LINGUISM.

The blog Linguism is updated rarely (only ten entries since last October), but has some interesting stuff, particularly a review of the Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation, with the kind of grumpy pickiness I enjoy:

The Earl of Harewood, his home Harewood House (both pronounced ‘har-wuud’) and the village of Harewood (’hair-wuud’) is not listed, but Althorp, the home of Earl Spencer, and the title borne by his eldest son, is there, with some mention of the controversy over its pronunciation. There is a misleading statement here: the authors say that the pronunciation ‘awl-thorp’ is used “in the village”, as if this justifies the pronunciation. But which village? The only village near the estate of Althorp is called Great Brington. The village of Althorpe (note the final –E) is near Scunthorpe, about 120 miles away. The contrast of the situation with Harewood is striking: while the Earl of Harewood calls himself, and his house ‘har-wuud’, the villagers living in Harewood just down the road call their village ‘hair-wuud’. That is their prerogative: they live in the village; he lives at the “big house”, and they each “own” their own pronunciation. The BBC has always respected the distinction. In 1997, when Diana Princess of Wales was killed, the BBC’s senior management ignored all well-established guidelines, and overruled the Earl Spencer’s own pronunciation in favour of the inhabitants of a village with a different name, on very spurious grounds.

I deplore, however, their criticism of Mishal Husain’s pronunciation. Ms. Husain can do no wrong.

Comments

  1. What’s with the odd “phonetic” spelling of ‘wood’ as ‘wuud’?

  2. Nomis, perhaps to avoid a pronunciation as [wʌd].

  3. The BBC Pronunciation Unit doesn’t use IPA, but uses its own system. See:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/magazinemonitor/how_to_say/
    The transcription system is in a document downloadable here:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/magazinemonitor/phonetics.doc
    It’s less than ideal…

  4. My understanding is that the Spencer family pronounce it al-thRop (al as in Al Gore, and note the position of the “r”) but that the BBC decided to make it al-thoRp on the grounds that the vast majority of people wouldn’t understand why it didn’t follow the spelling.
    As I recall, that change came perhaps 24 hours or so after Diana’s death.

  5. Thankfully for BBC newsreaders, the names Cholmondeley (Chumley), Featherstonehaugh (Fanshaw) and Woolfhardisworthy (Woolsey) do not often make the news. The yogh in Menzies (Mingis) still catches some out, along with ‘Dalziel’. Another common mistake is pronouncing Wodehouse as Woad-house.

  6. My understanding is that the Spencer family pronounce it al-thRop
    My understanding is that they say al-tRop (t, not th).
    the BBC decided to make it al-thoRp on the grounds that the vast majority of people wouldn’t understand why it didn’t follow the spelling.
    And that’s why Britain no longer has an empire. Pathetic.

  7. mollymooly says:

    there’s a Wikipedia page called “List of names in English with non-intuitive pronunciations”, which has a pretty random assortment.

  8. chris y says:

    And that’s why Britain no longer has an empire. Pathetic.
    But when Britain had an empire, the English for Varanasi was Benares, the English for Ligorno was Leghorn, and the English pronunciation of Althorp was “Altrop” and Afghanistan had a hard “g” in the middle.
    You can’t have it both ways.

  9. erm..So how should I pronounce Wodehouse, then?

  10. I always smiled at how Brett Favre pronounces his name. Maybe he’s an English aristocrat. It seems they’re allowed great freedom in moving R’s, unlike commoners who are allowed to add and drop them only at the ends of words.

  11. dearieme says:

    The Scots and English pronounce “Munich” differently. How do Yanks pronounce it?

  12. Thank you, languagehat, for some very nice comments about linguism. I’ve just posted a new item on Althorp for anyone who’s interested, with more background. As for Chris saying “you can’t have it both ways” – does he now say ‘parree’ for Paris, or España instead of Spain? Of course you can have it both ways – some names have been anglicised for centuries. Perhaps I’ll write a post on that …
    BTW, Sara: Wodehouse is pronounced ‘wood-house’.

  13. @dearieme: ['mju nɪk], more or less. How is it pronounced in Britain?
    @chris y: ‘Livorno’.

  14. komfo amonan: English say ['mju:nik], Scots say ['mju:nix]

  15. Scots do this with a lot of words. At school in Scotland, I always pronounced words like patriarchal with what Wikipedia tells me is the voiceless velar fricative. I assume it’s the ‘loch’ effect.
    Going up to university in England, I soon learnt that several words I considered part of mainstream English, such as outwith and depute, were in fact
    Scotticisms.

  16. Of course you can have it both ways – some names have been anglicised for centuries.
    Exactly, and as regular readers of LH know, I’m all for preserving the good old Anglicized forms. And of course I, like all native speakers of English, pronounce Afghanistan with a hard g, but Mishal Husain can say it however she wants. Because she’s Mishal Husain, dammit.

  17. Gianfranco says:

    Now the subject now is linguism and not bad etymology (23/1/2003) but I wanted to ask, whether Brian is back to answer or not, about the “sine” or “sin” element in limousine that is a clear deviation from “limovici” (elm people) and “limoges” (elm something; another unexplained element as the “sin”)…
    But not to enrage the up-todate discussion… To what degree does a personal pronunciation of a word is a problem? I mean, the practice of a language leads to inability to pronounce some words from different languages, doesn’t it? As long as the word is adapted in a logical way there shall be no problem, it is with improper spelling that a problem arises; as with people creating such names as Jhiobani in a terrible attempt to imitate Italian “Giovani” in a misinterpretation of English “John” where the “h” holds an etymologic presence (from Johannes) rather a phonetical (not being necessary for the soft sound of John but causing intuitive mistake in the Spanish speakers that invent these alienations)… However a person’s pronunciation, it last a lifetime at worse; A person’s writing might well go beyond that.

  18. mollymooly says:

    I’m all for preserving the good old Anglicized forms. Few now say Jewan for Juan, even for Byron’s Don Juan. Fewer say Byoo-ennis Ayrs for Buenos Aires, though the equivalent in French is still standard. For me the most striking adoption of closer-to-native approximations is among football commentators. In the 70s the best team in Amsterdam was called Age-ax; now they’re Eye-ax. England played in the 1998 World Cup in a French town called Lawss, not Len’s. Ten years ago, Gabriel Heinze would have had the same name as the ketchup; now he’s Ain-say.

  19. David Marjanović says:

    Some English proper names might as well be written in Chinese characters. In fact, that would take a layer of misinformation away. Grmpf.
    And, um… how can one pronounce Afghanistan other than with [g]? Surely English speakers don’t go to the trouble of producing the voiced uvular fricative or whatever the gh is actually supposed to represent??? ~:-|

  20. David Marjanović says:

    And yes, the French still watch spee-deh-RRMAHN. <cringe>

  21. John Emerson says:

    I’m wondering whether Gianfranco’s “elm” isn’t a linden (a.k.a. lime tree or basswood). Babelfish is little help though it does give “olmo” for elm.

  22. Graham: Wodehouse is pronounced ‘wood-house’.
    Surely that should be “wuud-house”?

  23. Gianfranco, limousin comes from the Latin adjective lemovicinus, which is derived from the name of the local tribe, the Lemovices. The -sin part is not an affix in itself.
    As for the etymology of Lemovices, this interesting site claims that Leur nom signifie ceux qui vainquent avec l’orme dont était faite leur lance, de limo (orme) (“Their name means ‘those who conquer with the elm’, of which their spears were made, of ‘limo’ (elm)”). Personally, I’m not convinced.

  24. Cum grano salis says:

    Wot a bludy shame, the English will soon know what the other be a saying. No dropped haitches, lost gees, next they be rrolling & trrrilling their Rrrs. No more excuses, not be able to say “wot yer say”

  25. chris y says:
  26. Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, speaking on the BBC this morning, said Af-HAAAN-istan. She has also always said TAAL-e-barn.

  27. marie-lucie says:

    In “Afghanistan”, “Maghreb”, and similar words, the “gh” conventionally represents a velar (not uvular) fricative, that is, a rasping sound pronounced in the same area of the mouth as “k” or “g”. After another consonant, this could easily be mistaken for “h” by persons not familiar with this type of sound. It is also mistaken for the “uvular r” (a uvular fricative) by French people, especially since many Africans speaking French use this sound instead of uvular r (I recently read something in French about Berber which said that the alphabet was called “tifinar”, when it is actually “tifinagh”).

  28. At least when the BBC and the British generally talk about the king of Spain, they do say Juan Carlos rather than John Charles; while the Spanish talk of the British queen as Isabella rather than Elizabeth – which name to Hispanic communities in America adopt?

  29. “Reina Isabel”, at least on the networks that come for free on Boston cable (they speak Cuban Spanish). For instance, in the Rushdie story.

  30. Ditto the free Spanish language newspaper here.

    … la reina Isabel II de Gran Bretaña …

  31. marie-lucie says:

    I find it interesting that the names of Popes continue to be translated into local languages, when there is an equivalent. Their official names of course are in Latin: the current Pope is officially Benedictus, but he is known in Italian as Benedetto, in English as Benedict, in French as Benoît, and similarly in other languages. John XXIII was Jean in France and Giovanni in Italy. Pius XII did not have a separate English name (and the name Pius is not very popular in English) but he was known as Pie XII in France (even if no one else was called Pie).
    I think that this continues an old European practice dating from the time when official international correspondence was in Latin (as the Vatican’s still is) and in popular usage the names, which were usually those of saints, were adapted to the local language: so for instance the emperor known in Latin as Carolus Quintus (who reigned over a large number of countries) is known in French as Charles-Quint (as opposed to Charles V, a homegrown French king). The famous queen of France known as Marie-Antoinette was Maria Antonia when she was born in Austria. This usage is still followed in Spain, witness not only la reina Isabel II but her husband Felipe, etc. Similarly, if you read a history of Spain written in English, you will probably encounter kings by the name of Philip, not Felipe (even if some of them were French princes originally called Philippe), and you will run into Christopher Columbus, not Cristobal Colon, Christophe Colomb or Cristoforo Colombo.

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