Friday, March 16, 2007

Pronunciation Traps

Two abbreviations seem to give BBC announcers rather a lot of grief.

First, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) — I can’t imagine them being very popular at the Beeb, because great care is needed to deliver this string of closing diphthongs and high vowels comprehensibly, without sounding like one of Old MacDonald’s farm animals. Many announcers slow down noticeably in anticipation of this minefield and suspend the expected liaisons (‘eye-yay-yee-yay’), beginning each syllable instead with a laboured hiatus. A reasonable compromise, I suppose, would be to put the hiatus right down the middle (‘EYE-yay, EE-yay’).

And then we have the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) — a rebel organization who are a constant thorn in the sides not only of the Colombian government, but also of the often prim and proper BBC announcers. This one needs no elaboration!

Speaking of which, the Scottish surname Farquhar — known in Singapore via William Farquhar (first British Resident and Commandant of Singapore, 1819–1823) and generally pronounced ‘fah-KWAH’ — is more correctly rendered ‘FAR-ker’ or ‘FAR-kwer’.

1 comment:

xapaga said...

Newsreaders at Japan's NHK seem to utter 'IAEA' without any difficulty though in a highly Japanese fashion wherein one pronounces like 'Aye-Eh-Ii-Eh' ('Eh' containing a long vowel instead of a diphthong). Probably the most difficult one for Japanese speakers is the North Korean ship "Man Gyong Bong Go" (or "The Man Gyong Bong" in English).