questions & comments

Rebecca and Rowland
Sat, 11 Jul 1998 02:22:01 +0100

At 8:52 am -0500 10/7/98, Paul Thompson wrote:
>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?
>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.

This is pretty much exactly what happened in Britain (look at the mess made
of Irish names, for example), but it doesn't stop people putting the
accents back on their names if they want to.  I know a Mr Dente (what it
says on his birth certificate) who's put the accent back on the `e' to make
himself Mr Dent\'{e} (which is the surname of his great-grandad, I think).
The rest of the family sticks with the expected English pronunciation
`Dent', aside from one mad East End (of London) great-aunt who pronounces
the name `Denty'.

I think the difference is that in Britain, your legal name is anything you
say it is; and I gather that in the USA, one must go through some sort of
formal procedure to use a different name legally.

>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

The normal way of referring to this alphabet in my part of the world is to
call it `Roman'.  Phoenician was a distant ancestor for sure, but very
distant.  There is, as far as I know, no distinct American alphabet.

> most shape-similar.

I'm not sure I believe this: how come the leading letter (pronounced sh, I
gather) is written `K', but the `k' towards the end of the word is
pronounced `k'?

>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.

In most parts of the USA for sure, but what about New Orleans?

>They are all in Canada, and the English smushed then their until quite

I think you'll find it was Canadians clobbering other Canadians; when was
the last time England ruled Canada directly?