Pronunciation Guide

PRONUNCIATION GUIDE…. One of the low points in the right’s criticism of Obama during the presidential campaign came in October, when some conservatives started complaining about the Democrat’s pronunciation of “Pakistan,” with a soft “a.”

The National Review‘s Mark Stein complained at the time that Obama prefers the “exotic pronunciation.” He added, “[O]ne thing I like about Sarah Palin is the way she says ‘Eye-raq’.” The National Review‘s Kathryn Jean Lopez posted an email that argued, “[N]o one in flyover country says Pock-i-stahn. It’s annoying.”

Keeping this spirit alive, the National Review‘s Mark Krikorian argued that the proper pronunciation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s name doesn’t work for him, and he’d like to see other join him in rejecting it. Krikorian started this yesterday

So, are we supposed to use the Spanish pronunciation, so-toe-my-OR, or the natural English pronunciation, SO-tuh-my-er, like Niedermeyer?

…and expanded on this today.

Deferring to people’s own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English (which is why the president stopped doing it after the first time at his press conference) … and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn’t be giving in to. […]

This may seem like carping, but it’s not. Part of our success in assimilation has been to leave whole areas of culture up to the individual, so that newcomers have whatever cuisine or religion or so on they want, limiting the demand for conformity to a smaller field than most other places would. But one of the areas where conformity is appropriate is how your new countrymen say your name, since that’s not something the rest of us can just ignore, unlike what church you go to or what you eat for lunch. And there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there’s a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.

Remember, Krikorian wants us to know this isn’t “carping”; it’s just a white conservative who doesn’t like pronouncing a Latina Supreme Court nominee’s name the way she and her family pronounce it. To “give in” on this would be yet another blow to our collective “assimilation” efforts.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Krikorian doesn’t say Scall’-ee-a or Al’-it-o, and has “adapted” just fine. That nefarious “multiculturalism” strikes again.