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.