Saturday, October 14, 2006


Regarding George "It Rhymes With Darkly" Berkeley, "Alex" writes,

I am starting a list of names that are mispronounced and I wonder at what point that will fade from oral history. For example, the VP of the CSA was Alexander Stephens but pronounced "Steffens". Or Florida had a Senator named James Talliferro, but pronounced Tolliver. Any others?

Yep...Gnarls Berkeley is how I like to think of him. A few years ago a guy walked up to me and asked me, in a British accent, how to get to the Chandler Hotel "on Barkley Street." After a couple seconds of confusion, I pointed him in the direction of Berkeley Street.

According to Wikipedia, Berkeley, California is named for the Bishop.

As for your list, how about Mark Teixiera of the Texas Rangers? Not that it's mispronounced, but that I don't think the average American would know how to pronounce it by looking at it. And maybe we Americans are mispronouncing it as "Teshera," anyway.

And Alexander Cockburn, columnist for The Nation. In the Spring of 1989, I applied for a summer job at The Nation. Despite the fact that I addressed my cover letter to Ms. Micah Sifry (because I had never seen or heard of the Hebrew name Micah before and wrongly assumed it was a woman), Mister Sifry called me for a phone interview, during which I said that I enjoyed reading the columns of Alexander Cockburn, pronouncing all the letters as written. Only later did I discover that his name is pronounced Coe-burn, just like that awesome actor James Coburn. I didn't get the job.

I don't know of a specific one, but there's got to be a Beauchamp ("Beecham") out there somewhere whose name is routinely mispronounced. And how about a Leicester?

In Connecticut it is "Grenitch." In Rhode Island I believe they say East Green-which.

In Minneapolis, we often drove along Nicollet Ave., pronouncing that last "T" like our lives depended on it. Same with the final "N" on Hennepin Ave.

I think the very first McDonald's Restaurant was in Des Plaines, Illinois. That's "Dez Planes," thank you very much.

And how about 50 Cent? If you don't say "Fitty," it's like there's a giant neon sign above you saying: Bonehead. Bonehead. Bonehead.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ha, ha! Yes -- Cockburn is a great one; I forgot about him.

The Earl of Leicester is also great -- although I guess that's really more of a title. And I think there might of been an Earl of Worcester, too. Or maybe he was a Duke or Marquess or something -- I can't keep them straight without my Burke's.

I was going to add Pierre Boulez, but I decided it's really not fair to include foreign names.

Liz Dougherty's name used to be pronounced 'Dockerty' and I think there are still some people in that boat but I don't know anyone famous with that as a mispronounced name.

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