Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A pronunciation question

Quick: How do you pronounce "Iran"? How about "Iraq"?

OK, now read this (HT Andrew). What does your pronunciation of those two country names say about you? Or rather, what are some theories about what it says about you? Do you agree with the article?

Personally, I pronounce them Ee-rahn and Ee-rahk. But that's because when I hear the names of those countries, it's usually being pronounced by a native speaker, and that's pretty much how they say it if they're speaking in English. So technically, the article's conclusions hold true for me, even down to some details - I live and work and am married to academia (predicting Ee-rahk) and I have knowledge of foreign languages (predicting Ee-rahn).

What about you? Just wondering.

Also, I love this video.


Susanne said...

Loved the video! And the article is interesting. I want to go through the comments later as some of them seem good with people adding other words stated incorrectly.

Susanne said...

My favorite so far:

"And we still pronounce "Deutschland" "Germany." "

Bridget said...

Christiane Amanpour notwithstanding, I think the point is not correct/incorrect. It's more what we can speculate about the speaker based on their pronunciation of these two words, which I think is fascinating!

Susanne said...

"But none of that negates the fact that those pronunciations show, as I wrote in my 2009 essay, a fundamental “lack of knowledge and respect.” One can be an optimist and hope that the conflicts in the region will one day be resolved, and that, when they are, Americans will learn to say these countries’ names more accurately."

I guess I just took the tone of the article differently than you. It seemed to say that conservatives, Republicans, along with lower-ranked military, missionary, Israel-loving types, ESPN and FOX announcers were too ignorant and the academics and liberals (as always) are correct.

Liz Johnson said...

I say ih-rahn and ih-rahk. I'm kind of wishing I said ee-rahn and ee-rahk, but... I don't. Sigh.

Aimee said...

After briefly dating a Persian boy in highschool, I will never pronounce Iran wrong again, for everytime I said "Eye-ran" he followed up with the question "you ran, where?" Also, after spending much time in Europe I pronounce the Ee-Rahn and Ee-rahk. In my head I can just hear the military "boys" say Eye-rack with their twang. I do believe it is disrespectful and believe they should be taught properly.

Susanne said...

Despite my comment, I enjoy posts like this. I often ask pronunciation questions on Facebook because I think accents are fun. I am sorry if I took the article the wrong way. It's fascinating to me how people read the same article (book, blog post, etc.) and take different things away from it. Shows me how perspectives and frames of mind matter at the time of reading.

Different accents make life more interesting - even if we say Iran, Iraq or Chechnya "incorrectly."

Speaking of accents apparently Jesus and his followers had one that was distinctive enough for the Bible to take note of it.


something else I found on the topic


Thanks for another great post!

Kathy Haynie said...

I'm with you, Liz. But then I started overthinking it and I'm not sure how I say Irak. (Eeek...maybe eye-rack.) I do know that I often feel vaguely self-conscious when speaking these words.

Ariana said...

I think it's fine for American English speakers to pronounce country names "wrong" or not as a native speaker from that country would say it. I mean, how many Americans say the country to our south is 'May-hee-co'? Heck, even Hawaii is totally butchered. Most americans say "Huh-why" with a slight slide into an "ee" sound at the end. Native Hawaiians insert a big break of sound inbetween the two letter Is. Hawai'i. Another one I hear pronounced all over the place (I listen to NPR all the time) is Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some use all short A sounds, some use the "ah" sound. And then there's the word Al-Quaeda..... to use the Minnesotan vernacular, "uff-da"!

JosephJ said...

I've always been skeptical of the use/pronunciation of foreign words unless spoken by a native. I'm pretty certain I said Iran/Iraq incorrectly until becoming good friends with an Iranian co-worker.

I learned Spanish in high school from a Mexican immigrant, so I have good confidence in her pronunciation. What I hear from Spanish students in Maine is much less-- pure.

The funniest thing to me is how foreign words get transcribed alongside everyday vernacular. I was reading a blog last summer where the writer used the word "Walla!" and left me confused for a minute. Same for when I saw someone write "Chow."

Bridget said...

I guess the part where he said "it is usually a fool’s mission to blame people for how they pronounce words" set the tone for me, but there is certainly an element of correct/incorrect there, too.

I remember a NT professor comparing the Galilean accent to something like an Idaho farmboy accent - an accent that maybe doesn't convey a lot of formal schooling. I wonder how accurate that is.

Bridget said...

For me, it's really between ee and ih.

Ariana below mentions Pakistan and Afghanistan, and on those, I have been ruined by the Brits. They (and increasingly I) say "Pah-ki-STAHN" and "Ahf-gahni-STAN" - but I think those are closer to the way a native speaker would say it.

If I start saying "Keen-ya" for Kenya then I'll be worried.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

In the 60s we said Keen-ya. In the 70s it became Ken-ya. Now I learn from Alexandra Fuller (Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness) that natives say it Keen-ya. Not being a native, I'll stick w/ Ken-ya.

Elena Bebe said...

I pronounce it Ee-ran and Ee-rak too but it might be because of the context I was brought up in.
Then again, many country or city names become completely different words when spoken of outside the country of origin. Like Warsaw (English) is actually "Warszawa" in Polish and Warschau in German. I don't know how closely this could be related with how Iraq and Iran get pronounced abroad but I think of it in pretty much the same way.


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