Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 08:05:40 -0400
From: David Bergdahl
Subject: Re: Beijing /j/

On Wed, 13 May 1998, Donald M. Lance wrote:

> >Does anyone know why the j in Beijing is frequently pronounced as if French?
> >The Mandarin pronunciation is clearly like a "regular" English j, and the
> >switch from Peking happened recently enough that it shouldn't have gotten
> >mixed up.
> For the same reason people say 'machete' and 'Chicano' as if they were
> French words. Also the -ch- in 'Appalachian', said like 'appelation'. And
> some other words I can't think of at the moment. Radio and TV announcers
> seem to have a rule that says "when in doubt, assume French origin." But,
> when in doubt, -ei- is treated as if it were German. Thirty or so years
> ago, before news people knew that Brunei existed, I knew someone from
> there. He said it 'bru-nay'. Now we just hear 'bru-nigh'.

Another Germanizing example is sputnik (the first word of a 2-word
compound--somethink like sputnik zapata--meaning "fellow traveler"):
assuming that in October 1958 a technological advance must SOUND German
even if it were Russian, many of us said SHPOOTnick.

I think the general rule is, if it's foreign, damn! it sould SOUND
foreign. However, the opposite seems to be the case in {lingerie} which
doesn't get naturalized to linger-rhee but to LAHN-zher-Ray. . .with only
the middle syllable approximating the French lae~ zher ri.
David Bergdahl Ellis Hall 114c Ohio University / Athens
Associate Prof/English tel: (740) 593-2783 fax: (740) 593-2818