by Mary Pope Osborne, readers are explicitly told to pronounce it “EE-doh.”
Now, I like the Magic Tree House series a great deal. It concerns two children, Jack and Annie, who get sent on adventures from a magical tree house that appears near their home whenever Morgan le Fay needs their help. They go back to times and places ranging from the Late Cretaceous period to Ancient Egypt to New York City in 1938 to… well, you get the idea. The books are well researched and written in a lively and engaging style, and my six-year-old grandson (who is reading them himself, but still, thankfully, enjoys being read to) is learning a lot from them that he probably wouldn’t get from today’s history-averse schools. But when I hit that “pronounced EE-doh,” I got annoyed. I ignored it, of course, and read Edo with the correct pronunciation, but my grandson (who doesn’t miss a thing) said “I think it’s EE-doh.” I said “I know that’s what it says here, but it’s wrong.” He said “But that’s how they say it on the CD!” I said “But it’s still wrong. I lived in Japan, and I know.” He, bless his heart, knows his Grandpa Steve is the next best thing to omniscient and took my word for it, but I would like very much for the publisher to correct the error for the benefit of all those young readers who do not have access to Grandpa Steve. So I decided to send the publisher an e-mail about it and suggest they change it to EH-doh.
Guess what? The children’s department at Random House does not have an e-mail address, at least not one they’re willing to make public. The publisher’s contact page has e-mail addresses for most of their departments, but for kid’s books they want you to send an actual letter to Children’s Publishing, 1745 Broadway, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10019. As charmingly quaint as that is, I’m too lazy and impatient to do it. So I’ll use my bully pulpit and holler at them from here: Yo, Random House! You’re spreading falsehood! Do something about it! Sincerely, Grandpa Steve.

Comments

  1. I don’t know if they monitor it, but Random House Kids is on Twitter … @randomhousekids

  2. J.W. Brewer says:

    The chefs-as-perfomers teppanyaki steak house in our suburban town, very popular for kids’ birthday parties and the like, is named Edo, which is alas universally pronounced, by staff as well as customers, EE-doh. (I’m not sure, however, how many of the staff are ethnic Japanese as opposed to, e.g. Korean.) I have resisted this, but ultimately capitulated (perhaps treating it as a Houston St. NY != Houston, Tex. issue). My older daughter had certainly picked up the local pronunciation versus Daddy’s pronunciation well before she was reading the Magic Treehouse series. Otoh, since my daughters do know that Daddy lived in Japan when he was a little boy, they might buy my claim that the former Japanese toponym is for whatever reason pronounced differently from the restaurant.

  3. I’m somewhat surprised to find you on this side of the issue, Hat. You’re usually all for the traditional English pronunciations of foreign placenames, and isn’t it possible that anglophones called it EE-do before 1868? The OED is no help, as it systematically excludes proper names, and there appears to be no adjective founded on this name.

  4. Bizarre — maybe they do that out of some woolly idea of child protection? Their kids’ site doesn’t include anything that would allow users to interact with them or provide personal details. Or maybe they just don’t want to get loads of e-mails from kids trying to contact their favourite authors.

  5. For “proper names” read “place names”.

  6. I’m with John Cowan. Isn’t “EE-do” the English pronunciation of the old English name?

  7. Though I see both AHD3 and the gazetteer in the 1956 Webster’s New Collegiate have the short “e”.

  8. I’m somewhat surprised to find you on this side of the issue, Hat. You’re usually all for the traditional English pronunciations of foreign placenames, and isn’t it possible that anglophones called it EE-do before 1868?
    Anything’s possible, but 1) I’ll want to see evidence of that, and 2) it’s irrelevant what anglophones said before 1868 unless you want to revive MY-lan and CALL-is as well. I have never heard anyone say EE-doh (though obviously I have never been to JWB’s teppanyaki steak house), and I seriously doubt there is now a standard anglicized pronunciation of the historical Japanese city name to which I should defer. If I’m wrong and everyone but me says EE-doh (as they chatter about the historical Japanese city, a topic of whose popularity I was unaware), I will of course cheerfully retract my rant and default to my standard descriptivist “It’s all good” mode. Meanwhile, I continue to wave my cane threateningly in the direction of Broadway.

  9. I should point out that they’re not speaking English in the book and interacting with hypothetical EE-doh-saying expats (nonexistent in the time of the book anyway)—they’re speaking Japanese with samurai and Basho (though how exactly they manage to interact in all the local languages is a matter the series cheerfully omits to discuss), so the Japanese pronunciation is what counts.

  10. In that case, maybe it should be Yedo after all.

  11. Yes, had I been writing the book I probably would have gone with Yedo, but I can’t really ask them to redo the book to that extent. It should be a simple matter to change an E to an H.

  12. One may suspect that EE-doh definitely reeks of EEYORE from Winnie the Pooh. That’s the magic they’re trying to invoke.
    In Russian it’s Эдо (ehdo) and has been from well before the opening of Japan by Perry’s ‘Black Ships’.

  13. Russian may have Эдо, but it also has Фудзияма for Mt. Fuji. Can someone explain why Russian, which is ordinarily reasonably faithful to local pronunciation, insists on “дзи” for “じ” and other Japanese affricates?

  14. Good question, Wimbrel. Just a guess, but it could be that there are palatility issues here that make джи sound less like じ than дзи to Russians.

  15. I’m surprised. I always assumed it was EE-doh as I have frequently read about it, but never heard it pronounced. EE-doh just looked logical.
    you’d think pretty much any English speaker with the slightest exposure to foreign languages would pronounce it correctly.
    Sorry, LH, why ? Why does “exposure to foreign laqngauges” make it automatically EH-doh?

  16. John Emerson says:

    Just a reminder that people contacting Random House on this question should remain civil and avoid foul language and terrorist threats.

  17. It there were no spill-over, or the same kind in each language, what would we have ? Compalatilability, or compalatableness, or something else ?

  18. Why does “exposure to foreign laqngauges” make it automatically EH-doh?
    Hat wrote “pretty much any … would”, not “automatically” or “always” – although I did think it sounded like an over-strong claim, or a Eurocentric one. I can only judge by the languages I know or have some knowledge of: the “e” in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian (with “e” for “Э”) is pronounced more like “eh”, never like “eeeeee” (the sound the housewife makes in cartoons when she sees a mouse).
    Caveat: furrin words don’t count. Last night in a German documentary the reinsurance c*mpany Münchener Re was pronounced “Münchener Reee” – I assume that’s because of the American and British pronunciation “reee-insurance”.

  19. insists on “дзи” for “じ” and other Japanese affricates?
    because Russian orientalists developed this transliteration independently of Western. し is closer to си than to shi, and chi is less representative of ち than ти. Фудзияма is just an old traditional transposition of 富士山 into Russian, but гора Фудзи is also often used.
    What was the name of the Tass guy in Melbourne, Paul?

  20. woolly idea of child protection?
    yea, EE-doh, sounds a bit like ‘pedo’?

  21. Why does “exposure to foreign languages” make it automatically EH-doh?
    Uh, because English is the only language that uses the letter e for the /iy/ (EE) sound?

  22. In English, a vowel before a single consonant usually has a “long” sound. That’s why you double the consonant before adding suffixes, to keep the sound of the vowel: hatted/hated, hoping/hopping, siting/sitting; cutter/cuter.
    So maybe it should be Eddo and Yeddo.
    If Matsuo Bashō (1644 – 1694) is in it, maybe the older one.
    And what’s all this stuff about cane-waving? It’s perfectly legitimate to expect accuracy in children’s literature.

  23. I have a doctorate in Korean literature with minors in Japanese and Chinese lits. Since my first name is Ed and I’ve spent six years in Japan, I was often called “Edo”. I also get exercised about “karaoke” being pronounced “carry okie” instead of “cara okay.” Every time I hear a commercial for a product from Hyondae Motors calling them “Hun Day” instead of “H-yon-day,” I shiver.
    One really amazing incident occurred at an Italian restaurant in Louisville,Kentucky. We ate there once wit a friend and his Japanese wife. My wife ordered gnochhi, pronounced “niyokey.” Our friend’s Japanese wife, who’s English is intermediate, but growing, ordered the dish the next time she went there. She correctly asked for the gnocchi, but was corrected bt the waitress who said that it’s “guh-knock-key”!

  24. My first thought was Edo:Eedo::Kenya:Keenya, i.e., just an Anglophone reading pronunciation, but if the context is supposed to be a Japanese conversation, then they should do better than that.
    At least it’s no worse than Clavell’s Japanese bar-girl-influenced “samurai” talk, and wordlist translations, like “Dozo, help me.”
    BTW, I’ve been blogging a bunch of stuff about Edo, including the origin of “Edokko” (‘local Edo native’) in a 1771 senryu (satiric haiku), and other terms from the early Tokugawa era when people and goods went “down” to Edo from Kamigata (‘upper direction’), the older capital region of Kyoto-Osaka.

  25. Well, I sent them a message via Twitter. Let’s hope they get on that.
    I think that “Ee-do” is in principle an acceptable Englishified pronunciation in the tradition of “Paris” and “Cologne,” but in a series of books designed to teach kids things, and in a narrative context where you’re actually talking to Edo folks, I agree that “Eh-do” makes more sense. (“Yedo” is probably too far.)

  26. Sashura: Sorry, mists of time and all that. He was in his 40s in 1956, short, portly, very jolly and good fun, a career sports writer. Best I can do…

  27. If you watched any of The Samurai series in the 1960s, I’m sure you would have heard the /edo/ pronunciation. But of course, Wikipedia says that series was popular only in Japan, Australia, and the Philippines. It was great stuff, anyway, and I pity Americans whose only early exposure to Japanese culture was Astro Boy.

  28. Jongseong Park says:

    Wimbrel: Russian may have Эдо, but it also has Фудзияма for Mt. Fuji. Can someone explain why Russian, which is ordinarily reasonably faithful to local pronunciation, insists on “дзи” for “じ” and other Japanese affricates?
    “дзи” for “じ” makes perfect sense to me. The Japanese affricate here is [dʑ] (it can also be a plain fricative [ʑ] intervocally) and has a definite palatal quality, being derived from historical /(d)zj/. Russian и palatalizes the preceding consonant, so we can think of дзи as representing /dzji/.
    The Palladius system of cyrillization of Chinese similarly maps Chinese alveolo-palatals [tɕ, tɕʰ, ɕ] (j, q, x in pinyin) to palatalized цз, ц, с respectively.
    On the other hand, the affricate of джи would not be palatalized (I gather it would actually be pronounced as if it were джы; correct me if necessary), and has a much more uvular quality than English [dʒ]. To my Korean ears (we also have alveolo-palatal affricates) this sounds rather different from [dʑ].

  29. LH, Grumbly: I looked at French Wikipedia to see how I would read Edo in French, and indeed it automatically came as EH-doh. But in English, I just as naturally read it as EE-doh. Must be because I’m not a linguist and don’t analyse things, i.e. don’t think of the different pronounciation of e in other languages.
    But as someone said, we English other foreign cities to our spelling and pronunciation, so why not Edo ?
    Or am I not being prescriptive enough 😉

  30. “дзи” for “じ” makes perfect sense to me…
    the affricate of джи would not be palatalized (I gather it would actually be pronounced as if it were джы

    That’s a perfect explanation, thanks!
    And yes, джи would naturally be pronounced джы (but not written) and has a back influence on how English loanwords are pronounced: write джинсы (jeans), but say джынсы (jynsy).

  31. Assolutamente d’accordo con lei. In questo nulla in vi e credo che questa sia una buona idea. Pienamente d’accordo con lei.
    Condivido pienamente il suo punto di vista. Ritengo che questa sia un’ottima idea. Pienamente d’accordo con lei.

  32. Every time I hear a commercial for a product from Hyondae Motors calling them “Hun Day” instead of “H-yon-day,” I shiver.
    Why not spell it “Hyonday”, then? You can’t reasonably expect me to know how to pronounce Korean. Transliterations that are ambiguous are very irritating. Ideally, of course, everyone in the West would learn IPA at school instead of doing gym, and car manufacturers would use those symbols.

  33. Jongseong Park says:

    The English spelling Hyundai, as in many cases of Korean names in English, is an ad hoc romanization. McCune-Reischauer romanization would give ‘Hyŏndae’ and Revised Romanization would give ‘Hyeondae’. The Korean pronunciation is [hjəːndɛ] (or [hjʌnde] for the younger generation including myself), where [hj] is actually a single sound, like [ç] but more as an approximant rather than a fricative. This is basically the same sound as in ‘huge’, but in native English words this occurs only before [u(ː)] or [ʊ(ə)].
    This is why [ˈhjʌndeɪ] would be an incomplete anglicization for many people, for whom [hj] would be a difficult sequence before [ʌ] (this is also why Kyoto is three syllables for many English speakers, [kj] having similar constraints). One solution for these people is to divide [hjʌn] into two syllables to get [hiˈʌndeɪ]. The other is to ignore the [j] glide and say [ˈhʌndeɪ]. I can see how different people would prefer to either preserve the glide at the expense of correct syllabification or vice versa. I myself ignore native phonotactics and say [ˈhjʌndeɪ] in English.

  34. My real complaint in this case is about the “ae”. How is anyone supposed to know that it’s pronounced like “day” and not like “die”? Here in Norway the car name is pronounced like English “Hun-die”.
    “Hy” would be no problem in Norway if it were spelt “Hj”, which is common in Norwegian. But that’s a local thing, which is why IPA needs to be taught in schools instead of biology and gym.

  35. Jongseong Park says:

    I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that the spellings ‘ae’ or ‘ai’ representing Korean ㅐ [ɛ] will almost always vary freely between the vowels of FACE and PRICE in the mouths of English speakers. I almost always hear taekwondo ([tʰɛkːwʌndo] in Korean) pronounced with the PRICE vowel. For Daewoo ([d̥ɛːu] in Korean) the FACE vowel seems to be more frequent.
    Note that younger Koreans have merged /ɛ/ with /e/ and pronounce it virtually identically with the first vowel of Edo. So what is basically one sound is being anglicized as short E, long E, long A, and long I depending on the source language and romanization.
    “Hy” would be no problem in Norway if it were spelt “Hj”, which is common in Norwegian.
    But wouldn’t ‘hj’ be pronounced as if it was just ‘j’ in native Norwegian words?

  36. Yes, you’re right. It’s really only “fj” where you pronounce both letters.

  37. I recall that when the Hyundai was introduced to North America, I read in a newspaper or magazine that it was pronouced ‘Hundai’ to ‘make it easier for English speakers’. I also read that the Thais changed Siam to Thailand after the end of WWII to ‘make it easier for English speakers’.
    As for ‘ee’ and ‘eh’, I have long felt that Americans tend to pronounce vowels as their names are pronounced, far more than other English speakers.
    Of course I am aware that the tendency originated in England.
    Nijma’s comment is bang-on but I think the tendency goes beyond that.

  38. As for ‘ee’ and ‘eh’, I have long felt that Americans tend to pronounce vowels as their names are pronounced, far more than other English speakers.
    Stunce mstu nstume is Stu, Stu wstould stusstually hstuve tstu prstunstunce wsturds lstuke thstus. Fcrownr Crown crownt wcrownld bcrown crownvcrownr hcrownrdcrownr.

  39. Sorry, that should be “crownvcrownn”.

  40. What is that; German, Stu?

  41. No. He’s pretending to misunderstand the “their” in “how their names are pronounced”. More fun with pronoun trouble.

  42. David Marjanović says:

    Can someone explain why Russian, which is ordinarily reasonably faithful to local pronunciation, insists on “дзи” for “じ” and other Japanese affricates?

    зи isn’t [zi], it’s [zʲi]; and じ isn’t [d͡ʒi], it’s [d͡ʑi]. [zʲ] and [ʑ] aren’t the same thing, but they’re close; moreover, Russian /zʲ/ corresponds to Polish /ʑ/, and Belorussian (or so I’ve read) uses an intermediate sound; in some kinds of Russian, it’s somewhat intermediate as well.
    ж isn’t [ʒ], it’s the retroflex [ʐ]; [zʲ] is much closer to [ʑ] than [ʐ] is. Also, retroflex consonants can’t be palatalized in Russian, so the и in жи is closer to ы [ɨ ~ ɨɪ̯] than to the normal pronunciation of и ([i]); that’s way too close to the Japanese u ([ɵ ~ ʉ ~ ɤ ~ ɯ], never mind the bilabial compression). Polish outright spells y instead of i behind its retroflex-equivalents.
    BTW, Northern Mandarin x can be pronounced as [sʲ], but to do so is considered stereotypical for little girls. The most prestigious pronunciation is the… dorso-palatal sibilant, which lacks an IPA symbol. In my very limited experience, [ɕ] is only used by people who don’t retroflex, which is a stereotypical southern feature.

    I also read that the Thais changed Siam to Thailand after the end of WWII to ‘make it easier for English speakers’.

    I read that siam was Some Southern Kind Of Chinese™ for “serfs” or something, while thai, the source continued, means “free” in Thai…

  43. David Marjanović says:

    …As may have become obvious, I support the movement to teach the basics of scientific phonetics and phonology early in secondary school.

  44. Surely it’s not kara-okay? It should be kara-oke without the little glide to the eee sound on the end. It bugs me in Spanish guide book they tell you to say “kay pasa?”. That’s not correct at all. The actual pronunciation offered is a parody of a bad Spanish accent by a speaker of English.

  45. I feel like mentioning Star Trek’s connection.
    An Edoan was the alien with 3 arms and legs in the Star Trek animated series in 1973-4,
    according to Alan Dean Foster’s novelisations. but it wasn’t mentioned in the episodes.
    http://memory-beta.wikia.com/wiki/Edosian
    Then in the Next Generation episode “Justice”, the Edo are a race native to an alien planet where the episode rehashes the old “gods are super-aliens” cliche. It was not a good episode, but I’m sure the word Edo was pronounced with a long e, like ee-dough.
    There’s more at those links if you want to look.
    I always thought it had a long e.
    http://memory-beta.wikia.com/wiki/Edo

  46. marie-lucie says:

    It bugs me in Spanish guide book they tell you to say “kay pasa?”. That’s not correct at all. The actual pronunciation offered is a parody of a bad Spanish accent by a speaker of English.
    In phrasebooks made for unilingual English speakers, the pronunciation guide has to reflect how naive English speakers would interpret the sounds they hear, replacing them with their own sounds. French guidebooks for the same audience also use “ay” for é, as well as “ng” to indicate nasal vowels, as in “ung bong veng” for un bon vin. The tourist will sound awful to local ears, but more or less understandable.
    Of course, it would be terrible if textbooks intended to actually teach Spanish or French to English speakers used similar transcriptions for the benefit of the learners, but tourist guides are meant for limited communication during a short trip, and the hapless tourist can always point to the written sentence or word if their pronunciation is not understandable to local speakers.

  47. The palatal glide is rarely if ever phonemic in English and Americans interpret its presence or absence as part of the speaker’s accent rather than a fixed part of the word. With the glide can sound whiny, feminine, outdated, affected, hypercorrected, or like one of several regional or foreign accents. Without the glide is associated with masculine, straightforward and unpretentious, presumably the kind of person you’d buy a car from.

  48. Jonathan Mayhew says:

    In Spanish it’s the difference between peine and pene. Just saying…
    I know why the guidebooks do it, but that doesn’t make me like it any more.

  49. marie-lucie says:

    I know why the guidebooks do it, but that doesn’t make me like it any more.
    I don’t like it either! The best alternative would be a phonetic transcription, but only linguists would know how to interpret it. In the meantime, the books assume that a tourist will sound like a tourist, that is, have a strong accent.
    peine/pene: better for the tourist to say “peinei” for both, rather than the opposite (fortnuately, only “peine” is likely to be sought in a shop).

  50. I had to look up peine, which is embarrassing because I thought my Spanish was pretty good, but I believe in Argentina we said peinilla for ‘comb.’

  51. it’s irrelevant what anglophones said before 1868 unless you want to revive MY-lan
    I was car-shopping two or three years ago, and every salesperson who showed me a Mercury Milan (one of the models I was considering) pronounced it MY-lan, much to my surprise.

  52. Then there’s the extremely hoppy Californian beer Pliny the Elder, pronounced Pleye-nee in stead of Plinny …

  53. I distinctly remember the first U.S. commercials for Hyundae saying “It’s [ˈhʌndɛi], like Monday!”

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