Mon Dieu! French pronunciation help needed.

** Hmm. GQ or CS? Coin flip. CS it is! **

This Halloween, my wife and I are attending a costume party as Richard I (the Lion-hearted) and his wife Berengaria of Navarre.

In a feeble attempt to lend a bit of verisimilitude, I’d like to at least pronounce a few names (and phrases) correctly.

Coeur de Lion: Coor? or Core? Lee-on? or Lee-own?
Richard: Rikard?
Plantagenet: (his surname): I have no idea.
Berengaria: I have no idea. (actually, this might be Spanish, since Navarre is in modern Spain, though bordering France – what do you think they spoke in 1190?)
Navarre: Nah-var-ay?

How about vous êtes beau? (“you are beautiful”) or embrassez-moi (“kiss me”)? (What? Who says I can’t flirt?)

Any other simple suggestions? Obviously I’ll be speaking English (probably with a ridiculous Inspector Clouseau accent)


coor d[schwa] lee-OHN (silentish N; just a very nasal vowel sound almost)
Berengaria is not French
Navarre, also not French, but either way the final E would be silent.

You would pronounce vous êtes beau as “too ay BELL,” since it’s your wife you’re talking to. Same reason for “ahm-brahss MWAH”

Although, Navarre could well be French; just struck me mostly Spanish in the context. If French, it’s nah-VAHR.

I think it’s worth mentioning that “too ay BELL” equals tu es belle (I might have the verb wrong as it’s been years since my last French class).

Coor de lee-AHN. But the “de” is very quick

Ree-SHARD. The ending “D” is barely pronounced, so it’s more like “Ree-SHAR”.


I don’t know either.


Voo-zette bo. (Said to a man)
Voo-zette bell. (Vous êtes belle, said to a woman)

ahm-BRAH-say mwah
And they said 4 years of high school French would be a waste of time!

It wasn’t until I read the Achren and Mayo Speaks posts that I understood the “BELL”. My first reaction was how did beau become pronounced bell? Sheesh. French is hard to figure out how to speak it, but not THAT hard. I took German in HS though so I should’ve realized you were talking about masculine and feminine constructions.

One slight conflict in advice here: Is it ahm-BRAH-say mwah? or ahm-brahss MWAH?

And cough assuming it’s a female but not my wife, would the female phrases be the same? Or is it a vous vs tu?

(The previous two Halloween parties I was Jack Sparrow and then the Phantom of the Opera – I played both as mischievous flirts. I might as well continue the tradition. Since both years it was halfway through the night before they knew who I really was, it mildly annoys my friends, and gives my wife mirth. Plus it is pretty much in keeping with Richard’s reputation. Well, I guess if I want to be that accurate I’ll have to flirt with the men too. Hmmm. That might be a little TOO annoying.)

I realize it’s not French, but anyone have a guess for the Spanish pronunciation of Berengaria?

Merci beaucoup everyone.

When speaking to someone else, in a formal manner, you would use vous instead of tu. Tu is generally used with those you are familiar with or children. And it would be embrasse-moi, rather than embrassez-moi.

Depends on who you’re talking to. If it’s your wife or some other person you know fairly well, it’s AHM-brahss, because you’re conjugating the verb embrasser (to kiss) with tu (the singular, informal you). If you’re talking to multiple people, or one person who is older or a stranger or whom you have some other reason for addressing more formally, you would conjugate with the vous form. So it would be pronounced ahm-BRAH-say.

Navarre is now in Spain, but “Navarre” is the French and English version, so the e is silent. In Spanish, it’s “Navarra.” But Spanish is not the native language of Navarre – it’s Basque. And in Basque, it’s “Nafarroa.”

I would suggest finding somoeone who actually speaks French. It’s very hard to describe French pronunciation typographically.
“Coeur” is really neither “cor” or “coor”. “Cor” de Lion would sound to a French speaker like “Corps de Lion” (lion body) and “coor” like “Cours de Lion” (lion course). Without getting into too much technical detail, the closest sound in English is the “uh” of “but”. Just frenchify it and it’ll be close. And in case lissener’s post wasn’t clear, there’s really no N in “Lion”, just a nasalized “oh”, as in Homer’s “doh!”.

The prononciation guides given in this thread are pretty good. However, the final “T” in “Plantagenet” is pronounced, although lightly.

Roughly, Bay-rayn-gah-ree-ah, with the emphasis on the second syllable and the second to last. Spanish r’s are different from English ones. Quicker and not so heavy.

Your flirting phrases in Spanish are:

To a man: Tú eres bello. (Too air-ays bay-yo.)
To a woman: Tú eres bella. (Too air-ays bay-ya.)

Both: Bésame. (BAY-sah-may.)

Some Spanish endearments are: querido/a (dear, darling, loved one), tesoro (treasure), paloma (dove), caro/a (dear). If you add *mío *or *mía * (depending on gender) after any of them, it becomes “my dear,” “my treasure,” etc.

I don’t know if you’ll use the Spanish phrases, but your wife might, and turnabout is fairplay, after all.

Berengaria de Navarre is known here in Navarra as Berenguela or Berengaria… de Navarra, of course.

The 1190 kingdom of Navarra contained parts of both Spain (parts of modern-day Rioja, Navarra and Euskadi) as well as of France (the SW corner, that’s known as the Baja Navarra, the “low Navarre”). Latin, Basque and Spanish were spoken. The first written documents in Spanish are in a monastery that was Navarra at the time and they predate Berengaria.

My best advice to figure out how to pronounce Berenguela’s name: find a Sp/En bilingual dictoinary. Spanish has “direct phonetic correspondence”, meaning that except for a few quirks, you can always figure out how a word is written by how it’s pronounced. “Navarra” is Spanish but Navarre is English, so read it normally (the As should be “as in cat” according to my own dictionary).

Berengaria: hmmmm… the Es in helmet sound “normal” to me. The As, like in cat. The I is like an English EE. The Rs are soft, you can just pronounce them normally. The group IA is pronounced together and the strong syllable is the GA: the syllable breakup is Be-ren-GA-ria, not be-ren-ga-REE-ah which is how most Anglos would try to pronounce it.

Has this helped at all?

That sounds very artificial. In Spanish, the subject is not required, being supplied by the verbal form. So,

“Eres bello” or even better, “Qué bello eres!” (you are SO handsome)
“Qué bella!” or “qué guapa!” for a woman.

Preciosa (meaning not precious but beautiful) works for a woman too but not for a man. Guapo in a man means handsome but also somewhat of a showoff.

Ehrm, Spanish was invented in Navarra. Just sayin’. And I don’t recommend going to the southern half of Navarra and trying to speak Basque with the locals, it could get you a trip to an irrigation ditch (just a wash-and-rinse, nothing life threatening).

I’ll pass it on. She doesn’t get quite as deeply into character as I try to, but I think it’d be great if we were both flirting in French and Spanish with a bunch of middle class suburban Americans. :slight_smile:

Absolutely. And I love the Navarra history lesson. Only on the Dope could I obtain answers like these.

Late night complication: As the Green Bay Packers are getting embarrassed on Monday Night Football my wife casually says to me, “You know, I think I want to be Guenevere instead of that lady you want me to be, who I never heard of.” Grrrrr. Then I’d have to be Lancelot, and would have to be English. What fun is that?

Dude, according to legend, Lancelot was French.

Yeah, that sounds right. If he pronounces it like the English “cur” it should be okay, although the French sound (officially “œ” I believe) doesn’t really have an analogue in English.

Guinevere had any number of boyfriends. You could be Melwas (Welsh), Mordred (English), Lanval (Breton), or Lancelot. Of course, most of these were fairly unhealthy relationships. For Lanval, she would have to spend the evening offering her your body, and when you refuse she’ll accuse you of being gay.

You could also just try being King Arthur. Not only could you both flirt, you could even flirt with your sister if she attends the party.

Beaten to it - I came in just to say “cur” for Coeur.

Also to suggest that you stay with the “vous” version of you - in those days it would have been very much “You are beautiful this evening madame” “Thank you sire”.

I wouldn’t worry too much about pronunciation - Richard would have spoken Anglo-Norman relates to modern French much as Chaucer does to modern English.