MAAR ON NABOKOV.

Frequent commenter Sashura sent me a link to this episode of the BBC’s Open Book program, which features Mariella Frostrup talking to the Swedish thriller writer Henning Mankell, Alex Clark on “the most compelling private diaries of the last two 200 years” (finishing up with a discussion of the struggle over Kafka’s papers now winding its way through the Israeli courts), and German scholar Michael Maar on Nabokov (whose name, irritatingly, the presenter insists on pronouncing with the stress on the first syllable). The Nabokov section starts at 19:20 (of the half-hour show) and covers, among other things, the author’s homophobia (which he had the grace to feel guilty about after learning of his gay brother Sergei’s death in a concentration camp) and his dislike of authors who had won the Nobel Prize, especially if they were German (Maar, who’s done studies of Thomas Mann as well as Nabokov, has found hitherto unsuspected digs at Mann in N’s work); Maar points out that N’s claim of not having learned any German during his years in Berlin is clearly untrue. An interesting listen.

Comments

  1. Nabokov often strikes me as someone full of Old World prejudice who struggles to overcome it. He ridiculed Chukovsky because of his manners and mocked Akhmatova because she was a woman.

  2. Exactly.

  3. Sorry, but I pronounce it NAbokof, too. Despite having read the Clerihew at some point.

  4. mollymooly says:

    @Sili:
    did you listen to The Police at some point?

  5. Sorry, but I pronounce it NAbokof, too.
    I don’t mind civilians pronouncing it that way, but a broadcaster doing it—when she’s interviewing a scholar who’s saying it correctly, and when she’s previously interviewed Nabokov’s son—is pretty goddam annoying.

  6. To read this double dactyl, forget everything you know about pronouncing non-English names:
    Said Agatha Christie
    To E. Philips Oppenheim:
    “Who is this Hemingway?
    Who is this Proust?
    Who is this Vladimir
    Whatchamacallum, this
    Neopostrealist
    Rabble?” she groused.
         –George Starbuck in Pith and Vinegar

  7. Artifex Amando says:

    Just to add to the pronunciation confusion…
    Half of Sweden calls him Henning MANkell, and the other half calls him Henning ManKELL.

  8. How do the Police come into it, McMooly? Here’s an explanation of the double dactyl, written by James Fenton.

  9. Don’t Stand So Close to Me: “The line ‘Just like the old man in that book by Nabokov’ alludes to Vladimir Nabokov’s famous novel Lolita which covers somewhat similar issues.”

  10. That broadcast is also available for free on iTunes if anyone prefers downloading it. Look up BBC 4 books and Authors.

  11. That New Statesman competition-entrant’s “double dactyl” – sesquipedalian – is adventurously spelled by the Grauniad.
    Is the Lolita-author’s first and last name really a double amphibrachee – VlaDImir NaBOkov ??

  12. I heard that Open Book broadcast with Mankell last week. I think it was also on Open Book that I recently heard an interview with Doctorow. Radio 4 rocks.

  13. I remember that towards the end of the interview Mankell referred to a “dot”, and Frostrup corrected that to “full stop”.

  14. I wish to add a comment about an old entry, on which I can no longer post. Oggin (September 2008) is a word I frequently use as part of a phrase ‘in the oggin’, meaning not so much ‘all at sea’ as ‘in deep doo-dah’ or more vulgarly, ‘in the ****’ (substitute fecal matter for the asterisks).
    Is there a better place where life can be breathed into older postings?

  15. VlaDImir NaBOkov
    I’ve forgotten where, but somewhere I heard or read Vlad himself explain that this was the proper pronunciation.

  16. VlaDImir NaBOkov
    I’ve forgotten where, but somewhere I heard or read Vlad himself explain that this was the proper pronunciation.

  17. Is the Lolita-author’s first and last name really a double amphibrachee – VlaDImir NaBOkov ??

    Yes. The Russian wikipedia is good for stress information for Russian names; another one I got wrong for a long time was BulGAkov.

  18. I wish to add a comment about an old entry, on which I can no longer post. … Is there a better place where life can be breathed into older postings?
    I’ve added your comment to the Oggin post (and left it open, until spammers force me to close it again, in case anyone else has oggin-related thoughts). The other option, besides posting in a still-open thread, is to e-mail me and ask me to reopen the old one, which I’m always happy to do.

  19. I don’t know why that stress pattern is so hard for English-speakers in Russian names, since it’s so common in English words (amazing, exactly, remember, etc. etc.).

  20. It’s hard when you’ve heard NAbokov all your life, then somebody expects you to unlearn that.
    Imagine you were an American expert on 19th century English novels, and discovered only late in life that “Leicestershire” requires only two syllables of pronunciation. Would that be embarrassing, or would you just say to hell with it ?

  21. J.W. Brewer says:

    Regardless of what one does with the surname (and I think my own usage is not entirely consistent), it seems rather poseurish to pronounce or stress “Vladimir” in other than the standard English fashion when talking about VN in English. If you want to say his Christian name in some self-consciously Russified fashion, talk about him in Russian.

  22. That’s really a matter of individual background and sensibility. You talk about “the standard English fashion,” but I don’t think Vladimir is a common enough name for there to be a general standard. Certainly everyone says VLADimir when discussing Godot, but a great many people say Nabokov’s name correctly, because he made a point of insisting on it and many fans of his writing are aware of that. It’s not a matter of “self-consciously Russified fashion,” and it’s rather uncharitable of you to talk about respecting the man’s wishes in that fashion.

  23. J.W. Brewer says:

    Just as another example, the standard AmEng pronunciation of Ivan is something like EYE-v’n, whereas the standard Russian pronunciation apparently changes both the stress location and the vowels to approximate my pronunciation of Yvonne. But I’m not going to start talking about Yvonne the Terrible.

  24. If you want to say his Christian name
    … you’d better ask first. Until then, it’s ProFESSor NaBOKov to all of you.

  25. It’s hard when you’ve heard NAbokov all your life, then somebody expects you to unlearn that.
    Sure, and again, I’m not objecting to the average English speaker saying it however they’re used to. I expect better from professional broadcasters.
    Imagine you were an American expert on 19th century English novels, and discovered only late in life that “Leicestershire” requires only two syllables of pronunciation.
    I’d groan and retrain myself. But that’s just me; I’m picky about accuracy.

  26. I don’t know why that stress pattern is so hard for English-speakers in Russian names, since it’s so common in English words
    It’s more of an issue for speakers of British English. Americans tend to stress the penultimate – producing horrors like shar-a-PO-va or Kur-ni-KOV-a. I thought stubbornly stressing the first syllable of foreign words was just one of those quaint British customs that demonstrate that the British won’t allow silly foreigners to tell them how to talk. Americans tend to think every foreign language is Spanish and pronounce accordingly.

  27. But I’m not going to start talking about Yvonne the Terrible.
    That’s fine, that’s your decision. But I don’t see why it’s necessary to cast aspersions on people who choose differently. Being accurate does not equal being a poseur. (People used to insist on saying Mahomet rather than Mohammed or Muhammad for similar reasons.)

  28. discovered only late in life that “Leicestershire” requires only two syllables of pronunciation.
    What, “Lesshire”? Even John Lennon pronounces it with three syllables.

  29. Americans tend to stress the penultimate – producing horrors like shar-a-PO-va or Kur-ni-KOV-a.
    Are you quite sure they don’t do that in the UK?

  30. j. del col says:

    On NPR a few weeks back, Tina Brown and the NPR host both insisted on mangling his name into NAbokov.
    And, of course, Sting shares a lot of blame for this.

  31. What, “Lesshire”? Even John Lennon pronounces it with three syllables.
    I think he was choosing a counterfactual for a thought experiment.

  32. My, this thread is moving fast!

  33. But I’m not going to start talking about Yvonne the Terrible.
    Well that would be silly. You need to say Yvonne Grozeknee.
    To each his own – I think Vla-DI-mir is perfectly reasonable, and sounds more euphonious. I would feel pretentious saying Gar-ba-CHOF or Khrus-CHOF to non-Russian speakers simply because the English mispronounciations have become too iconic. Using the correct Mandarin tones to pronounce Mao tse-tong or Hu Jintao is probably also not a good way to make friends.

  34. marie-lucie says:

    Certainly everyone says VLADimir when discussing Godot.
    Not in French.

  35. Are you quite sure they don’t do that in the UK?
    Not really, no. I am fairly confident that before the Police mangled his name, everyone in the US said na-BOK-ov though. I remember being very confused when that song came out. Ironically some of the more pretentious among my high school set assumed that if a British person said it that way it must be correct.

  36. Using the correct Mandarin tones to pronounce Mao tse-tong or Hu Jintao is probably also not a good way to make friends.
    I also used to assume that Chinese tones in an English context was a non-starter, but lately I’ve been hearing NPR correspondents reporting from China saying the names correctly and convincingly (i.e., not like the prototypical “knee-cah-RRRAHHH-guaaah” multiculti wannabe), and I suspect that as China and Chinese become more integrated into American awareness (I read recently that Chinese is already the third most studied foreign language in the US, and my own grandson is getting most of his kindergarten instruction in Mandarin), such pronunciation will be as unremarkable as saying NaBOKov.

  37. Not in French.
    Heh. You know what I meant!
    some of the more pretentious among my high school set assumed that if a British person said it that way it must be correct.
    Grr…

  38. Okay, so perhaps it wasn’t a clerihew:
    Higgledy piggledy
    Vladimir Nabokov —
    Wait! Hasn’t somebody
    made a mistake?
    Out of such errors, Vla-
    dimir Nabokov would
    sesquipedalian
    paragraphs make.
    Nope, no Police, just John Wells.

  39. John Emerson says:

    As far as I’m concerned, the late VLADimir NABokov can just get used to it. There’s no special reason to try to be nice to the guy, he’s going to despise you from the grave anyway, one way or another.
    The late Lech Wałęsa is a guy who really had cause to complain, but he was a good sport about it.
    There are a lot of words that people learn from print sources and pronounce best way they know how in accordance with American conventions (which are hardly unambiguous.) In many cases this is even true of words which are now part of the English language. Who knows how the Choctaws pronounced “Pensacola”? Who even knows how contemporary Pensacolans pronounce the name?

  40. What, “Lesshire”?
    The OED just says

    (“lɛstə(r)) [The name of an English county town.]

  41. Grumbly: That’s the town, not the Shire. So it’s Les-ter-sh. Sh, not “shire”, for all such county names. Saying “shire” is American.

  42. mollymooly says:

    The dessert pavlova is always stressed on the second syllable in my experience. Merriam-Webster favours first syllable, but I don’t know how common the dish is in the US; it was invented in Australia or New Zealand depending on your religion. The NABokov>NaboKOVa stress shift matches the PHOTograph>photoGRAPHic stress shift. So I blame the whole sorry mess on the ignorance of some balletomanic antipodean pastrychef.

  43. J. W. Brewer says:

    My contention is that, when speaking English (at least standard AmE), pronouncing Vladimir with the stress on the second syllable (or Ivan like Yvonne) is “accurate” only in the sense that pronouncing Moscow as Moskva would be “accurate.” I.e., it’s not. I suppose others may disagree, and contend that personal names are different from geographical names. I myself would perhaps draw a distinction between surnames (try to pronounce as the holder does if it’s not too unreasonable) and first names sufficiently common to have a standard pronunciation (common property of the language community; don’t expect to be accommodated if you’re idiosyncratic).
    To be charitable to our host, there is certainly a valid distinction to be drawn between a poseur and a specialist. An Anglophone who knows Russian and spends time talking about Russian stuff to others who know a lot about it (example: Mr. Hat) may very understandably shift to a more Russified pronunciation even when having those conversations in English. But I would view that as a species of guild/in-group jargon, which certainly has its place but is often best avoided when talking to the broader public.
    But maybe we could have a grand compromise where we pronounce Vladimir the AmE way when talking about the author of the English-language works and the Russian way when talking about the author of the Russian-language works?

  44. j. del col says:

    As far as I know, Lech Walesa is still alive and kicking, but that’s only as far as I know.

  45. Terry Collmann says:

    Hands up who says “Dullan Thomas” like a proper Welshman?
    (Dylan Thomas apparently accepted that the English were going to pronounce his name incorrectly and never bothered pointing out the error.)

  46. My contention is that, when speaking English (at least standard AmE), pronouncing Vladimir with the stress on the second syllable (or Ivan like Yvonne) is “accurate” only in the sense that pronouncing Moscow as Moskva would be “accurate.” I.e., it’s not. I suppose others may disagree
    I am one of those who disagree, but I will defend to the death your right to talk like EYE-gor.

  47. Hands up who says “Dullan Thomas” like a proper Welshman?
    Yeah, that’s definitely a non-starter.
    Dylan Thomas apparently accepted that the English were going to pronounce his name incorrectly and never bothered pointing out the error.
    Did he actually say it the Welsh way? Wikipedia says “Dylan himself favoured the anglicised pronunciation,” which would seem to imply something more than tolerating it, but of course that’s just Wikipedia. Citation needed, as they say.

  48. J. W. Brewer says:

    Somewhat relatedly, I’ve long thought it fascinating that Anglophone Russian Orthodox (including the more “reactionary” and old-country-centric strands of the community) Anglicize proper names to the extent that Russian saints named Ivan are uniformly referred to in English as, e.g., St. John of Kronstadt. The same is at least sometimes true of more rank-and-file ecclesiastical personages. So the former Prince Dmitri Shahovskoy, renamed Ivan on the occasion of his monastic tonsure, is referred to in the context of his later decades in the U.S. as Archimandrite/Bishop/Archbishop John. (He plays a walk-on part in the Stacy Schiff bio of Vera Nabokov, although alas a not very saintly one.) And I’ve never heard anyone (at least not anyone with a native-speaker AmE accent) refer to St. Vladimir’s Seminary, its associated press, or any similarly-named ecclesiastical institution with other than first-syllable stress. On the other extreme, one of the factions of Ukrainians in Chicago has named their cathedral for Saints “Volodymyr and Olha,” so you’re not sure how to pronounce it other than NOT the usual AmE pronunciations of Vladimir and Olga.

  49. John Emerson says:

    My god, Wałęsa is indeed alive, and on Skype to boot (lwprezydent2006). But why isn’t he on the TV any more, if he still exists?

  50. I hope you’re not under the impression that being on the TV implies actual existence. There are many counterexamples.

  51. John Emerson says:

    So when he was on the TV, he didn’t exist, but now he does?

  52. Not only is Lech Walesa alive, but he’s in Illinois endorsing someone for governor.

  53. “Dullan” Thomas sounds like Belfast to me.
    Mollymooly: For what it’s worth, my mother, who personally knew, sketched (and worshipped) Pavlova, always said PAAV-lova,(though she usually just called her “Madame”). I know others called her Pav-LOVA.

  54. My contention is that, when speaking English (at least standard AmE), pronouncing Vladimir with the stress on the second syllable (or Ivan like Yvonne) is “accurate” only in the sense that pronouncing Moscow as Moskva would be “accurate.” I.e., it’s not. I suppose others may disagree
    I absolutely disagree. As far as possible, one ought to pronounce a person’s name in accordance with their own pronounciation. It’s a matter of respect. This applies less to place-names, since respecting a place and respecting a person aren’t quite analogous. Nevertheless, I would try to follow local pronounciation as much as possible. For example, I talk about Mumbai and Kolkata rather than Bombay and Calcutta.

  55. Oh, I thought I knew how to italicise text, but apparently I don’t.

  56. if the Police mangled Nabokov and an Australian chef violated Pavlova, who did in TOL-stoy? ZZ-Tops? And why is the dog PAV-lov’s, not Pav-LOV’s?
    Also, Ab-RA-movich is a patronymic, the rich man’s surname is Abra-MO-vich. Do they know of him in the US? and if so, what do they call him?

  57. Rachel: You use <i> and </i>, not [i].

  58. marie-lucie says:

    Rachel, the i’s have to be immediately before and after the portion to be italicized. Also, they need to be between arrows, not square brackets.

  59. j. del col says:

    But was Lev Tolstoy a sharp dressed man? Or did he wear cheap sunglasses?
    This semester I’m discussing Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, and Machado de Assis in one class. Fortunately, I have a native Russophone and a speaker of Brazilian Portuguese in the class to admonish my blunders.
    A friend of mine was one of Nabokov’s students at Cornell. He says VN made sure the students knew how to pronounce his name.

  60. For what it’s worth, I’ve only heard and pronounced the seminary as VladImir.
    I’m a “I’ll call you whatever you want” kind of gal. Names, pronunciation, stress,nationality, preferred sexual or other preference — whatever whoever wants to be called, I’ll do it. I understand when English speakers really can’t say a foreign name well. Medvedev is very difficult for many English speakers. So it seems just fine to try to hit the stress right and do the best you can. But it doesn’t strike me as difficult to say VladImir NaBOKov.

  61. J. W. Brewer says:

    Whatever the merits of the argument from respect in face-to-face interaction (and people who move to the U.S. because they were so careless as to let their native country and then not one but two countries of exile all be overrun by totalitarians should remember that politeness ought to run both ways between guests and hosts), the man’s own subjective preferences were buried with him in 1977, and we’re talking about how to pronounce his name in third-party reference while speaking English in (for me at least) non-specialist circles. As an earlier commenter suggested, had I had the opportunity to meet the man I don’t think I would have presumed to try the first name in direct address anyway. Or I suppose I could have gone for broke, played the overfamiliar vulgar American, and just stuck out my hand and said “Nice ta meet ya, Vlad!”

  62. Can I just express appreciation for whoever this Paul Cohen is who translated the article in Der Spiegel? I got all the way through before realizing it was translated from the German. Tip your hat to the guy – it reads very nicely.

  63. I think I’ve fixed everybody’s HTML. And to think that before I started this blog I had no idea what HTML was.

  64. Why is Ivan the Terrible not known in English as John the Terrible? Other rulers’ names are generally translated, even Russian ones. We don’t say Pyotr the Great or Yekaterina the Great.
    Things seem to have changed in the modern era, since I’ve never heard anyone talk about King John Charles of Spain. But popes are still translated, perhaps because they’re supposed to be universal and not bound to a particular country or language.

  65. Dick Cheney pronounces his name Cheeney but doesn’t care that people pronounce it Chainey.
    Einstein, Kissinger, and Schwarzenegger all have accepted English pronunciations different from their German ones, but I don’t know whether any of them actually started using the Americanized pronunciation themselves.

  66. Why is Ivan the Terrible not known in English as John
    maybe it’s because Ivan is the good old Welsh Ifan (Evan)?

  67. Some of the staff at Chelsea may have found it pays to know that it’s Abra-MOV-ich, but not a single British radio or TV presenter that I’ ve heard says that.
    Is there some basic rule to pronouncing differently a patronymic and a surname with the same spelling, or is it just in that case ?

  68. Is there some basic rule to pronouncing differently a patronymic and a surname with the same spelling
    Yes, the patronymic has unstressed -ovich, the surname almost always stresses the -o-.

  69. J. W. Brewer says:

    Just to make sure all permutations are covered, the wikipedia article on the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir seems to indicate she’s known in Greek as the Theotokos tou BlantiMIR, with the accent on the final syllable.

  70. Nevertheless, I would try to follow local pronounciation as much as possible. For example, I talk about Mumbai and Kolkata rather than Bombay and Calcutta.
    You’re opening a can of worms with that comment Rachel. A significant percentage of the local population of “Mumbai” actually prefers “Bombay” (or “Bambai”). It also seems to me that for Americans the distinction between “Kolkata” and “Calcutta” is just spelling, and the difference in vowels just doesn’t register. Sort of like “Kiev” and “Kyiv” – most English speakers pronounce those words identically (on the rare occasions English speakers talk about Ukraine).

  71. The pull of -O-vich in surnames is so strong that most such names derived from Serbo-Croatian, where they are stressed on the previous syllable, get penultimate stress in Russian. A classic example is Vladimir Voinovich, of S-Cr descent on his father’s side (his grandfather was the Dubrovnik writer Ivo Vojnović); his name should be pronounced VOIN-ovich, but in fact everyone says Voin-O-vich. There are a few exceptions, like General Miloradovich of War of 1812 fame; he is Milo-RAD-ovich to this day.

  72. David Marjanović says:

    I don’t know why that stress pattern is so hard for English-speakers in Russian names, since it’s so common in English words

    Probably that’s it! Russian already has several other patterns, which are very salient if you’re not used to them, so it could be surprising that this one exists there, too. Like how my sister almost refused to believe – when I told her when she had already had several years of English at school – that English has a [v] in addition to its [w].

  73. David Marjanović says:

    The pull of -O-vich in surnames

    Does that come from Polish?

  74. I thought the O-vich last name was usually Belorussian.

  75. Does that come from Polish?
    I believe that’s the usual theory.

  76. English has a [v] in addition to its [w].
    It is indeed strange that Germans don’t know that. They are perfectly capable of pronouncing a “v”, such as in Palaver, but can’t or won’t do so in initial position, where it is pronounced “f”. So they say the English “villa” as “willa”. Even “filla” would make more sense in terms of German phonetics, as in “folkswagen”.
    The Spanish are just as silly about “s” in initial position. They pretend not to be able to pronounce initial “st”, so it becomes “est”, as in “EstURR” (my El Paso Spanish name).
    These furriners, I tell you !

  77. To be honest, I had never heard Na-BO-kov before this. And I have been pronouncing it NA-bo-kov since before that song came out.

  78. Well, I limp amphibrachaically corrected – NaBOkov it is. I tend to recede the stress to the antipenultimate syllable in Slavic names of more than three syllables; I say ShaRApova, iVANova, VlaDIvostok — I see, wrongly some of the time. Thanks, Aidan, for BulGAkov, too.
    Saying “[-]shire” is American.
    So Hardy was from Dorsetsh?? Really – Paul, I can’t tell if you’re kidding.
    Pass the Wore chester shy er, please.

  79. I have taken to pronouncing my surname (not legally “von bladet”) the Dutch way, because then they can write it down and find it in lists and stuff, and that is a thing I often and devoutly wish for them to be able to do.
    I don’t claim that this gives me a moral license to stick with NAbokov, but I assume I will anyway: that’s what everyone (in Blighty) always called him, and he is too dead for his own emigré haughtiness to carry much weight.

  80. From John Wells’s jolly interesting site that Sili linked to: Apparently Nabokov himself characteristically liked to point out that his first name rhymed with Redeemer.
    I agree that NAB-a-cough was always the norm in England and has nothing (there) to do with The Police. BTW, is there an Irish pronunciation of Sting’s band as The PO-lice?
    Different countries have different customs about pronouncing foreign names, I’ve noticed. In Norway, people speaking English will often translate names too; so Petter might be rendered as “Peter”, for example. Not always, but sometimes. I can’t imagine an English-speaker ever translating “Peter” into French as Pierre, for example. In Norwegian, foreign city names are mostly kept in the original language, there’s no “Venice”, “Venedig”, “Parigi”, “Florence” stuff, it’s all Venezia, Moskva & Firenze (except they do write Themsen for the R. Thames).
    And I agree with Vanya that accommodating every place name change, like Mumbai & Myanmar, isn’t necessarily going to please anyone–least of all the natives of those places. I’m sticking with “Peking”.

  81. From John Wells’s jolly interesting site that Sili linked to: Apparently Nabokov himself characteristically liked to point out that his first name rhymed with Redeemer.
    I agree that NAB-a-cough was always the norm in England and has nothing (there) to do with The Police. BTW, is there an Irish pronunciation of Sting’s band as The PO-lice?
    Different countries have different customs about pronouncing foreign names, I’ve noticed. In Norway, people speaking English will often translate names too; so Petter might be rendered as “Peter”, for example. Not always, but sometimes. I can’t imagine an English-speaker ever translating “Peter” into French as Pierre, for example. In Norwegian, foreign city names are mostly kept in the original language, there’s no “Venice”, “Venedig”, “Parigi”, “Florence” stuff, it’s all Venezia, Moskva & Firenze (except they do write Themsen for the R. Thames).
    And I agree with Vanya that accommodating every place name change, like Mumbai & Myanmar, isn’t necessarily going to please anyone–least of all the natives of those places. I’m sticking with “Peking”.

  82. Half of Sweden calls him Henning MANkell, and the other half calls him Henning ManKELL.
    ManKELL, definitely. I am not strictly as a native speaker, but I learnt most of the lingo from my father, and I spent the first ten years of my adulthood in a Swedish-speaking environment.

  83. I can’t imagine an English-speaker ever translating “Peter” into French as Pierre, for example.
    They won’t even talk of Guillaume the Conqueror. But how about Pope’s? The French have “Benoît”, the Engleesh “Benedict” and the Dutch a stodgy old “Benedictus”.

  84. Is that the current pope? I’ve noticed that his name is impossible to remember; for the first time in nearly 50 years it doesn’t have any Johns or Pauls in it (nor Georges or Ringos, for that matter).

  85. Is that the current pope? I’ve noticed that his name is impossible to remember; for the first time in nearly 50 years it doesn’t have any Johns or Pauls in it (nor Georges or Ringos, for that matter).

  86. AJP: no, I’ve never heard PO-lice in Ireland. The usual pronunciation is two syllables, stress on the second. In the last ten years or so I’ve noticed Irish people on the airwaves making “police” a monosyllable, like “fleece”, and I’ve always blamed Peter Mandelson, probably quite wrongly. He was just the first person I noticed doing it, back when he was N. Ireland Secretary.

  87. mollymooly says:

    @Breffni:
    I thought “pleece” for “police” was just an idiosyncrasy of the lovely Sharon Ní Bheoláin, perhaps from listening to “I am the walrus”.

  88. “Half of Sweden calls him Henning MANkell, and the other half calls him Henning ManKELL.”
    This website http://fr.forvo.com/word/henning_mankell/ calls him MANkell.
    And Culturewitch, who actually is Swedish, has this to say in her blogpost of December 12, 2008:
    “The BBC4 programme Who is Kurt Wallander, presented by John [Harvey], was nicely put together. Although, when I finally get someone who can say Wallander properly (did he have help?), he then goes and says Mankell with the stress on the second syllable, instead. Grrr… ”
    http://culturewitch.wordpress.com/2008/12/12/how-do-you-pronounce-it-then/

  89. It’s always good to blame Peter Mandelson if at all possible.

  90. It’s always good to blame Peter Mandelson if at all possible.

  91. But how many call him Manning Henkell?

  92. marie-lucie says:

    police
    Here in Canada I often hear people say pleece. Perhaps PO-leece is a hypercorrection to avoic pleece.

  93. No, PO-lice was how Irishpersons were portrayed as saying the word, in England (e.g. in BBC dramas) though I can’t give any examples. It just struck me that I’ve no idea if it was authentic. There’s nothing in The Third Policeman about pronouncing the word.

  94. No, PO-lice was how Irishpersons were portrayed as saying the word, in England (e.g. in BBC dramas) though I can’t give any examples. It just struck me that I’ve no idea if it was authentic. There’s nothing in The Third Policeman about pronouncing the word.

  95. It’s pronounced that way in parts of the U.S.:

    Pronunciation note

    Many English words exemplify the original stress rule of Old English and other early Germanic languages, according to which all parts of speech except unprefixed verbs were stressed on the first syllable, and prefixed verbs were stressed on the syllable immediately following the prefix. Although the scope of this rule has been greatly restricted by the incorporation into English of loanwords that exhibit other stress patterns, the rule has always remained operative to some degree, and many loanwords have been conformed to it throughout the history of English. For South Midland and Midland U.S. speakers in particular, shifting the stress in borrowed nouns from a noninitial syllable to the first syllable is still an active process, yielding /ˈpoʊlis/ [poh-lees] for police and /ˈditrɔɪt/ [dee-troit] for Detroit, as well as cement, cigar, guitar, insurance, umbrella, and idea said as /ˈsimɛnt/ [see-ment], /ˈsigɑr/ [see-gahr], /ˈgɪtɑr/ [git-ahr], /ˈɪnʃʊərəns/ [in-shoor-uhns], /ˈʌmbrɛlə/ [uhm-brel-uh], and /ˈaɪdiə / [ahy-deeuh].

    I don’t know about Irish usage, but initial stress on “police” (['polIs]) is very common in Scotland; see this Log post.

  96. mollymooly: I think Sharon Ní B is just picking up on an RTE fashion. I can’t think of any names just now (Charlie Bird, maybe?), but listen out for it, it’s quite common among the current affairs and news types.
    I was aware of “pleeceman” in I Am The Walrus, but until you mentioned it I never made a connection with the Mandelson / RTE version. I always assumed Lennon was just being quirky.

  97. J.W. Brewer says:

    I can think of a number of instances of POH-lice in various rock etc. songs, but I’m not sure how much that necessarily tells us, both because not everyone sings in the same dialect he speaks in when not being self-conscious, and also because sometimes stress patterns will get varied a bit to fit the rhythm of the line (a species of poetic license). So if you don’t have a recording of Lennon being interviewed and saying “pleecemen” in his normal speaking voice, i wouldn’t draw too many conclusions from the Walrus.

  98. PO-lice was authentic enough as an Irish pronunciation, though I don’t think I’ve heard it in years. Most of the OED examples under “polis” (n 2) are from Ireland, not Scotland.

  99. Thanks Language, I’ve filed that.

  100. Thanks Language, I’ve filed that.

  101. There’s evidence that the default (as opposed to the most common) stress position in English is now on the penultimate, though with many lexical exceptions. In particular, when people see a word for the first time in writing, it is generally a learnèd word, and most of those are indeed penultimately stressed, so they get in the habit of it. That’s what makes ‘Vladimir ‘Nabokov such an oddity — an inappropriate initial stress on a very foreign pair of words. But then again, see the stress pattern of my name.

  102. I’m pretty sure the current Pope is named Sidius. Perhaps you’re thinking of Darth Benedict?

  103. polis is common enough in Scotland (in both senses of the word)its also more a west coast/central accent. Police is also pronounced as the “PO-LEIS” quite often (or I do if speaking proper).
    As for Sting, his knowledge of Russia has been shown to be lacking on other occasions. The execrable Russians for example(“I hope the Russians love their children too” Course they @!#!%@ do, you diddy).

  104. John Emerson says:

    The people I’ve heard saying PO-lice were African American, but the initial stress Hat mentions comes up a lot in country music.

  105. African American Vernacular English has strong Southern elements, for historical reasons that will be left as an exercise for the reader.

  106. John Emerson says:

    Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere. It all makes sense.

  107. Deadgod: So Hardy was from Dorsetsh?? Really – Paul, I can’t tell if you’re kidding.
    Not kidding, just trying to indicate that the correct British pronounciation does not use the “-ire” at the end, it’s sh with perhaps a tiny uh – a very clipped u, not “you” – Dorset-shu. [I don't know IPA]. It is characteristic of Americans to say “shire”. I’m not criticising that, because one can’t know the eccentricities of British English – Cholmonderly being pronounced “Chumley”, etc.
    Not being a native Brit I had problems too.
    And then there was the controversy about the pronounciation of Princess Diana’s home, Althorp.
    As BBC story explained:

    Ever since Diana’s tragic death, broadcasters and residents of Northamptonshire have been at odds over the issue. Locals say it should be pronounced as it is spelt.

    But Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer and estate landlord since the death of his father in 1992, insists it should be pronounced All-trup (phonetically written áwltrop).

    It even has a fascimile of a hand-written note to the BBC by Earl Spencer on the subject, and he was supported internally by Graham Pointon of the BBC Language Unit (an occasional lurker here). That was finally overruled by the main British broadcasters, jointly, on the grounds that Awlthorp was the way most people would say it.
    Just as the bulk of the British public would not understand why the Royal Standard did not fly at half mast on Buck House until the tabloid press made a fuss. (The flag never flies unless the Queen is in residence there, which she wasn’t. Harumph…..)
    Pass the Wore chester shy er, please.
    Wooster, as in Bertie.
    BTW, do you or anyone else know why Americans run the particle and surname together, e.g. DeVere, where we and the French and others use de Vere ?

  108. Does anyone know why the county is usually called just Devon, but the Duke (whose house is miles away in Derbyshire) is the Duke of Devon-sha?

  109. Does anyone know why the county is usually called just Devon, but the Duke (whose house is miles away in Derbyshire) is the Duke of Devon-sha?

  110. why Americans run the particle and surname together, e.g. DeVere, where we and the French and others use de Vere
    This is not the case. There may be a particular American DeVere and English De Vere you have in mind, but it is not a general rule.

  111. LH: Thanks.

  112. Your Grace AJP: According to Wiki, which in full is quite interesting:

    There is some dispute over the use of ‘Devonshire’ instead of Devon, and there is no official recognition of the term ‘Devonshire’ in modern times, except for the name of the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment. One erroneous theory is that the ‘shire’ suffix is due to a mistake in the making of the original letters patent for the Duke of Devonshire, resident in Derbyshire. However, there are references to ‘Defenascire’ in Anglo-Saxon texts from before 1,000 AD (this would mean ‘Shire of the Devonians’),[3] which translates to modern English as ‘Devonshire’. The term Devonshire may have originated around the 8th century, when it changed from Dumnonia (Latin) to Defenascir.[4]

  113. Terry Collmann says:

    For the same reason that it’s the Earl of Guilford, not Guildford, and the Duke of Bridgewater, not Bridgwater – sheer aristocratic bloodymindedness, sorry, I mean, it reflects earlier usage. People used to say “Dorsetshire” as well.

  114. On the one hand, I deplore aristocratic bloodymindedness; on the other, I like irregular survivals from earlier days. I am conflicted.

  115. Paul, I figured you weren’t kidding, but the -shuh makes it clearer: Dorsetshuh, Lestershuh (or: Lestuhshuh – almost one hissing, spitting syllable? is it a catty county?). The ‘ah’ (American: r [ah-er]) doesn’t get ‘closed’.
    I would have guessed there were some regional accents that sounded -sheer (?).
    I’ll skip the Worr chesterr shy err, Kid Jeeves.

    Althorp > Althrp > Althrop — This metathesization is halfway common, isn’t it?

  116. deadgod: I don’t think the sheer is even regional, I think it is widely used, both that and shuh are acceptable, I believe.
    This metathesization is halfway common, isn’t it?
    As I understand the linguistic usage, it’s a common way of mixing up words, eg. cavalry, calvary.
    But in the Althrop, Cholomodeley, Featherstonehaugh (“Fanshaw”) and so forth cases, I think it more an aristocratic (perhaps snobbish?) “in” thing. You are one of “us” if you know to pronounce it the way the Spencers or the Fanshaws do. If you follow the obvious spelling, you are one of “them”.
    As you are, I understand, if you set the table with fish knives and forks – they are “out” in the best houses…
    There are people to whom such things matter.

  117. In order for a phonetic distinction to become “aristocratic”, there’d have to be some sound change already occuring, such that it could become, for example, a class indicator. Unless a group that desired to create or emphasize its distinction from the rest of its society consciously decided, or were told, to start pronouncing words differently only to segregate themselves, or to intensify an already-existing segregation, on the social plane of enunciation.
    I think every person enforces, as well as obeys and contests, this kind of segregation. Judging some particular expression of ‘elitism’ is less a matter of realizing that a hierarchy is there – I think elitism is ubiquitous – as it is a matter of evaluating the priorities or values that inhere in and characterize that particular elite and that that elite intricates in its every communal act of solidarity.

  118. Locals say it should be pronounced as it is spelt.
    This has absolutely nothing to do with elitism. Though the Spencers are a weird & seemingly unpleasant family, the Althorp pronunciation is either an exception or (more likely) the writer of the BBC story just got it wrong. This isn’t a class thing, it’s a local thing. Norfolk, for example, is full of such discrepancies: Happisburgh is “Hays-brø”, Garboldisham is “Garble-sham”, Stiffkey is “Stooky”, Holkham is “Hook’em”, Wiggenhall St Germans is “Werge”. Okay, I made the last one up (though not the place name; it’s close to Wiggenhall St Mary Magdelane… Magdelane being pronounced “Maudlin”? I don’t know). Anyway, they’re all over the place, and knowing the right way to say the words makes you less of an outsider, but certainly not on a class basis. I used googlemaps to remind me of Norfolk placenames & came upon Hindolveston which just screams at you to be pronounced unlike the spelling, so I googled it and got: HINDOLVESTON, vulgarly called Hilderston. This may be time for a Baz Luhrmann musical about the set of nonsensical words that only make sense in Norfolk; Grumbly can take it from here…
    The “Leicester – Lester” example is widespread in England. Bicester, or “Bister”, is in Oxfordshire and not at all close to Leicester, which is the other end of the Midlands. There must be a logical reason: the great vowel shift or something like that.

  119. Locals say it should be pronounced as it is spelt.
    This has absolutely nothing to do with elitism. Though the Spencers are a weird & seemingly unpleasant family, the Althorp pronunciation is either an exception or (more likely) the writer of the BBC story just got it wrong. This isn’t a class thing, it’s a local thing. Norfolk, for example, is full of such discrepancies: Happisburgh is “Hays-brø”, Garboldisham is “Garble-sham”, Stiffkey is “Stooky”, Holkham is “Hook’em”, Wiggenhall St Germans is “Werge”. Okay, I made the last one up (though not the place name; it’s close to Wiggenhall St Mary Magdelane… Magdelane being pronounced “Maudlin”? I don’t know). Anyway, they’re all over the place, and knowing the right way to say the words makes you less of an outsider, but certainly not on a class basis. I used googlemaps to remind me of Norfolk placenames & came upon Hindolveston which just screams at you to be pronounced unlike the spelling, so I googled it and got: HINDOLVESTON, vulgarly called Hilderston. This may be time for a Baz Luhrmann musical about the set of nonsensical words that only make sense in Norfolk; Grumbly can take it from here…
    The “Leicester – Lester” example is widespread in England. Bicester, or “Bister”, is in Oxfordshire and not at all close to Leicester, which is the other end of the Midlands. There must be a logical reason: the great vowel shift or something like that.

  120. My little sister
    Lived in Bicester
    For a year or two.
    But then she moved to Banbury
    Which doesn’t rhyme with much.

  121. Des’s sister
    Went to North London Collegiate
    So she’s no eejit.

  122. marie-lucie says:

    Leicester – Lester, etc: No, it is not the Great Vowel Shift, or even the Great Consonant Shift, only the coming together (or merging) of the two s-sounds in the -cester words.

  123. How disappointing. But it makes sense.

  124. John Emerson says:

    There’s a town in New Jersey originally named BooneTowne, formally named Boonton a century later, and now (another century later) locally called Booten (about 1 1/2 syllables with only one real vowel).

  125. AJP Wymondham (Windam): the Althorp pronunciation is either an exception or (more likely) the writer of the BBC story just got it wrong.
    I don’t think the BBC got it wrong, as they reproduce a handwritten note from Earl Spencer to the BBC making clear the family’s pronounciation. After giving three alternatives pronounciations and crossing out two, he says:
    “I can remember my grandfather pronouncing it like this; my octogenarian great-aunt does, too – and it is clear that alternative pronunciations only came about recently, out of laziness (it became simpler not to correct the many who mispronounced it – the majority of whom were foreign visitors to the house.)”
    So you foreign visitors to the hise: backs straight, heads up, pull your chins in, pull your socks up !
    As Earl AJP says in another context, the correct pronounciation is hise, not howse

  126. hice, to be less ambiguous about it.
    But is that vowel in fact used by the crusty old nobility?

  127. Yes. I’d say it’s used by people like the queen and the prince of whales, but not by his children. So it will self-destruct within our lifetime. Hopefully.
    One slightly interesting thing about these pathetic, hideous people: If you google “the queen’s Christmas broadcast” or something similar, and watch the first one she made for tv in the fifties, you can hear the absurdly contorted way she had of speaking in those days; it’s matched by the bizarre, old-fashioned content of the speech.

  128. There are two ‘i’s in friendship. Also in high and mighty. And timwirk.
    There’s only one ‘i’ in a needle – through which it’s surprisingly easy to pass a rich man’s camel.

  129. I know people who say “hice” who have absolutely no conenction with the Royal Family, or even aristocracy. It is certainly a class thing, and may disppear, but not yet.
    The change in the Queen’s accent has been studied exhaustively. She’s an extraordinarily clever lady.

  130. I didn’t hear anything like “hice” in the Queen’s 1957 broadcast, but I did hear another laughable vowel thingy.
    To my amateurish ears, it’s like this:
    The vowel in “house” is a diphthong: it slides from “ah” to “ooh”. Some Brits substitute “ee” for “ooh”, as if they are too cool to be bothered to round their lips. This turns “house” into “hice”.
    The same speakers do something similar to the vowel in “home”. Again the second half of the diphthong comes out like “ee” instead of the expected “ooh”. The result is not exactly “hime” — somewhere between “hime” and “hame”, maybe.
    I don’t hear the Queen doing either of these things. I do hear her altering the first part of the diphthong in “home” to “eh” (I mean, to what we learned to call “short e’ in school).
    The latter pronunciation of “home” sounds very upper-crust to me. The other pronunciation of “home” that I mentioned sounds very British but not upper-crust. I associate it, for example, with Cat Deeley of So You Think You Can Dance. (I hasten to add that I never watch that stuff myself; I just catch a little of it when somebody else in the family has it on.)

  131. Paul, sorry to be rude about the queen, it’s rather like not insulting other people’s religion, I suppose, but you’ll have to keep reminding me if I’m not to do it. Yes, she does seem very intelligent, as was her contemporary, Mrs Thatcher, but also very amusing which Thatcher wasn’t. I preferred Dennis to Prince Philip, though.

  132. AJP: I don’t think I should impose on Hat’s hospitality to discuss the merits or otherwise of the Monarchy, except linguistically, but I be happy to continue the discussion on my blog. I’ll put up a little constitutional argument there tomorrow – I’m a bit busy entertaining some Australian republicans today ….

  133. John Emerson says:

    I remember Elizabeth’s coronation, which was on TV in Iowa (live and hours long, IIRC). It must have been one of the first big international media events. A precursor of the Superbowl.
    Sure enough: “The Queen’s Coronation on June 2, 1953 in Westminster Abbey ushered in the television age.”

  134. Oh good, Paul! That’s something to look forward to.
    June 2, 1953 in Westminster Abbey
    Six days before my birth. If you were born in Britain on the day, your family was awarded some sort of prize.
    There’s a chart about how much coronations have cost in Eric Hobsbawm’s (ed.) book, The Invention of Tradition. I remember this Queen’s was very expensive relative to past ones–however, I think they saved money by selling a lot of the seats in Westminster Abbey(predating Thatcher’s sell-offs of the family china by nearly 30 years).

  135. Oh good, Paul! That’s something to look forward to.
    June 2, 1953 in Westminster Abbey
    Six days before my birth. If you were born in Britain on the day, your family was awarded some sort of prize.
    There’s a chart about how much coronations have cost in Eric Hobsbawm’s (ed.) book, The Invention of Tradition. I remember this Queen’s was very expensive relative to past ones–however, I think they saved money by selling a lot of the seats in Westminster Abbey(predating Thatcher’s sell-offs of the family china by nearly 30 years).

  136. marie-lucie says:

    I think the Queen’s coronation was the first time I watched television: at that time in France, TV was only available within a limited area centered on Paris, and my grandparents’ neighbours, who had a TV, invited us children to come and watch. Not that the whole coronation was broadcast on French TV, it must have been just the crucial parts (putting the crown on the Queen’s head, for instance). But wait: we should have been at school that day, not staying with our grandparents. Perhaps we watched a rerun later that summer.

  137. The “Leicester – Lester” example is widespread in England
    And in New England – Worcester, Gloucester, and, yes, even Leicester, MA (pronounced liːstɑː).
    I have always felt we should be consistent and spell Boston “Botolphstown.”

  138. I didn’t know they had reruns in 1953.

  139. J. W. Brewer says:

    Just a late data point relevant to an earlier part of the thread. I happened to be at the chapel of St. Vladimir’s Seminary last night for the vigil for today’s feast of (checking internet because it’s not like I know Slavonic . . .) Sretenie Gospodne, and two different clerics, with audibly different accents from each other (but both native Anglophones), had occasion at different points in the service to invoke the prayers of the school’s namesake the Great-Prince Vladimir. Both seemed to use first-syllable stress.

  140. John Emerson says:

    Well, you were an infant then. You probably thought that they were live.

  141. Damn right they were live. Bill And Ben The Flowerpot Men? They lived behind the telly.

  142. I wouldn’t deny that the usual pronunciation of Vladimir in English has initial stress. I think that a professional broadcaster, in dealing with the name of an author who repeatedly made it clear that the correct stress was important to him and especially while talking with people who use the correct stress, should pronounce it correctly. To refuse to do so strikes me as contemptible smugness or indifference. As I said above, those whose profession does not involve such correctness can say it however they like.

  143. exactly

  144. J. W. Brewer says:

    The BBC has a famous Pronunciation Unit whose job it is to make sure presenters like Ms. Frostrup pronounce stuff like proper names “correctly” (whatever the BBC thinks the criteria of correctness are). So perhaps the fault, if any, is with them rather than with her, assuming she did not ignore their guidance. (And why should she do her own homework? There’s no point in having in-house specialists if you can’t rely on them.) While I can see the general argument that generalists interviewing specialists should take their cues from the interviewee on pronouncing names or technical terms and adjust accordingly, here the interviewee (Herr Maar) was not a native English speaker and while he is quite fluent his pronunciation in general is certainly not BBC English nor any other standard alternative. So I wouldn’t fault Ms. Frostrup on that ground either. If I started mimicking the English pronunciation of an interlocutor who was a native German speaker (however good his English vocabulary and syntax), I’d worry he might think I was mocking him.
    What I find baffling about LH’s position here is that he has in other contexts tempered his praise of Nabokov as artist with observations that the man was a “smug aristo” or otherwise exhibited a somewhat unbecoming haughtiness. I would think that being touchily insistent about a non-standard (for Anglophones) pronunciation of his name would be a perfect example of that less attractive side of his personality, to be catered to grudgingly at best.
    But just to be inconsistent myself, I pronounce Thomas Mann’s first as well as last name in at least a semi-Teutonified way.

  145. I don’t find a desire to have one’s name pronounced correctly a sign of aristocratic haughtiness; it seems to me a basic, normal human desire.

  146. Hat, do you realize that between J.W. Brewer’s interesting point and J. Del Col’s outburst in the Zinn thread you’ve been accused of siding with the postmodernists and the snobs both in the same day?

  147. J.W. Brewer says:

    I really didn’t and don’t intend to sound accusing. I just find this puzzling or perhaps interesting largely because I think Hat and myself have broadly similar views on these issues at the level of abstract principle but seem for some reason to be applying them differently to the facts at hand.
    I just happened to be speaking on the phone with another of Nabokov’s students from Cornell in the ’50′s (a/k/a my father, who was certainly not an inner-circle acolyte but rather a mechanical engineering major off on a frolic and detour). He reports (making due allowance for the passage of over 5 decades) that the standard Ithaca student pronunciation in those days was NaBOKov for the surname but VLADimir for the first name (the latter more common in 3d party reference than direct address to the professor, of course). They were aware, however, that down in Manhattan and elsewhere in the wider world NABokov was common.
    I think the basic, normal human desire to have your name pronounced the way you pronounce it (as a baseline for “correctly”) becomes unrealistic and therefore problematic when you migrate across national and linguistic boundaries or deal with those who have. The native Russian speaker I interact with most frequently cannot for his life get the right vowel in my first name; his approximation of “John” is about 60-70% of the way to “Joan.” But this doesn’t bug me (and I assume would bug me even less were I speaking with him in Russian in Russia rather than in English in New York). I really don’t think I’m demonstrating some extraordinary capacity to turn the other cheek in not being bugged by this.

  148. I really didn’t and don’t intend to sound accusing.
    Oh, I didn’t think you did. It was a joke, just that Hat’s usually on the realist and populist sides of these arguments.
    interesting largely because I think Hat and myself have broadly similar views on these issues at the level of abstract principle but seem for some reason to be applying them differently to the facts at hand.
    Exactly!
    I’m actually as relaxed as you are about what people call me.

  149. I’d side with John Brewer when he says to have your name pronounced the way you pronounce it (as a baseline for “correctly”) becomes unrealistic and therefore problematic when you migrate across national and linguistic boundaries, if I didn’t know the power of (broadcast) authority. The BBC programme is generalist, but Maar is an authority (he ‘discovered’ the ‘second’ Lolita after all) so Mariella Frostrup should have taken a cue from him – and influenced the accepted way of pronouncing Nabokov’s name among the general reading public, I think.

  150. I always have a problem with “Frostrup”. Is it -up or -oop?
    As far as Thomas Mann’s first name, allowing for a German accent, the English pronunciation is the same as the north German.

  151. The native Russian speaker I interact with most frequently cannot for his life get the right vowel in my first name; his approximation of “John” is about 60-70% of the way to “Joan.”
    But he is trying. That’s exactly the point. Nabokov didn’t expect English-speakers to exactly reproduce the fine details of a Russian pronunciation of his name; that would be insane, and VV was preeminently a sane man. To put the stress on the right syllable is not some unattainable subtlety; it is the easiest thing in the world. To refuse to do so is basically to say “Screw you, I’ll say it the way I like, you bloody foreigner.” Which is unpleasant.
    Furthermore, as I keep saying (is there an echo in here?), I’m not talking about the man on the Clapham omnibus, I’m talking about a professional broadcaster, who, as Sashura says, influences others. If she’s taking her cue from the BBC Language Unit (which I doubt), the finger-wagging is aimed at them. In any case, somebody should be ashamed of themselves.

  152. I just heard a story last week on NPR about the proper way to pronounce Zheng Jie – the rising Chinese tennis star. They mentioned how the BBC announcers were mangling it. But then NPR is probably going too far the other way – they were trying to instruct listeners to differentiate between “Zh [tʂ]” and “J [tɕ]“, both phonemes that can only be approximated in English.

  153. J.W. Brewer says:

    Maybe the best way to leave it is to assume that my attitude toward the BBC is tainted by the soft bigotry of low expectations, and since I’m not looking for a gig there myself I can be comfortable with Hat’s non-judgmental attitude toward me. But just to note that the malicious “screw you” attitude LH is imputing presupposes knowledge of the “correct” pronunciation (and also of its unequivocal “correctness,” not just its existence as a variant) and willful refusal to adopt it. But how, in any given instance (other than someone who was speaking directly to VN and got corrected by the man himself), can you be that confident of what the speaker knew? Maybe the BBC lady and/or her staff were professionally negligent in not knowing (if she/they didn’t), but that’s another issue.

  154. But just to note that the malicious “screw you” attitude LH is imputing presupposes knowledge of the “correct” pronunciation
    As Hat said, she was talking to a scholar, who was pronouncing his name correctly (his last name, at least — I didn’t catch if he ever used N’s first); she could have taken note, or even asked.

  155. J.W. Brewer says:

    But the scholar she was talking to was obviously not a native speaker of English or for that matter of Russian. So why would you assume ex ante he was a role model to conform your own pronunciation to, rather than instead noting the discrepency but assuming the poor man was doing the best he could in fluent but German-accented English and it would be churlish for YOU to try to correct HIM on an issue of pronunciation? If she was interviewing some German dinosaur expert (Frau Doktor Anna Elk . . .) should she assume that she should follow the interviewee’s cues in order to get the proper English pronunciation of some species of dinosaur she thought she already knew how to pronounce? Hat was able to referee between interviewer and interviewee here based on his own prior knowledge of which pronunciation was “correct,” but we’ve still got the chicken-and-egg problem of the BBC lady not knowing (ex hypothesi) what Hat knows.

  156. Well, the BBC dashed well should know. They take our tax money and what do we get? A lot of ignorant gabble. Pack the lot of them off to the Army, they’ll learn what’s what.
      Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells

  157. I read an article in the Independent on Mariella Frostrup, because her name rang a bell. It turns out she’s a BBC “personality”:

    … Critics say she’s smug. They say she is soft on the stars. They’re missing the point. She is not meant to be overly aggressive or clever: she is meant to be one of us, on a good day, with a better haircut. With that mysterious ability to get on like a house on fire with everyone from academics to Hollywood A-listers. It doesn’t seem to be an act.

    So anyway, that’s why she says Vladimir wrong. She’s meant to be one of us.

  158. I don’t know why she says Nabokov wrong too, though.

  159. “One of us, one of us… We accept her, we accept her, one of us…”

  160. Hat, sir, how do you know about ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’? It’s such a uniquely English thing, or so I thought?
    Mariella Frostrup is a blue-eyed blond. Is it sexist to mention this?

  161. I am large, I contain multitudes.

  162. We are all larger than we would like to be these days, except for Sash who goes running. She says her hair is bleached. I had a happy half hour reading about the “Freaks” characters in Wikipedia.

  163. We are all larger than we would like to be these days, except for Sash who goes running. She says her hair is bleached. I had a happy half hour reading about the “Freaks” characters in Wikipedia.

  164. I thought of linking to a video clip but was afraid it might upset people.

  165. Ooh videos! Thanks.

  166. man on the Clapham omnibus,
    but why Clapham?

  167. The first reported legal quotation of the phrase is in the 1903 case of McQuire v. Western Morning News a libel case, in which Sir Richard Henn Collins MR attributes it to Lord Bowen, who had died nine years earlier. It is possibly derived from the phrase Public opinion … is the opinion of the bald-headed man at the back of the omnibus, coined by the 19th century journalist Walter Bagehot to describe the normal man of London. Clapham in south London at the time was a nondescript commuter suburb seen to represent “ordinary” London.

    So saith Wikipedia.

  168. Although he was one of the founding figures at The Economist, Bagehot’s reputation today rests on his still being the authority on constitutional monarchy, through his book The English Constitution. Tory politicians & political historians always love to quote Bagehot.
    Clapham, specifically a queue of people waiting to get in to Arding & Hobbs department store for the January sale, features in an episode of Mr Bean. In my early twenties I used to occasionally take the Clapham omnibus on my way to art school. I found it very tedious, it was ever so slow. I believe the American writer Paul Theroux may have lived in Clapham; also Eric Hobsbawm.

  169. Great video! Now I’ll have to see the movie, somehow.

  170. Mr Bean: Clapham at 1:09.

  171. Great video! Now I’ll have to see the movie, somehow.
    If you’re talking about Freaks, yes, it’s a wonderful movie, and (as you can tell from the clip) defiantly takes the side of the “freaks” over the “normals.” To quote Wikipedia again:

    [Director Tod] Browning had been a member of a traveling circus in his early years, and much of the film was drawn from his personal experiences. In the film, the physically deformed “freaks” are inherently trusting and honorable people, while the real monsters are two of the “normal” members of the circus who conspire to murder one of the performers to obtain his large inheritance.

    It caused quite a ruckus when it came out, as you might imagine.

  172. Yes, they’re very sympathetic–I was going to say sympathetically portrayed. So that’s interesting too: that they had characters pretty much playing themselves. I suppose 1932 was before they were very rigorous in their censoring in Hollywood–is it called the Hayes Act?
    I would have liked to see that guy roll a cigarette using only his mouth, but apparently they lost the clip. I think I must have heard of Freaks, but, if so, I’d forgotten about it.

  173. The Hays Code, yes. It was adopted in 1930 but apparently not enforced until 1934. These outbursts of puritanical repression are deeply embarrassing to me as an American.

  174. I stayed in Clapham once in the early 90-s, it got wilder since, full of characters who can hardly be called ‘ordinary’, even Labour ministers.
    AJP, do you know that Noddy in French is called Wee-Wee (oui-oui)?

  175. If Noddy is Wee-Wee, what is Big Ears called? No, don’t tell me. The Noddy I was thinking of was Nicodemus-something (in Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend).
    130 years ago, one of my sets of great-grandparents had a house on Clapham Common.

  176. If Noddy is Wee-Wee, what is Big Ears called? No, don’t tell me. The Noddy I was thinking of was Nicodemus-something (in Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend).
    130 years ago, one of my sets of great-grandparents had a house on Clapham Common.

  177. Most countries have outbursts of puritanical repression. We have state-run liquor stores. It’s only recently they took away the counters; before that you had to point out your tipple in the desk catalog, and the civil servant who was serving you would give you a reproving look and go and find your drug for you.

  178. Most countries have outbursts of puritanical repression. We have state-run liquor stores. It’s only recently they took away the counters; before that you had to point out your tipple in the desk catalog, and the civil servant who was serving you would give you a reproving look and go and find your drug for you.

  179. Whatever they spent on the present Queen’s coronation in 1953, when you think they haven’t had to have another in 56 years and counting, it looks like a pretty good deal.

  180. after all the excitement about stresses, can I ask how Maar is rated among scholars? Him claiming that Nabokov was posturing a bit about not having learnt any German after years in Berlin reveals an astute analytical mind, to me. And, little as it is, this detail says a lot about Nabokov’s character.

  181. It looks like the last Wikipedia editor has some odd ideas about how it’s pronounced or how IPA marks stress or both.

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