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Pronouncing "Volokh":

A reader asked me about this today, and a radio interviewer didn't ask me, with (in my view) unfortunate results. OK, not that unfortunate, because I'm pretty easygoing about this -- when you bring an unusual name to a foreign country, you have to expect that people won't always pronounce it the way you do. But if you want to humor me, please say it in a way that rhymes with "Pollock" (with the accent on the first syllable, of course). It's not the standard Russian pronunciation, but it's the one I use myself in English.

cboldt (mail):
Is that "Pole" or "Pall"? Asked another way, "Polack" as in person from Poland, or "Pollock" the fish?
5.27.2009 6:37pm
David Schwartz (mail):
I think the Klingon pronunciation sounds best. Vo'LoQ!
5.27.2009 6:38pm
krs:
same question as cboldt... the analogy doesn't help me, as "Pollock" isn't familiar to me either.

perhaps a video with you pronouncing your name with an exasperated look on your face...
5.27.2009 6:38pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Rhymes with "frolic."
5.27.2009 6:42pm
kimsch (mail) (www):
Didn't Michael J. Fox pronounce it Eugene Voe-lock in that episode of Boston Legal?
5.27.2009 6:42pm
Oren:

I think the Klingon pronunciation sounds best. Vo'LoQ!

ROFLMAO. Thread over. Next!
5.27.2009 6:44pm
cboldt (mail):
Frolic works great. Like Pollock the fish. "Pall", not "Pole" And all along, I've been saying the name with a long "O" in the first syllable.
5.27.2009 6:44pm
John Armstrong (mail) (www):
Nobody knows anything about art anymore, I see.

Actually, I'd have mispronounced it. A lifetime around mathematics departments and you get to know a lot about Russian pronunciation. But if Prof. Volokh wants the accent on the first syllable, so be it.
5.27.2009 6:44pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
This is a nice example of why the International Phonetic Alphabet should be taught in schools.
5.27.2009 6:48pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Where to put the stress in a Russian name is a peculiarly tetchy problem, at least for me. I am so at sea with, say, French words and names that my main strategy is, frankly, to avoid having to do so at all; but with Russian names there is the tempattion to guess, because your odds are decent.

Some years ago I was talking to a professor of mine (an authority on Russian music, Shostakovich among other things) about a book whose two authors' surnames were Ho and Feofanov. I accented the latter name on the second syllable, and my professor immediately asked why. I said, frankly, that it was a guess.

It seems that while this particular Feofanov does happen to put the accent on the second syllable, ordinarily in Russian it would go on the third. So he wondered where I'd gotten it from.

Having gone through unmarried life as Michelle Dulak, the surname almost always changed to either "du Lac" (by people who see the "Michelle" and think "ah, it's French!") or "Dullock" (by telemarketers and only by telemarketers, for reasons I haven't figured out to this day), now I get to be a Thomson-with-no-"p" on top of it ;-)
5.27.2009 6:48pm
krs:
Thanks, Sasha.
5.27.2009 6:48pm
J. Aldridge:
When I first heard it pronounced (not from Eugene) it sounded like VOL-awk.
5.27.2009 6:52pm
Bobsyerunckle (mail):
For better or worse, I always just think:

Never Mind the Volokhs, Here's the Sex Pistols
5.27.2009 6:53pm
Putting Two and Two...:

It's not the standard Russian pronunciation, but it's the one I use myself in English.


Egads! Another descriptivist/proscriptivsit dilemma!

I can go along with the altered vowel pronunciation and the shift in accented syllable, but I cannot and will not tolerate the duplication of what is obviously a single "l".

From now on, it's Vo"ll"okh to me. Sort of like same-sex "marriage" for some regular posters on the VC.
5.27.2009 6:59pm
Ohismith (mail):
Then how are we to pronounce "Sotomayor"--blogger Krikorian says that the Judge should pronounce it English-like, and not put the emphasis on the last syllable as they apparently do in Puerto Rico.
5.27.2009 7:13pm
Mark E.Butler (mail):
I'll go with the Professor's pronunciation, but only if everyone agrees to prononce "Himalaya" as hɪ'mɑlijə.
5.27.2009 7:16pm
Grigor:
Sorry, Professor, but as an immigrant you don't get to say how your name is pronounced -- at least according to the reliably intemperate Krikorian at The Corner, who decrees that "deferring to people's own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits." One of those limits (just to tie together a few of today's threads) being that "Sotomayor" should be pronounced in the "natural English way" as "Sodamyer," like the good old English yeoman name Niedermeyer.
5.27.2009 7:18pm
M N Ralph:
Hmm. I always thought it rhymed with "la coke."
5.27.2009 7:22pm
AJK:
This totally blows my mind.
5.27.2009 7:23pm
Dave N (mail):
J. Aldredge,

I had always thought it "Voe' lok"--damn you Boston Legal--but I will now force myself to mentally pronounce it "Vo lik"

I consider it a matter of courtesy to pronounce a person's name the way that person prefers--even when pronouncing it to myself.
5.27.2009 7:27pm
kimsch (mail) (www):
Of course, the Eugene Volokh on Boston Legal was a janitor...
5.27.2009 7:28pm
Dave N (mail):
Grigor,

Is that "Nee-der-my-er" or "Ny-der-my-er"?
5.27.2009 7:29pm
Grigor:
Dunno, you'd have to ask Krikorian. Just stand back when you get the answer, to keep the foam off you.
5.27.2009 7:34pm
jcz (mail):
Dave N
"I consider it a matter of courtesy to pronounce a person's name the way that person prefers--even when pronouncing it to myself."

That's why I asked...
5.27.2009 7:36pm
CDR D (mail):
Then how are we to pronounce "Sotomayor"--blogger Krikorian says that the Judge should pronounce it English-like, and not put the emphasis on the last syllable as they apparently do in Puerto Rico.



Yeah, I've been hearing the latter all over the place. Before that I had assumed that it was pronounced like a fellow I knew with the same name. He pronounced it in a way that rhymed with "sodomizer".
5.27.2009 7:36pm
kimsch (mail) (www):
the ie in Niedermeyer renders it nee-der-my-er in proper German pronunciation. if it were Neidermeyer it would be ny-der-my-er.

That being said, my last name Schratwieser, is pronounced shrat-wyzer as anglicized when proper pronunciation should be shraat-weezer.

Talking caller ID says skrat-weezer, as does the Microsoft voice in Excel and Word.
5.27.2009 7:37pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Jackson Pollock, I assume? I admit I thought that was how it was pronounced.

So, pray tell, can you give us [phonetically] the standard Russian pronunciation?

(Speaking of Klingons and ST, is there a hand signal that goes with saying the name?)
5.27.2009 7:48pm
The Cabbage (mail):
Is that "Nee-der-my-er" or "Ny-der-my-er"?

IS THAT A PLEDGE PIN ON YOUR UNIFORM????
5.27.2009 7:50pm
JohnO (mail):
The Cabbage:

You're worthless and weak. Now drop and give me twenty.

How's it feel to be an independent, Schoenstein?
5.27.2009 8:07pm
Malvolio:
Then how are we to pronounce "Sotomayor"--blogger Krikorian says that the Judge should pronounce it English-like, and not put the emphasis on the last syllable as they apparently do in Puerto Rico.
The English-like way is pretty much like the Puerto Rican way: so-to-muh-YOUR.

Yes, the "t" is voiceless (as in "tot", not as in "dot"), which makes it sound more Hispanic. And yes, the stress is the last syllable, so it doesn't sound like "Studebaker".

If you want to go full-bore PR, trill the "r" a bit.
5.27.2009 8:11pm
AlanDownunder (mail):
aw c'mon, what's sauce for the SotomayOR is sauce for the VoloKH
5.27.2009 8:36pm
e:
Damn. I had been pronouncing it as VAH-lach (with a gutteral ch) for years.

Frolic?
5.27.2009 8:40pm
geokstr (mail):
This is no big deal. Why, my pro football team, the Green Bay Packers, had a quarterback for many years who couldn't even pronounce his own name correctly.
5.27.2009 8:49pm
kevin r (mail):
My guess, knowing little about Russian or Ukrainian pronunciation, was "VOE-loch" (like Loch Ness).

I am sympathetic, having a German last name. My family has Americanized one of the vowels, so it sounds a little different than the correct German way. I would be fine if someone said the name in the German pronunciation, but usually they manage to miss completely, sometimes in ways I can never figure out.
5.27.2009 8:57pm
kimsch (mail) (www):
Kevin, I get Schwartzenegger a lot. Probably because of the SCH starter and that it's Germanic. I also once got Schitwister. They even called and asked for Mrs. Shit-wister.
5.27.2009 9:03pm
Dave N (mail):
My family law professor was Lee Teitelbaum, who, not so coincidentally, wrote the casebook we used in his class, a fact lost on at least one of my colleagues.

In any event, one day she raised her hand and said, "As Teetle-baum wrote..."

Without missing a beat, and with a straight face, my professor said quietly, "I believe he pronounces it 'Title-baum.'"

She looked very confused as the rest of the class burst out laughing.
5.27.2009 9:07pm
GainesvilleGuest (mail):
What is the proper Russian pronunciation?
5.27.2009 9:27pm
Jmaie (mail):
That being said, my last name Schratwieser, is pronounced shrat-wyzer as anglicized when proper pronunciation should be shraat-weezer.


Wouldn't that be shraat-veezer?
5.27.2009 9:44pm
kimsch (mail) (www):
Yes, you are correct. I'm a little tired...
5.27.2009 9:50pm
Hoosier:
It's spelled "Volokh," but it's pronounced "Throatwarbler-Mangrove."
5.27.2009 9:58pm
Hoosier:
geokstr
This is no big deal. Why, my pro football team, the Green Bay Packers, had a quarterback for many years who couldn't even pronounce his own name correctly

And then there's that. I could never figure that one out.
5.27.2009 9:59pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Hoosier,

That'd be "spelt," not "spelled." ;-)
5.27.2009 10:09pm
Ricardo (mail):
Talk to Indian immigrants who are stuck with a last name that when accurately transliterated into English is spelled Dikshit. A fair number of people with this somewhat unfortunate last name wind up spelling it Dixit in English and pronouncing the "X" sound rather than the "ksh" sound as they would in Hindi. I think those who use the "X" in the spelling would rather prefer Americans did not try to render a faithful pronunciation.
5.27.2009 10:20pm
Hoosier:
Michelle

Wow. My bad. Thanks for catching that before I got into a lorry-load of trouble.

Ricardo

I think those who use the "X" in the spelling would rather prefer Americans did not try to render a faithful pronunciation.

Yeah, but come on. The name is "Dikshit."

I mean it's "Dikshit."
5.27.2009 10:26pm
Tracy Johnson (www):
Eugene,

Those of us VESoft customers of course, know better.
5.27.2009 10:35pm
J.R.L.:
You mean the V is really a V and not a W? I thought maybe it would be pronounced like that of former Montreal Expos third basemen Tim Wallach!
5.27.2009 11:28pm
Wings:
The proper pronunciation might be something like:

vəlokh

Where ə is halfway between an a and an o, the accent is on the o (so the second syllable), and the "kh" is the "kh" sound (Russian х)
5.28.2009 12:04am
JWG (mail):

Dixit --> It is actually pronounced Dheekshith, with a soft D and soft T, long (stress on) first syllable and short second syllable in its original Sanskrit.
5.28.2009 1:57am
J.T. Wenting (mail):
You write "Volokh", you say "Sir".
5.28.2009 3:28am
ReaderY:
How's the Volokh Bagman Act of 2009 doing?
5.28.2009 4:25am
pintler:

This is no big deal. Why, my pro football team, the Green Bay Packers, had a quarterback for many years who couldn't even pronounce his own name correctly

And then there's that. I could never figure that one out.


I can relate. My father and uncles disagreed on the pronunciation of our name. I just adopted a potato/potahto worldview :-).
5.28.2009 8:35am
Nick P.:
cboldt,

What is your accent? To my ear, "frolic," and "pollock" (the fish) sound similar, but "pall" is very different.
5.28.2009 9:17am
newshutz (mail):
I think I will continue my mispronounciation of the name, but will put more a more explosive quality to the second syllable.

Vo'LoQ!

I think a Klingon would be an even better lawyer than a unfrozen caveman.
5.28.2009 9:29am
JB:
I always pronounced it voe-loak (as in foe-oak).

It's interesting how many ways there are to pronounce things in English. Would a German, for instance, or a Spaniard come up with anywhere near as many possibilities?
5.28.2009 9:45am
Aeon J. Skoble (mail):
I feel your pain.
5.28.2009 10:14am
Spartacus (www):
Rhymes with "frolic."

Since thsi is from Sascha, I'm hesitant to question, but isn't "Pollock" (as in Jackson) or "Bollock" (as in Never Mind the) closer? Frolic has a final syllable that more or less rhymes with "lick." Is that right?
5.28.2009 10:19am
Hoosier:
I never stay on threads that discuss the "Klingon" "language." So I'm going off to listen to Dinosaur jr.

Bye.
5.28.2009 11:27am
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
viva la schwa

I live with an Americanization of Stasiewicz. No one ever guesses that we pronounce the "sie" as either "sha" or "shoe". Neither of which is even close to the proper Polish
5.28.2009 1:52pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
Well, then for years now I've been telling people to visit the wrong blog.
5.28.2009 1:58pm
John M. Perkins (mail):
But how would Pavel Andreievich Chekov pronounce Eugene Volokh?

My favorite is Alton Brown of the Food Network. That's "Alton as in Albany, Georgia, not Alton as in Albany, New York."
5.28.2009 3:18pm
dearieme:
I once knew an American called Koch. He didn't mind the Scottish pronunciation of his name but winced at the English one.
5.28.2009 6:33pm
geokstr (mail):

pintler:


This is no big deal. Why, my pro football team, the Green Bay Packers, had a quarterback for many years who couldn't even pronounce his own name correctly

And then there's that. I could never figure that one out.

I can relate. My father and uncles disagreed on the pronunciation of our name. I just adopted a potato/potahto worldview :-).

But it's one thing to not pronounce a name or a word the same because there is disagreement over the sound of a given letter or letters, and quite another to pronounce same with the letters in a totally different order than the spelling, non?
5.29.2009 10:20am
Hoosier:
"Bullocks" (?)
5.29.2009 6:26pm

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