92 Comments

  1. I think it’s a ‘breaking the fourth wall’ joke. This request cannot be fulfilled by being read, and the dialogue looks a bit silly because of it. The cartoonist has acknowledged this to the reader by using the words ‘seeing the difference’ instead of ‘hearing the difference’.

    I can’t comment on the Spanish version. I took French in high school.

  2. The joke is subtly different in the two versions.

    Baldo can’t hear the differences between the two pronunciations – common enough in language learning.

    In the English version you also can’t see the difference between the two pronunciations – they’re both written as “Mexico” – so the reader is just as lost as Baldo.

    In the Spanish version there is a visual distinction between the two – “Mexico” vs “México” (with an accent on the “e”). The reader can see a distinction, but Baldo can’t hear (or see) it.

  3. The Spanish version has Baldo and his father saying different words… there’s an accent on the “e” in his father’s version, which is the Spanish spelling.

    The thing is, the actual difference between the English and Spanish pronunciations is not on the accent; it’s in the pronunciation of the ‘x’.

  4. @Powers that is what I thought, but when I was at the US Grand Prix, where Sergio Pérez was a huge draw of Mexican fans, I asked some why they were pronouncing it as in the US, with “Mex” like “ex.” I had been taught the “x” should be a “heh” sound. They said that is how they always pronounced it. So maybe regional variations? Changing language under influence of the northern neighbor?

  5. The Mexican ‘e’ already has a bit of an overtone change from the American ‘e’ in Mexico, especially when preparing for the ‘x’, and without knowing how Mexico was spelled in Spanish, I had not been getting all the way to ‘é’. Going through the 3 sounds on my FrequenSee app 🙂 , I see that the change in overtones has addition(s) and removal(s); might be more of a challenge for some ear structures. Father and son might want to try a different pitch when this problem arises.

  6. In honor of my mother’s side of the family, there’s also the pronunciation difference between “Prague” and “Praha.”

  7. I remember that on the Yucatan peninsula, the letter “X” was generally equivalent to an “SH” sound. I know that this applied to pre-Spanish terms, but I seem to remember I sometimes heard people say “Méschiko”.

  8. While the pronunciation of the “x” is indeed different in Spanish, the e is also pronounced differently — with more of a what we in the states would describe as a “long a” sound.

  9. What Carl said, and Kilby too. Some Spanish dialects sound as different as Alabama and Brooklyn.

    In the newspaper on on the computer screen, there is no visible difference (in the English version). In Sergio’s kitchen, however, the difference should be very audible.

  10. @Daniel J Drazen – Finnish? Also, your comment made me Google how to pronounce “Prague” and apparently I have been saying it wrong for decades.

  11. I don’t know that it is necessarily wrong to pronounce it differently than the natives. After all, few Americans pronounce “Paris” as “Pah-ree”.

  12. It took me a very long time to figure out what Susan’s “mispronunciation” could possibly be, but I finally decided that I’ve been influenced by the German spelling (“Prag“), and that she must be referring to an English vowel shift (perhaps a long “a” sound?)

    P.S. @ Brian in StL – … few Americans pronounce “Paris” as “Pah-ree”

    And those that do usually call it “gay”.

    P.P.S. @ Carl Fink – Apologies for the misguided e-mail a few days ago.

  13. I guess we’re supposed to pronounce it “Prahg” but don’t the natives pronounce it “Praha”?

    Sometimes we don’t just pronounce cities differently; we spell them differently. For example Wien or Vienna. Roma or Rome.

    You people who don’t live anywhere near Boston probably don’t pronounce Massachusetts towns the way we do.

    You say Quincy. We say Quinsy, like the disease. That’s how John Quincy Adams pronounced it.
    You say Medford. We say Meffid.
    You say Worcester. We say Woostah. (Woo as in Woof)
    You say Revere. We say uhVEEah. (Just the slightest hint of an r at the start.)
    You say Harvard. We say Havvid.

  14. A few points:

    1) https://teachmykidsspanish.com/why-do-some-people-speak-spanish-with-a-lisp

    2) Re ‘Mexico’ vs ‘México’ is it as easy to keep ‘x’ vs Carl’s ‘kh’ if you honour the accented ‘é’?

    3) José goes back home to visit family in Mexico. (Or México).

    They ask him what life is like in the USA.

    “It’s great” he says, “the people are so considerate – they even care if I have a good view when I go to the baseball game, or football.”

    “They all stand and ask ‘José, can you see?'”

  15. @MiB – these days you could probably get a replacement for the Cougar badge 3D printed and chrome painted, to complete the allusion.

  16. My Mom said that if she ever wanted to buy a Plymouth Horizon she’d get a blue one and get a license plate that said “BEYOND”.

  17. @ Mike P – In (American) English, an initial “X” is normally rendered as a “Z” sound (thus “zave-i-er“), but in German an “X” retains the “KS” sound (like in “fox”), even when the “X” occurs at the beginning of the word. Thus, a German “Xavier” would be pronounced “ksah-vee-er” (with a short, but extended “a”, or possibly “ksah-veer”). Similarly, in German “Xylophon” is pronounced “ksüh-low-fon” (and no, I’m not about to teach anyone here how to pronounce a German “ü”).

  18. We do the same with an inital ‘X’. Mostly. So yes, ‘zylophone’, ‘zanthan gum’, ‘zenon’, ‘zander’ (as a shortening of Alexander. Where, interestingly, the ‘a’ after the ‘x’ changes from long to short). And Coleridge’s ‘Zanadu’.

    But if one knows a name to be foreign, does one (should one?) attempt to render it ‘correctly’, or as closely as one can?

    Personally I’ve always referred to the band leader as (with ‘ch’ like the Scottish ‘loch’) ‘chav-ee-ay’.

    Place names are another mixed bag of inconsistencies. Unless I’m speaking in French I don’t pronounce Paris as ‘Paree’ or Brussels as ‘Bruxelles’ but I don’t (think I) Anglicise any other place names. Not even Ypres or Aix-en-Provence.

    I’ve adopted ‘Beijing’ and ‘Kolkata’, but not adopted München or Wein. And Kyiv is a recent bit of education.

  19. “… as a shortening of Alexander. Where, interestingly, the ‘a’ after the ‘x’ changes from long to short).”

    The “a” in Alexander is never long. Ah leks aynder?

  20. I’ve heard some people pronounce xylophone as “silliphone.” (English speakers.) I don’t know if there’s an etymological reason for this. Are there other wood words where the x is pronounced as s?

  21. To me, it’s not “Ah” but a straight short ‘A’ in that name, like you could shorten it to “Al”. The case of the ‘x’ is interesting, because isn’t not just a “cks”, but always has a bit of a ‘z’ sound following. That makes the “Zander” shortening work.

    Also, yes, the second ‘a’ is not long. To me, the two ‘a’ sounds are pretty much the same.

  22. To me (and I’m pretty sure the majority of people in England) the two ‘a’ sounds are very not the same, and are very much, for example,

    Alexarnder Armstrong.

  23. Mike P I think the objections were not to your calling them different sounds, which they clearly are, but just to the label “long A” for one of them. For Americans at any rate, “long A” means the diphthong /ey/ – or more generally as we learned in elementary school, there is a long vowel when “it says its own name”.

  24. @ MiB – “…“silliphone” …. I don’t know if there’s an etymological reason for this…”

    It sounds like an intentional (or family) joke, but it might also indicate a hearing effect. The difference between the “Z” and “S” sound is relatively small (whether or not the consonant is “voiced” or “aspirated”). The chemical “xylene” is normally pronounced “zai-leen”, but replacing that with “sai-leen” doesn’t sound like much of a change.

    I have met several Germans who could not distinguish between the (English) “V” and “W” sounds (compare “very well” to “wery vell“, and the meaning should be obvious). This was not a “hearing” problem, it’s simply that this difference does not exist in German (which has the “V” sound, although usually spelled with a “W”, but not the English “W” sound). This error, as well as confusing F/V (in “Life” and “Live“) is very common in Germans speaking English, even among highly educated and even professional speakers.

    P.S. I once heard a German radio announcer talking about a “life concert“, and in the German synchronisation of Star Wars, there are several instances of “Darth Wader“. When I hear that, I always think of Anakin going fly fishing for trout.

  25. Mike P I think the objections were not to your calling them different sounds, which they clearly are

    Do you mean the two instances of ‘a’ in “Alexander”? If so, nothing clear about that. They are the same to me, and Wikitionary agrees for a lot of speakers (hopefully the characters will survive posting, if not there’s a link):

    (General American) IPA(key): /ˌæ.lɨɡˈzæn.dɚ/

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Alexander#Pronunciation

  26. æ.lɨɡˈzɑːn.də for me.

    [audio src="https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a0/LL-Q1860_%28eng%29-Vealhurl-Alexander.wav" /]

  27. @Kilby: “It sounds like an intentional (or family) joke”

    Perilous things. We have a gazebo. For some reason which escapes me we took to pronouncing the 1st 4 letters as in to stare or look, i.e. “gaze bo”.

    I’ve said to my wife that sooner or later someone will hear us and think we think that’s how it should be pronounced.

  28. Thanks for the audio clip, pronouncing Alexander. This is clearly some English accent, not American, maybe RP.

    The two places where there is an orthographic A are indeed two different sounds. Your transcription æ.lɨɡˈzɑːn.də looks good.

    I don’t know what term in common usage is available for the vowel sound in the third syllable, the zɑ . Maybe “broad A”. But absolutely not “long A”!

  29. On “gazebo” — I started to write out an anecdote about how I confused this with “placebo”; but can just link to https://cidu.info/2021/11/06/saturday-morning-oys-november-6th-2021/#comment-96827 where I did it previously.

    Mike P says ‘We have a gazebo. For some reason which escapes me we took to pronouncing the 1st 4 letters as in to stare or look, i.e. “gaze bo”. I’ve said to my wife that sooner or later someone will hear us and think we think that’s how it should be pronounced.’ The thread from November also has a comment from Daniel Drazen https://cidu.info/2021/11/06/saturday-morning-oys-november-6th-2021/#comment-96823 saying that pronunciation can be picked up from that same 1960 movie I was referencing.

    PLUS that thread https://cidu.info/2021/11/06/saturday-morning-oys-november-6th-2021/ has the Mannequin on the Moon panel that led to those comments, with a nicely executed sketch of a gazebo with a half-dozen young men hanging out in it and a woman passerby saying to her friend the caption, “Gazebros”.

    (And here’s a show tune on that latter theme:)

  30. I don’t do the “ahnd” sound as in the audio clip. As mentioned, it sounds like a UK pronunciation. For me that syllable is the same the common American “and”.

  31. @Kilby According to Google translate, it’s pronounced “Pra-ahg” (vowel sounds from the back of the mouth, slightly extended with a slight tonal drop on the second half of the sound – almost as if it were two syllables – and soft glottal stop on the “g”). I pronounced it “Prog” (vowel sounds from the middle/front of the mouth, no tonal drop, and a hard glottal stop on the “g”)

  32. Susan, are you sure you mean glottal and not maybe velar?

    My casual American pronunciation of Prague is simply a rhyme for frog.

  33. Thanks to Susan for following up for the sake of my instatiable curtiosity. I cannot say anything about the “correct” pronunciation of the English transcription, but the typical German spelling & pronunciation (of “Prag“) comes close to the way you wrote it. According to Wikipedia, the Czech pronunciation is very close to the original spelling (“Praha“). Let’s see if WordPress is willing to embed an “.ogg” file:

    [audio src="https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c7/Cs-Praha.ogg" /]

  34. @Brian in StL “I don’t do the “ahnd” sound as in the audio clip. As mentioned, it sounds like a UK pronunciation.”
    Well, yes.

  35. @Susan T-0 – a bit like the Spanish pronounciation of the ‘g’ in,for example, ‘pagés’?

  36. For me, Prague has a different vowel sound than “frog”. I live in a part of the US that doesn’t have the “caught/cot” merger, so the vowel from the former is what I would have for the city.

  37. ‘“caught/cot” merger’?

    Mike P, that’s just a term for a certain phonological feature of some varieties of regional American English. Those vowels merge and those two words (for example) are indistinguishable.

    My faculty boss at my last job was from Southern Illinois, and is named Don. Our team visited a local school and reported back about contact with a teacher named Dawn. Don was pleased we found someone who shared his name! But was surprised when we mentioned she was a woman.

    Not the same merger exactly, but there was a principal being honored whom we all knew as Ginny. The honorary street sign used her full name, Virginia. Don wondered aloud how Jenny could be a nickname for Virginia. We all said, Oh Ginny is quite normally a nickname for Virginia, and Don said, Exactly what I’m asking, how is Jenny like Virginia?

  38. @Dana K, yes, velar, thank you for the correction. @Mike P, sort of? If you make the sound of a hard “g” there’s a puff of air that comes out of your mouth. For Prague, you end the “g” sound just before that puff of air is produced, if that makes any sense. (Please note that I’m not a linguist of any sort, and am going by what it sounds like to my admittedly old and grey ears).

  39. @Mitch4. Thanks. For a small country the UK is home to a ludicrous number of regional accents, some so different as to render them incomprehensible. I used to work in London with a guy from Glasgow. If you spoke with him you’d say he was Scottish. If you had a better ear you’d probably pick up that he was from Gasgow, not Edinburgh. But he was completely comprehensible. We once took a business trip together, to Glasgow, and on our journey from the airport after landing there he was chatting to the taxi driver. By the time we got to the hotel I could no longer understand a word he was saying.

  40. I watch a LOT of British shows (Shetland, other detective shows, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, etc.), and the captioning from YT can’t do a decent job on many of the dialects because it’s auto-generated; DVDs are much better at it. Australian shows, much the same.

    I was once on a train in England, and some kids were talking; I asked what language they were speaking. ‘English’, was the response. I realized later it was probably Geordie.

    I spent a few days with a Scottish friend, and I was able to understand her after a bit of conversation.

  41. Knowing about “the pin/pen merger” lets you provide an answer to the question “why do some dialects use the term inkpen?” .

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