Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why is it so hard for people to say "Jelena Jankovic"?

A while ago, on Tennis Channel, there was a Tennis Express commercial spot encouraging women to buy the same shoes, etc. as "Je LAY nuh." That was immediately followed by a Tennis Channel promo urging us to tune in and watch "YAN ko vik."

Doesn't anyone check these things before they go on the air (Wilson has an obviously expensive spot in which the voice-over man talks about "JO ko vik")? Most American announcers mispronounce Jankovic's first name, putting the accent on the second syllable. That is bad enough. But anyone who is pronouncing the "j" as an American "j" and the "ic" as an American "ic" should not be doing voice-overs on television.

I have heard the argument made by a well-known tennis writer that Americans should go ahead and pronounce non-American names "American-style." I think that is rude and narcissistic, but if someone does insist on doing that, please do it "properly," and call her "Je LAY nuh JAN ko vik." Otherwise, how hard is it to say "YEL e nuh YAN ko vich"?

I wish the players would insist on having their names pronounced correctly, despite the consequences. Novak Djokovic has repeatedly challenged commentators for destroying his name, despite his having corrected them over and over. Only recently, John McEnroe, who has always mispronounced Djokovic's name, said "I think I may be pronouncing his name wrong. Give me some time to work on this." How much time does a person need to get one syllable right?


Anonymous said...

A fellow 'hater' of mispronounciation. Here in Australia, we have the wonderful Fred Stolle, who I don't think I have ever, in my whole life, heard pronounce a players name right. My least favourite of his (and I have many to choose from) is his pronounciation of Djokovic, which to him is "Yo-ko-vik"

Diane said...

McEnroe keeps calling him "Jock-o-vich."

Anonymous said...

Here in Serbia we have a similar problem. As media in English are the dominant source of information on tennis, our commentators often read non-English names as if they were English, disregarding the original spelling and pronunciation.

For example, they are often adapting Slovak names, as if they were English, forgetting about certain Slovak letters that get lost in English. That happens with Russian, Hungarian, Czech, and basically all names.

I don't know if I was clear enough...

I wrote a seminar paper on this topic. :)

Diane said...

Yes, very clear. I think it's a problem all over the world, and I also think that the UK commentators may be even worse than those in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

I get so annoyed when people call momo "Emily" or "Ann-melie".


Anonymous said...

Yes, it is a problem all over the world. People are ignorant, that's one cause of the problem, but also, handling foreign names properly is not an easy matter at all.

I suppose it will always be a debatable subject partly because the adaptation of names will always largely depend on mere conventions (which can be argued at any point).

But as you said, if Jelena or Novak teach the world how to pronounce their names, the commentators at least should make effort to learn them. It can't be that hard.

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