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ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Do you ever suspect that people mispronounce their own last names?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (23293 points ) November 19th, 2011

Though, I guess technically a name can take any pronunciation that the “owner” claims to be correct, sometimes I look at the spellings of peoples’ names and the way that their family pronounces it, and I’m sure that it can’t be quite right. I wonder sometimes if a “new” pronunciation (especially of very ethnic sounding names) has just evolved within the family over the years.
Do you think that happens?

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34 Answers

Luiveton's avatar

Yes. It happens alot. I hate it when I can’t pronounce someone’s name because I really don’t know how they’d prefer me to pronounce it. Super embarrassment.

JilltheTooth's avatar

My last name is pronounced two different ways. When my Dad’s cousin was in the Navy an Admiral who worked with the midshipmen at Annapolis mispronounced it consistently, and being afraid to correct an Admiral, my Dad’s cousin just let it stand. Now that entire branch of the family pronounces it that way.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JilltheTooth wow, I didn’t expect an actual confirmed example. That’s pretty fascinating. I thought of it because I have friends with a really complicated last name, it’s Ukrainian, but the pronunciation they use eliminates a good 6–7 letters out of the middle of the name, and I just can’t imagine that’s right.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Some of my Polish friends have names that have many many more letters than are pronounced. The Poles have so many consonants, it seems half of them have to be silent or you’d be addressing them for 10 minutes every time you said “hello”. Rs, Ts, and Zs seem to be abundant and silent. Very odd.

bongo's avatar

@JilltheTooth polish names tend to have “icz” which makes and “ich” sound, the Js sound like Ys and Ws tend to sound like Vs, “ch” tend to make more of a “ck” sound. follow those rules and it tends not to be so difficult (thats my rule of thumb however I am not polish!)

filmfann's avatar

When Ross Perot was running for president, he told the story of going into the army, and having a Sgt. there tell him he was too stupid to realize how to pronounce his own last name.
Then there is Steven Colbert, who pronounced the “t” when he was in school.

cockswain's avatar

Brett Favre does.

SuperMouse's avatar

I have a friend with a Hispanic surname. When her mother-in-law married into the family the last name had a very American pronunciation. She informed her new husband that they were adding an accent to the last letter and changing it to a Hispanic pronunciation. So their branch of the family tree pronounces the name differently than the other branches. My friend’s mother-in-law’s choice to make the change caused some trouble in the family. So yes, I do think some people change how their name is pronounced.

cockswain's avatar

Check this out

JilltheTooth's avatar

@SuperMouse : When my sister married a man of Cuban descent my mother was so horrified she tried to get everyone to Anglicize the pronunciation so heavily that it would have no resemblance to its Hispanic origins. It didn’t take, and some of her acquaintances wondered if my sister had been married twice in the same year, once to an Anglo, then to a Hispanic. She still won’t pronounce it correctly. She’s very silly

JLeslie's avatar

Absoutely. In America the name becomes Americanized. We see it with last names, names of cities, even first names.

LuckyGuy's avatar

On the TV show “Keeping up Appearances” Hyacinth Bucket pronounces her last name as “Bouquet” (like a bouquet of flowers) while her husband pronounces Bucket, like something that holds water.

ucme's avatar

There was a german footballer who played in the 90’s with the excellent surname of Kuntz.
Commentators would “conveniently” pronounce it as Koontz so as to avoid any unpleasantness.
I remember one game in particular against England in Euro 96 when he scored a goal, the commentary went as follows…..“Seaman goes in on Kuntz, oh & he’s scored!!”
The english goalkeeper was called David Seaman, just to explain.

cazzie's avatar

Another confirmed case. My family mispronounces the last name. It’s French/Belgian. I don’t want to sound like Hyacinth Bucket, so how every people pronounce it is fine with me.

anartist's avatar

I have one friend who changed the pronunciation of his name when it was mispronounced over a loudspeaker at his work. He decided he preferred the new pronunciation. Names have varied spellings and pronunciations and what was passed on to you is what you’ve got.

However, it seemed sort of sad to me once, though, to hear a young woman whose first name was Valois who was a model in my drawing class call herself Vall-Lois [like Lois Lane] while the instructor called her Val-wah [like French kings], like there was an ocean of culture she missed out on.

@ucme “koontz” is the correct German pronunciation of Kuntz

fundevogel's avatar

There was a kid in my chem class in high school with the last name “Dubois”. He pronounced it d’boy which amused me to know end.

My first name might be mispronounced. I don’t know. It was my great grandmother’s maiden name, Cajun and according to us has a few silent letters at the end. I’ve never met anyone else with it so I can’t compare pronunciation.

anartist's avatar

Then there’s place names. In New Orleans Chartres Street is pronounced Charters Street.
And in a froggy town at that!

MissAusten's avatar

My husband’s family, even his aunts and uncles who married into his family, are almost all Italian. There’s one surname that one cousin pronounces differently than the rest of the family. He has un-Americanized it, pronouncing it the way someone in Italy would pronounce it. But everyone else says it with Americanized vowels. They all laugh at the cousin (and his wife and kids) who say it differently because it comes across as being a bit snooty.

fundevogel's avatar

@MissAusten Only in America is doing it right elitist.

ucme's avatar

@anartist Yeah, but this was the english commentary, off mic giggling confirmd their intent.

DominicX's avatar

I know they do. @cockswain is definitely right about Brett Favre. My aunt’s maiden name was Araujo, which in Portuguese is pronounced /ara’uzho/ (ah-rah-OO-zho) and despite the fact that many people pronounce it ah-RAH-ho (which is incorrect), she pronounced it more like “a-duh-roozh”. Where that comes from I have no idea.

But, you know, this is not a cut-and-dry issue. Are we all supposed to pronounce our names according to their language of origin? In an English-speaking country we often tend to Anglicize our names in terms of pronunciation if they come from non-English sources. My last name is Russian and we certainly don’t pronounce it exactly as a Russian would. But I would at least try to approximate it within the scope of standard English phonology.

rebbel's avatar

My brother does this or is it me?.
He pronounces the vowel in our last name as e (the a in jam) whereas I use ee (the ay in bay).
Mine sounds more posh, it is said, but my main reason to pronounce it the way I do is because there is a shop in my hometown that has the same name as us (the e version) and I didn’t want to be associated with it due to the products they sell.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’‘ve known several Nguyens over the years and heard several pronunciations but I never assume one is correct over the others. Same thing with Mar-teen-ez versus Martin-ez, I’m not sure if the name has different pronunciations depending on regional dialect.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

There are several different ways to pronounce my maiden name, and I have no idea which one is “correct”. I do think that sometimes people pronounce their names whichever way suits them best, regardless of whether it’s the “proper” pronunciation or not.

YARNLADY's avatar

In our family, we pronounce it whatever way we want. My husband (whose family name it is) speaks New York, but I don’t, so it comes out different. Before we got married, I joked, I guess this means I’ll have to learn how to pronounce your last name. I never have, really.

bea2345's avatar

I know they do. Years ago, in the UK, I met an English student who said that the Trinidadian pronunciation of the name Chauharjasingh was all wrong (it may not be spelled right but that is how it is in English, with the stress on the second syllable). Apparently it is a name hailing from West Bengal, India and the Indian version sounds nothing like the English. It was in vain that I pointed out that I could scarcely tell that to my former gynecologist, Dr. Chauharjasingh, or his uncle. Professor Archibald Chauharjasingh (a historian).

RareDenver's avatar

For me personally I just say Chaplin, like Charlie

anartist's avatar

for that matter, who says cock-swain, boat-swain, wor-cester, glou-cester, but the worst is Featherstonehaugh [usually a family name] pronounced “fanshaw”—actually “proper pronunciation of Farquhar [f*cker] ain’t bad either.

fundevogel's avatar

@anartist don’t forget “blackguard”

anartist's avatar

a bit like braggard?

fundevogel's avatar

blaggard actually

everephebe's avatar

My name is pretty damn easy to pronounce right. I knew this one guy though who had a last name something like Faggoti…. He pronounced it in his own way.

Has anyone mentioned Boehner yet?

Sunny2's avatar

My grandfather changed the spelling of our German family name so it would be pronounced correctly in English. With it’s German spelling it was pronounced as a word meaning something like garbage in English.

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