Sunday 23 June 2002

‘L’ as in chocorate

In response to my post about English-to-Japanese transliteration, Stavros writes about the English-to-Korean version:

But this creative mangling of the sounds of names and other words imported from other languages drives me moderately batty sometimes, as one of the things I have to do in my work is (for example) to disabuse my students of the notion that the proper English pronunciation of ‘sports’ is ‘suh-PO-chuh’, which is the correct way to pronounce the word as it is written in Korean. This tends to be difficult, as they’ve seen and heard the word in all it’s Konglish glory every damn day of their lives for 20 years, on the evening news.

I wonder if Stav’s started speaking Konglish, perhaps without even being aware of it? Because I lapse into Japlish (or Engrish) more often than I’d like. One of the consequences of investing an inordinate amount of time and emotional energy into learning to speak Japanese—attaining a level that a Japanese friend describes as “cute”—is that I frequently mix my R’s and L’s, in the Japanese style. There’s a book on the subject, called Gems of Japanized English: “Is that ‘L’ as in Rome?” “No, it’s ‘R’ as in London.” And a Web site,

So I routinely say “Frash” when teaching a Flash class. In a restaurant I’ve ordered “lack of ramb.” And a friend who’s used to my doing it in our private conversations nearly fell off his chair when, at a Content Management seminar a few weeks back, I said: “Next I’ll show you the workfrow.”

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I learry riked this posting.

Posted by Burningbird on 23 June 2002 (Comment Permalink)

I have similar problems with Anglicized words in German. I'm never sure whether I should pronounce them in English or in German. Just the other day my (German) co-workers laughed at me because I pronounced 'brunch' as 'broonch'. It would have been a lot easier if I had just said 'Zwischenmahlzeit'!

Posted by PapaScott on 23 June 2002 (Comment Permalink)

"lack of ramb" reminded me of a story from my days in Quark's tech support department. One afternoon a sales rep ran up to me all excited -- he had a customer who was ready to place an order, but first he needed to know how much memory QuarkXPress required. So I told him. And then I listened as the rep called the customer back and told them that QuarkXPress required two "rams of megabyte".

Posted by Jeff Cheney on 23 June 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Jeff, your "rams of megabyte" story reminded me of an art school student I engaged to help us with the Korean translation of a CD-ROM title I was working on. We were paying her a pretty decent hourly rate and I asked her what she was going to spend the money on.

"RAMs for my Macintosh," she told me. "You can never have too many RAMs."

Posted by Jonathon Delacour on 23 June 2002 (Comment Permalink)

On the other hand, don't your toes curl when you hear a new arrival to Japan mangle words like "kimono" (rhymes with "Wynona") or "karaoke" ("Mary okay?")?
"Well that's how they say it back home (in Seattle)!" is the usual defense. Seems that spelling and logical pronunciation more or less part company when a foreign word enters any another language.

Posted by Colin Doyle on 25 June 2002 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour