Herb Stahlke hstahlke at GW.BSU.EDU
Sun Aug 6 19:23:05 UTC 2000


You raise the more general question of what the phonesthetics of a word
has to do with its meaning.  We all know of obvious cases, like "teeny"
and "humongous" and the role of ideophonic reduplication in
name-calling, but your comment raises the cross-linguistic question of
the phonesthetics of a name as pronounced in another language and the
potential political implications of that.  I suspect these are very much
nonce phenomena, but they can have considerable impact.


<<< mkuha at BSUVC.BSU.EDU  8/ 6  7:13a >>>
> Why do American TV announcers pronounce the name of the Russian leader
> POOT-uhn (which sounds like a kind of euphemism for farting) instead
> 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
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
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.
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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list