Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | pronunciation
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WendyWhile we're on the topic of pronunciation, I've been meaning to write this for a while, since Wendy's began airing TV commercials for their new Premium Fish Fillet Sandwich. The commercials seem to have stopped, but the sandwich is still available at select locations across the country. The commercial got Erin, our son Jared and me all riled up every time I saw it because it mispronounced "panko" whenever it was mentioned. Panko is the traditional Japanese breadcrumb coating for fried food, and it's become something of a hip ingredient in American restaurants and kitchens. So it's cool that Japanese food (starting with sushi a couple of decades ago) are catching on in the US and becoming mainstream. However, it irritates me that so many Americans, including the guy on the TV commercial, pronounce the word as "PAN-koe," like "pants." The Japanese pronunciation is "pahn-KOH," with the first part more like "pawn" -- almost like "punk" -- and the second like Homer Simpson's "DOH!" Here's a caveat about this rant of mine: Language evolves, and as cultures merge and are assimilated, words and pronunciation patterns change and are re-invented. I'm sure the British still think Americans are buffoons for mangling their language, mispronouncing words and using "incorrect" words like "trunk" for a car's "boot" or hood for a car's "bonnet." I'm the first to admit that I don't follow my own rules about Japanese words for other languages. I don't walk into a Taco Bell and order a "bu-RRRIT-toh." I don't order a "kwassahn" at the bakery when I want a croissant. I say "kraw-sahnt." Servers at Thai restaurants snicker when I ask if I pronounced "yum nue" (spicy cold beef salad, truly yummy) correctly. Vietnamese servers guffaw out loud when I ask if I've said "bun dac biet" (combination grilled meat over rice noodles) right. Amazingly, I always think I've nailed it, but the guffaws come anyway. And by the way, when you go to the Vietnamese restaurant for a bowl of "pho" noodle, it's NOT pronounced "foe" or even "fuh." A server explained to us that you have to add a slight upward lilt to the end of the word, as if you're asking a question. So it's, "Hi, can I have a medium bowl of fuh?" Erin and I may not get it exactly right, but the point is, we're aware of our inadequacy at pronouncing other languages, and we always try to learn and say it correctly. On the other hand, let's face it, people in other countries aren't any better at pronouncing English, so turnabout is fair play, right?

Texas lawmaker Betty Brown suggested Asians should change their names so American could "deal with them" more easily.Oh, the wisdom of lawmakers. Especially in Texas. Texas state representative Betty Brown (R-Terrell, in North Texas) caused a ruckus on Tuesday by saying, during testimony about voter ID legislation, that Asians would have an easier time of getting along if they simply changed their names. "Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese -- I understand it's a rather difficult language -- do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?" She also told a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans who was there to testify, "Can't you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that's easier for Americans to deal with?" Now Texas Dems are demanding an apology for "her disrespectful remarks," and state Republicans are accusing the Democrats of making too much of the statements and using race to make voting IDs a partisan issue. I don't think Brown is a racist -- at least, I hope not. But I think that she spoke without thinking, and her true feelings about Asians' names came out.