INDOLOGY FAQ. Re. Varanasi

Frances Pritchett fp7 at COLUMBIA.EDU
Wed Feb 17 15:31:11 UTC 2010

And then there was the apparently universal habit among news 
commentators of speaking of "Ra-ZHeev" Gandhi. My theory is that the zh 
for j was borrowed from French ("jeune"), and sounded nice and exotic, 
while plain old j didn't have that same satisfying ring.

As for amriikaa , if you imagine yourself as working from the look only, 
not the sound, then it could happen, since "e" is often used by casual 
transliterators for short a ("sunder," "Inder"). And transliterators 
often work from the look; thus Urdu discussions of the thought of 

This is a very enjoyable topic, it gives us all a chance to vent...


Herman Tull wrote:
> From the obscure footnote department--perhaps this principle was first 
> enunciated by P. T. Barnum, but it was popularized by the great New 
> Yorker writer, E. B. White in describing his teacher, Willaim Strunk 
> (recounted in the preface to their "Elements of Style"):
> "He felt it was worse to be irresolute than to be wrong.  I remember a 
> day in class when he leaned far forward, in his characteristic 
> pose--the pose of a man about to impart a secret--and croaked, "If you 
> don't know how to pronounce a word, say it loud!  If you don't know 
> how to pronounce a word, say it loud!"  This comical piece of advice 
> struck me as sound at the time, and I still respect it.  Why compound 
> ignorance with inaudibility.  Why run and hide?"
> Herman Tull
> --------------------------------------------------
> From: "Gary Tubb" <tubb at UCHICAGO.EDU>
> Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 9:06 AM
> To: <INDOLOGY at>
> Subject: Re: INDOLOGY FAQ. Re. Varanasi
>> Dominik, we may be dealing here with, more precisely, English word 
>> rhythm choices earmarked for attacking foreign words.  In speaking to 
>> earlier generations of students, I used to call this the "Art Fleming 
>> syndrome." Art Fleming was the host of the television quiz show 
>> "Jeopardy" throughout most of the '60's and '70's, and among his many 
>> charms was the notorious practice of pronouncing every unfamiliar 
>> foreign word as if it were Spanish (actually Spanish with an American 
>> English accent, which would have him pronounce words like Ramayana 
>> and Mahabharata with the stress on the penultimate syllable, but with 
>> a non-Spanish reduction of the preceding vowel).  Mr. Fleming did 
>> this with such confidence (following the advice of another great 
>> American showman, P.T. Barnum: "If you don't know how to pronounce a 
>> word, say it LOUD") that he probably helped millions feel reassured 
>> in indulging the same instinct.
>> What causes speakers of North Indian languages such as Hindi to make 
>> a similar shift in some English place names, such as "amriikaa" for 
>> "America"?  Has Portuguese or some other language intervened in the 
>> history of this word?
>> --G.
>> Dominik Wujastyk wrote:
>>> Some notes on English word stress rules:
>>> D

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