van Goch (was: Nicaragua)

Peter A. McGraw pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU
Mon Apr 4 23:00:33 UTC 2005

Good grief!  The difficulty of pronouncing "van Gogh" in Dutch is vastly
overrated.  The voiceless uvular fricative that is spelled with a g or a ch
(or archaically as gh in some names) sounds exotic to American ears,
especially when it forms both ends of a word like this, but anyone who can
wind up for a good spit can produce it.  The idea that even the Dutch have
trouble with it is about as accurate as a statement would be that even
English speakers have trouble pronouncing th.  Americans who can pronounce
the final consonant in Bach without making it into a stop can probably
manage this one, too, if they try.  Even the very same sound as in Bach
makes a pretty good counterfeit that any Dutchman would understand.

Peter Mc.

--On Monday, April 4, 2005 4:21 PM -0400 Wilson Gray <wilson.gray at RCN.COM>

> On Apr 4, 2005, at 12:30 PM, Mark A. Mandel wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       "Mark A. Mandel" <mamandel at LDC.UPENN.EDU>
>> Subject:      Re: Nicaragua
>> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
>> --------
>> Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM> sez:
>> Given that the sounds represented by the spellings "g," "gh," and "ch"
>> as pronounced in Dutch are sounds that don't exist in English, I would
>> be stunned to hear any English-speaker pronounce "Gogh" as the Dutch
>> do. It would be a real accomplishment. I've tried it, quite
>> unsuccessfully, while vacationing in Amsterdam and with Dutch friends
>> in here in the States. It's *very* difficult.
>> <<<
>> Not for all of us, bubbele.
>> -- Mark
> I'm stunned. Even though I haven't heard you say it. I'm *very*
> impressed by the mere claim itself. An article in Life magazine in the
> '50's claimed that "Gogh" was so weird that even the Dutch no longer
> knew the correct pronunciation. Of course, this was the same Life
> magazine that once published an article claiming that the Watusi, the
> same African people today known as the "Tutsi," were white in the
> "European" sense. Hence, Life's claims about Dutch are probably
> to be taken with a box of salt.
> -Wilson

Peter A. McGraw       Linfield College        McMinnville, Oregon
******************* pmcgraw at ************************

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