Shibboleth Names.

I just ran across this “List of shibboleth names by which the privileged judge their inferiors” and of course was intrigued. It’s wildly unreliable — right off the bat it says “Abbe Suger (French pronunciation: syoo-zheh, British: soo-gehr),” when in fact the French pronunciation is [syʒɛʁ] (“syoo-ZHEHR” if you’re going to use his hand-wavy transcription), and I seriously doubt his suggested British version, with /g/, is all that widespread — but it’s cleverly called “shibboleth names,” not “correct pronunciations,” and I’m sure there’s somebody somewhere who will judge you for not saying a name the suggested way, even if it’s wrong. At any rate, even a list with errors can put you on the right path; I would never have guessed that Robert T. Bakker, the paleontologist, pronounces his name “bocker” if I hadn’t seen it in the list (of course I checked to make sure). So take it for what it’s worth; use it with appropriate caution, and no, Celmins is not pronounced “tell-midge,” for Pete’s sake.

Comments

  1. Since its on the list, something that’s been bothering for a long : What is/are the standard ways to pronounce Augustine (the saint’s name) in English?

    There seem to be a lot of pronunciations floating around. Do any of these reflect differences between American/British, Catholic/protestant, Latin-educated vs not?

  2. The folk wisdom I heard was that Catholics say /ɔːˈgʌstɪn/ while Protestants say /ˈɔːgəˌstiːn/. Also that the former said /ɑːˈmɛn/, the latter /eɪˈmɛn/.

  3. /ɔːˈɡʌstɪn/ for me (selecting the relevant option from the ones listed on Wiktionary). British, Anglican, Latin-educated.

  4. I’ve been the “inferior” in this situation so often because I’ve picked up most of my knowledge from reading and I tend to assume wrong pronunciations, and then have trouble un-learning them.

    I’m still getting used to pronouncing “polysemy” with the main accent on the second syllable, not the third. Though I think I can blame that “polly-SEE-me” pronunciation on an undergrad public speaking teacher (who also defined the word to mean something more like syntactic ambiguity…).

  5. Dictionaries suggest BrE always amphibrach while AmE prefers dactyl. I suspect nickname Augie is exclusively AmE, though less often for than Augustine than August, itself largely American. Perhaps August influenced Augustine.

  6. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    The folk wisdom I heard was that Catholics say /ɔːˈgʌstɪn/ while Protestants say /ˈɔːgəˌstiːn/. Also that the former said /ɑːˈmɛn/, the latter /eɪˈmɛn/.

    I was once a Protestant (Anglican, anyway). We said [ɔː’gʌstɪn] and [ɑːˈmɛn]. We regarded [eɪˈmɛn] as Roman Catholic (and, in films, American) and [ˈɔːgəˌstiːn] as American.

  7. Bob Dylan said /ɔːgəˌstiːn/.

  8. The Ayn Rand pronunciation is a bit tricky.

  9. Perhaps we should redistribute the pronunciations so that one is used for Augustine of Canterbury and another for Augustine of Hippo.

    (Incidentally, surely there ought to be some sports team calling itself the St. Augustine Hippos? Can’t seem to find one online).

  10. January First-of-May says:

    Surprisingly (at least to me), the name of the (former) town of Hippo has nothing to do with horses (it is of Phoenician origin).

  11. Georg Henrik von Wright is a good one. He was a Swedish Finn with some Scottish ancestry.

  12. J.W. Brewer says:

    Bob Dylan’s usage as noted above is what I think of as the standard AmEng version. As a boy I probably knew the toponym St. Augustine (in Florida) before I knew of its namesake much less the existence of multiple saints of that name. One internet source suggests the stressed-final-syllable (and reduced-middle-syllable) pronunciation of the Florida toponym is consistent with the stress pattern of its original name of San Agustin. Augusta, Georgia (stressed and thus unreduced middle syllable) is about 300 miles to the north.

    I have heard a singer with a decidedly British accent performing that Dylan song and keeping Dylan’s stress pattern for “Augustine,” although changing to a perhaps-more-British stress pattern might have created metrical awkwardness.

    Here is a rigorously philosophical argument (perhaps just a teensy bit jocular?) in favor of the Floridian pronunciation over the Anglophilic one. http://www.epsociety.org/userfiles/DeWeese%20(Augustine).pdf. (You may need to cut and paste the URL since it apparently isn’t formatting properly to be clicked through.)

  13. (Incidentally, surely there ought to be some sports team calling itself the St. Augustine Hippos? Can’t seem to find one online).

    That’s… that’s brilliant.

    One troublesome name on this list is Saoirse. There are two viable pronunciations (it “should” be Seersha; the actress herself says Sersha), but the author manages to capture neither of them.

    One that didn’t make the list is Rihanna; the singer uses /æ/, but almost everyone in the US assigns her the trusty old hyperforeign /ɑː/.

  14. I never take seriously people who pronounce Genghis Khan as /ˈɡɛŋɡɪs ˈkɑːn/

  15. J.W. Brewer says:

    Come to think of it, before I knew the toponym St. Augustine, Fla., I probably knew in pretty early childhood the road a few miles from where my family then lived named Augustine Cut-Off. The road was so named, I now realize, because it provided a short cut to/from the Augustine Bridge (over Brandywine Creek), but I don’t know why the bridge was so named. I think the parking lot of the one-time Wanamaker’s there might have been where we used to go to get a good view of Fourth of July fireworks.

    https://www.delawareonline.com/story/money/business/2014/10/04/dreary-augustine-cut-starting-sparkle/16665455/

  16. One that didn’t make the list is Rihanna; the singer uses /æ/, but almost everyone in the US assigns her the trusty old hyperforeign /ɑː/.

    Similarly, Ariana Grande says her name in a completely Americanized way (air-ee-ANN-ə GRAN-dee), but she understands (as do I) why everybody wants to say it à l’espagnole.

  17. Since he’s not on the list, I’ll point out (as I have before) that Karl Lueger‘s surname is three syllables (loo-ay-ger); people always want to make it “Lüger.”

  18. I never take seriously people who pronounce Genghis Khan as /ˈɡɛŋɡɪs ˈkɑːn/

    Or who spell it “Kahn”.

  19. J.W. Brewer says:

    I wonder if Rihanna is more likely to get the /æ/ pronunciation from American oldsters like me who have heard the Fleetwood Mac song “Rhiannon” Lord knows how many thousands of times on the radio over the decades?

    Continuing to share the fruits of my local-toponym-history researches, it appears that Augustine Bridge is so called because it crosses the Brandywine near the site of the old paper plant once known as Augustine Mills, which grew up around a single more modest structure (presumably once powered by waterwheel) known as Augustine Mill that produced first snuff and then flour before going into papermaking. One source says that Augustine Mill was purchased in 1845 by two business partners of whom the senior was named Augustus E. Jessup, but whether the mill already had the name and it’s an odd coincidence, or whether it was renamed for the new co-owner but “Augustine” was thought more euphonious than “Augustus” is unclear.

  20. Why would “bocker” for Bakker (for an American) be surprising? Jim Bakker’s “baker” pronunciation seems like the surprising one to me. I guess you were expecting “backer”.

  21. “Most people who would judge you pronounce it as you would in Italian (jah-coh-mett-ee).”

    How are the people being judged pronouncing Giacometti? I’m having trouble imagining what the “naive” pronunciation would be, unless this is supposed to be a contrast between something with English phonemes and something hyper-italianized, with a double /t/.

  22. Probably gee-yah-coe-meti.

  23. Why would “bocker” for Bakker (for an American) be surprising? Jim Bakker’s “baker” pronunciation seems like the surprising one to me. I guess you were expecting “backer”.

    You answered your own question. Do you seriously find “bocker” an intuitive pronunciation for Bakker in any English dialect? I would have assumed, if I heard someone say that, that they thought he was German.

  24. John Cowan says:

    For me the city is St. AUGustine; but the saints are St. AuGUStine, with schwa, not a full vowel, in the first syllable.

  25. Huh. I thought AuGUStine was purely a UK thing.

  26. As a Brit, my first reading of Bakker would be with the vowel of back, but the vowel of father would be a close second — which I presume is the same vowel intended by the original poster, assuming they have the father–bother merger? (If someone without that merger pronounced it as bocker then I’d share your shock.)

    Meanwhile, not having previously heard of the Abbé Suger, I’d have been as likely to guess his last name as German as as French — which could be where the pronunciation with comes from?

  27. J.W. Brewer says:

    Wiktionary claims that the Old Country pronunciation of Bakker (a Dutch occupational surname cognate to English Baker and German Becker/Baecker/etc.) is ˈbɑ.kər, which is more or less “bocker.” I assume at least some US-resident families surnamed Baker are descended from Bakkers and just anglicized the whole thing both as to spelling and pronunciation. It doesn’t strike me as all that weird that a minority of US-resident Bakkers who have kept the original spelling would have kept the pronunciation as well — it doesn’t match up with the spelling well from an AmEng perspective but isn’t problematically “foreign” from a phonotactics perspective.

    I can kind of see the “backer” pronunciation as an AmEng default, but the fact that the spelling has “kk” instead of “ck” is already a sign of incompletely-assimilated foreignness. There is, one might argue, no real “spelling pronunciation” of a word whose spelling itself overtly violates English orthographic conventions. That’s a visual signal that it’s probably a Funny Foreign Word which quite probably has a Funny Foreign Pronunciation that must be arbitrarily learned.

  28. Wouldn’t thinking the name was Dutch (as the “kk” would suggest) also result in “bocker” as the approximation? It just doesn’t seem like a surprising result for Americanizing the name (though “backer” wouldn’t be surprising either).

    Jim Bakker’s pronunciation is bizarre, though. Why not change the spelling to “Baker” if you’re going to do that? But he likely wasn’t the one responsible.

  29. J.W. Brewer says:

    I have definitely heard Americans say AuGUStine for the saint(s), but generally in the sort of learned/academic contexts where people are too often suckers for the idea that British pronunciation = correct pronunciation. Indeed, the philosophical paper I linked to above arguing for AUgusteen was a rejoinder to a prior paper by another American academic arguing for AuGUStine.

    To be specific, the rejoinder formulates the position it is arguing against as “In Florida it’s AW-gus-teen, but in heaven it’s uh-GUS-tin,” which (modulo any difference of view on the current whereabouts of the quondam Bishop of Hippo) is consistent with John Cowan’s usage.

  30. And Funny Foreign Pronunciation generally includes pronouncing a’s as “ah”, regardless of how they’re actually pronounced in the original language. All foreign languages are Spanish.

  31. It doesn’t strike me as all that weird that a minority of US-resident Bakkers who have kept the original spelling would have kept the pronunciation as well

    Of course it’s not. It’s not that his pronunciation is weird, it’s just unexpected. To me, the default pronunciation based on the spelling would be “backer”; I know about Jim “Baker” Bakker, which is weird (as you say), but I didn’t know about Robert T., so it surprised me.

  32. David Marjanović says:

    So Augustine’s e is a lie, like those of determine and intestine?

    Anyway, I finally fully understand the quip that “Jim Bakker spells his name with two k’s because three would be too obvious.”

  33. Versace is missing from the list. Was it Showgirls where the protagonist made a fool of herself by pronouncing it Ver sayss?

  34. Augusten Burroughs is accented on the -gus-. He picked the name for himself in adulthood. Until I heard otherwise, I had assumed it was accented on the first syllable.

  35. January First-of-May says:

    Since he’s not on the list, I’ll point out (as I have before) that Karl Lueger‘s surname is three syllables (loo-ay-ger); people always want to make it “Lüger.”

    Do you have a source for that? This fact had apparently been removed from the Russian Wikipedia article on him a few months ago due to lack of sources.

    And Funny Foreign Pronunciation generally includes pronouncing a’s as “ah”, regardless of how they’re actually pronounced in the original language.

    To be fair, IIRC, due to how European orthography works out, this is usually correct (or very nearly correct) unless it was an ä or å or something; the main problem is India and areas nearby, where a lot of the names, especially place names, are British colonial in the first place and are intended to be pronounced in the British way.

    EDIT: regarding Augustine – I do happen to know that, at least in England, “Augustus” is pronounced AuGUStus, with penultimate stress (it’s inherent in the meter of the Augustus Gloop song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but I never really thought much about “Augustine”.

    That said, not really giving much thought to English phonology in the first place, I would probably have gone with the third option – ow-goos-TEEN, as in “Ach du lieber Augustine”.

  36. Charles Perry says:

    Aw-GUS-tin for the saint, AW-gus-teen for “Ach, Du Lieber Augustin.”

    Also, j in any foreign word is pronounced as in French. E.g. Beizhing.

  37. Do you have a source for that?

    I read it years ago, who knows where, but a moment’s googling turns up Richard S. Geehr, Karl Lueger: Mayor of Fin de Siecle Vienna (Wayne State University Press, 1990, ISBN 0814320783), p. 20:

    The name Lueger — most Viennese pronounce the name “loo-āʹ-guh”— is both common and archaic in Lower Austria.

    Also, I heard it in Vienna, where to this day there is a Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Platz.

  38. Stu Clayton says:

    The German WiPe says that on four occasions Kaiser Franz Joseph refused to confirm the election (by the municipal council) of Lueger as mayor of Vienna, because of the latter’s Radau-Antisemitismus. The pope persuaded the kaiser to drop his opposition.

    Radau is stressed on the second syllable, “rowdy” on the first. Der Papst hatte keinen Stress damit.

  39. I remember rather liking that park when I was in Vienna as a teenager. It’s too bad it’s apparently named after an antisemitic asshat.

  40. Also, j in any foreign word is pronounced as in French. E.g. Beizhing.

    I have a memory of George H.W. Bush pronouncing “Sarajevo” with /h/ as if it were Spanish, but I haven’t been able to find any reference to it except myself commenting here a decade ago.

    There is junta, which has a US-UK difference in pronunciation that might correspond to whether it’s thought of as borrowed from Spanish or from Portuguese.

  41. Some people mistake jacaranda for a Spanish word and pronounce it with an /h/ or /x/.

  42. Was it Showgirls where the protagonist made a fool of herself by pronouncing it Ver sayss?

    I remember hearing Buscemi pronounced buSEEme on the BBC.

  43. I wonder what early readers of The Godfather made of the name Bocchicchio.

  44. @juha: Buscemi being a rare case where the popular (American) mispronunciation is more prescriptively correct than the person’s own – “Booshemmy” vs. “Boosemmy”.

    @Y: I’ve also heard somebody pronounce Rojava as if it were Spanish.

  45. The problem with the audio in your YouTube link is that the pronunciation of Bakker’s name there is affected by the speaker’s American accent. The result is that it sounds more like [‘bakə] than [‘bɒkə], i.e. in hand-wavey transcription more like “barker” than “bocker” — at any rate “bocker” is a misleading transcription.

    I didn’t read the list which is the target of your first link, because it is hosted by Tumblr, which does not deserve the privilege of spamming me with ads.

  46. I wish people on both sides of the Atlantic could at least agree to use ah for /ɑː/ in their fauxnetics – as opposed to the American short o and the British ar, which can each be very misleading to the other party.

  47. I think in the end it’s a bit silly. How much mental space has to be devoted to remembering that Cairo Illinois is pronounced differently than Cairo Egypt? What is the local pronunciation of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho? Why do Californians pronounce Vallejo as “Vall-ay-ho”, but if they really wanted to be Spanish it would be “Va-yay-ho”?

    Let’s not even get into UK placenames.

    Linguistics would have to be a much bigger part of popular culture before things simplified.

    At the moment it’s more like “you’re not from round here so you don’t know how we do things round here”.

    My wife is from the Puget Sound area so I’ve had to go through a lot of this. It’s almost as bad as the UK. Puyallup. Skookumchuck.

  48. One could make a good song out of it. Like https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~clamen/misc/humour/TheChaos.html

    The UK version absolutely must include Leicester and Grosvenor

  49. To my ears, the first vowel in the Irish noun “saoirse” is closer to the NEAR vowel than to any other English vowel. Perhaps for some English accents the Irish vowel would map better to different lexical set, but I suspect that school in effect teaches anglophone Irish people to use a standard map from Irish phonemes to English phonemes and then realise the English phoneme in their own accent. The NEAR vowel is one of the more variable between English accents in general and specifically in Ireland. The proportions of Carlow, Dublin, and America in Saoirse Ronan’s own accent (speaking English; dunno how much Irish she has) have attracted snippy comments from many in Ireland.

  50. Karl Ove Knausgård (Norwegian pronunciation: ~kahl oo-veh kuh-nauss-gahd)

    You think? I’m always embarrassed by the defeatist Anglo-American attitude to diacritics (ignore them), seeing as they’re only there to make the pronunciation clear.

    The listmaker forgot Leibniz. No one knows this. I’ve even had my pronunciation corrected in England for not using “Leeb-nits” although at the time I think we were only discussing my favourite biscuits so it’s more moot.

    I got my Abbé Suger (roughly SUE-jay) pronunciation off Vincent Scully, the great Yale historian. When I was a student (at Columbia) he gave a fantastic series of lectures on French architecture entitled From Suger to Fouquet (i.e. two courtiers, Fouquet having commissioned Vaux-le-Vicomte and Suger Saint-Denis, kicking-off Gothic arch.) There’s a Trumplike businessman on the telly in Britain called Lord Sugar which sounds like the villain in a children’s dental-plaque cartoon.

  51. David Marjanović says:

    Hm. All three use what I’d classify as NEAR, all three use [ɹ], and all three use an unreduced [ɛ] at the end.

    to this day there is a Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Platz.

    Huh, it must have been overlooked when the Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Ring was finally renamed to Universitätsring a few years ago.

    But yes, the e is stressed. Which is itself a spelling-pronunciation; originally, the ue was probably intended to represent a diphthong (today dialectal [ʊɐ̯]) which corresponds to long u in Standard German and would make the man a “looker”. He can’t be a “liar” anyway, because that would be Lügner.

    German last names always get spelling-pronunciations. Strasser is obviously from Straße, which has a long a as correctly indicated by its ß (both before and after the reform). Mercilessly, Strasser gets a short a. And I know a Kümmell who pronounces herself à la française, obviously because of the spurious double L; Kümmel “caraway” is of course stressed on the first syllable.

    Tumblr, which does not deserve the privilege of spamming me with ads

    I didn’t even know there were ads on Tumblr – I use Firefox with Adblock Plus.

    Why do Californians pronounce Vallejo as “Vall-ay-ho”, but if they really wanted to be Spanish it would be “Va-yay-ho”?

    Maybe they actually got it from a variety of Spanish that hadn’t merged /ʎ/ into /j/ yet. Some still haven’t, e.g. in Peru (where Quechua has the same distinction).

  52. In some Russian bootleg translations, the artist Boris Vallejo’s name is spelled Valledzho.

  53. Also, j in any foreign word is pronounced as in French. E.g. Beizhing.

    I am pretty sure I’ve heard BrE people talk about Napoleon’s victory at Zhena-Auerstadt.

    There are really only two languages: English, which everyone understands if you speak loudly and slowly enough, and Foreign, which those unfortunate enough not to be British talk among themselves out of desperation. Naturally all of Foreign is pronounced in the same way.

  54. “I dreamed I saw St. Augustine…” in Dylan-song-voice may be influenced by internal rhyme. This song was the subject of my paper for poetry class with Roman Jakobson. Circa 1970– but I was so much older then.

  55. January First-of-May says:

    As it happens, Augustin, the protagonist of the song, is said to have been a real person who actually lived in Vienna in the 17th century; and at the intersection of Neustiftgasse and Kellermanngasse, near the spot where he is said to have buried, there is a monument to him (with a small fountain installed in the plinth).

    An inscription in Latin-esque capitals, in one of the parts of the plinth not occupied by the fountain, helpfully states that the monument had been installed in the year 1908, under the mayorship of… Dr. Karl Lueger.

    (I found out about this, incidentally, while googling for Russian sources on the proper pronunciation of “Lueger”.)

  56. I didn’t even know there were ads on Tumblr – I use Firefox with Adblock Plus.

    Same here.

  57. Do the St. Augustine Hippos play the Orlando Gibbons?

  58. I’ve heard there is a baseball team in China called Peking Ducks

  59. Named, of course, after the Duke of Peking.

  60. How much mental space has to be devoted to remembering that Cairo Illinois is pronounced differently than Cairo Egypt?

    For Joe Schmo? Zero. The significance of Cairo, IL, peaked 150 years ago.

    However, I’ll allow that I was recently irked when listening to an audio version of Ron Chernow’s biography of U.S. Grant to hear the reader repeatedly mispronounce the toponym. If you’re going to refer to the place at all, you should know how it’s pronounced.

  61. Totally off-topic, but I figured people here might find it funny:

    https://allthingslinguistic.com/post/167749514172/which-beer-would-you-like-ipa-please-wɪtʃ-biə

  62. I notice the list fails to include Carnegie, which seems like it would be an obvious inclusion on such a list.

  63. In the fictional realm, there was a funny bit on 30 Rock where Jack Donaghy and his feuding family members couldn’t agree on whether their name was pronounced Dona[g]y, Dona[h]y or Dona[f]y.

  64. J.W. Brewer says:

    OK, Stephen Goranson, so now I’m curious as to how Roman Jakobson, in the 1970 model, reacted to The Younger Generation wanting to write their papers about Dylan songs. Open-mindedness to the notion that a wide variety of source texts can be used equally well to explore important and recurrent themes, or grudging acceptance that civilization was collapsing and there was nothing he could do about it?

  65. Carnegie, per WP: “/kɑːrˈneɪɡi/ kar-NAY-gee, but commonly /ˈkɑːrnəɡi/ KAR-nə-ghee or /kɑːrˈnɛɡi/ kar-NEG-ee.”

    I use the second pronunciation, often hear the third (usually with “Hall”), and have never heard the first.

  66. I think I’ve heard /kɑːrˈniːɡi/. Myself, I say /ˈkɑːrnəɡi/.

  67. J.W. Brewer says:

    BTW can anyone comment on the historical veracity of the footnote for Fichte, which totally sounds like a wikipedia hoax: “The pronunciation of the -ch as soft instead of hard, unlike every other instance in German, was contrived after the philosopher’s death to avoid a near-homophony with that language’s word for ‘fuck.’”

    I wouldn’t say “every other instance,” as opposed to saying that the “shibboleth” pronunciation proposed sounds like regional dialect which, even if it was reflected in the historical Fichte’s own idiolect, one would not expect to have overridden a standard pronunciation in the mouths of others.

  68. John Cowan says:

    Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

    It’s /ˌkɔːrdəˈleɪn/ per Wikipedia, or kawr-de-LANE.

    spelling pronunciations

    My mother’s name, as I’ve mentioned before, was Marianne, with four syllables.

  69. If you are producing steel, “Carnegie” is stressed on the second syllable. If you want to Win Friends and Influence People, it is stressed on the first.

  70. I use the second pronunciation, often hear the third (usually with “Hall”), and have never heard the first.

    That’s odd. I use the first myself, except with “Hall,” where I use initial stress — like, I would have thought, everybody else (I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard anything but CARnegie in the old joke that ends with “Practice, practice, practice!”).

  71. Stu Clayton says:

    the historical veracity of the footnote for Fichte

    It’s the footnoter’s obligation to provide proof. The claim is a juvenile attempt at a joke. Even the pronunciation given is wrong: “feesh-tuh”. The “i” is short as in Fisch, sich, ficken etc. An approximation would be plain old “fish-tuh”.

    The name of the “i” letter is pronounced “ee”.

  72. My mother’s name, as I’ve mentioned before, was Marianne, with four syllables.

    I worked with a 4-syllable Norwegian Anne-Mari who was always getting called Ann-Maree by the Brits. Hideous. There have been a lot of German Sabines on my tv recently being pronounced Sabeen by English speakers. I dislike this because a) it’s rude (I think) to mispronounce someone’s name and b) in these cases objectively speaking the correct pronunciation is much prettier.

  73. David Marjanović says:

    Carnegie: oh dear. I’ve spent two weeks in the collections of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (in Pittsburgh), and now I’ll still have to ask someone who works there how it’s pronounced locally.

    Fichte (philosopher or spruce): what Stu says. In other words, it’s /ˈfɪxtɛ/. The relevant allophone of /x/ is [ç] for most, [ɕ] on the middle Rhine, and [χ] in Switzerland and its immediate vicinity. /ɪ/ gets close to [i] in the southeast, and reaches [ʉ] or something in parts of Germany. Unstressed /ɛ/ undergoes various regional reductions, or not.

  74. A Lancastrian gave a lecture to a large mixed class on the Antarctic expedition led by Sir Vivian Fuchs. He called him Fucks throughout. A colleague remonstrated after the lecture: “You know, his name is Fuchs.” “Oh yes; but I didn’t like to say it with all those ladies present.”

    –J.E.Littlewood, “A Mathematician’s Miscellany” [via rec.humor.funny]

  75. David Eddyshaw says:

    re Fuchs:

    I have been told that in the far-off days when Michael Foot was leader of the Labour Party and was in the international news a bit, Romanian radio and television were always careful to pronounce his name /fot/.

    The BBC used to experience a similar difficulty with the name of the South Korean foreign minister Lee Bum Suk.

  76. Hat: really? car-nay-ghee?

  77. Yup. Maybe not with a full diphthong, but certainly not car-NEGG-ee.

  78. Do you say aigg, or egg?

  79. Egg.

  80. Stu Clayton says:

    Another annoying fact that one learns 60 years too late: “ague” is pronounced “AY-gyu”, not “ayg”. Pepys refers to it several times. I looked it up only for the contemporary meaning, not for the goddamn pronunciation.

  81. For Stu Clayton: in “Written after Swimming from Sestos to Abydos,” Byron rhymes “ague” with “plague you.”

    For everybody: listen for the pronunciations of names in poems! I’d guess it might be possible, for instance, that a Viennese comic song from the Strauss era would give us a rhyme for “Lueger.”

  82. And speaking of shibboleths, some of the omissions from this list can tell us about urban prestige values. We learn the New York pronunciation of “Houston,” for instance, but not the Baltimore pronunciation of “Thames” (as spelled), the Detroit pronunciation of “Hamtramck” (hamtrammick), or the Philadelphia pronunciation of “Schuylkill” (skookle). For that matter, we don’t learn that in Philadelphia the flow through the Schuylkill is wooder.

  83. the Baltimore pronunciation of “Thames” (as spelled)

    Connecticut too.

  84. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    There is also New Madrid, Missouri (where the earthquake was), which has the stress on the Mad [nu̟ː ‘mædrɪd].

  85. If I’m remembering right from my years in Pittsburgh, most staff at Carnegie Mellon University had /kɑːrˈneɪɡi/ kar-NAY-ghee, and a fair few had /kɑːrˈniɡi/ kar-NEE-ghee; but older locals often had something more like /kɑːrˈnɛɡi/ kar-NEG-ee, with the neg vowel unusually long (which it’s tempting to try to explain as some feature of the Pittsburgh accent, but I never noticed it in any other word). Only outsiders/newcomers ever tried /ˈkɑːrnəɡi/ KAR-nə-ghee.

  86. J. W. Brewer asked
    “OK, Stephen Goranson, so now I’m curious as to how Roman Jakobson, in the 1970 model, reacted to The Younger Generation wanting to write their papers about Dylan songs. Open-mindedness to the notion that a wide variety of source texts can be used equally well to explore important and recurrent themes, or grudging acceptance that civilization was collapsing and there was nothing he could do about it?”

    As far as I can tell, the former more than the later. In other words, if he harbored any disdain for my choice–he didn’t warn me off it–he didn’t show it in conversation with me. He was a gentleman (and obviously a scholar) and a good teacher. I will allow that he likely did not think me the best student in that class. When we reviewed the paper he asked me if B+ was acceptable. And so it was.

  87. John Cowan says:

    What other pronunciation of Hamtramck could an anglophone possibly have? I admit that the uninformed might stress the first syllable instead of the second, but English just doesn’t have /-mk/; an epenethetic vowel is inevitable.

    I wonder how Jean-François Hamtramck, a Quebecois who fought on the American side during the American Revolution, pronounced his name, and perhaps more to the point, how other anglophones pronounced it in his day.

    Hamtramck and Highland Park are enclaves of Detroit that (barely) touch one another. The same thing might have happened in NYC, when the village of Flushing voted against amalgamating with The City along with the rest of western Queens County (the eastern half that did not join is now called Nassau County). But the New York State Legislature overrode the will of the Flushingites and left the new New York City compact, or as compact as a city can be that is situated on three large islands and part of the mainland (as well as about 30 smaller islands).

  88. Probably a legend: When Voltaire learned that “plague” had one syllable and “ague” two, he wished plague would take half the English language and ague the other half.

  89. @John Cowan: My guess when I first encountered it in writing was /-ŋk/; I forget if anyone says it that way or if it was just me.

    Montreal also has some tortuous enclaves inside it, resulting from an island-wide amalgamation in the early 2000s that was half undone.

  90. What other pronunciation of Hamtramck could an anglophone possibly have?

    Hantrank? Hantrak? Hatrak? Hattrick? Hatterick? I could go on all day. Come on, you know better than to ask a question like that.

  91. David Marjanović says:

    but English just doesn’t have /-mk/; an epenethetic [I see what you did there] vowel is inevitable.

    This continues to fascinate me. German doesn’t have any words with -/mk/ either, and yet, -/mk/ is the only naive option for pronouncing -mck; people would (and I do) think it’s very weird, but by no means impossible to pronounce. We just don’t have a concept of unwritten vowels.

    With a tiny exception. Heinz-Christian Strache (now vice chancellor of Austria, alas) abbreviates himself not as H.-C., as one would expect, but consistently as HC, causing a certain urge to pronounce that as a word. As /hk/ really is impossible in German phonotactics, in my family we refer to him as [hək] – and that’s the only [ə] we have outside of paralinguistic effects.

    German does have at least four words in -/mt/; but English unkempt should be close enough to that.

  92. Stu Clayton says:

    Zimt, Amt, Samt, samt (prep.), rammt (from rammen), lammt (from lammen), grimmt (from grimmen), stürmt (from stürmen), verhärmt, vergrämt, verblümt, verdummt, verdammt, verstummt …

    There’s an older form of Samt: Sammet.

  93. David Marjanović says:

    The ones I’ve found that have -/mt/ all over Standard German are Zimt (cinnamon), Amt (office – in all senses except “room with a desk in it”), Samt (“velvet”)/samt (“together with, including”) and, weirdly enough, Hemd (“button-down shirt”).

    All the verb endings (3sg, 2pl, past participle) have /d/ in the Austrian standard, not /t/. That’s because there was a vowel in front of them in the Middle Ages; the Central Bavarian dialects turned word-final /t/ into /d/ behind vowels long ago, and this is carried over into the Austrian standard. (Totally ought to be called Auslauderweichung.)

    This, of course, makes Hemd even weirder. (Its /t/ is kept in Austria in the plural Hemden.) I’ve been thinking about this for years. Perhaps it has its /t/ because there aren’t any other words in -/md/. Or perhaps it’s a loan; the form /hemɐd/ exists in some dialects…

    There’s another unexpected /t/ at least in the Austrian standard: ordnen “to bring into order, to sort” and all derivatives – Ordner “binder” is a homophone of a mountain spelled Ortner. I’m at a complete loss to explain that.

    Samt, BTW, is from hexamitos “woven six times”.

  94. Hans Andersen is known up here only as HC Andersen.

  95. per incuriam says:

    German doesn’t have any words with -/mk/

    Bie­nen­züch­ter.

  96. January First-of-May says:

    German does have at least four words in -/mt/; but English unkempt should be close enough to that.

    Well, the somewhat archaic dreamt can’t really be anything but that; and the assorted words in -mpt were apparently perceived to be close enough for Carroll to rhyme them with it in Phantasmagoria:

    But though they claim themselves exempt
    From pride, they treat a Phantom
    As something quite beneath contempt –
    Just like no turkey ever dreamt
    Of noticing a Bantam.

    (Quoting from memory, so some details might be wrong, but I’m fairly sure of the rhymes.)

  97. English usually adds an epenthetic -p-, as in empty < ME emty.

  98. John Cowan says:

    Hantrank? Hantrak? Hatrak? Hattrick? Hatterick?

    If it was a native word, sure, like all those Featherstonehaughs. But Hamtramck was founded as recently as1798 and is named after a known person (though it did not become Polish until the 1910s, being chiefly French and German before that). It would inherit an approximation of J-F’s pronunciation.

  99. I believe “dreamt” is my usual past tense / past participle in relation to literal dreams, with maybe a slight preference for “dreamed” in extended senses.

  100. Stu Clayton says:

    per incuriam: Bie­nen­züch­ter

    Good one ! [aside] Imker

  101. David Marjanović says:

    Imker has -/mk/-, but isn’t a word in -/mk/…

  102. It’s an interesting topic, addressed either here or at the Log at some point – the difference between sequences that are marginal or unused but still allowable in some intuitive sense, and those that are truly felt to be phonotactic impossibilities. The onsets /vɹ/ (“vroom”) and /vl/ (“Vladimir”) are good examples of the former in English; coda /mk/ is clearly the latter. I’m enough of a language enthusiast that I’d have no trouble implementing something like [ˈhæmtɹæmk] in my speech if I so chose, but there’s still an atavistic monoglot inside me that says this simply isn’t done.

  103. David Marjanović says:

    I should have added that medial -/mk/- is odd enough over here that when “little bee” is used as a first name (*Imm-chen in Higher-Than-That German), it ends up not only as Imken, but also as Inken and even Inka.

  104. Stu Clayton says:

    Yeah, the maybe-final -/mk/ words that I dredged from the mud of introspection were actually -/nk/ in the light of day, and were proper names like Wesendon(c)k.

  105. Lars (the original one) says:

    The Danish Orthographic Dictionary allows wildcard searches, and while -mp, -mt, -nt and -nk have lots of hits, -np and -mk have none (and neither do -nf and -nv). But in Lazar’s terms, they feel allowable to me, though marginal.

    German does have Senf = ‘mustard’ and Hanf = ‘hemp’ without assimilation where Danish has sennep and hamp with assimilation. (From L sinapis and cannabis or cognates).

  106. It would inherit an approximation of J-F’s pronunciation.

    Your confidence is amazing! See “Detroit” and “Los Angeles” for counterexamples.

  107. David Marjanović says:

    Actually, [nf] vs. [mf] vs., presumably, [ɱf] is a regional matter in German. I have [mf] in fünf, Senf, Hanf, sanft and so on, also [fm̩] for final -fen, but at least optionally [nf] in Konferenz. The synonyms Symphonie and Sinfonie stick with their spellings.

    [ɱ], so common in English, is absent from my kinds of German altogether. Perhaps it’s avoided for being too similar to [ə̰̃], the un-vowel, that which comes out when you just open your mouth and switch your vocal cords on…

  108. Some people mistake jacaranda for a Spanish word and pronounce it with an /h/ or /x/.

    In Russian, guacharo, quebracho, and chin (a Japanese breed of dog) are pronounced as if they had been borrowed from German rather than Spanish or Japanese, respectively, ie with a kh sound. I also remember reading Soikhiro Khonda (the founder of the Honda Motor) in an issue of Nauka i zhizn’. Back then, I guess, any forrin language was basically German.

  109. Juha, similarly some British speakers pronounce the “ch” in machismo as /k/.

  110. I always heard that the town of Berlin, CT [BUR-lin] supposedly changed its pronunciation during WWII through sheer collective force of will. Not going to look it up in case reality destroys my illusions. CT has some odd town names in any case – Mianus, Noroton, Cos Cob, etc.

  111. @AG: During WWI, Berlin, Ontario went whole hog and just renamed itself Kitchener.

    @Keith Ivey: British /tʃəˈɹɪtsəʊ/ for chorizo is another funny one.

  112. Lars (the original one) says:

    It’s all the fault of the mediaeval scribes in Spain and Italy for choosing different conventions for ‘h’ after ‘g’ and ‘c’. Also ‘z’. So unless people actually know the individual languages, their interpretation of Romance spellings will be confused even if they know which language a specific word is from.

    If you want to ask for chorizo in Denmark, it’s [t͡ʃoʁɪt͡so]. Just roll with it. I haven’t dared asking for gnocchi.

  113. John Cowan says:

    “Detroit” and . “Los Angeles”

    Yes, well, lost track of my original point there. Harumph.

    But actually that sharpens the point. If anglophones learn the name Hamtramck through writing, they are going to pronounce it as spelled, or as closely as phonotactics allow, and that’s “Hamtramick”. It takes many centuries, which are lacking in the American context, to produce freaks like “Tems” for Thames; note that the latter was regenerated in American contexts.

  114. David Marjanović says:

    The /t/ in Hemd does actually have a regular explanation. The Proto-Germanic form has been reconstructed as *xamiþją. This form was borrowed into Gaulish and/or Latin, giving rise to the Romance *camisia words.

    On the Germanic side, we’d expect West Germanic consonant lengthening to strike. And the development of the rare *þþ can be watched in attested Old High German: from tth and the like to dd and then to tt before the OHG period was over.*

    In other words, the etymological spelling of Hemd would be Hämtt…!

    * And I can’t believe how long it took me to notice that that’s a strong argument against later OHG d and earlier OHG th, dh, đ having ever been voiced.

  115. If anglophones learn the name Hamtramck through writing, they are going to pronounce it as spelled, or as closely as phonotactics allow, and that’s “Hamtramick”.

    I never knew until now how the town’s name was pronounced, but my guess was that the second ‘m’ would be turned into an ‘n’ for ease of pronunciation, yielding ‘Hamtranck’ or something similar.

  116. @David L: Yeah, that was my guess as well when I first saw the name.

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