Who changed the pronunciation of Niger?

I have always pronounced Niger as NY-jer. Recently I have heard most radio and TV reporters pronouncing it as nee-ZHAIR. My Webster’s new Collegiate from 1975 and my American Heritage from 1985 both show NY-jer as the only pronunciation. However, Webster’s New Collegiate 10th edition from ca. 2003 shows NY-jer as primary and nee-ZHAIR as an alternate. Judging by the dates of publication the alternate pronunciation seems to have been a recent development.

How did this alternate pronunciation come about? Is that the way natives of the country pronounce it? Was someone affecting erudition and others picked it up, or did someone just mispronounce it from ignorance but sounded convincing?

I can’t help it - this crap bugs me.

Well, it was a French colony until 1960. Most style-books are slowly switching from Anglacised pronunciations to ones more in line with that of the country. French colony = French pronunciation.

I was in Nigeria in the 60’s and even then we referred to its northern neighbour as nee-ZHAIR.

Uranus strikes back!

Rayne Man, was Nigeria also pronounced nee-ZHAIRia?

Nijer has always been Nee-jzher according to the BBC, and Nigeria has always been Nai-geeria. Niger as in Nai-jer is a US mispronunciation.

No. Because Nigeria was a former British colony it was pronounced ny-geria while, as stated above, Niger was a former French colony- so nee-zhair.

Nigeria was a British colony, wasn’t it, so it would never have been pronounced ni-ZHAIR-ia.

For Niger, being formerly French, ni-ZHAIR makes sense, especially when you see that the inhabitants are referred to as ‘Nigerien’/‘Nigerienne’, not ‘Nigerian’.

I have to admit though, that I thought Niger was NY-jur as well. I’d never seen the word ‘Nigerien/ne’ and I knew nothing of its history…

I was struck by this watching a recent CNN report, and I came to the same conclusion: that the media were simply trying to pronounce as the French would. Now, my French isn’t the best in the world, but wouldn’t Niger, as a French word, properly be pronounced: nee-ZHAY?

Typically, the final “r” isn’t vocalized, is it? Whereas the pronounciation I keep hearing (nee-ZHAIRE), would only make sense if the country’s name was actually spelled “Nigere” instead of “Niger.”

I also thought, maybe, just maybe, the media were a little apprehensive to continue to “anglicize” a name that’s only one letter away from the American racial slur. Kind of like when everybody switched from “har-ASS” to “HAR-ass” during the Anita Hill hearnings.

Er, not that “har-ASS” would be a racial slur, but that the media didn’t want to say “ass” (everybody has the right not to self-incriminate, I suppose).

But back to the OP, I still think it’s due to the American habit of vocalizing the last letter of any French word, whether it should be vocalized or not.

cache: should be pronounced “CASH”, but lots of people here say “cash-AY”

forte: should be pronounced “FORT”, but I always hear “fort-AY”

Kind of like bad jokes where people feign Spanish by putting an “o” on the end of every word.

the country name “Niger” is given a french pronunciation, but the etymology of the word is Portugese. How curious.

What about the river for which the two countries are named? How do the folks in Nigeria pronounce it? What about in Guniea, Mali and Benin?

The river is pronounced** nyger **in English speaking countries. I don’t know about the Francophone ones.

The same reason we say “Belarus” instead of “White Ruthenia,” “Moldova” instead of “Moldavia” (or “Bessarabia”), “Thailand” instead of “Siam,” “Iran” instead of “Persia,” and “Myanmar” instead of “Burma.” The media seem to believe that it’s incorrect to have an English name or pronunciation of a place name that’s different from one that is used by natives.

Frankly, I think it’s bogus. So far as I’m concerned, it’s perfectly legitimate for names of places to be different in different languages.

Pretty soon we’re going to have to start saying Hrvatska (Croatia), Deutschland, Suomi (Finland), Bharat (India), Espana, Italia, etc., because Anglicised names are just not acceptable. How should we choose amongst Suisse, die Schweiz, and Svizzera?

Yes, Sequent, you’re right. Ni-ZHAIR would be ‘Nigère’ in properly-spelt French.

And as for the verb ‘niger’:
je niges
tu niges
il/elle nit

nous nigeons
vous nigez
ils/elles nigents* :smiley:

[sub]*I couldn’t figure out what to do here[/sub]

My French teacher had us remember that “in French you don’t pronounce the last consonant–but be ‘careful’” The consonants in ‘careful’: c, r, f, and l are pronounced if they come at the end of a word.

Paris = Paw-ree
Chirac = She-rawk

It also depends on the initial letter of the following word. I forget the term for it (liason?), but in certain situations where the following word begins with a vowel, you should vocalize the normally-silent consonant:

vous n’avez pas (VOO nah-VAY PAS)
vous avez (VOOZ ah-VAY)

Oops, should be: liaison.

And “pas” is pronounced “PAH”, without sounding the “s” (unless the first letter of the next word is…oh, nevermind).

Well, I used to live in Niger, and we always pronounced it… nee-ZHAIR. As everybody here has pointed out, that’s because Niger is a French-speaking country, and that’s how the name is pronounced there. NYE-jer is also correct for anglophone countries, and that’s typically how the name of the river is pronounced. My own experience here is that if you say NYE-jer, people think you’re talking about Nigeria. With nee-ZHAIR, you avoid that problem (and run against the opposite problem, namely that people have never heard of it).

Are they saying “cache” meaning a hidden supply, or “cachet” meaning prestige or status? If the latter, then they are pronouncing it correctly. “Forte” is correctly pronounced with two syllables, because it’s Italian, not French.

Not a mispronunciation, but a legitimate variant.

Cache, as in “supply.” During the Iraq war coverage, I always heard soldiers speaking about a “cash-ay of weapons.”

And you’re right about the Italian pronunciation, but I’m right about the French. :slight_smile: From dictionary.com:

So I guess if you’re going by the “50,000 Elvis fans can’t be wrong” rationale, it’s two syllables. But then, I’d point out that Hitler had at least twice that many fans. It’s a delicate situation, you see. I propose a duel.