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How Do You Pronounce Nietzsche: Of Nietzsche and Lingerie

Everyone’s met the haughty pronunciation Nazi who insists on correcting our pronunciation of foreign words.  In academic circles, you’ll often hear, “It’s ‘neechay’, not ‘neechee’ or ‘neeshee’.”  I don’t speak German, but I’m pretty sure any native German speaker would laugh at their “proper pronunciation”.  So really, who the fuck cares?

Have you ever stabbed a pronunciation Nazi in the ear?  I like to mispronounce words on purpose, just to lure them in.  I’ll pronounce “lingerie” as if it were an English word (as in “linger”).  You can see their pupils dilate and their nostrils flair up.  They burst out a “correction” like a pimple popping out a pus of an atrocity: “It’s ‘lawjeray’!”

“Non, c’est prononcé ‘lingerie’, et en tout cas, le sens du mot en anglais est complètement mutilé,” I’ll respond in a perfect French accent.  (No, it’s pronounced “lanjerie” (silent “n” and soft “j”), and in any case, the meaning of the word in English is completely mutilated.)  (“Lingerie” in French doesn’t necessarily mean sexy women’s undergarments.  It could mean undergarments in general or even “linen room”.)

Upon being emphatically one-upped, the pronunciation Nazi will resort to the argument that “Well, that’s how it’s pronounced in English.”  Okay, so your way of mangling the word is the proper way of mangling the word?  If we’re going to mangle the word, why not at least make it a phonetic mangling?  What bugs me is that ‘lawjeray’ seems like a clumsy attempt at emulating the French pronunciation, and conversely, if I were to pronounce it with a proper French accent while speaking English, I may very well be scorned for that as well.  It all seems so absurd.

There is one argument in favour of the pronunciation Nazi, however, which is that since everybody understands the “properly mangled” pronunciation, it facilitates communication.  To describe how I feel about this, I’m going to import another word:  “lächerlich”.  This one is properly pronounced, “What the fuck, you stupid fucking sheep blindly following somebody’s mistake and so condescendingly championing it as correct so that now the smart people who can see your mistake are forced to follow suit against their better judgment.  Fuck you.  I say that with love.”

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2 Responses to "How Do You Pronounce Nietzsche: Of Nietzsche and Lingerie"

  1. Pacha says:

    Funnily enough I mentioned his name to my french girlfriend last night and she pronounced it completly differently. But we all know the french like to be different eh 😉

    1. The French can pronounce things any way they want. Somehow, that accent makes everything sound cool. N’est-ce pas?

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