Saturday, September 05, 2009

On the spelling of names

A useful reminder and guide, from "The Pedant", Oliver Kamm, with an understated satirical wink at the politics of some of the bearers of these hard-to-spell names (for your convenience I italicized the relevant sentences):

"1 Nikita Khrushchev. An accurate transliteration has three hs. There is no legitimate alternative spelling. When Justin Webb cited on his BBC blog “the Krushchev-Kennedy analogy” to the recent Obama-Medvedev summit, he was wrong.

2 François Mitterrand. There are two r’s in the late French President’s surname.

3 Condoleezza Rice. The former US Secretary of State has a double z in her first name.

4 Zbigniew Brzezinski. The US National Security Adviser under President Carter has two z’s in his surname. Given the common consonant and role (Rice had the same job in President George W. Bush’s first term), it is worth thinking of these names together.

5 Clement Attlee. Another frequently overlooked double consonant: there are two t’s in the surname of the Labour Prime Minister.

6 Alistair Darling but Alastair Campbell. The political journalist’s pitfall: there are variant spellings of this common Scottish name. (The broadcaster Alastair Stewart has been known to comment ruefully on his own dual problem in this respect.) 7 Aneurin Bevan but Ernest Bevin. Two immense figures in the postwar Labour Government often had their names confused. Surprisingly, it still happens.

8 Gandhi. Whether Mohandas, Indira or Rajiv, the h comes late and not early. (A recent Telegraph interview with Tony Benn referred to his having known “everyone, from Ramsay MacDonald and Oswald Mosley to Ghandi and Mandela”.)

9 Gerhard Schröder. The name of the former German Chancellor has an umlaut. It would be pronounced differently without it."

Kamm does not tell us how


would be pronounced without the umlaut. Though I get the impression that it is significant in some way. I guess that underhanded barb can only be understood by German speakers (Oliver Kamm is almost frighteningly erudite, and a master of the understated sneer, a bit like Hitchens without the cockiness).


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