Thursday, 27 March 2014

A Something of Consciousness, Anyway, A Meandering River, Possibly

Today is my birthday, ha HA! So I'm allowed to witter on completely at random and I shall.

When I got up this morning I asked myself how I should celebrate 52 years on the planet, and I decided to do a little dance. No, really, I did. I figure if one is still able to dance, then dance one should. Anyway, it acted as a sort of warm-up, so I was ready for more go,go,go and I cleaned my office. Yes, before 8am. Sorry. And now I have a lovely clean desk. Which smells of unscented baby wipes. (Work THAT one out).

However.....while moving the computer (it's an all-in-one) I accidentally lowered the screen brightness. I figured out how to turn it back up, but my conscience got the better of me (damn scruples) and I decided to leave it mid-way to save power, seeing as it's on all day. Now it looks a rainy day. This is going to take some getting used to.

The other thing I did this morning was look up how to pronounce Saraswati. It was as I suspected, but the site I found it on had an annoying woman giving an announcement. Listen to this:

Now, I'm all for cheerfulness, but announcers who deliver with a laugh in their voice, when they are not telling a joke or anything remotely like one, make me want to slap them. It's fatuous and another example of all that's wrong with today's media.

But while I was there (WARNED YOU IN THE TITLE) I wondered if that site had an example of "Harry".

The reason being, that Harry Potter is on my mind due to what I originally thought I'd write about today (and still may well do, you never know) and they do! It wasn't quite what I had in mind though....

And of course, if you're French and your name is Harry (I suppose it's possible) this would even be correct.

So, the question is, what is the "correct" pronunciation of a name? Let's face it, there are lots of different ways to say names, even among people who all speak the same language.

I am very fortunate here because my name is pronounced more or less the same in most accents, and not much different in French. The vowels may alter a tad, but it's no big deal. There remains, however, a wrong way to say it - which I have been called - and that's Me-LANE-ie. My point is, here there's a clear distinction between just differing accents and actually WRONG.

But where do we draw the line?

My buddy Simona (who had better be reading this) has told me how she suffers from people saying her name wrong. It's Seem-O-na. Not Sim-O-na. Is this difference too subtle for some? Possibly. But it is a totally different vowel.

But then there's my daughter Sian. People see her name written and say See-AN. Which is definitely wrong. No question. Because this is not just a different vowel. It is pronounced SHAHN.

My poor husband, however is stuck. Martin is a name that is commonplace in both Britain and North America, and the pronunciation is totally, utterly different. But how can you expect somebody used to saying it the North American way to correct themselves for just one foreigner? Let's face it, it's not going to happen. So despite his mother naming him MAH-tin, he goes through life being called MR'N (the apostrophe being a glottal stop). These are two different words, but he's obliged to suck it up.

Apparently then, whether or not you get your name prounounced internationally the way you pronounce it yourself depends on many factors.

One of these would appear to be how famous you are. Colin Powell is a perfect example. When he first started appearing on the news, I called him the way I called all people called Colin, which is COLL-in. But I learned he pronounced it COHL-in. So, I tried to get it right, even though I never met the man. This is the reverse situation to my husband's situation. But you know, most people used the pronunciation he uses himself, because he's world famous.

So, I am obliged to ask why it's different for Harry Potter, who must one of the most famous fictional characters ever, and whose name has been heard pronounced HIS way on 7 box office smash movies, but nevertheless you never EVER hear non-British people say it that way. North Americans say "Hairy".

I understand why. That's how they pronounce that vowel. All the people they know locally call themselves "Hairy". What I'm asking is why Colin Powell gets his name pronounced his way, and Harry Potter doesn't. I'm not expecting it to change, I'd just love it if anyone can explain this phenomenon to me. There are many other examples.

As I often say, I ask a lot of questions.......


  1. Happy Birthday! Where I live everyone says "Hairy". I liked to be different and intentionally would rhyme the Har with car. Mostly just because it drove people nuts the way I would mispronounce it. I don't know why it is pronounced wrong despite people knowing how it should be pronounced. Maybe because in our great big US pride thing we just realize that the actors in the movie were pronouncing it all wrong because they are ignorant being that they are not from the US? We all know that people from other countries have cute accents but no brains. Or maybe just because people in the US are arrogant ignorant people?

    1. That's a minefield, LOL.

      Sometimes I think it's a listening thing. Often when I'm discussing this stuff live with friends and I offer two versions of a pronunciation, they can't actually hear the difference.

  2. People have called me Cindy, several times. How's that for incorrect pronunciation?

  3. Happy birthday, long may you dance and blog. As for the topic, I don't have the sharpest ear and can't get excited about this. We have a failing civilization and an ailing planet on our hands. We could probably make some connections between people being too hidebound or lazy to learn how to pronounce a name and other crises, but quite frankly, I can't be bothered. And how is anyone not already familiar with the name supposed to know how to pronounce Sian?

    1. Oh we totally understand when people get Sian wrong, don't worry.

  4. Happy Birthday Melanie! I hope you have a very special day.