List of Shibboleth Names


The blog 454 W 23rd St New York, NY 10011—2157 provides a “list of shibboleth names”—mispronounced names of cultural VIPs “by which the privileged judge their inferiors.” It reminded me of a conversation I had a long time ago with a rather distinguished professor of philosophy, in her office, that went something like this:

Me: So I was wondering if you could provide me with some advice about which courses I should take.
Prof: Alright.
Me: Do you think I should take this class on Fraysh, Russell, and Wittgenstein?
Prof: Do you mean Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein?
Me: Uh. Um. Yes?
Prof: …
Me: That was kind of embarrassing.
Prof: Yes. Yes it was.

Anyway, while Frege’s name is not on the list (it should be!) other philosophers make an appearance, along with the correct pronunciation of their names, including:

Augustine of Hippo (aw-gus-tin)
Walter Benjamin (ben-yameen)
W.E.B. DuBois (duh-boyz)
Johann Gottlieb Fichte (feesh-tuh)
Saul Kripke (krip-key) [really, people are getting this one wrong? I know, who am I to talk?]

Charles Sanders Peirce (purse)
Plotinus (ploh-tine-us)
Ayn Rand (well-fare recipient)
Simone Weil (vay)
Ludwig Wittgenstein (vittgenshtain/vittgenshtein)

Feel free to suggest others.

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Lee J Rickard
6 years ago

Bagehot (badge’-it)Report

Rachel McKinnon
Rachel McKinnon
6 years ago

Not a philosopher (psychologist), but someone that a number of philosophers know about:
Robert Zajonc: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XB9uXnGjBfoReport

Brandon Boesch
Brandon Boesch
6 years ago

I was always under the impression that the pronunciation of Augustine’s name was more of a cultural/regional difference. I gather that those from the east coast tend to say AW-gus-teen while people from other parts of the U.S. (including the midwest, where I’m from) tend to say uh-GUS-tin.

Can people confirm that this is just a regional thing? (It’s possible I am just out of the loop.)Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

Sartre?Report

Matthew
Matthew
6 years ago

Luce Irigaray, which, no matter how many times I try, I will never be able to pronounce correctly.Report

John Schwenkler
6 years ago

Immanuel Kant = Kahnt (get with the program, Brits and Canadians)Report

Paul Hammond
Paul Hammond
6 years ago

Berkeley was on their list too, and I feel like that’s just about the best example for Philosophy.

Also the way people say “Kant” isn’t really a shibboleth, but I feel like it tells you where someone did their PhD in a way that accent might not.

Deleuze is also a funny one because I find that even among people who literally publish scholarship about him (English-speakers at least) there’s division over whether they say de-LUHZ or de-LOOZ.Report

Thomas Brouwer
6 years ago

I also doubt that there’s a solid convention in the “Augustine” case, even among specialists. I’d be a little bemused if someone insisted to me on one pronunciation over the other.Report

Eddy Nahmias
6 years ago

Duh, Friedrich Nietzshe. I still get it wrong half the time (and first name too). And the spelling too.
Are we all assuming the inferiors aren’t reading this so we don’t even have to offer the right pronunciation? Well, just in case, this website can help: http://inogolo.com/pronunciation/d360/Friedrich_NietzscheReport

Carl Brownson
Carl Brownson
6 years ago

Not a pronunciation problem, but I wrote an entire paper for an undergraduate class years ago referring to Hilary Putnam as a ‘she’.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

I’ve corrected and been corrected, but usually in friendly way. It’s a service to the student, as long as not done condescendingly. We should take it with a grain of salt, though, since in some cases it’s nearly impossible for a non-native or near-fluent speaker to pronounce the name correctly. For example “Sartre” is between “Sart” and “sar-truh”, with the second ‘r’ very subtle and hard to get right. Saying “Kant” with an emphatically long or short ‘a’ (“cannt” or “kawwnt”) is equally unsatisfying.

Some I’m unsure of. For example, in different regional accents, Germans often pronounce “ch” closer to either “sh” or to “ck”. So would “Fick-tuh” be egregiously wrong? (And for that matter, wouldn’t “fish-tuh” be almost as close as “feesh-tuh”?)

Some items on the list seem just mistaken:
Foucault is foo-coe not foh-coe
Goethe’s impossible, but goo-tuh is a pretty poor alternate?Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

As an American grad student at a Canadian university, I once hat a heated debate about this with a fellow student. We appealed to the higher court of our native German language instructor, who declared us both wrong.Report

Matt McAadam
Matt McAadam
6 years ago

That philosopher in your story, Justin, is a horrible human being for doing that.Report

David Boonin
David Boonin
6 years ago

Tom Regan’s name looks like “REE-gun” but is pronounced like “RAY-gun”.

A lot of students assume that the “Marquis” in Don Marquis is pronounced like the Marquis in “Marquis de Sade” but it’s pronounced like “MARK-wiss”Report

Michael P. Wolf
6 years ago

It could be worse. Most of these folks, being dead, can’t correct you themselves. The first time I met Tom Beauchamp, I said it was a pleasure to meet you, Dr. “BO-shomp” to which he replied simply “BEECH-um.” Great way to start grad school.Report

Tom Hurka
Tom Hurka
6 years ago

The “kawwnt” pronunciation, which is preferred by American Kawwntians, has always annoyed me. In German the a in Kant’s name is a short a, the same as in “Max,” “Hamburg,” and “Mannheim.” It should therefore be pronounced in English the same way we pronounce those other short German a’s. You wouldn’t say “Mawwx Weber took a train from Hawwmburg to Mawwnheim,” nor would you eat a hawwmburger. Elsewhere a short German a becomes a short English one; it should do the same in Kant’s name and does, I believe, in the British pronunciation.Report

Neil
Neil
6 years ago

Anon at 11: certainly not feesh-tut. The German ‘ch’ is hard for English speakers. Fikte would be better, though still not right.Report

Simon Evnine
Simon Evnine
6 years ago

I’ve no idea at all how people pronounce (or should pronounce) Erigena (sometime spelled Eriugena). I once asked a classics professor and he didn’t know either. I’d be grateful for guidance from anyone who does know how it’s done.Report

Simon Evnine
Simon Evnine
6 years ago

Also, a propos of Justin’s lead in story, I heard a story about Patrick Gardiner, from years and years ago. A student in a tutorial was reading out his paper in which he talked about the “bor-ghee-oy-zee.” He meant “bourgeoisie.” Gardiner didn’t want to embarrass him and himself adopted the “bor-ghee-oy-zee” pronunciation for the rest of the meeting.Report

Kenny
6 years ago

This pronunciation manual is rather helpful:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYzRP_WLwEQReport

Eddy Nahmias
6 years ago

That’s Nietzsche. Dammit.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

I almost didn’t click on that Wittgenstein video, but so glad I did. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to hear his name again without giggling.Report

Mike Jacovides
Mike Jacovides
6 years ago

Simon, you can get Peter Adamson’s pronunciation of Eriugena here: http://www.historyofphilosophy.net/eriugena-predestination

If ‘St. AugusTEEN’ is good enough for Bob Dylan, it’s good enough for me.Report

Simon Evnine
Simon Evnine
Reply to  Mike Jacovides
6 years ago

Mike, excellent. Thanks.Report

Bob Kirkman
6 years ago

I suppose Ayn Rand would be something of a reverse-shibboleth: the elite might look askance at someone who made too much of a point of correcting others’ pronunciation, or who spoke the name with too much obvious reverence.

(So, at risk of being the target of some askance-looking, I read once that “Ayn” is pronounced – appropriately enough – to rhyme with “mine.”)Report

Richard Zach
6 years ago

Neurath (not even sure how to spell the “Neu” part so it’s not pronounced “New”, and just a T, not a TH at the end)
von Wright (I believe it’s “fon vrikt”?)
and Nathan Salmon pronounces the L, right?Report

Alan Richardson
6 years ago

Ah, yes. Leib as in the first syllable of ‘Liberia’; Niz as in ‘knits.’ The German language is like music; don’t screw around with it.Report

Antti
Antti
6 years ago

“Feesh-tuh” seems like a terrible advice to me, at least if you pronounce the “sh” as in “sheep”, and if you pronounce the “ee” as in “sheep”. Check out the IPA pronunciation on Wikipedia if you want to get it right (the same probably goes for other names on the list). I would describe the “ch” has a kind of a hard “h” sound – like the sound at the beginning of “hello” in a strong Russian accent (it slides towards a kind of a “k” sound). The vowel is like “ship” rather than “sheep”. Basically, say “Ich bin ein Berliner”; take the “ich” sound from that, and say the name.Report

Richard Zach
6 years ago

Tip: Google “fichte pronounciation”!Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

Tip: google “argument from authority”! No one seems to directly address the real ambiguities here.

My impression is that Germans pronounce “i” and “ch” differently by region. It sounds different, for example, listening to the bland German of Deutsche Welle as opposed to a modern German movie. So, is this pronunciation of Fichte regional, or standard, or just eccentric to the history of that name?

And in the British-Canadian vs. American pronunciation of “Kant,” the problem is that the short German “a” is not, to my ear, identical to the English German “a,” so pointing out that it’s a short German “a” doesn’t solve the problem. So it’s perfectly possible that the long English “a” is as close, or even closer, to the German short “a.”Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

Correction: “the short German ‘a’ is not, to my ear, identical to the short English ‘a’.”Report

John Schwenkler
6 years ago

Mill =/= Mills, contra every undergraduate ever.

Also, I hope it’s clear that my Kant remark was meant in jest.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

Oh, that one kills me! I find myself bending over backwards never to use the possessive form, in hopes that will prevent them from calling him “Mills”: “Mill’s view, er, I mean, according to MILL…”Report

Zizek
Zizek
6 years ago

You forgot to include my name.Report

Raymond Luxury-Yacht
Raymond Luxury-Yacht
6 years ago

Jonathan Kvanvig.
I’ve never met him but once mentioned his work to a former colleague, who told me it’s /’kwɒn.vɪg/Report

Raymond Luxury-Yacht
Raymond Luxury-Yacht
6 years ago

Thanks for confirming my guess. I’ve taught Beauchamp to some very confused undergrads. I pronounced it his way, assuming the name came via England, but told my students the French pronunciation would be acceptable too, since I honestly didn’t know. (Next time I’ll have to insist.)Report

Raymond Luxury-Yacht
Raymond Luxury-Yacht
6 years ago

Roger Ariew /’arɪɛv/Report

jb
jb
6 years ago

Re 3: This may account for the east coast variation; if I’m recalling correctly, Bob Hollander advised my, erm, Ivy undergrad humanities class that AWG-us-teen was an acceptable variant for uh-GUS-tin, as KWIX-it was for kee-HOE-tay, both of these licensed by Brit practice.Report

jb
jb
6 years ago

& I’d add that I find both as obnoxiously provincial (along with Don Joo-an & Jay-kwiz) as the Chicago pronunciation of Goethe St. as Go-EETH-ee.Report

Jussi Suikkanen
Jussi Suikkanen
6 years ago

Don’t get me even started on the pronunciation of Finnish names. Since having taken part in the English speaking philosophical world for about ten years, I’m not sure I’ve heard many people get my own name right (or Antti’s or Pekka’s or Teemu’s or…). This includes most people I’ve known for years. But, to be honest, I don’t mind at all personally. If it’s close enough and that doesn’t need to be close at all, I’m happy. This makes me less worried about getting the names of the historical figures right. I don’t think they would have minded either. Since reading lots of student essays, I am starting to mind tiny bit more about misspellings of names though.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

I gotta understand this. Why do all these undergraduates think Mill’s name is “Mills”? They have this book, see, and it says on the cover

“John Stuart Mill”

And then they have all these handouts, see, and they say

“John Stuart Mill”

And then some even have PowerPoint slides (God help them) that say

“John Stuart Mill”

And yet these undergraduates write “Mills”.

p.s., Why, oh, why do college professors continue to use Powerpoint slides?

PowerPoint + Pure Lecture = Pedagogical catastrophes

Justin – how about a Daily Nous post about PowerPoint slides? Maybe link to this: https://quote.ucsd.edu/childhood/files/2013/05/tufte-cognitivestyle.pdfReport

Led
Led
6 years ago

I said Beauchamp’s name, correctly, to my DGS once, and he just stared at me and said, ‘You mean Beau-sha(mp)?” in his best French pronunciation. This makes me happy that he was wrong.Report

anonplease
anonplease
6 years ago

I just want to remark very quickly on how hilariously unhelpful half of these comments are; *please* if you’re going to mention someone’s name as frequently mispronounced, provide the correct pronunciation.

Examples of unanswered complaints, simply to be concrete: Nietzsche, Zizek, Goethe, Wittgenstein, Sartre…Report

Antti
Antti
6 years ago

One funny thing about some foreign (to the English) names is that pronouncing them correctly marks you as an outsider. (For example, if you say “Jussi” as “YUS-sy”, you’re not part of the elite.) They thus function as shibboleths in a different way.Report

JP
JP
6 years ago

I always wondered whether the mispronunciation of Kant’s name was meant to bring to mind an association with the word ‘cant.’ After all, you don’t see people saying Leebnizz. So there has to be some element of intention there.Report

Manyul Im
6 years ago

Csikszentmihalyi – /Krzyzewski/Report

WR
WR
6 years ago

My grad professors said AW-gus-teen, so that’s what I’ve always said. I once read a classicist who said they use AW-gus-teen for the once-Bishop of Hippo and reserve aw-GUS-tin for the period corresponding to the reign of Augustus. But I read another classicist who said he preferred to say the opposite of whatever the other scholar said, so as to wrong-foot the opponent from the start.

Laphroaig = le-FROYG
Islay = EYE-luReport

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

anonplease, I think that’s because either the linked list provided “correct” pronunciation or the “correct” pronunciation was a matter of dispute. Here’s my best stab at the ones you mention
Nietzsche: Nee-cheh (as opposed to Nee-chee or Nee-chuh). You can just think of it as emphasizing “ch” at the end: Nee-‘ch’. The second syllable doesn’t have to be long.
Zizek: Zhee-Zheck
Goethe: impossible for a non-German speaker, but Ger-teh is closest (the vowel is somewhere between “er” and the “oo” in “foot”)
Wittgenstein: Vitt-gen-shtine
Sartre: try to ‘Sar-treh’ in one syllable. Don’t bother trying to say the french ‘r’–in one short word with two ‘r’s like that it’s impossible. Either ‘sart’ or ‘sar-treh’ is acceptable as an approximation.Report

Ryder
Ryder
6 years ago

Not that I’m an authority, but speaking a little German, I can tell you that “Fick-teh” would be a mistake in a class with anyone who actually speaks the language. That would make of his surname the simple past-tense of the colloquial expletive for sexual intercourse (ficken) we know so well in English.
A good guide for getting the consonant right, was once explained to me by a friend that serves as an excellent guide: take the long, hissing [h] sound you make in pronouncing “We humans” to get the hissing sound of the german “ch” (as in “Ich bin ein Berliner”) correct. (sounds a little like the y in “hyu” if you do it right).Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

Scotch whiskey names are even worse as shibboleths than philosophers! The only solution is to drink Japanese, Irish, and bourbon instead.Report

WR
WR
6 years ago

Did you mean “whisky”? 😉Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

If “fish-teh” is in fact the standard, that might be a good non-linguistic reason why! Maybe there’s less regional variation where there would otherwise be, just to avoid the similarity?

I remember a visiting French student who kept telling us she wanted to see the beach. We should have guessed what she meant, but the “ea” was somewhere in between “i” and “ee” and we were all totally stumped and could only hear “I want to see the b*tch.” Her pronunciation wasn’t wrong–she was aiming for the correct sound, but unable to duplicate it. That’s the case with most of these: everyone’s right in the sense that they’re trying to copy the right sound, but everyone’s wrong because their anglicized version is not the same sound.

In any case, I don’t think copying John Kennedy’s pronunciation of “ich” is our best bet. And “sh” doesn’t sound any closer to the “y” in “hyu” than “ck” does.

The key feature of Shibboleth names is that the majority are in languages we don’t speak at all and, therefore, we need functional very anglocized equivalents. So trying to teach everyone the truly correct pronunciation is a waste of time. We’ve got things to do besides host Jeopardy.Report

David
David
6 years ago

Søren Kierkegaard is an example of one that I’ve never met anyone try to pronounce correctly (which isn’t to say that anyone should – [email protected]:54 is right, I think). Someone can try and anglicize the pronunciation, I’m not sure I can:

http://www.forvo.com/word/s%C3%B8ren_aabye_kierkegaard/Report

Brandon
Brandon
6 years ago

Soren Kierkegaard, according to that website, sounds like “Sern Keer-ke-gawl” or “Keer-ke-gompf” depending on whether you listen to the female or male speaker.Report

Carl Brownson
Carl Brownson
6 years ago

Peter Adamson’s podcast helped me there: “er-ee-OOH-jin-ah”.Report

IMHW
IMHW
6 years ago

A couple of us were trying to figure out how to pronounce Myles Burnyeat’s last name in a graduate class, and turned to our professor who had done her doctoral work with him, and she admitted that on reflection she wasn’t sure if it was Burn-yeet or Burn-yaht as she was so used to simply addressing him as Myles.Report

Chad
Chad
6 years ago

Donnellan. It’s not Dun-el-in. It’s Dawn-uh-lin.Report

G
G
6 years ago

When I took German, my (Belgian) professor said “sh” was an acceptable substitute for the German “ch” sound, but “ck” was not. The reason was that some dialects did use the “sh” sound. So, “Ish bin” = okay. “Ick bin” = wrong.

I occasionally try to say Sartre’s name correctly to myself while driving (or while reading this thread). In public I resort to “Sart.”Report

AB
AB
6 years ago

don’t forget Yahweh (Adonai)Report

ALG
ALG
6 years ago

I was always under the impression that theologians tend to pronounce it “AW-guh-steen”, whereas philosophers tend toward “aw-GUST-in”. Further, there’s no reason to pronounce Fichte’s name like a Swabian (“FEESH-tuh”). Still, if one has problems with the back-of-the-throat ‘ch’ in High German, “FEESH-tuh” is still preferable to “FICK-tuh”, which makes Germans giggle, since it sounds rather…well, dirty. This leads me to my next question: How does everyone feel about the pronunciation of “Kant”? The Americans say “Kahnt”, the Brits say something that sounds like the American “can’t”, but when it’s pronounced correctly (i.e., German-style) in an English-language context, it sounds like a very unpleasant word indeed.Report

AB
AB
6 years ago

The terminal “d” in Danish is pronounced as a glottal stop, so that the last syllable of Kierkegaard rhymes approximately with a cockney or Essex pronunciation of “brought” or “court”.Report

Christy Mag Uidhir
6 years ago

I couldn’t resist.

Full Surname: Mag Uidhir
Pronounced like “Maguire”Report

Richard Zach
6 years ago

The question was how “Fichte” is pronounced in standard German I thought. Sure, it might be pronounced differently in regional dialects. It is, though, pronounced the same way as the German word for spruce, which is also spelled “Fichte”. So here: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/german-english/fichteReport

Avi
Avi
6 years ago

Not a philosopher, but: Roman Jakobson. I always said Yah-kob-son until I met someone who had been his student and who pronounced the name Jake-ob-son. Being a linguist, perhaps he felt no inauthenticity in anglicizing his name?Report

miensuell
miensuell
6 years ago

As an established teacher, this raises a question of pedagogy that I would like to see addressed:

What is the best way to help a student learn the correct pronunciation of a name or term?

If my student says “Burkley” or “Freysh”, what *should* I do?

The prof in Justin’s story said, “do you mean Frege?”, and for at least nine people reading this thread, this reply was sufficient to judge the prof a “horrible human being.”

Okay–so what would a non-horrible human being have done?

My tendency has usually been just to start talking about the figure in question, using the pronunciation that I have learned in the discipline. This avoids a direct correction, and allows the student to learn it the way I did, i.e. by hearing other people say it.

Is this better? Maybe. But it’s certainly not guaranteed to be. What if Justin’s prof had done that, and Justin had written, “by pretending that I had not mispronounced the word, my prof made it amply clear to me that he thought my mistake was unspeakably embarrassing and that I would never be a member of the profession. My prof’s glaring condescension to me hurt far more than a direct correction would have.”

If that had been the story in the OP, then we would now be talking about what a horrible human being that other prof was for not even speaking to the student directly like a human being and acknowledging our shared fallibility.

So…it’s easy to sling around allegations of horribleness. Instead of that, would anyone like to give some pedagogical advice about best practices?Report

miensuell
miensuell
6 years ago

Thanks, Justin.

Your follow-up on the original story is fascinating, and reminds me that tone is everything in interactions, and tone is lost in writing. When I read the anecdote, I thought the prof’s reply, “yes, yes it was,” was the most *humane* part of her behavior, since I read it as saying, “yes, what you and I just did there was embarrassing to both of us, and I’m glad we can acknowledge that shared awkwardness.” Whereas apparently in context, her tone was more like, “yes, you ought to be embarrassed about what you did.”

Sometimes I’ll also comment on the ridiculousness of the pronunciation. “oh, yeah–oddly enough, he was called “Barkley,” like Charles or Gnarls. Because British people can’t spell.” Hoping that this too will make the pill of correction easier to swallow. Because being corrected always sucks, especially at a time in life when the message of “you’re wrong!” feels ubiquitous, i.e. grad school.Report

Eric Winsberg
Eric Winsberg
6 years ago

I am the only one whose students always want to pronounce the word “causal” as _casual_? what’s up with that?Report

Mike Jacovides
Mike Jacovides
6 years ago

A graduate of UC Berkeley once told me that Berkeley would have pronounced his name Burkley, and that it’s only a later corruption of its pronunciation by the English that led to its being pronounced as Barkley now, the same process that led them to pronounce ‘clerk’ and ‘Derby’ with short a’s. So, I tell my students the story, and tell them that I’m going to say Barkley, but that I’m not going to correct their pronunciations.

How do the Irish today pronounce his name?Report

HK Andersen
HK Andersen
6 years ago

I had a funny conversation with a fellow undergrad a long time ago. He had gotten a black lab pup and named it Sauron, and clearly expected me me to appreciate the cleverness of the dog’s name. I was surprised, as he did not (not at all!) seem like a Tolkien fan. After a couple minutes, it turns out he named it Sauron, you know, after that Kierkegaard guy.Report

Richard Galvin
Richard Galvin
6 years ago

I haven’t witnessed a problem with mispronunciation, but when students are asked to write an essay about “causal impotence” nearly half of them discuss “casual” impotence instead, with often amusing results. Beware of overreliance on spellcheck and autocorrect!Report

Martin
Martin
6 years ago

Is it accurately a P or a B sound in Liebniz?Report

Eric Winsberg
Eric Winsberg
6 years ago

Richard Galvin: you didn’t read all the comments before you posted, did you? 🙂 Its not just their spellcheckers!Report

John Protevi
John Protevi
6 years ago

I certainly don’t belong on a list with so many luminaries, but I’ve heard many variants of my last name. The strangest by far is the most recent, with the “P” pronounced as /b/. What’s up with that?Report

Christy Mag Uidhir
6 years ago

George was “Irish” only in the sense that he was born in Ireland. Berkeley is an old-school English surname not Irish. His actual lineage, just like his surname, is very much old-school English (pre-Norman conquest Saxon).Report

Mike Jacovides
Mike Jacovides
6 years ago

Am I right to infer that there are few pronunciation differences between Irish English and English English as they are spoken today and that the Irish now pronounce ‘clerk’ like ‘clark”?Report

Richard Galvin
Richard Galvin
6 years ago

Eric,
I agree–it’s mixed bag. But as I said, often unintentionally humorous.Report

anon female grad student
anon female grad student
6 years ago

Dilthey = DILL-taiReport

William MacAskill
William MacAskill
6 years ago

If you want to be accurate to the original Scots, ‘Hume’ should actually be pronounced “hummy”, to rhyme with “yummy” or “tummy”.Report

Sigrid
Sigrid
6 years ago

I’ve seen the suggestion of “Ger-teh” in a variety of places, and it always has puzzled me, because I don’t detect any inkling of an “r” sound whenever I hear a German pronounce the name. (and my pronunciation of “Ger-teh” sounds nothing at all like the name Goethe). Nor did my college German professors ever suggest that the ö has an “r” tacked on to it. So, I wonder if one of the following two things is happening:
(1) There is some dialect of German that does insert an “r” sound after an ö, and I’ve just not picked up on it, or
(2) The English speakers that do find the “Ger-teh” pronunciation apt are speakers of one of the non-rhotic English dialects, and so have a very reduced or even absent “r” in that context in their own speech (ie after vowel, before consonant). They would thus not have a big, glaring “r” to overlook., and might also have a vowel that is, perhaps as a result, approaching the German ö.

But anything is better than one of my freshman housemates, who was talking on and on about her favorite poet, Goth (rhymes with “both”), and chiding me, as a German major, for not knowing who she was talking about. It wasn’t until she asked if I’d ever read “Fost” that I figured out what she was trying to say.Report

Christy Mag Uidhir
6 years ago

William, “Hume” is a Scottish surname but one originating not in Scots-Gaelic but Old English. Though spelled several different ways (e.g., “Home”), I’m pretty sure it’s always been pronounced (hewm).Report

William MacAskill
William MacAskill
6 years ago

Thanks Christy – my comment was a poor attempt at a joke. This discussion makes me want to mispronounce all the greats while teaching (“So-CRATES”, “Des-CART-ees”, “Ar-is-TOT-ley” (to rhyme with Chipotle)) just to see how the students respond.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

Sigrid, I don’t think it’s surprising that English speakers hear an “r” sound. It’s not really there, but there’s a similarity. Listen to some of the examples on Forvo, especially the fourth one: http://www.forvo.com/search/goethe/

I suspect the main reason the “ger-tuh” pronunciation dominates isn’t about the ‘r’ at all. It’s just an easy way to get English speakers to pronounce ‘ə’ (schwa), since in English any vowel can be pronounced that way (penc əl, tak ən, s əpply, el əquent, mount ən), so there’s no easy way to spell it to show that pronunciation. The only way to get people to say “g ə-tuh” instead of “goo-tuh” or “goe-tuh” is to throw the ‘r’ in: “g ər-tuh.”

The issue here is the same old one: in most of these cases, non-speaker simply cannot make the equivalent sound, so it’s *always* a case of choosing between anglicized equivalents that are *both wrong*. But thanks to the wonders of the narcissism of minor differences, we will insist one is “correct” and the other is “incorrect”–that “Kant” really is pronounced either with a short English ‘a’ or a long English ‘a’, for example.Report

shane
6 years ago

Jan Łukasiewicz.Report

Christy Mag Uidhir
6 years ago

I apologise, William, for my poor sense of Humer!Report

ian logan
ian logan
6 years ago

My preferred pronunciation of Eriugena is era-jeena and definitely not Adamson’s eri-oo-jeena. However, Adamson’s pronunciation of Augustine, unlike that of Bob Dylan, is to be preferred.Report

Roy T Cook
Roy T Cook
6 years ago

A student of mine recently was using the audio function on a tablet (or something like this – I don’t recall the exact details) to listen to some background readings for my seminar and reported that the experience was excellent – he now understood much more about Fridge’s logicism (he fortunately knows the proper pronunciation, but was nevertheless understandably amused by the technology’s rendering).Report