Monday, November 08, 2010

Who put the 'cozy' in Sarkozy?

France24 is a great news source for just about everything having to do with France, or world news from a French perspective.  Frankly, since I'm not in Paris I'm somewhat rabid about keeping up with French news, cruising the French dailies' websites, trying to keep au courant

Yet I fail.  Why, you ask?  Well, partially because when I start watching half-hour panel discussions such as last week's France 24 roundtable with top Anglophone journalists in Paris, I get... distracted.

I know, I know.  I should be following the substance of the discussion, and ... yet... in the mean time I am swept away by one persistent thought:  Why does Alison Smale of the IHT refer to the president as sar-koh-ZEE while Mark Deen of Bloomberg refers to him as sar-KOH-zee?  Didn't they referee the Proper Presidential Pronunciation before going on air? 

And secretly, I am delighted.  I love pronunciation battles, and this one is ripe.

On the one hand, of course, in French no syllables are accented.  So officially it's pronounced sar-koh-zee, equal emphasis on all syllables; but in reality it ends up sounding a bit more like sar-koh-ZEE. Americans, on the other hand,  need to find a syllable to stress in English, and somehow in popular US media, it's most often pronounced à l'américaine, sar-KOH-zee.

I still recall the mild sting of being reprimanded by my dear late friend Polly Platt for saying 'sar-KOH-zee' in mid-sentence.  "But, Polly," I pleaded, "I'm speaking in English right now.  When I'm talking in English, for example, I don't say 'Paree,' I say 'Pariss.' So in English I should say 'sar-KOH-zee,' as Americans do."

She didn't buy that defense, and told me it sounded ill-informed.  Since I deeply admired her, in all subsequent conversations with Polly I was on my sar-koh-ZEE best.

But otherwise, I was cozy with sar-KOH-zee.

Then. The ultimate revelation: French newscasters pronounce our president's name oh-ba-MAH when discoursing in French.

But of course they should.

You say 'to-MAY-toh.'  I say 'to-MAH-to.'

Let's not call the whole thing off.


Lee I said...


Sarah said...

I admire your dedication!

I like the odd piss-take prog like the one on Canal+ that isn't coded in the evening, but can't always get to watch it. I watch the news too, especially the M6 news at 7.45pm cos we eat at 8.

Other than that, reading the French online papers is a chore because they are so unattractive and I often can't be bothered.

So I kinda keep up lol.

One can say sar-ko-zee without stress in American, no? Why the need to put in an emphasis? I've probably been in France too long...

Anonymous said...

I find a solution: I turn off the TV whenever I hear of Sarkozy. Ta-da!

Anonymous said...

New town, new name. Go with whatever you like and say it like you mean it. If anyone picks you up just rattle something off about cultural imperialism. I know i like the sound of MY name better in zee French accent, i'm not going to correct anyone.

Jake Dear said...


Nice. And I too do enjoy France 24.

-- Jake

Shopgirl said...

I always feel a tinge of guilt when discussing "Paree" with American friends and saying "Paris"... Thanks for giving me a place to rest this bit of my neurosis.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

My rule of thumb is that if there is a standard or common pronunciation in your native language, go with that when speaking in ...your native language. And vice versa. When I'm speaking in French, for example, I say Sahn Frahn-cees-co; I don't switch back to American pronunciation in mid-sentence, which would seem weird.

Virginia said...

I love this post. I struggle mightily with French and get it wrong most often. I will say I have learned the French way to say His Royal Highness' name. :)

And I did love Polly Platt. I still recommend French or Foe to EVERY person going to France for the first time. I credit her with helping my southern self fit in while in Paris. I might sound southern but I never fail to feel welcome thanks to her advice.

Samantha Vérant said...

Err. Pronunciations. The bane of my existence. The French husband "corrects" me...

Polly-Vous Francais said...

I learned early on in Paris that even my own name had a new pronunciation in French. POH-LEE. Shock! I mean, if anyone knew how to properly pronounce my name,it was me, right?

But there was a vive-la-difference moment when I finally accepted it. We all pronounce names differently in other languages. Beel Cleen-tonn, Jhorjh Booosh, and movie stars like Tahm Onks. So we anglophones massacre names like Yves St Laurent or Gerard Depardieu. Yup.

I guess we anglophones just were spoiled by a nice long period where the name Jacques Chirac was so... presidentially pronounceable!

Virginia -- I still miss Polly Platt, and think of her almost daily. What an inspiration she was!

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