It’s L’Aquila… not “a-KWIL-a”

Who will be the first serious media anchor or report to start pronouncing the name of the city properly…. other than Greg Burke of Fox News?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Amy says:

    Living in New Mexico, I find this constant mispronunciation humorous. I cannot count how many times I\’ve heard words of Spanish origin mispronounced on the news. Silly ignorant Americans!

  2. RBrown says:

    It is common for non-Italian speakers to think that the next to the last syllable in an Italian word is always accented.

    Other common mistakes are mispronouncing “GI__” (as in Di Giorno or Giovanni) which is pronounced as a English J. And so Di Giorno is not pronounced Di Shorno (cf the errors in the TV ads), and Giovanni not GEE-o- vanni.

  3. W. Schrift says:

    Amy, I think it’s equally strange when the newsmongers on NPR, in pursuit of complete cultural correctness, lapse into perfect accents just to pronounce the name of a foreign country or place. I’m talking dental t’s and full velar j’s. It’s like they turn the Spanish switch on.

    If we were always so assiduous about how we pronounce foreign place names, we would have never come up with toponyms of our own. (Milan, Rome, Naples… I’m sure we’re aware that the Italians don’t call them that!)

  4. jarhead462 says:

    “Silly ignorant Americans” Wow. I guess all of the brainstorms in other countries speak flawless American-English….which would be the language of the United States.

    Semper Fi!

  5. Franzjosf says:

    Interesting. English also has a tradition of anglicizing foreign words and names or changing the spelling following English principles, but it is seemingly random:

    We say Paris, not Paree
    Rome, not Roma
    Vienna, not Wein (using the Latin form rather than the German).
    It’s Lima, Ohio, with a long i, not Leema.
    We use to say Qatar, accenting the second syllable, not Cutter. The funniest thing was hearing the ambassador of Qatar anglicizing, followed by the CNN reporter saying Cutter.

    In English, as well, we say the r in memior, not memwah.

    On the other hand, we go to Lyons, not Lions.

    In this case, it doesn’t seem to be a case of anglicizing, but an ignorance of Italian pronunciation.

  6. Daniel Kirkland says:

    Here in Virginia, nobody has ever heard of Buena Vista; they only live in BEW-na Vista. :)

  7. fh in Houston says:

    I am still trying to get past sessiuncula ;)

    Salve amici

  8. Nick says:

    My parents came from the Abruzzo region.
    It drives me nuts to hear these misprouncitations.

    The name Ferrara both a city (in northern Italy)
    and a family name is contantly misprounced.
    They will say (Fer rare ra) instead of (Fer ra ra).

  9. Edward says:

    Nothing new about getting things wrong and mispronunciations, even for Fox. Remember the Santa hat report early in the Pope’s reign?

  10. PMcGrath says:

    Maybe they should just change the town’s name to “The Eagle” and be done with it.

  11. Brendan says:

    So, uh, how DO we pronounce it?

  12. Ken Milton says:

    My favourite is the World War I pronunciation of Ypres: Wipers

  13. cantuale says:

    the correct pronunciation is: L’Aquila, stessing the first A. By the way it is one of the rarest town in Italy whose name has strangely the determinative article before it (L’ = LA = The).

  14. pelerin says:

    The anglicisation of place names can bring its difficulties. I am reminded of an occasion when I was in a queue behind two elderly English ladies in a Paris station who wished to buy tickets to Reims. They spoke reasonable French but pronounced the city as ‘Reems’ and the young lady seemed completely baffled. They then wrote down Rheims – the English spelling – and the girl seemed none the wiser! The ‘h’ confused her(as it is not in the French spelling)as did the English pronunciation. Fearing I would miss my own train I offered to help and told the girl that they wanted tickets to Reims which has a completely different pronunciation in French! She was relieved as by that time she was getting quite annoyed as were the two English travellers.

    Incidentally franzjosf is right in saying that the city of Lyon seems to be pronounced the French way in English but I should like to point out that it has no ‘s’ in French!

  15. Maureen says:

    I think it’s very useful to find US town names pronounced differently than their European namesakes. How else are you going to tell which Toledo university you attended: Toleedo or Tolaydo? Which Versailles did you visit: Vair-sigh or Versales? And yes, is St. Rose from Lie-ma, Ohio, or Lee-ma, Peru? It does make a slight difference.

  16. Ray from MN says:

    Changing the subject back to the original, it seems that Father Z has the inside track on an episcopal appointment that has been a long time in coming. I’d bet it’s an important one.

  17. Brendan says:

    So it is pronounced la-AH-kwil-ah?

  18. Reginald Pole says:


  19. eweu says:

    We’ll pronounce it “correctly” as soon as Spanish speakers stop calling “New York” “Nueva York”.

    Seriously. The media aren’t speaking Italian, therefore the names become Anglicized. That’s the way it should be. Forcing words into their native language while speaking English is, well, gauche.

  20. Franzjosf says:

    Pelerin: Touche on the ‘s’

    But your story reminds me of another. I was in Venice (Venezia?) at a bakery/cafe (caffe?) ordering a snack, speaking English. In the display case were rolls topped with ham, cheese, or both. I said, “I would like one with meat, please.” The waiter, looking confused, said, “We have none with meat.” Now, I was completely perplexed, because I was looking at one with ham. Then it dawned on me. In his translation “meat” meant “beef”, but to this American ham qualified as meat. There was a happy ending, but literal translation, from the perspective of a given language, doesn’t always work.

  21. to-may-to or to-mah-to… depends on where you live!

  22. My analysis regarding the mispronunciation: it stems from the overexposure of our dear shepherd of Fargo, Bp. Aquila (Ah-QUILL-ah). Heh. Nahh. I have to admit that little faux-pas such as these that may show ignorance of a certain culture are much less offensive than the above mentioned pronunciation of foreign words that have well-established anglicized equivalents. Barthhelona. Firenze. May-hee-ko. Hee-oh jee Jan-eye-roo. The worst offense of recent memory? The \”Torino\” Olympic Games. :::Shudder:::

    Of course, this sensitivity caught up to me. I ended up living in Caen, France, which, in French, sounds more like a yawn than the name of a major city. Worse still, any attempt to anglicize only results in confusion with the better known Cannes of the French Riviera (Or: Côte d\’Azur, for you francophiles.

    A typical conversation during that time– Friend: So Scotty, where do you live in France? Me: Oh, about 2hrs NW of Paris and 20 minutes from \”Leez-you\” (Lisieux). F: Oh, what\’s the city called? Me: Caen. F: What? Me: Caen. F: How do you spell that? Me: C-A-E-N. F: Ohhhh,CANNES, like the film festival! (And then I slapped my forehead) : )

  23. Julia says:

    At the Southern tip of Illinois, where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet, is Cairo, Illinois, pronounced “KAY-row”.

  24. irishgirl says:

    How do you pronounce ‘Caen’? I always say it like ‘Cannes’….

    Julia-we have a ‘Kay-row’ in New York, too…it’s in the Catskills.

    Yeah, it’s funny how Americans pronounce foreign names. I remember traveling in Italy in 1979-I saw road signs that said, “Firenze”. I wondered [out loud, I think], ‘Where the heck is Firenze?’ Then I found it on a National Geographic map I had when I got home….’it’s the Italian version of ‘Florence’, you idiot’! [I was the idiot…now I know better]

  25. Disgusted in DC says:

    How about the differences in prounciation between Beaufort, SC and Beaufort, NC? I won’t tell you which is which…that is how the locals know if you are an outsider.

  26. LadyRides says:

    I think it would sound strange to hear the town referred to by an American broadcaster as “The Eagle, Italy.” (By the way, Brian Williams at NBC had it right [l’AKweela]the first day; some Brits on internet news were calling it AkWEELa …)I think the reason we’re called stupid Americans is because we refuse to learn any language but ours, and most of us can’t speak that one very well! What would it hurt to know a little Spanish, for example? We seem to expect the world to want to be just like us, no matter how ugly we behave.

  27. Franzjosf says:

    LadyRides: Not meaning to be rude, because I make so many mistakes, but it is better to write, “I think the reason we’re…is THAT we refuse….” That way, the linking verb “is” actually links two substantives (THAT introduces a nominative clause, whereas BECAUSE introduces an adverbial clause).

    Sometimes I think that we Americans can be overly sensitive to these kinds of criticisms, and many people, both Americans and others, don’t like American “exceptionalism” (in some things we don’t follow the practices of the rest of the developed world). For instance, most Canadians and Englishmen I know anglicize “pasta” with an “a” as in “at”, and no once says Dumb Canadians. (Ironically, we Americans pronounce it with the ah sound the Italians use.)

    Now, I believe in American exceptionalism in many things, and I do not want the rest of the world to be like we are unless they want to. On the other hand, I don’t want us to try to be like the Europeans in all cultural things. I don’t find so-called cultural sophistication to be the highest calling.

    For better or worse, English is the new lingua franca. But I wonder what the ‘world’ said when French was. Did they accuse the French of arrogance? Probably. But even the Russian Czar’s family often spoke French to each other, not Russian.

  28. dymphna says:

    I don’t think the Italians care how we pronounce the name as long as we send money and even then they’ll complain that it’s not enough.

  29. Irishgirl, Caen is pronounced exactly like quand (the French word for “when”). Thus, it’s like the English word “caw,” only nasalized. E.g.:

    LadyRides, I didn’t mean to suggest that while speaking English we translate foreign names into English, but that we use established anglicized words when they exist. Thus it’s cool to say “I flew from Buenos Aires (Not “Fair Winds) to Vienna (not Wien) with a layover in Paris (Not Paree). Ya dig? : ) This, of course, is completely tangential from Father’s topic being that I’m sure there is no anglicized word for L’Aquila. (Sorry Father!)

    As for the majority of the American citizenry only speaking English, I don’t doubt that that may be a reason we’re considered ugly, but I don’t find it a fair criticism. Economically speaking, we don’t NEED to learn a second language as much as anyone else in the world (Except, I don’t know, Australia?). As for not speaking the language (relatively) well in the United States, I don’t know if I agree; the practically defunct status of the subjunctive in the British Isles comes to mind. And don’t you mean behave uglily? Just kidding, I’d never say that! : )

  30. Jane says:

    It must be tough to be a news reader on TV with all those difficult names of tennis players and the pronounation of places that most of us have never heard of.

    I heard a the name of the Sydney suburb of Parramatta (where I was born) pronounced on EWTN by an American. The pronounciation was so strange that I took a little while to work out what was being said.

  31. rosebudsal says:

    Like Amy in the first comment above, I live in NM and am used to major mispronunciations of Spanish names. I usually turn off the TV news when the news readers, often with Spanish last names, don’t pronounce things correctly.

    Most of the coverage of the earthquake in L’Aguila, I’ve seen online so I haven’t been subjected to the mangled pronunciation.

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