Acceptable American pronunciation of dead European writers

I am notorious for my inability to pronounce words properly. This issue is especially problematic when trying to pronounce the names of people like Proust, Sartre and Nietzsche. Not that these guys come up in conversation all that often. Now, in American English there appear to be acceptable pronunciations that are understood and popular, but not the pronunciation that the particular gentleman himself would have used. I tend to pronounce most Japanese words as native Japanese would due to my heritage. Tempura is the classic word that I pronounce differently than most Americans. I tend to mix and match Spanish depending on what the overwhelming popular local usage is. I pronounce Los Angeles just like everybody else.

I’ve tried my American pronunciation of Sartre (I seem to recall my AP English teacher pronounced it this way) and was snootily reprimanded by some Danish dude. I noticed that Steve Carrell had a distinctively different of Proust than I have. So what’s Straight Dope on pronunciation of Dead European Guys that nobody reads, both the acceptable American pronunciation and the actual pronunciation.

Dead Guy; My American guess; My native language guess.
Proust; prowst; proost.
Sartre; sart; sart.
Nietzsche; NEE-chay; NEE-chay.

Thank you for making appear less stupid. By the way, the snooty Danish dude was carrying around a no cost 200 page computer printed one-sided treatise by Sartre in lieu of a lightweight paperback. This was while backpacking in Patagonia. Now who was looking stupid, anyhow?

Nietzsche’s peachy, but Sartre’s smarter.

Proust = proost
Nietzsche = nee’ chuh (with a schwa)

Oops, forgot Sartre.

Sartre = sar’ truh (with a schwa again, though I’ve generally heard this with almost an unhearable schwa. Sar’truh)

The guy trying to figure out how to pronounce authors that he’s never read, and it seems never will?

Ouch. I have read No Exit, though. I’ve tried to read some Nietzsche, but yeah I probably won’t read any in the future. I suspect the same for Proust. It’s still nice to know the pronunciation, and have a vague notion of their philosophies.

Thanks for info jsgoddess. The barely perceptible schwa is the way I heard it. I’ll go with a louder schwa, just to make it easer. I guess at least some Americans must pronounce it Sarter, though.

Can we add Sri Lankans to this thread?

If so, does anyone know how to pronounce the “Ondaatje” in Michael Ondaatje?

You can re-impress the Danish snob by pronouncing Kierkegaard right! It’s Kierke-gor’–sort of. The “aa” is an “oh” sound really, and the d is nearly silent.

I’d have a go at Proust if I were you. It took me a few years to realize that my French is nowhere good enough, so I gave up and started again on the current Penguin translation. There’s something about it that draws me in…

I just learned everything I have to know about Proust from this video. It must be definitively OK to pronounce it Prowst, if Monty Python pronounce it that way.

By the way, how do you pronounce T. Coraghessan Boyle’s middle name? Just in case I see him hanging out in a bar around town.

OK, Monty Python agrees with jsgoddess on all accounts. These links may not be valid in the future.

Nietzsche. Damn, that’s funny.


I’ll still go with Prowst, though.

I used to be a snob about this, but living in Spain for a couple of years cured me. Prince William is simply *Principe Guillermo * and he lives in Londres. This MB is based in Chicago in *Estados Unidos * (abbreviated EE.UU.) where thare’s a city called Nueva York. The currency Price William uses is the *Libra * and of course, should he go to Nueva York, he has to exchange it for Dolares.

All in all, every language has its own way of adapting words and names from other languages. If you can make yourself understood, don’t sweat it.

BTW, to me, it sounds a bit pretentious if someone speaking English would use the Spanish way of saying the name for Seville - roughly [Sebeeyah].

If it’s pronounced as the original Dutch surname, it’s “On-DAHT-chee”.

Cor-RAG-i-suhn, approximately.

“I don’t know about the other two, but the one in the middle looks like James Joyce.”

While we’re trying to look smart, I’ll throw it in that Evelyn Waugh was a man.

And that Kant, as in Immanuel Kant, isn’t actually pronounced “kahnt.” But polite society will keep pronouncing it that way, anyway.

It is.

Evelyn Waugh was also a woman.

Evelyn Waugh (the man) married Evelyn Gardner (the woman) in 1928. Their friends called them He-Evelyn and She-Evelyn.

Neither dead nor European, but I want to know how the investigative journalist/author William Langewiesche says his name. (My guess: LANG-guh-wee-shee.)

My Dutch is pretty rusty, but wouldn’t “Ondaatje” be pronounced more like: “On-DA.AHT-chyuh” ? (The “DA.AH” is my contrived way to indicate that “daat” is something of a diphthong as opposed to the way “dat” would sound in Dutch–like the difference between “kaas” and “kas”. Also the “On” seems to me it would be a little more like something between “Own” and “On”, but not quite.

That’s just the way I remember the Dutch being pronounced but maybe the Dutch where I was was kinda funky.)

BUT-- Ondaatje is not who I came here to speak about tonight. No sir. I came here to talk about that “GARE-tah” guy. :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :eek:

Are you talking about GUR-tah? What’s goethe on there? I’m just guessing, this is the next guy I’m asking about.

Hey, please spell the whole thing out. Is it keer-keh-GOHr?