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How Do You Say “Porsche”?

Pronouncing German Words in English

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• 1 How Do You Say 'Porsche'?
• 2 Porsche and Neanderthal
• 3 German in English + Audio
• 4 German Loan Words
 
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How do you pronounce the following words? Nevada, fracas, hors d'oeuvres, rodeo, aunt, Versace. The way you say these “English” words can reveal several things about you, including your level of education and in which part of the English-speaking world you happen to live! I happen to have lived in Nevada for about 40 years, and we Nevadans cringe when we hear someone say Ne-VAH-duh. That back-East pronunciation grates on us here in Ne-VAA-duh, even if it is closer to the original Spanish word for schneebedeckt (snow-covered).

As for those other “English” words above, all of which are also borrowed from other languages, you may know they can be pronounced in a variety of ways, just counting American versus British English. I only mention the English examples because I want to prepare you for the German words. The point is, as you can see, that pronunciation is not an exact science and it depends on where you live, your level of education, and your dialect (even in the U.S.).

By some standards, many English-speakers, even highly educated ones, mispronounce certain borrowed German words in English. Examples include scientific terms (Neanderthal, Loess), brand names (Adidas, Deutsche Bank, Porsche, Braun) and names in the news (Angela Merkel, Jörg Haider). More about this below.

But Americans often do quite well with the many other German words commonly used in English. Even when they don't know exactly what it means, Americans pronounce Gesundheit (health) with a high degree of accuracy. (See the article “You Already Know German” for the English meaning of most of the German terms used here.) Other German words used and pronounced fairly well by English-speakers include: Kindergarten, Poltergeist, Strudel, Dachshund, kaputt, Schadenfreude, verboten, Ersatz, Rottweiler, Gestalt, Lufthansa (airline) and Weltanschauung. They come close with Angst, Fahrenheit, Volkswagen, Frankfurter, Zeppelin, Leitmotiv, Rucksack, and even Fahrvergnügen (from the VW ads years ago).

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German names of personalities such as Steffi Graf (now married to Andre Agassi), Henry Kissinger, and even the Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger roll right off American tongues. They can say Marlene Dietrich (usually) or Sigmund Freud just fine, but for some reason U.S. TV newscasters never could get former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder's last name right. (Maybe it's the influence of the "Peanuts" character of the same name?) Most announcers have now learned to pronounce the current German chancellor's name with the correct hard-g pronunciation: [AHNG-uh-luh MERK-el] Angela Merkel.

In all fairness, German-speakers also mispronounce English words used in German. I'll never forget the day I was in a German department store and the sales clerk was telling me about the Nike™ sports shoes. But he pronounced the brand name with a silent e (NYKE). It took me a minute before I realized he meant NYE-KEE, but like most Germans he assumed the e was silent in the brand name, just as it is in most English words ending in e. But the word is Greek, so neither one is correct in that sense. (I doubt also that most people know that English-speakers in Chaucer's time were still pronouncing the e on the end of words like “olde.”) Most Germans can't hear the difference between the English adjective “live” (eine Live-Sendung, a live broadcast) and the noun “life,” pronouncing (and sometimes spelling) both words as life. But that's another problem.

So, how should you pronounce “Porsche”? Find out on the next page.

NEXT > Porsche and Neanderthal
MORE > Pronunciation with audio

MORE > German Loan Words in English
MORE > English in German - Denglisch


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