Friday, October 10, 2008

When in Roma ...

… one might try to speak Latin, or Italian, so as to be understood. When in America, or even some other English-speaking country, one might speak English, for the same purpose. We don't say "Deutschland," we say "Germany." The French don't say "Deutschland" either, nor do they say "Germany," they say "Allemagne." The affected pronunciations of the candidates in Tuesday's debate led to some discussion over at The Corner, which led to this delightful piece by Jay Nordlinger, “Gutter” Politics. A sample:

Last winter, I was thinking of starting a "Torino Watch." Why? Katie Couric was broadcasting from the Salt Lake City Olympics, and she was looking forward to the next Winter Olympics, to be held in . . . "Torino," she said. Why she said "Torino," instead of good ol' Turin, is shrouded in mystery. Would-be sophisticates are always saying "Torino" instead of Turin and "Milano" instead of Milan. But, oddly, they don't say Roma — except "when in Rome," presumably — and they don't say "Venezia" (Venice), "Firenze" (Florence), or "Napoli" (Naples).

Even I, though, draw the line at "Leghorn": I say Livorno. But this puts me at odds with Winston Churchill, who wrote to his foreign secretary in 1941, "If you approve I should like Livorno to be called in the English — Leghorn." Though "if at any time you are conversing agreeably with Mussolini in Italian, Livorno would be correct." This is the same Churchill who would write, four years later, "I do not consider that names that have been familiar for generations in England should be altered to study the whims of foreigners living in those parts." Without a firm stand, "the B.B.C. will be pronouncing Paris 'Paree.' Foreign names were made for Englishmen, not Englishmen for foreign names."
But if you don't call the city "Leghorn," then how are the kids to know where the chickens come from?

Update, Dec 3: Althouse is changing her "Mumbai" tag to "Bombay."


Darcy said...


Love Jay Nordlinger. He's always delightful. :)

Hector Owen said...

Hi Darcy, thanks for stopping by. I wanted to use the last paragraph from the Nordlinger piece for my excerpt, but Blogger choked on the name of the capital of Thailand. Couldn't display a word that was 168 letters long. Software lags behind hardware, again.

Hector Owen said...