questions & comments

Paul Thompson
Fri, 10 Jul 1998 08:52:17 -0500 (CDT)

On Thu, 9 Jul 1998, Rebecca and Rowland wrote:

> >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.
> Rowland.

Of course they just leave them out.  THere are several traditions in the
1) A huge number of current Americans have very odd names, which make no
sense.  When you look at the name, at the pronunciation, and know a little
Russian, all is clear.  When they went thru Ellis Island (US Immigrant
Screening Station in New York for 50 + years), their names were written by
some guy who could care less about their real name, and just wrote down
what it sounded like.

In my favorite example, the basketball coach at Duke Univ is Mike 
Krychevski (that isn't right, but is close).  This is pronounced 
Sheshevski.  He is clearly Russian or Polish, and when his ancestors came,
the Cyrillic chars were just re-written into the American
(Phoenician-English) letters most shape-similar.

2) Another important point: some of the European languages with the most
accents (French, for instance) have very few descendants in the US.  Many
Germans, Poles, Irish, Italian, Romanians, etc. here, but few French.
They are all in Canada, and the English smushed then their until quite

Paul A. Thompson               |Do not go gentle into that good night.
Assoc. Prof., Div Biostatistics|Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Washington Univ. St. Louis     |Dylan Thomas