Embarrassing Amateur Moments Supplement

23 Feb

Lately life’s been getting in the way of me making substantive posts. I’d say that’s unfortunate but it’s actually good; just not for this blog.

However the other day I was driving and heard something on the radio which applies perfectly to a post I made a couple of years ago about Embarrassing Amateur Moments. In that post I mentioned that one of my problems is not knowing how to pronounce things. I read a lot but I don’t attend a lot of seminars and am not involved in regular discussions with historians. I don’t know how to pronounce a variety of things; historical figures, place-names, even names of modern historians. At one time this bothered me until I adopted a policy of figuring that most historians had better things to worry about so I wouldn’t overly concern myself with it either.

In the US (and these days I’m sure it’s available internationally) a sports network, ESPN, has a morning talk show called Mike and Mike, featuring a retired (American) football player, Mike Golich and a sportswriter, Mike Greenberg. I was listening to it the other day and heard an actor/comedian, Kevin Hart, discussing an issue he had pronouncing the word “facade.” Here’s a link to the audio. The facade conversation begins about 3:30 into it.

Let’s face it, pronouncing something like “Amalasuintha” isn’t easy. And what the heck do you do with Welsh? Seriously – Rhwng Gwy a Hafren? Gwynfardd Brycheiniog? I’m sure there are rules and once you learn them it’s simple but speaking as a layperson, I consider Welsh to be significantly lacking in vowels.

So as a supplement to that earlier post, if you ever get into a conversation with someone (doesn’t have to be a historian, any subject matter specialist will do) and find out after the fact that you butchered a pronunciation, go back and listen to this. It’ll make you feel better.


Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Amateur Tips


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4 responses to “Embarrassing Amateur Moments Supplement

  1. Ann Marie Thomas

    March 12, 2014 at 7:54 am

    I stumbled across your blog in a search for medieval history blogs. I too am an amateur. My enthusiasm is for the Lords of Gower (south Wales, UK) in the 11th to 14th century and how they played pivotal roles in UK history. Anyway, I thought I’d give you some tips on Welsh pronunciation, as an English woman living in Wales for over forty years.

    You see, Welsh is easy once you realise that w and y are also vowels, and each letter only has one sound – no long and short vowels, for example. There are no rules for certain letter combinations sounding different, because there are none. Also, Welsh has some letters in the alphabet which are two letters: ch, dd, ff, ll, rh for example.

    Rhwng Gwy a Hafren is said rhoong gooee a havren [one f sounds v, to get an f sound use ff]
    Gwynfardd Brycheiniog is gooeenvarth breechayniog [dd sounds like th in the, ch is like k in the back of the throat]

    Hope that helps. Find a pronunciation guide – it’s not hard at all :)

    • Curt Emanuel

      March 15, 2014 at 11:12 am

      Thank you for the pronunciation suggestions. I’m not particularly concerned with pronouncing Welsh but it may be helpful to others. As with any language, it’s easy once you learn the rules. Do you have a suggested guide? I assume the one I linked to wasn’t very good.

  2. Allan McKinley

    March 22, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Reminds me of when my late PhD supervisor pointed out to me, after a paper I’d given, that the correct pronunciation of the Old English name-element Ecg- (as in Ecgberht, Ecgwine etc) was akin to edge. Although why he waited till five years after I finished my doctorate to tell me this useful information is a question I will never have answered – clearly you can get by in medieval history mispronouncing even common words so long as you are clear in your meaning.


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