Wuzzat? HOW-dja pronounce that?

There’s been an interesting dialogue going on over at the Classic Rendezvous list about the pronunciation of “Follis.” There’ve been various personal interpretations ranging from “faw-LEE” to “FAW-liss” to what’s always been my own presumption, “FOH-liss” – along with a host of other phonetic incarnations.

It seems that so long as we are engaged in examining the written word using a moderately common tongue… well things are pretty much on an even keel. However, communication sometimes begins to breakdown in a pretty rapid fashion when we actually begin to speak. For example, I’d been communicating via email with someone about a Peugeot. Sometime later, in person, I’d been puzzled by my correspondent’s occasional references to something he called a “pugg-EEE-ott.” I think he was a little embarrassed a bit further on when I began to tell him that I’d recently been out on a nice long ride on my “poo-ZHOH” PX-10. Similarly, I was thrown for a loop when a former LBS owner was admiring my “eye-dee-ALL” (Ideale) saddle, which I had previously assumed was pronounced “eye-DEAL” – you know, me being a Midwestern American.

In writing, “Campagnolo” is very clear to me, but “cam-pane-NYOLE-oh” and “CAM-pag-nawl-uh” and all of the other Americanized variants can throw a real monkey wrench into a conversation sometimes. (Thank goodness for the universalized “Campy”!) Italian and French names can have puzzling Americanized interpretations. For instance, how does one properly pronounce “Legnano” or “Cinelli” or “Battaglin”? Is Mercier pronounced, as I assume, “mer-SYAY”? Or as a woman whose last name is Mercier told me: “mer-SEE-yer”? How about “zhi-TAWN”? Or for that matter, “Antequil”?

Even the venerable Rene Herse is rendered unintelligible to American ears. I am made to understand that the correct pronunciation is something along the lines of “ren-ee AIRse.” But try that one in an American conversation sometime and get met with a blank stare and a “Whadja say?” Perhaps you might eventually be on the receiving end of a momentary look of enlightenment as you are gently corrected: “ Ohhhhh. I think you must mean ‘ren-AY HURSE.’”

Indeed, I think I must have meant precisely that.

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