Pronunciation of Dutch names vs anglo-Australian naming

Gosh, Dutch names are hard to pronounce correctly. I just finished a business phone call to South Africa, and the person I was after had the surname of “Van Wyk”. My British/Australian upbringing tells me to pronounce that as “Van Wick”. So I did, and was met with complete and utter bafflement as to who I was after. On realising that I was a) not making a crank call b) calling from overseas c) after a person who did work there, the kindly secretary gave me a brief pronunciation lesson, and it’s pronounced “Van Veek”, as far as I could tell. The secretary also assured me that they probably couldn’t pronounce Australian names properly either… but I didn’t have to heart to tell them that actually no, they’d probably be fine, as anglo-Australians use surnames fairly sparingly, and often like to name people with very short words (example first names/nicknames: “Sharon”, “Kylie”, “Gazza”, “Mark”), and to name places in a relatively unimaginative fashion (e.g. Sydney has a harbour, so it’s called “Sydney Harbour”; there’s a bridge over that water, so it’s called the “Sydney Harbour Bridge”; there’s a tunnel under that water, so it’s called the “Sydney Harbour Tunnel”; the other side of the water is to the north, so it’s called the “North Shore”; the suburbs to the east/south/west of the city are called the eastern/southern/western suburbs; and so on and so forth). Personally, I quite like the shortness and simplicity of this style of naming, but as a consequence, I suspect it results in many Aussie names being comparatively easy to pronounce. Of course, Aboriginal place names are harder, but these generally use phonetic spelling.

1 Comment

  1. zhasper said,

    July 23, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    except, of course, that the eastern suburbs are to the south, the northern suburbs are to the east, the northern beaches are east of the north shore….

    At least dutch/german/afrikaans all have consistent translations between pronunciation and spelling – “w” is always pronounced as we’d (usually) pronounce “v”, etc. Just look at the “ough” mess in english, or the wikipedia entry for “ghoti” to see how terrible english is..