Friday, February 26, 2010

A unique pronunciation ?

Here in San Antonio and the environs there is a large German cultural influence to go along with the Mexican/Spanish influence, which is why you're just as likely to run across references to a Huebner and a Hausman about as often as a Navarro and a Zarzamora, especially when it comes to road and street names. Largely the pronunciations of these names are just as Anglicized either way. This means you'll likely hear BLANK-o instead of BLAHN-ko for Blanco Road and BRAWN instead of BROWN for Braun Road. Sometimes people will go out of their way to pronounce the names as if they are speaking German or Spanish, but the Anglicized pronunciation usually holds sway when the speaker is using English.

But there was one minor deviation from this norm that I noticed from time to time, and I used to think it was just one person's idiosyncrasy. Now, after hearing another person use the same pronunciation, I'm not so sure.

Allow me to explain.

I love classical music, so I listen to KPAC in my car about as much as I play heavy metal CDs. One of the long-time DJs and hosts on that radio station is a guy named Randy Anderson, and I love to hear him talk. He's got the perfect mellow, classical-station type of voice, which is about as opposite from a Lisle-and-Hahn style as you can get.

Now, Anderson has great enunciation (which is needed when you have all those French, Russian, Italian, and Czech masterpieces and composers to talk about), but, when he reads the traffic reports, he seems to take on a partial official German pronunciation of one particular roadway in San Antonio. That roadway is Wurzbach Road.

Almost everyone around here pronounces that road in an English way, as in WERZ-bock, which is about as well as can be expected. And, if you were to go all the way with a German pronunciation, it would be more like VOORTS-bahch (with a slight clearing-throat sound at the end). But Anderson seems to split the difference, and he says WERTS-bahch. And I don't know why.

So far, Anderson is the only person I've ever heard pronounce Wurzbach that way ---- until today. And guess what, I heard that on KPAC, too! It was some other classical DJ (I didn't catch his name, though) that was on the air this afternoon, and I was a little surprised when, as he was reading off the traffic updates, I heard him also say WERTS-bahch in exactly the same way Anderson does. That's a little strange.

Does KPAC have an official pronunciation guide that all DJs and hosts follow, or did that one person I heard today just take it upon himself to follow Anderson's lead?

I'm genuinely curious, if anyone thinks they might have the answer.


Dave said...


Almost makes me want a sausage and a beer.

AlanDP said...

I've heard the traffic guys making lots of odd pronunciations--it's obvious they aren't from around here. Also kind of strange is hearing them say "Loop I-410" which is actually correct but no one around here ever calls it "I" 410.

I've never heard anyone go out of their way to pronounce the German names correctly. I'm quite offended by it. Such deliberate mispronunciation is an insult to my proud ethnic heritage.

Albatross said...

I think the most curious (mis)pronunciation of a local German name is the town of Gruene near New Braunfels. If pronounced in German, the name would be something like GROOEHN, but using that umlaut sound that is very difficult to learn to say properly for anyone for whom German is not their first language.

So, it's not surprising that most people cannot, or will not, say this name properly. Instead they say GREEN, which is probably just as well. The German word for the color "green" is actually gruen.

AlanDP said...

The one that gets me the most is HEEEEEEEB-ner.

Dave said...

The one that gets me the most is HEEEEEEEB-ner.

Guilty. Is it really pronounced HughB-Ner as I hear it called?

Albatross said...

Is it really pronounced HughB-Ner as I hear it called?

Close. It's one of those umlaut pronounced words. Actually, if I remember my German diction correctly, the best way to say it is to round your lips while simultaneously saying an "oo" sound and an "ee" sound.

It takes practice.

AlanDP said...

Albatross is correct. Also, all the old German grandparents, aunts and uncles that I was around when I was a kid never pronounced the "er" on the end of a word as hard as we do. It should be much softer, almost British.

libraaztec said...

Heh. An old German friend of mine would correct my pronunciations of German names and words, then would laugh at my attempts. haha. (^_^) I would laugh when she attempted Spanish words. Fun,fun. <3