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Correctness and People's Personal Names:

A commenter on the "correctness" thread asked whether people are required, as a matter of standard English usage and as a matter of good manners, to follow another person's preferred spellings and pronunciations of that person's name. Is it OK to call a Juan "John"? How about pronouncing the name "Dzh-you-an"?

The modern standard English practice for personal names is, to my knowledge, different from the practice for place names: The bearer of the name is entitled to choose his own spelling, and, to a certain extent, his own pronunciation, so long as the pronunciation does not depart too far from the norms. It's considered improper, for instance (as a matter of both correctness and manners), to call Pedro "Peter" (unless you're doing so jokingly in certain contexts). My sense is that it's also considered improper, if you know better, to pronounce the "e" as "ee" if the bearer pronounces it "eh," though of course the L.A. "San Pedro" neighborhood is pronounced precisely that way (again, the difference between particular people's names, which track the bearers' preferences, and place names, for which there is no individual bearer but only idiom).

On the other hand, it's not considered improper to use an English "r" as opposed to the more trilled Spanish "r"; nor is it considered improper to use an "eh" sound for the "e" rather than the "ehy" sound that, I'm told, is more proper in Spanish. My sense is also that bearers are given less flexibility to insist on departures from the more common English pronunciations of foreign names. Thus, my father "Vladimir" calls himself "Vlah'dimir," rather than the Russian "Vlahdee'meer": Though the latter could easily be pronounced by Americans, "Vlah'dimir" is the standard American pronunciation (to the extent that there is a standard), and I don't think he'd be entitled to insist on it even if he wanted to (and he's not the sort of guy who'd want to).

The rule therefore doesn't just accommodate most Americans' difficulty with pronouncing phonemes that are missing in English (such as the trilled "r"); it also accommodates the unfamiliarity of certain pronunciation practices, even when the sounds aren't alien to the English-speaking mouth. So the rule ends up being a compromise between the bearer's preference and English pronunciation norms.

Others are expected to follow the bearer's preferences. The bearer is expected to tolerate the inevitable inadvertent errors when his name departs too far from what is familiar — errors that happen even among people who may have known the bearer's preferred pronunciation, but have forgotten it on the spur of the moment.

Why the difference between the practices for particular people and the practices for place names? Why don't we call Beethoven Louis (though apparently others once did, and so did Beethoven himself, at least in certain situations), but do call Deutschland Germany? I'm not sure. But I am pretty sure that this is the way it is, as standard English usage goes.

Incidentally, all this is the modern English convention; the rules seem to have been different in the past, especially as to famous people. The convention may also be different in other languages; I can't speak to that.

Randy R. (mail):
Names of french origin seem to bedevil us. There appears no rule concerning Louis. Sometimes we say it the french way, Lou-WEE (though rarely), sometimes LOU-wee, and sometimes LEW-is.
I understand that it is proper to say Nor-lins, but outsiders usually call it new-or-LEANS, and that's okay too.

It's never okay to say Frisco, however.
12.17.2007 1:26pm
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
12.17.2007 1:36pm
Kazinski:
That is just non-sensical, if people can choose the pronunciation for their own names then you end up with absurdities like 'Favre' pronounced as 'Farve'.
12.17.2007 1:39pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
I think you might find a finer distinction when it comes to first or second names. People (like me!) tend to be a little more dogmatic about correct surname pronunciations. My name, for example, has a soft 'g' sound, though others with exactly the same spelling, prefer a hard 'g'.

That might have to do with the original language from which the name derives. Mine is from the French 'bourgoise'; others from the Saxon 'burger', which finds its way into British pronunciations.

In my case, I'll answer to either, but if asked will 'correct' it to my preferred pronunciation.
12.17.2007 1:47pm
skeptical:
I'll bet "Farve" was not the arbitrary creation of the Favre family alone, it was the way everyone they knew said their name. It's because English does not have the sounds needed to say the name the way the Favres' ancestors might (or might not) have said it in a French-speaking country. And how are you so sure Haitians or Quebecois or Brittany residents, or people who live where the family came from (are you sure it was, say, Paris?) don't say it "Farve" anyway?

The same with the trilled "r." It's not just "unfamiliar" to Americans; it is not a sound in standard American English. It's absent; it's not there; it does not exist. That's why no one may be offended when Americans fail to trill the "r."
12.17.2007 1:51pm
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
Although, with the Spanish "r," the American English "d" comes much closer than the AE "r." That wouldn't work for "Pedro," but it would for "Laura," for example.
12.17.2007 1:57pm
DJR:
I think Eugene has accurately stated ordinary usage for names in English:

1. Translation is not polite: Jose, not Joseph
2. Accomodate foreign pronunciation, but only to the extent it uses familiar English sounds: ho-ZAY, not joe's
12.17.2007 1:59pm
Houston Lawyer:
What about the case where the majority of Americans pronounce their own names differently than their ancestors. I come from a German dominant community where Schroeder is pronounced with a long A instead of a long O. That more properly reflects the German pronuciation of the O with an umlaut which was replaced with the oe. However most Americans I know with that vowel combination use the long O pronunciations.

In my first year of law school, my contracts professor called on a man with the name Dietrich. The professor pronounced the ie as a long E. Mr. Dietrich corrected him and the professor responded that that was the way it would be pronounced in German. Mr. Dietrich then stated, to our amusement, that his was the American pronunciation.
12.17.2007 2:02pm
bearing (mail) (www):
It's not just furriners, of course. Some people have "standard" names with "standard" spelling but an unstandard pronunciation. I had a college professor who was named "Camilla," pronounced "CAM-ill-uh," and knew an administrator named "Nina," pronounced "nine-uh". (Wonder if I've just given away my alma mater to any readers.) It'd be pretty ridiculous and rude to insist on pronouncing their names "Ca-MILL-uh" and "Neen-uh" after having heard the pronunciation once.
12.17.2007 2:07pm
Ironbound:
Dzh-you-an would be close to correct for "Juan" if the person is from a Portuguese-speaking country. So you never know...
12.17.2007 2:09pm
tom brandt (mail) (www):
It's Frank-en-steen!
12.17.2007 2:11pm
alias:
Do you ever tell people that your name is Евгений Волок, and that you'd better hear the Cyrillic when they pronounce it?
12.17.2007 2:13pm
wahern (mail):
The Atlantic recently had an interesting article, "I Say Qaddafi, You Say Qadhdhafiy" (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200711u/arabic). The editor elucidates some of the rules and sensibilities they abide by.
12.17.2007 2:20pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
alias: I'm sometimes a fool, but I'm not that kind of fool! Note, by the way, that the last letter in my last name is "x" (the Cyrillic for "h," as in "who").
12.17.2007 2:20pm
Ken A (mail):
Okay, so it was, is and always shall be "Roberto (Not Bobby) Clemente".

But I'll be damned if I have to learn another name for Prince (aka "the chemical symbol for boron")
12.17.2007 2:28pm
Darkmage (mail) (www):
I think the best example of this, and of how the rule is "whatever people find convenient" is Linux, invented and named by Linus Torvalds. Most now pronounce it "lih-nucks". When I first came across it, based on the Charlie Brown pronunciation of the author's name, I pronounced in "Lie-nucks". However, I later found out that he pronounces his name "Lee-noos" and therefore HE pronounces it "Lee-nooks".
Now, he doesn't make a big deal out of it. Whenever he's interviewed he lets the host say it first and then he says it however they say it. I used to be a real zealot about it, but I've lightened up because exposure of the O/S is more important than how to say it if Leenoos himself doesn't care. ;)
12.17.2007 2:42pm
Rob Perelli-Minetti (mail):
It's never okay to say Frisco, however.


Indeed, natives take it very much amiss. The proper term, of course, is "the City" -- or was before the mid-1960s. If, in speaking with a native Westerner, you said you were going to "the City" without more anywhere in the Far West before the ascendancy of LA in the '60s, probably 8 or 9 out of 10 would understand you meant San Francisco. I had rural dwelling relatives in Oregon, Washington and Idaho who all used referred to San Francisco as "the City" while other (and at that time much smaller) cities were referred to by their names.

On the larger point, for boomers and older people, I think the traditional Anglicizations are generally acceptable, while it seems to me younger people are more generally expected to follow the foreign pronunciation. This is especially true with Spanish, although I know many people who make a point of refusing to pronounce Spanish names in the Spanish (or Mexican) manner to indicate their hostility to the growing Spanish-speaking population who do not learn to speak good English.
12.17.2007 2:50pm
djh5:
Wasn't Pedro Guerrero regularly called Pete?

"Okay, Pedro," Lasorda said, "the tying run's on, one out in the ninth. What are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking, don't hit the ball to me," Guerrero said.
"C'mon, Pete," Lasorda chided, "what else are you thinking?"
"You really want to know?"
"Yes."
"I'm thinking," Guerrero said, "don't hit the ball to Sax either."
12.17.2007 2:53pm
Darkmage (mail) (www):
Also, since many of Eugene's original examples were spanish-derived...I'd be curious on his take (and everyone else's take as well) on Jesus.

No, not like that.. I mean "Gee-Zuhss" versus "Hey, Zeus!"
12.17.2007 2:54pm
Jay Levitt (mail) (www):
I'm reminded of two things:

1. In the 1980s, during the Iran-Contra scandal, some comic pointed out the absurdity of blonde, lily-white reporters suddenly contorting their jaws to attempt to say "Today in Washington, the administration discussed its aid to rebel forces in NEE-CARRR-AH-GUAH".

2. Truth: I worked with a guy from Nicaragua, and although he had been in the States for several years, I was the first Jewish guy he met. So, come December, he wished me a "Happy Chanukah." You can guess how he pronounced it.
12.17.2007 2:58pm
Porkchop:
Anonymouseducator wrote:


Frisco


I highly recommend going to Frisco, NC and stopping in at Bubba's for Carolina barbecue.
12.17.2007 2:58pm
Simon Oliver Lockwood (mail):
In the 60s Giants OF Jesus Alou was often referred to (on baseball cards and in radio broadcasts) as Jay Alou.
12.17.2007 3:01pm
cathyf:
I have noticed that there are people who will continuously mis-pronounce a name, even though they have heard it pronounced correctly many times, if the mispronounciation is following the common American way of saying a particular spelling. So, for example, Italian names where there is a 'c' followed by an 'i' or 'e' -- these folks will pronounce as 'ss' rather than 'ch'. Or a Dutch name with a 'j' in the middle that is pronounced as 'ee' and it's own syllable is instead mangled into a consonant and the number of syllables in the name actually goes down.

I have my own little pet neurological theory: when I remember someone's name, I remember what it sounds like. I may be pretty vague on how to spell it, so watch out. Other people apparently have a picture of the spelling of the name stored in their brains. For me to remember how to pronounce the name is trivial -- because for me, remembering how to pronounce a name is equivalent to remembering the name. On the other hand, if the people who remember pictures rather than sounds are going to pronounce a name correctly, they have to remember the name, plus a list of modifying rules describing how this spelling decodes to sound differently from the normal case.

I do genealogy, and except for the last few generations, spelling of names is pretty chaotic. I have an ancestor whose fist name is spelled in various records as Delaphine, Delphine, Delaphina, Delphene and Delphine, and whose last name varies among Hayden, Haydon, Heyden and Heydon. She married a Crabtree, and that only gets spelled one way, but my g-g-g-g-grandfather's first name gets shown as Alfred, Alferd, and Alford. Her death certificate lists her as Delphene Crabtree, her husband as Alferd Crabtree, and her father as Wilferd Hayden. I rather expect that, being Kentuckians, alferd is how everyone would have pronounced it had it been spelled "Alfred" and wilferd would have been the "corrct" pronounciation of "Wilfred".
12.17.2007 3:01pm
cathyf:
Okay, so it was, is and always shall be "Roberto (Not Bobby) Clemente".
My husband has a baseball card, collected in his youth, for "Bob Clemente."
12.17.2007 3:05pm
JEB:
The instant that, e.g., Spanish-speakers start calling the United States the "United States" rather than "Los Estados Unidos" I'll gladly begin trilling the letter "r" and whatnot. (And no, I don't really want people in, say, Madrid to call this country what I call it; I'm merely pointing-out that it's perfectly acceptable to pronounce words in foreign languages - even proper names with a definite original spelling and pronunciation - according to the conventions of one's language). Apropos an old SNL skit some of you may remember, long may Managua, Nicaragua be pronounced "Managua, Nicaragua" rather than "Mahnahwhah Neekohdahwhah."
12.17.2007 3:15pm
Don Miller (mail) (www):

I do genealogy, and except for the last few generations, spelling of names is pretty chaotic. I have an ancestor whose fist name is spelled in various records as Delaphine, Delphine, Delaphina, Delphene and Delphine, and whose last name varies among Hayden, Haydon, Heyden and Heydon. She married a Crabtree, and that only gets spelled one way, but my g-g-g-g-grandfather's first name gets shown as Alfred, Alferd, and Alford. Her death certificate lists her as Delphene Crabtree, her husband as Alferd Crabtree, and her father as Wilferd Hayden. I rather expect that, being Kentuckians, alferd is how everyone would have pronounced it had it been spelled "Alfred" and wilferd would have been the "corrct" pronounciation of "Wilfred".


My middle name is the same as my Grandfather's first name. Wilford. I did a quick Google search and it appears that Wilferd is a German spelling. It is an unusual name, but it may have intentionally been spelled that way.

My family name is Miller, it was anglicized from Mueller when my family moved here from Switzerland. I have met a couple Müller's in my life. For the most part their name ended up spelled Muller, and pronounced Muhl-ler.

My brother insists on spelling his name, Tom, as Thom. It drives him batty the number of people who argue with him about it when he tries to correct their mispronunciation.
12.17.2007 3:22pm
Alan Gunn (mail):
One of my favorite names is Rolla, a city in Missouri named by its settlers after their old home, Raleigh, N.C.

It's just not possible to get the pronunciation of everyone's name "right." I've known brothers who pronounced their surname differently because one of them stuck to their family's tradition and the other used the one that would seem right to people reading it.

Mencken discusses the Enroughty family in Virginia. Some of them, he says, pronounce it En-ruff-ty; others use Darby. Mencken claims that the former group uses one name in writing and another in speech, rather than pronouncing Enroughty in an unexpected way, though it's not clear to me how these things would differ. (The American Language, Supplement II, 455-456.) He also mentions Taliaferro, often but not always pronounced Tolliver by its bearers.
12.17.2007 3:22pm
Alan Gunn (mail):
I mean the latter group, of course. You just can't write about usage without messing up. Or at least I can't.
12.17.2007 3:25pm
Golem:
Two examples:

- Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan's name is frequently mispronounced. The ğ merely lengthens the vowel it follows. Were he not so often in the news, it would be excusable.

- The Portuguese name José is correctly pronounced with an initial j sound, similar to the French. If known that José comes from Brazil, Portugal, Angola, etc., use of the Spanish pronunciation is almost unforgivable.
12.17.2007 3:33pm
jamesk:
These rules apply specificaly to American English. In the UK, people are much more likely to just apply standard phonetics, e.g. Don Juan's last name is indeed pronounced "Dzh-you-an". In the UK, "jaguar" has three syllables.
12.17.2007 3:49pm
Cornellian (mail):
I just know there's an appropriate citation to Monty Python for this issue, but I can't quite put my finger on it.
12.17.2007 4:07pm
The Cabbage:
My good friend Eugene moved here from Moscow when he was about 10. He insists that you call him "Zhenya" because he HATES the way Eugene sounds.

Likewise, most russian gals named zhenya adopt "Jane". Probably because Eugena sounds especially bad in english.
12.17.2007 4:20pm
Randy R. (mail):
Just coming back from China, and most Chinese who deal with the US take on American names, like Jennifer, Dawn, Walter and so on. However, once in a while, you meet a Roc or a River. It does make it us easier for us lazy Americans.
12.17.2007 4:31pm
snoey (mail):
Then there's the case of Greg LeMond.

The French, assuming that we barbaric Americans did as badly with his name as we did with most other French names, pronounce it as the fruit with a 'd' at the end.
12.17.2007 4:49pm
Yankev (mail):

if the mispronounciation is following the common American way of saying a particular spelling. So, for example, Italian names where there is a 'c' followed by an 'i' or 'e' -- these folks will pronounce as 'ss' rather than 'ch'.

I watchted the Sopranoes for months before I realized that Ralphy Ciforetto's name began with a "C" instead of an "S".
12.17.2007 5:15pm
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
The instant that, e.g., Spanish-speakers start calling the United States the "United States" rather than "Los Estados Unidos" I'll gladly begin trilling the letter "r" and whatnot.


But that's treating place names like personal names, isn't it? I thought the post was trying to distinguish them. Anyhow, I think the point is not that we should trill r's. Just pronounce the foreign name the way it's generally pronounced in English.



long may Managua, Nicaragua be pronounced "Managua, Nicaragua" rather than "Mahnahwhah Neekohdahwhah."


When I taught Spanish, it drove me crazy when the other language teachers, while speaking English, would pronounce place names in Spanish. "When we were in Mah-DREETH..."

The Red Sox called Pedro Martinez "Petey," and the Yankees call Jorge Posada "Georgie" - both pretty clearly terms of endearment.
12.17.2007 5:36pm
Golem:
JEB and Anonymouseducator,

Estados Unidos v. United States might not be the best case. In the EE.UU./U.S.A., aren't Spanish and English effectively equal?
12.17.2007 6:02pm
Cris:
It's spelled "Raymond Luxury Yacht," but it's pronounced "Throat Warbler Mangrove".
12.17.2007 6:20pm
Python:
I am reminded of a Monty Python sketch:

Interviewer: Good evening. I have with me in the studio tonight one of Britain's leading skin specialists - Raymond Luxury Yacht.

Raymond: That's not my name.

Interviewer: I'm sorry - Raymond Luxury Yach-t.

Raymond: No, no, no - it's spelt Raymond: Luxury Yach-t, but it's pronounced 'Throatwobbler Mangrove'.

Interviewer: You're a very silly man and I'm not going to interview you.

Raymond: Ah, anti-semitism!

Interviewer: Not at all. It's not even a proper nose. (takes it off) It's polystyrene.

Raymond: Give me my nose back.

Interviewer: You can collect it at reception. Now go away.

Raymond: I want to be on the television.

Interviewer: Well you can't.
12.17.2007 6:29pm
Python:
Well, I guess Cris and I were editing at the same time...
12.17.2007 6:31pm
Bleepless (mail):
1. Be sure to read the chapter, "American Names" in Mencken's delightful The American Language, and don't forget the supplement.
2. I once read a Soviet concentration camp memoir wherein the transit camp commandant asked the prisoner, Ivanov, why he pronounced his name with the accent on the second syllable. He said that Ivan was pronounced that way, so it simply made sense to be consistent. The commandant acceded.
12.17.2007 6:52pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Pronunciations get mangled when they cross language borders. I grew up in New England city, where a large minority were of French-Canadian extract. The French names like 'Pellessier' were always pronounced in American as 'Pel-lis-seer', not in French, 'Pell-es-i-ay'.

We're losing pronunciations that many knew (Panne-ton-ay v. pann-e-tone, cal-zon-ay v. cal-zone--Pizza Hut makes this new, abhorrent pronunciation standard).

And Poles seem to have gone with the flow, where 'cz' or 'sz' simply become 'z'. At least most keep the spelling culturally intact.
12.17.2007 6:53pm
MDJD2B (mail):
You should hear how all the traffic reporters pronounce the Kosciuszko Briudge. And no two pronounce it alike.

I agree with Prof. Volokh. Pronounce names as close to the way their owners do as is possible using npermissible American phonemes and phoneme combinations. We can't begin to reproduce Chinese intonation, and even have a hard time with the first consinant in Ahmedinejhad's name (pronounced like Spanish "j") as well as with him.
12.17.2007 7:05pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Ostentatious purism comes in many annoying forms.

For instance, reference to the "Torino" Winter Olympics.

Here's another one: referring to Cervantes' novel as "Don QUICK-soat" - because one refers to Flaubert's novel as "Maa-dum BOE-va-ree" and not "Mah-DAHM Bo-VAH-ree".

Here in Chicago, it's said that one can tell an intellectual if he tells a cabbie to drop him on Schiller and walks a block south, rather then give an address on "Goe-thee".
12.17.2007 7:09pm
Vinnie (mail):
Tavis Smiley's mom needs to buy huked on fonix. My name is Tavis rhymes with Davis. Its from the Celtic for son of David.
It has been a few years since I heard an original mangling of my name, but the volume hasn't gone down. If you are going to let something like that bother you you need a hobby. I just tell everybody that my friends call me "hey you":.
12.17.2007 11:23pm
mouse (mail):
When it's last names, we take the speaker as the rule, especially if there's no possible way to easily Americanize it. Coach K, Mike Krzyzewski, is pronounced Shi-SHEF-skee. Because what else would you do? But it's more difficult for names we think we know how to Americanize. For example, if your name is Derbyshire, and it's Darb-eh-sure, how often do people pay attention?

But what about first names? For the name Yves, or Gilles, we stick with the French pronunciation because we don't have equivalents. But if you are British, you say Ah-na, for the name Anna. Should Americans, who say a-na be properly calling a british Anna Ahna?
12.17.2007 11:41pm
Truth Seeker:
And how come when I was in Beijing the luggage tags they issued said "Peking"?
12.18.2007 12:44am
Truth Seeker:
So that explains it! Lord Byron was writing about a Portugese Don Juan rather than a Spanish one! Otherwise how could it rhyme with "new one"?
12.18.2007 12:47am
Bretzky (mail):
For politeness's sake you should pronounce the person's name as closely as you can to how they pronounce it themselves. However, I do draw the line at accents. Not only is it silly to break out a foreign accent in the middle of a conversation in English (à la the newscaster pronouncing Nicaragua in a Central American accent), but I also think it can be somewhat rude if you don't pull it off.

I also think there is a difference between names that Americans are familiar with and those which are unfamiliar. Names like Juan, José, Antonio, Pierre, etc., are familiar enough to, and easy enough to pronounce for, Americans to say them fairly closely to how they sound in the original language. However, Antonio is a good example of my unwillingness to use a foreign accent. I pronounce it "an-toh-nee-oh", instead of the Italian pronunciation of "Ahn-TOE-nyo". More unusual or difficult to pronounce names can't help but be changed at least a little. My freshman-year roommate in college was named "Kyung". When we met, he told me to call him "Guy". I asked him if he really preferred Kyung, he said yes, so that is what I called him. Fortunately, I was able to pronounce his name correctly in an American accent, but many of our classmates couldn't do it, so they went with Guy. I think he appreciated the fact that I asked and made the effort to pronounce his name properly, but he wasn't upset at those who couldn't do it.

Place names are entirely different. France is "frans" not "frahns", Italy is "IT-uh-lee" not "ee-TAH-lyah", and Japan is Japan not Nippon.
12.18.2007 9:35am
Prufrock765 (mail):
My favorites:

1. Meeeeeechelle Norris
2. News readers who speak perfect uninflected Nebraska English and then over pronounce their Spanish names.
3. We do well in Indiana with mispronouncing place names--we have Versailles (here it's ver-SALES), Delphi (here, Dell-FYE) and we have a Kosciuszko County which people who live in the southern half of the state are statutorily forbidden even to attempt.

Best not to have an ego that's overly frah-GEE-lay, I guess.
12.18.2007 11:03am
WHOI Jacket:
To avoid such difficulties in the future, we are all to be named "Johnson" henceforth.
12.18.2007 11:58am
Yankev (mail):

France is "frans" not "frahns", Italy is "IT-uh-lee" not "ee-TAH-lyah", and Japan is Japan not Nippon.

When did the English pronunciation of Yerushalayim/Al Quds change from Jerusalem to Jeruzalem? And why?
12.18.2007 12:07pm
Wahoowa:
Brian Regan has a quick, funny bit related to this topic:

"Anyway I met his woman, her name was ah, Amy, you know, so I go Oh," A-M-Y?"
She goes no," A-Y-M-I-E".
"OoOoOoaahh! I have to take a nap! . . . I'm Brian, B-R-I-V-O-L-B-N, the number 7,the letter Q--Brennemenahgah!!! Look at my name tag, it's, it's big."

Admittedly not as funny to read, but it's hilarious on the CD. Audio is at about the 5:50 mark of this YouTube video.
12.18.2007 1:36pm
Wahoowa:
Whoops! forgot the link
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvp4VdD6Dbc
12.18.2007 1:36pm
Bretzky (mail):
Yankev:


When did the English pronunciation of Yerushalayim/Al Quds change from Jerusalem to Jeruzalem? And why?

I could be way off here, but isn't Jerusalem the Latinization of the Grecization of the Hebrew? And English picked it up as is with pronunciation changes.

I believe that a lot of the place name pronunciations we have in English for places in the Near East (especially those within the geographical limits of the Biblical Israel) are heavily influenced by, if not wholly lifted from, the Greek and Latin antecedents.
12.18.2007 1:41pm
Yankev (mail):
Bretzky, yes, Jerusalem is the Anglicized form of the Greek form of Yerushalayim. And yes, the same is true with most Bibilical names taken from Hebrew. (E.g. Gaza rather than 'aza; Jacob rather than Ya'kov; Abraham with a long initial A rather than Avraham, with an initial "ah" sound.)

But that was not my question.

Until recently,the city's name was commonly pronounced in the US as J*r-OO-s*lem. (Read an upside-down e for schwa in place of my asterisks.) The past 5 years or so, I hear J*r-OO-z*lem instead more and more often. Why the z sound instead of the s sound?
12.18.2007 3:13pm
A.C.:
Because Americans are drinking more?
12.18.2007 4:22pm
Bretzky (mail):
Yankev:

Sorry, I misunderstood.

I can't come up with a reason for that as I personally haven't noticed the change. I grew up in New Jersey where Jerusalem was always pronounced with a "zee" sound instead of an "ess".

My only answer is an educated guess that it's a dialectic thing, but it seems highly unlikely that a large number of people from one region of the country have suddenly decided to move into your neighborhood.
12.18.2007 9:06pm
Limebrook (mail):
This puts me in mind of the Monty Python skit where the interviewer introduces his next subject as "Mr. Raymond Luxury Yacht" (pronouncing it "Luxury Yatch-t") to which Mr. Luxury Yacht says, "It's spelt Luxury Yatch-t but it's pronounced Throatwarblermangrove."
12.19.2007 12:38am
Limebrook (mail):
When Gen. Colin Powell was first coming to the attention of Americans, the talking heads all insisted on pronouncing his given name as "KOE-lin". Now Colin is a common name in my extended family, and they all pronounce it "Collin". I seem to remember the General himself mildly taking issue with this, but soon gave up in the face of superior numbers.
12.19.2007 12:49am