Writing about the word “Thai” yesterday reminded me of one of the reasons for my occasional flashes of anti-Brit feelings. (Yes, I know “British” is not the same as “English,” and it’s the English who don’t pronounce their r’s and caused the problem I’m about to describe, but “anti-English feelings” just doesn’t work—it sounds like I don’t like the language, which is far from the case. Besides, “Brit” is internationally recognized shorthand for “those people who used to run an empire from London.”)

Remember Sade, “pronounced Shar-day“? I disliked her (quite irrationally) for forcing me to see that idiotic description for months on end (and hear Americans actually pronouncing it that way). There is, of course, no r sound in Sade; the description was created by Brits who don’t pronounce the r and wanted to indicate the a sound in “father.” Why they didn’t make it “Shah-day,” which would indicate the same sound and would work for all English-speakers, is beyond me, like the appeal of cricket. But they’ve taken the same tack for centuries, which has resulted in all sorts of intrusive r’s that cause names to be wrongly pronounced. Thai is full of them: the last syllable of Chulalongkorn [University] is actually kawn, and people named Porntip would get a lot less grief from English-speakers if it were written Pawntip or Pohntip. The Korean name Park is actually Pak. And the absurd new name for Burma, “Myanmar,” is made more absurd by the fact that not only is the r not pronounced, it’s not even used consistently: the country’s postal service is called Myanma Posts and Communications, for Pete’s sake. Mind you, the r in “Burma” itself is intrusive—the Burmese word is bama—but it’s old and established and there’s nothing to be done about it; “Burma” is the English name for the country and that’s that.

Off-topic, but I can’t resist:

Cheer up face
The war is past
The “h” is out
Of shave
At last


  1. But there’s no `r’ in texas hold-em.

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