Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Thu Oct 7 12:58:54 UTC 2010

A reminiscence:  When I was in college at the U of Texas (1960s), the great Argentine fiction writer Jorge Luis Borges would spend time in Austin, every year or two, studying Anglo-Saxon language and literature with Prof. Rudolph Willard. And he would typically give a public lecture, one of which I especially remember.  He spoke about Cervantes, and he consistently pronounced the character's name as [kwIksot].

In the question period following, an earnest young man inquired of Borges why he pronounced the name that way.  His answer:  "Because I was lecturing in English."

Old academic joke:  "What is a Comparative Literature major?"  "Someone who can pronounce authors' names so they sound foreign."

Or NPR classical music jockeys . . . .


From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of David A. Daniel [dad at POKERWIZ.COM]
Sent: Thursday, October 07, 2010 7:49 AM

I posted on this earlier this year. Chile was Chilly in the USA until
sometime in the 80's when there was a surge of hypercorrect pronunciation of
Spanish, at which time it became Chee-lay and the folks became Chee-LAY-uns
instead of just Chillyuns. This culminated in 1990 with a hilarious skit by
Jimmy Smits on SNL making fun of the whole over-pronunciation mania. It
wasn’t just Chile, of course, it was anything Spanish that happened to come
up. The Smits skit tackled such things as En-shee-LAH-Thah and
Burrrrrrr-EE-Tho as well.

Another foreign-language hypercorrection that I have watched become popular
over the last 10 or 20 years or so is the substitution of Coup de Grace
(pronounced Grahss), which is the strike/blow of mercy, with Coup de Gras
(pronounced Grah) which of course is the Strike/Blow of Fat. I used to hear
Coup de Grah occasionally, but now seem to hear it almost exclusively.
Apparently Americans think no French word ever has an ss sound on the end.
The Coup de Gras always gives me interesting mental images.

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Paul Frank
Sent: Thursday, October 07, 2010 12:39 AM
Subject: Re: Chile

:      Re: Chile

As a native speaker of Chilean Spanish, this is something to which
I've paid close attention since my family left Chile a few terrifying
weeks after September 11 (1973, not 2001). In the 1980s, most
Americans I heard pronounce the word Chilean said "ChilAYan"; most
Brits said "Chillyin" (to borrow your spellings). I was living in the
UK and in East Asia at the time and hanging out with Brits and
Americans (and Chileans too). In the 1990s I began to notice ChilAYan
from British mouths, including BBC presenters. I'm less sure about
"Chilly" and "Chee Lay." I've always said "Chee Lay" or even "Chile"
(pronounced the Spanish way). Incidentally, one of my pet peeves in
the 1980s was the affected pronunciation in the middle of English
sentences of "Nicaragua" and "El Salvador" as if they were Spanish
words rather than perfectly good English words that ought to be
pronounced the English (or American) way. You sometimes hear this on
NPR: an American speaker pauses for a millisecond to pronounce some
Spanish place name or personal name as if she or he were speaking
Spanish. But I digress...


Paul Frank
German, French, Italian > English
Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Tel. +41 77 4096132
paulfrank at
paul.frank at

On Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 3:21 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at>

> Back in my day (1950s), "Chile" was pronounced like "Chilly."
> "Chilean" was pronounced as "chillyin." But since then "ChilAYan" has
> the media standard because it sounds more Spanishy. Sort of.
> Similarly "Chilly" has become the media "Chee Lay" because it sounds more
> Spanishy.
> However, today I heard Tony Harris on CNN utter a new pronunciation that
> sounds like an American trying to sound Spanishy no matter what:
> Like _Ole_!
> JL

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