Thursday, 28 November 2013

The J is pronounced Y



After a lifetime of having my surname mispronounced, misspelled and misunderstood, it is absolutely delightful – and I should also add very odd – to live in a place where my name is understood by everyone, where I don’t even have to ever spell it, and not only that, half the village (OK maybe not half but many, many people) have the same surname as me. 

The cause of this mispronunciation, misspelling and misunderstanding all has to do with the letter J. Growing up in an English-speaking country, my surname was invariably mispronounced because in Croatian (like in many other European languages) the J is pronounced like a Y. 

It could have been worse. I once had a Croatian friend in Canada who had an even harder time than me: the first four letters of her surname were all consonants! At least my family name has a few vowels thrown in for ease of pronunciation. Not that this really helped… I have heard so many distorted and convoluted variations of my surname it’s not even funny. It’s amazing how a J can completely throw people off. Actually, I would be happy if anyone managed to pronounce it right even with the erroneous J sound thrown in. But those exceptional few who pronounced the J like a Y right off the bat (and they were very few and far between) instantly got a big shiny star in my books. 

Then at some point I decided it was time to put things straight. How difficult is it to understand that the J is pronounced like a Y?? Everyone knows how to say Sarajevo and AFC Ajax… So I decided that from that point on, I would gently point out to anyone attempting to pronounce my surname that the J is pronounced Y

So it’s a big relief that for the first time in my life, there is no need to repeat or even spell my surname. It is immediately understood, and duly noted down correctly, not a letter out of place. 

However, I am now confronted by a new problem… this time by my first name! Isabel is not a Croatian name at all so it is often mispronounced or misspelled by Croatian speakers. Being a phonetic language, the S in Croatian is pronounced with a soft ‘sss’ sound, so my name here becomes Isssabel (which I got used to hearing in India). Written down, it is invariably spelled Izabel – which I kinda like! 

I can live with that.

9 comments:

  1. Ah yes! I hear you on this, I love here how my surname is always spelt with the 'j' but in Australia people write it like the flower 'Begonia' BUT now the Jane in my name is prounouced 'yana', so I giggle when it's said this way.

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    1. Sounds like you have the same first name problem as me now!

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  2. :-) I've been a big lurker on your Indiaoutsidemywindow blog and absolutely love it. Yes, I can see how it would irk you to have your name pronounced the way it shouldn't be. With a name as simple as Vidya, I have issues too, both with spelling and pronunciation.

    Izabel sounds lovely!

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    1. Welcome to my window Vidya! I agree, a name like Vidya is quite simple. Strange how people manage to mess it up.

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  3. Quite interesting..... But then English itself is so conffusing.... Most of the alphabets are not pronounced, the way they should be.... That's my personal view though.... :)

    But, I knew most of the pronounceations for these names, because of my following of Tennis, Football and Cycling races (The tour, Giro, Vuelta... and of course the monuments and classics)..

    Thanks for your thoughts Isabel...

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    1. True! English is not at all phonetic and some words can be very difficult to pronounce for non-native speakers.

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  4. Start spelling your name Isjabel? ;-) Enjoyed this; it must be so nice to feel "at home" in that sense. un bacio, Elizabeth

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  5. Well, this is a nice blog to discover.
    I'm a Croat who moved to Japan for 18 months, and have a similar name-reading issue. My name switched from Mihael to Mihaeru, which is kinda ok. Makes it sound like a name for a cat (a Japanese cat, though). But my last name, Grbić, switched to Gurubitchi, but it is often read 'garbage'. Which is not soooo bad, if you don't have to use it too often. Like a person giving talks at seminars and conferences, which I do -.-. What can I say? Putain...
    I hope you will enjoy Istria. I go for summer holidays there and just love it.

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  6. Welcome to my window Mihaeru! Interesting to read about your experience in Japan. The Japanese seem to stick in vowels everywhere!

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