For years I’ve read articles by Ta-Nehisi Coates and mentally pronounced his name /ˌta-nǝˈhisi/ (i.e., tah-nǝ-HEE-see), which seemed obvious enough. But this evening Terry Gross interviewed him on Fresh Air, and she introduced him as /ˌta-nǝˈhasi/ (tah-nǝ-HAH-see). My first thought was that she was misspeaking, but then she did it again, and I did a little investigating, and lo:
Also for the record Ta-Nehisi (pronounced Tah-Nuh-Hah-See) is an Egyptian name for ancient Nubia. I came up in a time when African/Arabic names were just becoming popular among black parents. I had a lot of buddies named Kwame, Kofi, Malik (actually have a brother with that name), Akilah and Aisha. My Dad had to be different, though. Couldn’t just give me a run of the mill African name. I had to be a nation.
Now, leaving aside the Egyptological side of it (the hieroglyphs transliterated as nḥsy and translated “Nubian” cannot, of course, be confidently provided with vowels, and I don’t know where the “Ta” comes from), I think it’s pretty nifty that there is a name in which graphic i is pronounced /a/; anything that adds to the weirdness and unpredictability of English orthography is fine by me. (I added the pronunciation information to his Wikipedia entry.)