I imagine I first knew of Lydia Lopokova as the wife of John Maynard Keynes, and I probably said her name mentally as “Lo-POCK-ova.” Eventually I learned that her actual (Russian) surname was Lopukhova (la-pu-KHO-və), but I never really adjusted my mental audio file, because the two versions were too different to reconcile and I never had any reason to think about her. Now John Freedman of Russian Culture in Landmarks has posted about her, and the first paragraph both explains how the renaming came about and exacerbates my feeling that something went terribly wrong:
Most of the world knows her as Lydia Lopokova, although she was born and grew up in St. Petersburg as Lidia Lopukhova. The “pseudonym” (if you’re generous) or the abomination of her real name (if you’re honest) was visited upon us by Sergei Diaghilev. When he hired Lopukhova to join the Ballets Russes in 1910, he resolved that the world would not know what to do with the “Lopukhova” configuration… as though “Lopokova” were a great improvement. But history is what it is (just for the record, Russian folk wisdom calls it a turkey) so we have what we have: Lydia Lopokova (1892-1981), one of the stars of the Ballets Russes. She never again lived in Russia and, for many years, lived at this house at 46 Gordon Square, Kings Cross, London, with her husband John Maynard Keynes, the famed economist and member of the Bloomsbury group of intellectuals.
I simply can’t imagine how Diaghilev could have come up with that; I can see simplifying the kh to k for Anglo-French consumption, but the rest… Anyway, now I want to know how English-speakers familiar with her say “Lopokova,” since she’s not in any of my biographical reference works and Wikipedia doesn’t give a pronunciation. Anybody know?