Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oh, Nguyen the saints go marching in...

In a phone conversation at work this morning, the Vietnamese surname Nguyen came up (where I was reading it to someone else), and I pronounced it the way I learned it in high school: Like “nwen,” with only a light emphasis on the first N sound. (I had a classmate with that name who taught it to me after one too many “nah-GOO-yen”s, and his version has never been corrected when I’ve since spoken it to other people I’ve known with the same last name.)

Out of curiosity, I decided to look up the proper way of pronouncing Nguyen, figuring that because it is such a common Vietnamese surname, there would be a lot of information on the right way to say it. Many of the sites I checked out were message boards, and I was surprised to see how many variations people described. One site suggested that there were so many because of how it’s been Anglicized over the past few decades (due to the influx of Vietnamese coming here during and after the war), and because by now there’s a second generation of American-born Vietnamese children who have learned their names from their American-born parents, not their grandparents.

The funniest thing I read, and the real reason why I’m blogging about it (even though it’s probably offensive) is one message board post I read, which states:

“The first three letters (Ngu) are pronounced like the English -Sm- sound as in small. The last three letters (Yen) are pronounced like the English -Ith- sound like in the word with.”

1 Talked Back:

At March 25, 2008 at 12:51:00 AM CDT, Blogger Katie said...

HA! That was awesome. I snorted and everything after sounding it out like an idiot. :-)


Okay, now it's your turn | Home