Americans have a special gift for neglecting the proper names for people and places and just going ahead and giving them their own.
Firenze is now Florence, Italia is Italy, Praha, once fluffy and light, now drops out of our mouths like a dollop of Prague.
I even had a friend once who changed the name of Tiny Dancer to “Hold me closer, Tony Danza.” Which just begs the question; How do you mess up Elton John!? He speaks such good English for a foreigner.
And speaking of foreign languages, Doubleya already told you– Americans don’t “speak Mexican.”
See, like so many things, I never realized this neglect until I stepped outside of the United States and saw that other countries don’t do it. Same goes for our school lunches– in comparison to healthy, Korean lunches, you think: HOLY SHIT HOW ARE WE NOT DEAD?!
Oh yah, we have diabetes.
But now I’m off topic.
Bringing me back is a text message I’ve just recieved from my American friend, Alexis. She wants to know what time I’ll meet her in an area called Sindorim. Having melding together this name with what appears to be Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, she asks:
“What time will you be in Sindorium?”
So I wonder, Alexis– is it that Americans are just completely ego-centric, or are we just lazy bastards? Or could it be that we just really can’t pronounce shit right?
I know in your case, you just really can’t pronounce shit right. And to be fair, we Americans even mess up the names we create. Case-in-point: east Tennessee’s Mer-vul– clearly spelled Maryville.
But what seems to be the underlying theme of this problem is a lack of consideration– a revelation that dawned on me while watching a commercial for Et-ee-o-pee-an coffee.
During my brief stint in Addis Ababa, I learned this was the correct way to pronounce the country we call Ethiopia. And so I said so to my Korean friend. To which he replied:
“Koreans always try to pronounce the country’s name the way the natives say it. Even for bread– it comes from France, so the Korean word is ‘pan.'”
I think of all the So-Jung’s and Shee-hais I’ve re-named Sally and Jennifer, and I realize — how could I be so neglectful in a country so considerate?
See, when it comes to manners and consideration, Korea is like the Michael Jackson to the world’s Jackson Five:
Look at Michael– follow what Michael does. Michael’s doing it right!
And Koreans show respect by pronouncing the names for foreign countries the same way the natives do. Also, if a word didn’t exist in Korea while it was becoming westernized following signing of the cease-fire agreement after the Korean War, Koreans give it its proper name from its rightful origin.
This actually turns out to be an alarming fact as I sound out the word 오 르 가 즘– oh-ruh-gaw-jum, ohrgajum. Orgasm.
What!? Orgasms are an American import? And there was never a Korean word for them before?! I’m both proud then sad, then proud again.
And then I brush my shoulders off.
Strutting down the street in the wake of this realization, I bask in the glory that at the very least, we got something right.