Mai Kuha mkuha at BSUVC.BSU.EDU
Sun Aug 6 12:09:08 UTC 2000

> Why do American TV announcers pronounce the name of the Russian leader
> POOT-uhn (which sounds like a kind of euphemism for farting) instead of
> poo-TEEN (which is surely closer to the way that the Russians say it, and in
> any case hasn't the weird connotations)?

I've been quietly horrified at this pronunciation. I'm not about to
complain about the extra vowel stuck out front on Mbeki, or the stress on
the second syllable on Helsinki, but what could possibly be so
overwhelmingly difficult about pronouncing an actual vowel in the second
syllable in Putin? Surely that wouldn't violate any phonotactic constraint
in English.

This reaction isn't just prescriptive tsk-tsk-ing. Some time ago (before
Putin was in the news) I saw an episode of Frasier in which one
disreputable character addressed another with the endearment "pootn'",
exactly the way Putin is now pronounced, and the laugh track came on. What
kinds of connotations will trickle through popular culture when a world
leader's name sounds like that?

Mai Kuha                  mkuha at bsuvc.bsu.edu
Department of English     (765) 285-8410
Ball State University

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