Thursday, August 1, 2013

Anthony Weiner should study Rob Reiner, Albert Einstein and Oscar Mayer

In junior high school, I was taught that there is no improper way to spell a proper noun. By extension, there is apparently no improper way to pronounce an improperly spelled proper noun. Basketballer Isiah Thomas pronounces his first name as if it was properly spelled: "Isaiah."

Flexible pronunciation seems to be particularly pervasive with genital-sounding Germanic names.

The German word "koch" means "cook" and is properly pronounced "kawch" (you may have to be German or Jewish or German-Jewish to say it right). In Germany, Martha Stewart might be known as a Koch. (Sorry -- I don't remember if there is a female form.) Americans named Koch seldom pronounce their name authentically.

  • Sam Adams Beer boss Jim Koch pronounces it "Cook."
  • Former New York mayor Ed Koch preferred to rhyme his name with "crotch."
  • The billionaire Koch brothers prefer "Coke."
  • I don't know of any Koches who are called "cocks."
The "ei" vowel combination is very common in German words and names.

Although I studied German for just one semester and it was long ago, I do remember some of the rigid rules. "Ei" is pronounced like an English "long i."
  • A beer stein -- even if filled up by Jim "Cook" -- is pronounced "stine."
  • The German word for "one" is "ein."
  • The German word for "fine" is "fein."
  • The German word for "wine" is "wein."
  • The German word for "white" is "weiss." 
  • The German word for "small" is "klein" -- and I've never heard it pronounced "clean." 

I've also never heard anyone say "beer steen," but the creator of the classic monster was called "Dr. Fronkensteen" in Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein. Composer/conductor Lenny was always "Bernstine," but lesser sharers of the surname are content to be "Bernsteens." Author R L Stine spells his name the way he wants it to be pronounced.

Sometimes there are regional variations -- even within the same family. A New York "Bernstine" may move east and become a Connecticut "Bernsteen." Similarly, a New York Kaufman ("Cowfman") may become a Connecticut "Cawfman."

Some names have the deadly e-i combo twice, in two syllables. It gets very confusing. I've heard "Weinstein" pronounced "winestine" and "winesteen" -- but never "weenstine" or "weensteen."

All of the above is just a pseudoacademic intro to today's real subject: the disgraceful pronunciation of the disgraced mayoral-wannabe from New York City.

Anthony Weiner chooses to violate the Germanic linguistic tradition and mispronounces his name as if it was really spelled "Wiener." Apparently he prefers to be thought of as a hotdog or a penis -- not a crybaby.

Cormer Congressman Weiner once cried at a press conference. Perhaps he picked up the habit in Washington from the Speaker of the House, John Boehner. "Boehner," by the way, is pronounced "bayner" -- not (ha-ha) boner).

By the way, the German "ie" combo is supposed to be pronounced like a "long e." Oscar Mayer gets it right. His wieners are properly pronounced like Anthony mispronounces "Weiner." Oscar's last name, by the way, is pronounced "myer" -- not "mayor."

And, oh yeah, former meathead Rob Reiner is not "reener." And Professor Albert Einstein was not "eensteen." And 34th U. S. President Ike was not "eesenhower."

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