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“Porsche” and “Neanderthal”

Pronouncing German Words in English 2

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  Part 1 | Part 2 | Chart: German in English | Audio

What is the correct pronunciation of Porsche? While the “proper” way to pronounce some German terms in English may be debatable, this isn't one of them. Porsche is a family name, and the family members pronounce their surname PORSH-uh, not PORSH! Same for the car. You don't say NYKE for Nike, so don't be lazy and leave off the e in Porsche! Porsche's U.S. TV commercials pronounce the name correctly and so should you.

Can you remember when the French automaker Renault still sold cars in North America? (If you're old enough, you may recall Renault's Le Car.) In the early days, Americans pronounced the French name ray-NALT. Just about the time that most of us had learned to say ray-NOH correctly, Renault pulled out of the U.S. market. Given enough time, Americans usually can learn to pronounce most foreign words correctly—if you don't include maitre d' or hors d'oeuvres. So I think there's still hope for Porsche, too.

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Another “silent-e” example is also a brand name: Deutsche Bank. Listening to the financial news from CNN, MSNBC or other TV news channels often brings out the fact that news announcers really should study foreign languages. Some of those talking heads get it right, but it almost hurts when they say “DOYTSH Bank” with a silent e. It could be a carryover from the now entrenched mispronunciation of Germany's former currency, the Deutsche Mark (DM). Even educated English-speakers may say “DOYTSH mark,” dropping the e. With the arrival of the euro and the demise of the DM, German company or media names with “Deutsche” in them have become the new mispronunciation target: Deutsche Telekom, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Bahn, or Deutsche Welle. At least most people get the German “eu” (OY) sound right, but sometimes that gets mangled as well.

Neanderthal or Neandertal
Now, what about the term Neanderthal? Most informed people prefer the more German-like pronunciation nay-ander-TALL. That's because Neanderthal is a German word and German does not have the th sound of English “the.” The Neandertal (the alternate English or German spelling) is a valley (Tal) named for a German by the name of Neumann (new man). The Greek form of his name is Neander. The fossilized bones of Neandertal man (homo neanderthalensis is the official Latin name) were found in the Neander Valley. Whether you spell it with a t or th, the better pronunciation is nay-ander-TALL without the th sound. There are some paleoanthropologists and other experts in the field who still say nay-ander-THALL, but they're wrong.

German Brand Names
On the other hand, for many German brand names (Adidas, Braun, Bayer, etc.), the English or American pronunciation has become the accepted way to refer to the company or its products. In German, Braun is pronounced like the English word brown (same for Eva Braun, by the way), not BRAWN, but you'll probably just cause confusion if you insist on the German way of saying Braun, Adidas (AH-dee-dass, emphasis on the first syllable) or Bayer (BYE-er). So it is probably best to keep this knowledge to yourself. (This does NOT apply to brand names with “Deutsche” in them!) The same goes for Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991). Geisel was born in Massachusetts to German immigrants, and he pronounced his German name SOYCE. But now everyone in the English-speaking world pronounces the author's name to rhyme with goose. Sometimes you just have to be practical when you're outnumbered.

On the next page you'll find a chart with examples of pronunciation problems (including audio) in both German and English, plus a few related links.

NEXT > Chart: German in English

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

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