We all have them. Those names on the roster sheet that just fill you with dread every time you see them. You know one of these days you’ll mess it up and it’s just a matter of time until you turn some poor players name into verbal mince meat. Learning to pronounce names correctly is one of the key aspects of sportscasting. Get it right and you can give yourself instant credibility, but get it wrong and you’re instantly dismissed by the audience.
For those who aren’t aware, I was born in Australia and lived there for 15 years before moving to Canada in 2002. A planned one-year trip has turned into a new life here. I also broadcast hockey, which with an Australian accent can be a little jarring to the listening audience. It’s not like I come on the air and say “crickey what a game we have here today mates”, but hearing that voice you’d more associate with cricket or soccer, calling something as Canadian as hockey was a shock to a lot of people.
In my time as a hockey broadcaster, I’ve come across a lot of difficult to pronounce names. There was Jarid Lukosevicius (Luko-seve-jes) who I had the pleasure to watch play for two seasons. There were the Belarussian brothers Arti and Yan Kalashnikov who were on a divisional opponents team. And who can top goaltender Aris Anagnostopoulos, which just flows off the tongue. But none of them compare to the most difficult of all names for me to call during a fast, frantic hockey broadcast.
A wonderful young man out of Michigan who I worked with for a year and a half. Mitch was always accommodating with his time for interviews, gave great answers and spoke very well…a broadcasters dream. But in my case he was an absolute nightmare to broadcast.
The Australian accent is a funny one. British by origin, it’s similar to the Canadian vocab but without the American influence. With that, some letters and combinations change a little and in the case of Mitchell, the way I pronounce his name changed quite a bit.
You see, if we were in Australia, his name would be Mitchell “Whores”. Yup. Whores. The emphasis is on the Haw in Australia, and makes it sound less like a Haah as you’d have it in North America.
So why was this name so difficult? Well I didn’t want to use…that word…on air repeatedly every game so it meant a deliberate change in thinking for me. In a game where a lot of things are very reactionary, having to actively ‘think’ on the pronunciation of a name was difficult. Making myself speak ‘Canadian’ for a single word was something that took a lot of time to work in smoothly. But it was a step I had to take to not make this kid’s family think I was using foul language every time their kid touched the puck.
It’s not just Hawes. I make the same adjustment when differentiating porn from pawn (although granted, it’s not a topic that comes up much). I made the mistake one day of saying to my then girlfriend (now wife) that I wanted to go to the “porn” store. Of course I meant “pawn” but it came out “porn”. A weird look, a short conversation and a lesson learned.
What’s been your most difficult name to pronounce correctly?