Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Fighting the losing battle of Pronunciation

Evil Jes don't play that!Anyone who has known me a decent length of time knows that it really irks me to hear Slavic names butchered, anglicized, and just generally mispronounced by fans, the media, and everyone else that I come across. The general laziness of the media is inexcusable, and I really hate seeing the Slavs marginalized in such a manner. I know that the most of the European and Slavic sports commentators make a good effort to pronounce 'Anglo' or other foreign names the 'correct' way.

...and then I run into people who attempt to 'correct' others on the pronunciation of Slavic names. The problem? They are spreading even more false information. It's bad enough that the official NHL Pronunciation Guide (Produced by nasal voiced Doc Emrick) is full of more errors than your last math test, but now I see posters on weblogs and message boards 'correcting' people with the wrong information.

When I see this happen, then you bring out EVIL JES (pictured) and the +3 EBONY HOMEY SOCK OF DEATH!

Take this exchange between Craig McMurtry of the excellent Hockey Country blog and myself. Normally, I'd have no problem with Craig...but then this exchange happened in one of his posts, and HOMEY DON'T PLAY THAT!


Craig: A heads up to sports highlights hosts: Brian Pothier is pronounced Poth-e-er, not Poth-e-ay, and Andrej Meszaros is pronounced Mez-are-os.


(pet peeve time). If you are going to correct someone's pronunciation, make sure you have it right!

Meszároš = MEH-saar-oesh
(the E is like pen, Jen)

Now, if you hear anyone pronouncing his name like Me-say-ros or something crap, I want you to smack them with an old homey sock.

Craig: Jes, according to him, it's not the way you say. Maybe he's Americanizing his name, I dunno.

Me: Why would he want people mispronouncing his name?

If you say Me-say-ros in Slovakia, you'd get smacked with a homey sock and dumped over the border in Poland. You should try and get people to say it the right way, so that the Slovak players wouldn't have such an inferiority complex with it comes to their surnames (Which they do)

Craig: According to him, it's Mez-are-os, not Me-say-ros. When he first came over, people were saying Mez-a-ros, but he corrected them.

Me: 'Corrected' is not the right term I'd use. That's like saying the North Pole is East of Canada and not West of Canada. It's still wrong!

I won't rest until people stop butchering and anglicizing our Slavic names so poorly.


Please, people...if you are going to 'correct' people on the pronunciation of a Slavic name, give them the RIGHT information or come to me. I'd be happy to educate the masses. Would you give advice on open heart surgery if you really didn't know what you were doing?

As you can see, I really do seem to be fighting a losing battle. Why would Andrej tell people to pronounce his name the wrong way? Maybe he needs to be smacked around with the homey sock of death? Has he given up the fight already? >:(

Maybe I should have completed that damn Amended Pronunciation Guide like the folks at McKeens challenged me to. Would it make a difference? What's it gonna take for you folks to smarten up? (teardrop)

OK, so how would you tell somebody how to pronounce "Vasicek"? I know I pronounce it properly (and if I wasn't half so lazy I'd even spell it properly), but it's a pain in the ass to try to explain it in print.

How about some Oilers players- I think I know, but I'm not sure, so correct me if I'm wrong

Ales Hemsky- Al-esh Hem-skee
Radek Dvorak- Rad-eck Duh-vor-ack
Ales Hemsky- Al-esh Hem-skee
Correct! Give this boy a gold star! :)

Radek Dvorak- Rad-eck Duh-vor-ack

No 'uh' vowel sound before the DV, and the r is accented (Like Neckar, Pilar)

try: DVOR-zhawk
'zh' is the S in pleasure.
Doc Emrick asks many players how to pronounce their names. Sometimes they even tell him to change it from year to year. I can't say all, but some, for sure, and others are just bad information fed to him. I think he does a good job with it overall.

Anyway, I'm just saying you'd be surprised that some pronunciation "mistakes" come from the players themselves.

I know Doc asks arena announcers and PbP guys often, but I haven't heard him actually going to the players.

I know there are a few Slovak players that have an 'inferiority' complex (for lack of a better term) about it and are just happy that people recognize that they are alive. Really, many of them seem to be afraid of asserting themselves and forcing the issue...they are far too complacent in that way.

Ronald Petrovicky, when he asked in Calgary, basically said 'PET-ro-vik-ee' was OK, even though it's totally wrong!

Petrovicky is also a good example of a name change. During his year with the Rangers I'm pretty sure they were pronouncing it 'PET-ro-vik-ee', like you wrote, and also 'PEH-tro-visk-ee'. I'll try and look into that.

Oh, and I'm a fan of Petro :)
Wow, I had no idea Ronald had been in so many fights! I know he's fiesty, but he's liable to get a beating if he keeps it up :)

It's funny how different he and his brother are on the's a definitely hockey ying/yang.

BTW, it's really more like PEH-tro-vit-skee, but Ronald doesn't seem to care :(
the reason why we slavs sometimes alter the pronunciation of our owns names coming to north america is because we a)try to make it easier for people to address us (there are many sounds that are very difficult for americans to pronounce, plus sometimes you'd put the stress on the first syllable to make it sound more "familiar"); and b)just to hear the original version of your name get slaughtered by someone who's doing their best still feels like torture.

another reason is that while some eastern european countries use latin-based alphabet (which is easier for westerners to read), russians, for example, have to first translate their names from cyrillics into latin and then try to make them sound similar as well.

and even if the alphabet is latin-based, there are still letters "looking" the same, but with a little asterisk or dot and that gives them a totally different sound!

finally, there are letters which are the same as regular english alphabet, but they are pronounced differently, like J in Jagr (how many times was he called Dzharomir in the beginning of his NHL career?) or, as Jes said, the Czech "R" which reads as a RZH.

and this goes beyond slavic - i can't watch nhl games on tv and don't hear the commentators, but do they get the swedish last names right? i was shocked to find out how the swedes manage to change the pronounciation of regular english letter pairings, like "sj" sometimes reads as "h" (Sjalvklart reads as Hyalv-cla[r]tt) and "k" or "sk" reads as "sh" (Kok sounds Shok and Skelleftea reads Shellefte-ah).
Whoops, my mistake up top, I should have written something more like:
the "second t" was definitely in there when they were speaking about him.

And you're right, his brother is a completely different player.

hamlet - Scandinavian names seem to fair much better over here compared to Eastern European names IMO.

You make some good points

1. Swedes don't seem to care at all about how their names are anglicized. I don't know all the ins and outs of Swedish names, but I do try and get them 'correct', and I'd like to have a Scandanavian take up the cause for Swedish and maybe Finnish names. I can only vouch for Czecho-Slovak. "FORSBERG" isn't as nice and easy as it seems :)

2. Russian names - The main problem is that Russian names can be altered when transliterated into English. The vowels, in particular, are often translitered in many different names. Take DATSYUK and NASTIUK! The same vowel is changed to IU or YU.
When it is translitered into Slovak or Czech, it is 'pure' and then I know exactly what the real pronounciation is.
Slovaks always read 'Daciuk', 'Kovaljov', and 'Fjodorov', and it's always a nice constant change between the alphabets. If I see a Russian name in the Slovak alphabet, then I know for sure...I know my own Slavic surname appears in many variations in English because it does originate in Ukrainian/Ruthenian cyrillic.
I'd hate to correct the Name Master, but the one name you're pronouncing wrong is 'Craig McMurtry.' It actually sounds like this: 'Chris McMurtry.' I didn't spell it phoenetically, but I'm sure you'll get it.
Hi from Russia, Jes!
You totally right, sometimes it's sad to listen to the Slavik names pronounced wrong.
Could you please briefly explain me right pronunciation of 1st sound in the names like Hasek, Hossa, Havlat and alike? Should it be "g" or "h" or it may differ in these examples.

Sergey Berestoff

The Czech H is always natural H just like in English, and not a G.
The Czech/Slovak 'CH', like in Chara or Prochazka, is like the Russian KH in Kharlamov.

I know Jiri Hudler had his name changed to 'Gudler' when he played in Russia, and Jan Hejda had his name changed to 'Khejda' because the Russians don't have a natural H in their alphabet.
best name issue I am aware of..

guy (yea american word, guy opposite of gal) herbert (like the ice cream stuff, well not exactly but close) is a backup for the blues, starts up north in les habs land. Announcer gets into it, and crowd goes wild (well wild for canadians), now he becomes gee hey- baer literally overnight.

so our announcer dude calls his home for an interview and gets his mum, asks for "gee" and she of course immediately yells out (so the announcer dude can hear it over the phone) hey Guy you have a phone call!!

ahhh what a guy that gee was...

and don't even ask about j hecht. I've herd him pronounce his own last name at least 3 ways, but he might have finally picked one after he left us... and he only has, ususally, ONE sylable!
"I'd hate to correct the Name Master, but the one name you're pronouncing wrong is 'Craig McMurtry.' It actually sounds like this: 'Chris McMurtry.' I didn't spell it phoenetically, but I'm sure you'll get it."

James, you're killing me! *bent over from laughter*
I know from being Ukrainian myself and having been interested in my background. Everyone pronounces Ukrainian last names ending in -chuk the wrong way. They pronounce it chuck when it should be -chouk. That comes from my maternal grandmother who was taught Ukrainian from a very early age. Names like Kovalchuk, Boychuk, and Babchuk. Can you verify these pronunciations?
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