Lucy Zelić’s Pronunciation

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Here in Australia we have a public TV station called SBS (Special Broadcasting Service), designed to cater for the needs of minority ethnic groups. Among its multilingual staff is a sports presenter called Lucy Zelić (pictured). I don’t know enough about sport to know how good she is in that role, but other people say she’s pretty good. In particular she knows how to pronounce sportspeople’s names correctly.

Incredibly, that skill has attracted trolls. Some people prefer foreigners’ names to be pronounced as though they were English. I don’t know if that’s some kind of linguistic imperialism, preference for the familiar or just laziness, but it puts me in mind of a story by Jerome K Jerome that I read when I was about 9 years old. I was in hospital for a couple of weeks and, having come close to choking with laughter over ‘Three Men in a Boat’, I took a book of JKJ’s short stories to read in my hospital bed.

The story was set in the First World War, in which he served as an ambulance-driver for the French Army, having been turned down by the British because of his age. I forget the name or the main theme of this particular story, but in it a young officer is berated for pronouncing Ypres as ‘Eepr’ instead of ‘Wipers’ like his fellows. Ever since then I have made an effort to pronounce foreign words and names in the same way as their linguistic owners. So I salute you, Lucy!

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2 thoughts on “Lucy Zelić’s Pronunciation

  1. I take your point, Ron: one can go too far. But I think it’s a mark of respect to do one’s best to pronounce a person’s name the way they pronounce it themselves. And there are instances where the pronunciation adds a useful nuance. For example, when Churchill mispronounced Nazi as ‘Naazhi’ it came out as a sneer. And as a child I understood the social and financial differences between a caff, a cayf and a caffay.

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  2. When in Australia how do you pronounce Paris? Parrreeee?
    Or Geneva? Zzzer-nev?

    It annoys me when people show off by speaking with a pure accent and not using Anglicised pronunciation.

    That said, I also don’t pronounce Harvey Weinstein as Wine-steen. They are both “ei” which is “eye”. So I say Wine-stine. But Ween-steen is also ok by me. Both have the virtue of consistency.

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