Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Parlez-vous FrchAHnssAY?

Friends, Readers, People-who-accidentally-clicked-on-this-blog,

I have something on which I need your input. In several conversations now, over dinner or coffee or copious amounts of Pinot Grigio, the following situation has come up, which I think is a critical issue that must be addressed: How is one to pronounce words in a different languages that have not been assimilated into English? With their original accent or not?

I'll give you an example:
You're moving along in a normal conversation with other English speakers, when someone says something like the following:
"Oh yes, that reminds me of of the time I was visiting CoLOHMbeeya."
"WOAH," you think, "What just happened there? Were we suddenly, for one instant, transported to the Southern Hemisphere where the word ceases to be pronounced Columbia?"
(This occurs especially frequently with the names of South American nations, (such as "Oh, when I was working in the leper colony in oooroooGWAIY.") but can have other applications too (such as "Are you going to eat that QRWAAsssahn?").

But it gets even more complicated. Because there is a range upon which foreign words are placed (like the Kinsey scale or those survey categories: Strongly Agree, Agree, Slightly Agree, etc.) and each person places them differently. For instance, most Americans would probably pronounce the word b-a-l-l-e-t as bal-lay, not bal-lett. Many would pronounce f-a-j-i-t-a, faHEEta, not faj-itta (except maybe some parts of the rural South.) But some disagree on how to say the name of the following city: Seville.

How does one draw the line between personal choice and plain-old-unadulterated pretension??? When are people being legitimate and when are they just being annoying and trying to impress their uncultured friends with their global awareness and engagement?

In an attempt to formulate a preliminary response, I have created the following list of words that should NOT be pronounced in their original language:
Names of Countries
Famous Figures whose names have been assimilated (DeetrEICHK BonnHOEHfuer, etc.)

These are okay:
Fillet (although my Scottish friend tells me this is fill-ett in the UK. Can someone corroborate this?)
People's Names that are your friends....they should tell you how to pronounce them. (Such as my friend who likes to call him self AnnDehRoo instead of Andrew. I think that's okay.)
Things that would sound ridiculous any other way.

Excluded from adherance to these categories are:
Native speakers of other languages.
Foreign Diplomats
SOME PhD students, but not the pretentious ones.

I hope you will help by responding at will to add to and amend these lists, and hopefully we can together formulate a response to this unfortunate and monumental problem.

But for now: Adeeeyos, Readers!

p.s. How do you pronounce the name of the restaurant in this photo?

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