A long time ago, in a faraway galaxy, a world possessed exactly the same pronunciation snobbery as ours…
For those who live on another planet, and especially for those who wish they did, the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy based on the works of Tolkien has been recently complemented by a ‘prequel’ called The Hobbit. Most see the Lord of the Rings as a highlight in the sci-fi and fantasy genres of film and there are many reasons to agree.
One thing that might attract us to the genres resides in their unnerving contradiction. The more fantastical a movie attempts to be; the more accurately it portrays the social relations of our world. The converse also applies. Gritty TV dramas attempting to portray reality are often quite fantastical. If you want to understand America of the 1950s, watch The Forbidden Planet before you see Mr Ed the Talking Horse.
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Australia, we suck at pronunciation. After all, we’re the country that can barely pronounce its own name. Aus-tray-lia? It’s Straya, mate. Love it or leave it.
Peoples’ names? Nope, too hard. Yesterday, Puncher Anthony Sharwood took to the streets to conduct a hilarious survey for News.com.au about our seventh most popular last name: Nguyen. Most streetfolk challenged to say the name properly answered with some variation of neg-ewe-yen (proper pronunciation right here). One bloke even asked if the Vietnamese surname was Aboriginal.
Riiiiight. And Nguyen’s just the tip of the iceberg. People often say the Chinese surname, Zhang, as zang. It’s jung. I can name at least two Greek families I know who have last names six syllables long. Most people can’t say them - and most Greek surnames are fairly phonetic.
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