The Miracles of Transliteration

Manuel Muñoz’s experience of having his name mispronounced by native English speakers will surely resonate with many immigrants and children of immigrants. After all isn’t English the language that borrowed French words such as “table”, leaving the spelling intact but heavily changing the pronounciation?

In fact, there are innumerable episodes in one’s life where that becomes a little bit more than a nuisance, sometimes in humorous ways.

A British friend of mine, second-generation of Italian descent, has inherited a family name with two p’s, two l’s and two t’s. One can only imagine the hours and hours spent by each member of the family over the phone, trying to get across the right spelling, with comical results usually involving being called like some type of pasta.

But if pronounciation is key, there is a way around the problem, especially with one’s closest acquaintances: transliteration. Just write down your name so that rather than the spelling, the “English sound” will be correct.

Transliteration takes a few minutes of trial and error with a volunteer native speaker. (For Mr Muñoz: I would start from “Mah-noo-ayl”. Who knows, perhaps a few people will finally talk to you using your actual name?)

In my case the first name transliterates to “Mow-ree-tsioh” (h’s and hyphenation hint at where the accents should be).

See how much more beautiful it sounds, rather than the infinite variations on “Morezio” (or “Mario”) I have to contend with every day?