Saturday, 28 January 2012

Call Me Len..

Pronunciation.  Some people can't even agree how to pronounce it.  Oh the irony!  :)

However, for those of us who live in countries that at least in part do not speak English, pronunciation can be a total nightmare.  Not that we are perfect either of course - I have worked 14 years in jobs where telephone communication was a core element, and yet I am quite capable of dropping the ball myself.  A case in point; working in a callcentre and asked the caller for his postcode which he dutifully gave.  Up pops his record and using the company convention I attempted to greet him as Mr....  Unfortunately the gentleman was of Polish descent and I paused slightly before attempting it.  You could almost hear the long-suffering, but good-natured, tone in his voice when he interrupted my brief thoughts with 'Call me Len' in a kindly voice.  The call proceeded very well with our mutual understanding.

However, it's not a new problem by any stretch of the imagination.  In 1978 there was an animated version of The Lord Of The Rings.  With the wealth of detail provided by Tolkien including language guides for his mythical races you'd have thought it impossible to drop the ball.  Not so.  From calling Saruman 'Aruman' - unforgivable to drop an entire letter! - to referring to Sauron as Soreon (sic) when the correct pronunciation as per the Peter Jackson movies being faithful to Tolkien is Sowron (sic).  Not that Jackson was perfect - Galadriel's pronunciation of Earandil was a country mile off.  But these could be excused by saying they are fictional anyway and not offending real people.

For many years I have had an avid interest in various eras in history, and have been broadly aware of the reputation of the Borgias, and the main family members.  Throughout this time I have always heard Cesare and Lucrezia pronounced as Sayzar and Loocreesha.  It came therefore as some surprise to hear them in the recent television epic The Borgias referred to with the correct Spanish pronunciations of Chezaree and Loocretzeeuh.  On reflection being a motorsports fan I should have realised at least one of them was wrong - the name Andrea de Cesaris is well-known to me as 'de Chezaris' (sic) so I ought to have known better.

In sport the problem is quite pronounced.  Take the sport of tennis which is televised often, and frequently uses commentators from more than one country - the UK, America and Australia for example.  Then give these disparate countries the same name to pronounce.

Novak Djokavic.

For the viewer - well me personally and I know I am not alone - it can be quite jarring to hear two commentators on the same match refer to the same player as Jokeavitch and Jockavitch.  Is it really so hard for someone to ask the player himself 'How do you pronounce your name properly?' and then tell the rest?  His is by no means the only example.

Tennis is not alone.  Rugby is another case in point - the stadium Parc Y Scarlets is not called Parky Scarlets.  It is Welsh and correctly pronounced Park Uh Scarlets.  Welsh as an entirely phonetic language should be easy - if those concerned can be bothered to learn the pronunciation, and I'm sure the Irish and other nations feel the same.  On which note - Connaught.  I've heard three different pronunciations, sometimes in the same conversation!  Connort, ConnaCHt and Connakt.  Someone please tell them which one is right!

Newsreaders are another culprit.  I well remember listening to election news coverage on Channel Four in the UK.  The National Party of Wales is called Plaid Cymru.  Now remembering what I said about Welsh being entirely phonetic, it is not ever pronounced 'Played Kimroo'!  It is Pl-eye-d Kumree (sic).  That one actually got an email of complaint.

To those concerned with public presentations of any kind; TV presenters, Newsreaders, Actors, Sports Commentators et al, a plea.  Do your homework on pronunciation.  It is not only jarring to the ear, it can be quite insulting when you seem to be at pains to pronounce some things correctly and then give the impression that others are not important and you can't be bothered.

Thank you.