American Culture

Butcher that word up!

Have you ever noticed how people tend to butcher foreign words? It’s probably not just an American thing, but a worldwide thing.

My friends and I got into an interesting conversation today about how a lot of Americans tend to incorrectly pronounce certain Japanese words, such as sake (it’s supposed to be “sa-kei” NOT “saKI”), karaoke (“ka-ra-o-kei”, NOT “carryoki”), and Kyoto (“Kyo-to-“, not “Key-oto”).

It’s not just Japanese/Asian words though–we even butcher European words. One thing that I never realized until last year was that we Americans say “IKEA” wrong. Americans say “EYE-key-A”; the correct way to say the Swedish store’s name is “E-kei-a”.

How did we come about with butchering foreign words? Is it because we just don’t notice the letters in the words, or we just assume the pronunciation? It’s just an amusing topic to me, really; a lot of times I try to say certain familiar Japanese words the “correct Japanese way”, but then nobody really understands what I’m trying to say if they’re not familiar with the language. Then, in turn, these same people will assume I’m just being a snob for pronouncing the word correctly.

Go figure…