My wife and I have begun watching Simon Schama’s BBC series The Story of the Jews, and I was quite taken aback when I heard him refer to the island of Elephantine (once inhabited by Jews) as “el-ə-fan-TEE-nee.” All my life I’ve thought of it (when I had occasion to think of it, which was very infrequently) as “el-ə-FAN-tine,” just like the adjective, but once I heard him pronounce it I realized that was ridiculous — of course it wasn’t the English adjective. So I investigated and discovered that it’s from Greek Ελεφαντίνη, Latinized as Elephantine, which gets pronounced in English either as traditional el-ə-fan-TIE-nee or reformed el-ə-fan-TEE-nee. Schama uses the latter; I, being an unreconstructed traditionalist, will train myself to use the former.
Incidentally, Wikipedia doesn’t connect this name (“after its shape, which in aerial views is similar to that of an elephant tusk, or from the rounded rocks along the banks resembling elephants [or] because it was a trading center in the ivory trade”) with its Ancient Egyptian name of Abu or Yebu; Russian Wikipedia, on the other hand, flat-out says that the Greek name “восходит к переводу древнеегипетского названия острова и города — «Абу» (транслит. егип. ȝbw), означавшего одновременно и слона и слоновую кость” [goes back to a translation of the Ancient Egyptian name of the island and city, Abu (transliteration of Egyptian ȝbw), which means both ‘elephant’ and ‘ivory’]. (I note with amusement that they do not give the alternate transliteration Yebu, which sounds incredibly obscene in Russian.) Anybody happen to know anything about this?