Saturday, September 25, 2021

who shall decide when linguists disagree?

One of the most amusing, when it isn't frustrating, parts of the internet is its ability to give multiple conflicting answers to any question. Anything to do with how to fix a problem with your computer definitely falls in this category - usually I collect ten or twelve different solutions and none of them work - and so do song lyrics. I'm not going to bother checking to see what you get now, but I once looked up the lyrics to Jefferson Starship's "We Built This City," and got one line transcribed as:
Ma Coley plays the mamba / While Tony plays the mamba / Marconi plays the mamba / Marconi does the mamba / Marconi played the mambo / Marcone plays the mamba / My pony plays the mamba
Anyway, I need to phone up and speak in an importuning way to someone, and I ought to pronounce her name correctly. Her surname is Nguyen.

You know, I've seen this common Vietnamese name in print or phosphors dozens, maybe hundreds, of times over the years, but I've never known how to pronounce it. I know, I'll consult the internet. This are just the pronunciations for English-speakers; they're not trying to teach you fluent Vietnamese here.
Quora: nuh-we-in (with a long e and a short i); nwee-EN; noo-yen; nu-win; ng-wi-ng (others say do not pronounce the g); like "when" in two syllables, whe-en; only one syllable, to use 2 or 3 is like John Cleese's Frenchman saying "kuh-nig-it", so if you can't handle proper Vietnamese just say "winn".
YouTube (my transcriptions): nu-wang; when; Gwen; nwhen (one syllable)
But my favorite video is one collecting clips of 7 people named Nguyen saying their names. Result: 4 "win"; 1 "when"; 1 "noo-in"; 1 I couldn't catch but something like "noon". Do we have a consensus?

So while I'm doing all this, I find that YouTube wants to feed me clips of Norm Macdonald telling jokes to Conan O'Brien. I dunno: I never even heard of Norm Macdonald until I read his obituaries, but now I have these jokes. The dirty joke; The shaggy dog story; The ethnic joke; The slightly sick joke.

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