A Pronounced Difference

A few months back, a new reporter joined WHIO-TV. His name was announced as “James Buechele.”

Like many people in the area, I already knew a Buechele.* In fact, she was a kindergarten teacher. Her name was pronounced “BEEK-lee.” Easy to say, easy to remember.

Then Mr. Buechele came on the air, and announced that his name was pronounced “BOO-klee.”

My brain stuttered to a stop, lurched, and then acknowledged that of course, there are different parts of Germany that pronounce umlaut vowels differently.

He’s from Western Pennsylvania, which has a different German immigration pattern than Dayton, or the rural areas of God’s Country north of us. It’s a lot more like Eastern Ohio, and the names reflect that. So his accent may sound like ours, but it’s not really the same area; and his ancestors came from Somewhere Else.

For a few months, everyone at WHIO valiantly tried to say “BOO-klee.” But the longer they had lived in the Dayton area, the more often they were having to stop and correct themselves.

They’ve had all summer to get used to it. I think they really have tried hard. But in the last couple days, I have heard two of the newspeople unhesitatingly pronounce the man’s name as “BEEK-lee.” They are adjusting his name to what the local German mind thinks it should be, rather than changing their mental map to include two pronunciations.

Ve have talk to make your vays….

* The name apparently derives from “Büchelin,” meaning “beech grove.” People named Buechel usually come from Saxony up in northern Germany; people named Buechele come from somewhere in southern Germany. The problem is that “somewhere in southern Germany” covers a lot of territory, often including places that are part of Switzerland, Austria, and northern Italy today. So there’s lots of room for pronunciation differences.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “A Pronounced Difference

  1. There is a street in St. Louis called Goethe. I once spent a very frustrating 20 minutes on the radio with a dispatcher trying to explain where I was before I realized that locally the street is called “GO-eth”, not “gar-TEY”.

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