How to memorize complex names

When I was a kid, I had a Resource teacher named Ms. Schimmelpfennig. I liked her a lot, so I took it upon myself to memorize how to spell her name, and to say it out loud on occasion.

I can’t remember when I memorized how to spell Schwarzenegger, but it was fairly early in my life, I think.

I’m a basketball fan, though, and I have a hard time spelling Giannis Antetokounmpo’s last name without looking it up. (My best guess for the purpose of the thread was Antetounmpko, but spell check said I got it wrong, so I looked up the correct spelling).

There’s Sarunas Marciulionis (which I also got wrong: best guess was Marcelionis), and Sarunas Jasikevicius, which I actually got right, probably because he used to play for my Pacers.

I suppose the thorough way is to learn the language that the complex name comes from. Thanks to my four years of high school German, I don’t find “Schimmelpfennig” or “Schwarzenegger” particularly difficult. But those other names you mention would give me trouble.

One approach is to break the name up into smaller pieces. I remember how to spell Assisi (as in “St. Francis of”) by thinking “ass is I.” If not for that, it would be tricky to remember the pattern of s’s and i’s.

The way I remember how to spell “Schwarzschild” is by including every letter I can imagine in there, and then taking out the T.

There’s a baseball player named Marc Rzepczynski who played for the Indians while I was blogging about the team and I managed to figure out how to spell his name. I did have to look it up just now, it’s been a while.

Being from Northeast Ohio most people have Slavic names or know someone with Slavic names so pronunciation isn’t too hard. We’ve seen them before. Sometimes spelling can be tricky with remembering where the c’s and z’s go.

Heh. Try being an announcer for a classical music radio station. All the names of composers, conductors and performers from all over the world. Oy vey!

In high school freshman English in Amherst, Ohio, our teacher had each class memorize and analyze a word. I wonder how many of my classmates can still pronounce “ultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis”? Just had to add it to my dictionary!

:musical_note: Ultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis
Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious :musical_note:

I just got lightly roasted in a thread I started calling him “Giannis Alphabetikisis” for the same reasons you mention–spelling his name correctly was a pain, and irrelevant to the point I was asking about, but some folks felt it was helpful (to some cause or other) to spell his name properly. Respect for others? If i’d dreamt that Giannis A. were a Doper, perhaps I’d see it that way, but as I felt it extremely unlikely that he’d read the thread and feel insulted, I thought maybe I could get away with the attempt at comedy. Apparently not.

Oddly enough, I am a stickler for spelling names correctly if there IS a chance that the person being referenced will see it. When I was a teacher (former life) I would take points off students’ papers if they misspelled a name–I thought it was good practice for them, to get people’s names right, though they would howl like pierced porcines if they would spell a name incorrectly. I remember I assigned an article by Malcolm Gladwell, and it got spelled “Malcom” by more than half my students. But if I thought they were trying to be funny, I might give them a pass.

Antetokounmpo starts to make sense if you consider the Greek alphabet. In modern Greek, there is no sound of English D or B. Delta and Beta are pronounced /th/ and /v/. So Greens, when importing foreign words with D or B in then, those values are respelled by nasalizing them. D = /nu tau/ and B = /mu pi/.

When a Nigerian family gets Greek citizenship, the family name has to be respelled in Greek, hence Αντετοκούνμπο. Then, to re-Romanize it, a letter-by-letter substitution is used, and /nu tau/ becomes /nt/, instead of just restoring the Nigerian “Adetokumbo”

ETA— A little bit if familiarity with European phonetics will help. Nearly all languages (besides English) are quite phonetic, spelled exactly as they are pronounced – in THEIR language, not ours.