Those Commonly Mispronounced Last Names

21 12 2007

Having worked as a publishing consultant for a Canadian-owned, Random House-affiliate publishing services providing company was the closest that I ever had to working for a call center.   Because we catered to mostly North American clients, we had to speak, well, at least passable American English.  Not having undergone any American accent training, I still felt that my English (and other Anglicized words)-speaking skills are somehow above average. 

I never liked trying to sound American by talking nasally.  I’d sound like someone with speech problems like some people I know.  Hehe.  So, I went into training and since I am not at all an idiot, I learned what I was supposed to learn within the period allotted for the process, far more quickly, I believe.  Our trainers were a bunch of characters.  But then again, trainees—and students for that matter—always make fun of their trainers and teachers. 

The first month was a lot of fun.  Our American department head gave us the permission to take 10-minute breaks in between 60-minute of straight serious work.  Those were on top of our lunch breaks and two 15-minute breaks.  That was pure heaven for smokers like us and for non-smokers who took the same breaks as we did to chat and talk about the “characters” in the office.  Since we were told to speak English at all times then, we did.  So breaks were a bunch of breaks indeed filled with funny anecdotes in English.  There were 9 of us in our batch.  We were supposed to be a part of the first batch of 12 but since the first three—who later became our supervisors—were taken in before the Christmas break and they needed hands on deck (not on the dick, you, you!) then, we were considered the 1 1/2 batch.  Hehe. 

So anyway, the main criterion for the beauty contest—er—for hiring us was our English speaking skills.  Our American department head conducted one on one interviews and if you pass his standards—meaning he understands the way you speak and you get to deliver the answers to his questions the way he wants to hear them—then you’re hired.  So we were super proud to have been hired into a position that promised at least a basic fee of twenty grand, well, not in dollars, but in pesos.  We were also given the chance to earn commissions.  It was a good deal!  I will keep mum about what went on after that in terms of monetary concerns because I don’t want to rouse the sleeping monsters here and there. 

The first day we went live—call potential clients—we got lost.  One of the major problems?  Pronunciation of last names.  Pronouncing places wasn’t much of a problem because somehow, I already knew how to properly most of them, like Tucson/TOO-sahn/in Arizona,  Cayce /KAY • see/ in South Carolina, Des Moines /dih-MOYN/ in Iowa, Leicester /LESS-tur/ in Massachusetts, Reading /RED-ing/ (not like READING from the base verb READ!) in Pennsylvannia and many others. 

Nope, we were not given any help in that department.  What I did was create my own pronunciation guide.  Well, it all boils down to etymology for some.  And if you really can’t pronounce it properly, it’s best to politely ask the owner of the name.  I once looked for a Miss Augusta Something only to find out that he’s a HE.  Some countries don’t go by the usual Filipino convention of names ending with (Mario) O or U for men and A (Maria) for women.  By the way, my parents names are Gregorio and Gregoria.  Talk about soulmates!  LOL. 

My research enabled me to learn some new things and to affirm those that I already knew.  I thought it would be nice to share the fruits of my research here.  How’s that?  Most of them are from Inoglo, and The Budget Fashionista.

I started with author’s names. 

Paulo Coelhopaw-LU ko-wel-YU (my own version based on the IPA guide)

Chuck Palahniukchuhk PALL-uh-nik

Ayn Randine rand

Roland Barthesroll-AH(NG) bart

J.R.R Tolkien“TOLL”-keen

Ivan Illichih-VAHN IH-lich

Jodi PicoultJOE-dee PEE-koe

Marcel Proustmar-SELL proost

Kathy ReichsKA-thee ryks

Jon Scieszkajahn SHESS-kuh

Fyodor Mikhailovich DostoevskyFYOE-dur mih-HY-loe-vich dahs-tuh-YEF-skee

J K Rowling—“rolling

Then artists:

Jan van Eyckyahn fuhn ike



Eugene Delacroixuu-ZHEHN deh-lah-krwah

Edgar DegasED-gar duh-GAH

Claude Monetkload moe-nay

Paul Gauguinpall go-GA

Jean-Auguste Ingreszhahn-o-gust angg

And what last name pronunciation guide would be complete without fashion designers?  So here’s a not-so-complete guide from The Budget Fashionista.  They’re divided into A-G, H-M, and N-Z

Giorgio Armani: Jor-ji-o Ar-ma-nee
Manolo Blahnik: Muh-no-low blah- nick
Andre Courreges: AN-Dre Courreges
Balenciaga: Bal-en-see-AH-gah
Bottega Veneta: Bo-TAY-ga Ve-NE-tah
Roberto Cavalli: RO-ber-to Ka-VA-lee
Chanel: Sha-nel
Chloé: KLO-ee
Comme des Garcons: KUM de Gar-SOHN
Christian Dior: KRE-shtaan DEE-or
Dolce and Gabbana: DOL-chay and Gab-BAH-nah
Ellen Tracy: EL-lin TRAY-see
Salvatore Ferragamo: Sal- va- tor Ferr-A-ga-mo
Gianfranco Ferre: Gee-an-fran-ko Ferr-ay
John Galliano: Gall-lee-a-no
Givenchy: Gee-von-she
Halston: Hall-stun
Hermes: Air-mez
Hugo Boss: He-you-go Bo-s
Imitation of Christ: Em-ma-ta-shun of Cry-st
Marc Jacobs: Ma-rk Jay-kob-s
Betsey Johnson: BET-see JON-sun
Calvin Klein: CAL-vin KLYIN
Donna Karan (DKNY): Don-NAH KA-ran
Michael Kors: My-kal Ko-ors
Karl Lagerfeld: Ka-ral La-ger-fell-d
Helmut Lang: Hell- Mut Lay-ng
Jeanne Lanvin: John La- vin
Ralph Lauren: LORE-in
Nanette Lepore: Na-net LA-pour
Christian Louboutin: KRI-shtaan Lu-bu-TAHN
Louis Vuitton: Lu-wee Vee-tuhhh
Catherine Malandrino: KATH-er-in Mal-an-DREE-no
Alexander McQueen: Al-ex-AHN-der Mac-KWEEN
Isaac Mizrahi: Eye-zak Miz-ra-hee
Issey Miyake: E-say Me-ya-kay
Zac Posen: Zak Poo-zen
Proenza Schouler: pro-en-za skool-er
Emilio Pucci: E-MEE-lee-o POH-chee
Tracy Reese: TRAY- cee Ree-s
Elsa Schiaparelli: EL-sa She-a-pa-REHL-lee
Anna Sui: AN-na SOO-ee
Gianni Versace: Gee-a-nee Verr-sha-chie
Diane Von Furstenberg: DY-an Von FUR-sten-berg
Vera Wang: Veer- ra Way-ng also has an audio pronunciation guide on how designers’ names and brands are pronounced.  Check it out here.  It contains the correct pronunciation guides of Balmain, Byblos, Ermenegildo Zegna, Jean Paul Gaultier, Les Copains, Yves Saint Laurent and many more.

As a largely English-speaking country, I believe that pronouncing these foreign names and last names—English and Anglicized—are not merely about sounding good or whatever but it means giving respect to people from other countries whose names are not that easy for us Filipinos to pronounce.  My name is constantly mispronounced and misspelled either and while I have gotten used to it, it still gets annoying sometimes.  So, I think learning how to pronounce these names properly is a way of giving respect to others.




14 responses

21 12 2007
Durano Lawayan

Comrade Iamsorceress, this very informative post should be circulated to all college level students out there who have been denied employment in call centers. Only about 5-8% of applicants are taken in, such that centers resort to pirating from other companies. The 92-95 % are left out in the cold, lose confidence and develop low self-esteem.

I can understand the attraction of lots of moolah, but as I see it, it is sacrificing the future for the sake of the present. The job is not healthy sleepwise plus the coffee, cigarettes, junk food (sodium, transfat, sugar loaded diets) would send young people to hospitals for hypertension at an early age!

Before, high blood and hypertension would be for people 40 years and above. Today, they are as young as 25 on average. The rich kids, pampered like overfed fat cats develop hypertension and diabetes at around 10 years old.

You mentioned the respect for pronouncing names correctly–that’s very true. My name is in french and I have had it mispronounced since I was in prep school. I have stopped thinking that its disrespect; I just conclude that the idiots are not well read, are mis-educated, or are simply ignoramuses. There were times though when I thought that my name could really be stupid! LOL.

It was always flattering when I meet someone who knew how to pronounce it correctly, and I would always think…”ahh, a well bred, well educated, intelligent person”. This little, insignificant, and miniscule form of elitism pertained only to my name. Even with the outright unschooled farmers that I met in those old struggles, I was able to relate and identify pretty well and very effectively.

I don’t know what your name is and why it is hard to pronounce. Mine is in french as I mentioned. Here’s how its spelled: TOKMUL BAYOG . 🙂 LOL!

Tokmul! Tokmul! Hehe.

While I welcome the influx of BPO and other outsourcing companies in our country, I feel that it has somehow contributed hugely to the, well, (all the more) waning interest in education. Most call centers accept undergrads. And while that is good for those who are in a financially difficult situation who haven’t made it through college, it has really made people think that it’s ok not to take their college education seriously as they can always land a job as a call center agent somewhere even with just a few units after high school to their belts.

It’s true that a huge percentage of applicants get rejected, mostly because of not having passed exams, for answering the most stupid of ’em questions stupidly, for not looking good enough, for sounding TOO FILIPINO or for not having that fake nasal twang that I super hate, or for simply lacking the attributes that would make them good employees in general, but shouldn’t any of those be taken as a challenge instead of making them excuses for losing hope and for bumming around? I have always strived so hard just so I won’t look and sound stupid, being a heavily accented Cebuano-speaking small town mouse and all that.

I haven’t really tried working as a true-blue call center agent, just a tad similar to it, but I know it’s hard work. But then again, there’s no easy work in this world. There is, however, a huge disparity between hard work and smart work. Like, not all medical practitioners (especially doctors, nurses, therapists, vets) can take on the weight of all their patients even if they’re twice their size but they can use things around them for them to move people—making them the most formidable, err, life-takers, in the land, IMHO. Haha. (NOTE: Boys and girls, take that as a compliment!)

However, going back to NAMES, Tokmul, Tokmul, Tokmul, I do feel strongly about respecting other people in terms of their preferences, race, age, etc., and I guess the best way to start is by pronouncing their names right. Thanks for dropping by again Comrade Tokmul!

22 12 2007
Deck Design

[…] Those Commonly Mispronounced Last Names […]

25 12 2007

haha! i got a few right, but was so wrong on most. this is useful, Geda. (got it right this time, huh?)

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Happy New Year, too.

Merry Christmas, Dokie! Have an even better 2008!

I felt like sharing it coz I had a hard time twisting my tongue and “googling” how to pronounce some really unfamiliar last names. There are people who are put on the floor without really getting that much training in this department. Hope I have contributed to the universe somehow. Naks. Haha. But really… 🙂

26 12 2007
Durano Lawayan

Durano would be better. 🙂

I couldn’t agree more! LOL

29 12 2007

I hate it when someone wrongly pronounces my name.

Thanks for dropping by. Sometimes I have to write the pronunciation of my name when I introduce myself to people through e-mail or something. Just so people don’t mispronounce it when they call or something. Sigh!

31 12 2007

Thanks for posting, at least now alam ko na paano pronounce ung ibang words 🙂

I’m glad you found the entry helpful. Thanks for dropping by.

2 01 2008
Vintage Giorgio Armani

Armani has always been a favorite designer of mine. It seems the best ones always come from Italy!

His line is synonymous with class. There are a few others that are kinda in the same group but Armani does stand out and, well, the best ones always come from where it all began. Thanks for dropping by.

2 01 2008

Geda, my love! si oonamarie ni!

I looooove how smart you freakin’ are! I thought I was great with pronouncing words, but i’m nowhere near you madam!

Hehe.. One pretentious FOB here said her makeup was all “este louder”. say what?

Oona dahling! I super miss you and I sure hell missed your “visit”. Sorry about your Gramps. But life does go on and I’m sure his does too somewhere else.

Thanks big time for dropping by once more. We just know where to find the tools that we need to get by. Hehe. God, I miss the Bitching Hours! Haha. Do tell me ahead of time when your next scheduled homecoming is. Aron sad kita kong cute cute jellybean! I’m allergic to kids but I love my friends’ kids so I am super excited to kusi that kid. I hope he won’t be too old for my kusi when he does get sail the RED BOAT to the PI!

10 01 2008

om my, thank you big time!
i enjoyed your post & learned from it pa.!

bloghopping lang ako, newbie sa wpp.

12 01 2008

nice post.

15 01 2008


Bravo! Finally a great blog.

15 01 2008

thanks for posting.

22 01 2008

Not to forget. van Gogh is “van Gog” (yes, the last g is a hard g). The o in Gog is pronounced like the o in agog.

29 04 2008

My last name is lepore too! We prounce it as La Pouree with the e sound at the end!

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