Saturday, March 22, 2008

Say what?

So, have you ever wondered if the way you pronounce certain things is correct? What is correct anyway? pah-tay-toe / puh-tah-toe, etc. No, I don’t mean common words which get pronounced based on the region you find them uttered… I mean names of companies that have themselves established a correct way to pronounce their own names. The problem is that with a lot of companies we never really get to hear the “official” pronunciation in everyday life, unless it’s McDonalds “Welcome to McDonalds, can I take your order?” or Wal-Mart “Welcome to Wal-Mart, bla bla bla?” This is especially true with international companies where their pronunciation is sometimes different in their native tongue.

The reason I bring this up is because today I was watching a video review of the new Asus Eee. I know, whoa, what? First of all, if you don’t already know, Asus is a huge Chinese computer company. If you have an HP computer then your motherboard is most likely built by them. The Eee is their new lightweight subnotebook thing. All of this is fine and dandy, what got to me was the pronunciation of Asus by the journalists. They said Aye-soos (rhymes with obtuse), not Aye-suss (rhymes with bus). What on earth? So I investigated and found an official Asus commercial: I guess I’ve been wrong my entire life referring to my motherboard as an aye-suss, it’s actually a soos. So suess me!

This got me thinking, what other companies are we pronouncing incorrectly? I decided to come up with a little list (people love lists, it’s a fact!):

Oh man there is a whole subculture devoted to how this name is pronounced. First, let’s go to the videotape: If you’re not into the sentimental stuff you can skip to 2:15. So, it’s settled right? Pore-shuh. Done. Not quite. The proper way to pronounce Porsche is definitely the way they do at the end of that commercial but over the years a certain stigma has attached itself to that variation of the name. Snootiness and snobbery come to mind. Those of us who wish to refer to the iconic brand without sounding like we just got back from getting our $300 haircuts prefer the subtly-sublime Pore-shh (rhymes with, uhh… borscht but without the t.) So, yea, I guess it all depends on how you want to come off sounding (arrogant or ignorant?)

Honestly I never thought that there was another way to say IKEA but apparently there are at least 4 ways: eye-key-uh, eye-kay-uh, ee-key-ah, ee-kay-ah, plus all the combinations you can make out of those. In any case it turns out that IKEA is actually an acronym the founder Ingvar Kamprad made up using his own name and the farm where he was born. So now we’re talking about how to pronounce an acronym and everyone knows that there is no proper way to pronounce an acronym name: IBM, LG, UPS or 3M anyone? (ih-biyumm, leh-jee, oops, and thream!) But Ikea is actually pronounceable and they have gone so far as to take an official stance on how it should be pronounced in English-speaking regions: it rhymes with idea. Ok then. Not like anyone was thinking of calling it Icky-yeah or something…

This one still irks me because for a while I was actually convinced that I was wrong when I really wasn’t. Ubisoft is a French company that makes some really popular video games like the Tom Clancy series, Rayman, Assassin’s Creed, you name it. I always thought they were called You-bee-soft until going to E3 one year and hearing a lot of talk about Ooh-bee-soft. I thought it must be a French thing. Maybe it is because this “official” explanation from some local Ubisoft developers says otherwise:
Maybe it’s different in France but you-bee-bet I’m gonna stick with You-bee-soft and be done with it.

Yea another car company, but this one seems to throw me off all the time when it comes up in conversation:

friend: “Hey so I was thinking of going with the new Hyundai, they have a great warranty!”
me: “Yeah there’s a reason Hun-dies, err, Hun-days, umm, Hi-yoon-days, you know… those Korean automotive masterpieces come with such an extended warranty! Actually, I’ve heard they’re a lot better nowadays.”

So, which way is correct? Hun-day it is! Although sometimes it’s fun to go Hi before You and Die, you know? No? I could probably write a whole post focusing on car companies so I’ll just stop now.

Ralph Lauren.
Is this another case of people pronouncing a name differently to sound haughty? I believe so. According to this article in the WSJ the correct way to pronounce American designers is to be blunt and just say it how you see it. So it probably isn’t Ralph Luh-wren but just Ralph Law-ren. Dee-en’d.

What have we learned? That some companies are secretive and don’t want to choose a stance on how their name is pronounced, while several simply change based on your location, others get mispronounced by people who want to sound self-important, and finally there are some establishments who want you to pronounce their name any which way you please, like us: Gee-Cool or Geek-cool? You decide.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Welcome to geeKeWL

Welcome to geeKeWL. Yes, gK is yet another blog in a world that (arguably) already has way too many of these self-indulgent things in it. Oh well – gK will hopefully find a place amongst the titans and prove itself to be insightful, valuable, and maybe even a little fun.