Monday, May 31, 2004

AHMED CHALABI, it turns out, is "Ahmed Chalabi." AH-med CHALL-uh-bee. America is all about perseverance, and apparently the Ignorant American school of pronunciation has stuck around long enough to become correct.

Those of us who fancy ourselves a little more worldly would have guessed ACK-med Chuh-LAH-bee, and we would have called the tennis players Marat Sah-FEEN and Daniela Hahn-TOO-kuh-vuh, and the U.N. guy Kofi Uh-NON, and the Afghan city Kah-BOOL. But, no, Safin is SAFF-in and Hantuchova is HANN-too-ko-vuh and Annan is ANN-un and Kabul is Cobble. Go figure.

The one I refuse to accept is the "bell grade" pronunciation of Belgrade. Help me out here, o worldly ones, but it can't be possible that the Slavic peoples share our concept of "e ending equals long vowel," can it? Mustn't it be BEL-grahd? I have a hard time picturing Slobodan Milosevic saying, "Xyzliczevic jibberish jzynovic jibberish BELL GRADE. Gnocidevic atrocivic jibberishevic BELL GRADE."

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