questions & comments

Rebecca and Rowland
Thu, 9 Jul 1998 22:45:08 +0100

>» > if you're writing English is like that too, since English doesn't
>» > have \ss.
>What could be the meaning of `writing in _English_ a proper name'????

Well, take, for example, the country Ulrik Vieth comes from.  The name of
that country is Germany if you're writing English, or Deutschland if you're
writing German, and something completely other if you're writing French (I
can half-remember it).  The city I call Cologne is K\"{o}ln in German, and
so on.

The thing about some foreign names is that they're damned hard to say if
you're English (K\"{o}ln just sounds silly in English), and places that
have been known in England for a long time have names adapted to the local
tongue (as well as other modifiers, I expect).  And what do you think the
average English speaker would do when coming across \ss?

>is Han The Thanh the `proper' English spelling of Thành's name??

Ah...  Now accents are a different matter.  I wouldn't like to make any
definitive comment on this, but given that English people are used to
seeing accents and working with them (and, more importantly, you can
produce them even using a normal English typewriter), I'd be inclined to
take the view that the best way of writing it in English is with the accent
in place.  At least that flags up the point that it's a foreign name and I
for one haven't a clue how to pronounce it.

There are even a few English words that have accents: the only one I can
think of is r\^{o}le (and that accent is rarely used these days; only a few
perverts like me bother with it).

I've just had a look at a few books, and I think it's interesting that
Fowler's Modern English Usage (unknown date; first printed in the USA in
1944) lists d\'{e}bris as an example of a French word being used in
English, while my copy of the Concise Oxford Dictionary lists debris as a
`straight' English word (derived from French).

>BTW, this puzzles me a lot: at eurotex, Southall said that a US phone
>directory has no accents in it. But so many proper names come from
>Europe & elsewhere: how is it possible?

I think they really do just leave them out.  The mess the average American
makes of pronoucing foreign words is even worse than what I do to them.
btw, English is a perfectly respectable European language too, you know.
I've just had a look in my phone directory and couldn't spot a single
accent; nor do I recall ever seeing one in a UK phone directory.