Thursday, June 22, 2017

Embracing the hard T

Yes, you counted correctly -- this is my fourth post about Wonder Woman in the month of June.

But at least this one is about Wonder Woman and not Wonder Woman.

Gal Gadot's name throws smart people for a loop. For the purposes of this argument, I credit myself as being one of those people.

We have a default way we imagine saying the name, which owes much to our understanding of French and the work of Samuel Beckett. But Gal Gadot is not French and she may never have read Waiting for Godot.

The first time I heard the correct pronunciation of her name, it was by my editor and co-podcaster, when he mentioned her in passing on our Alien: Covenant podcast. I just thought he was simple, poor guy.

The second time I heard the correct pronunciation of her name, it was by another podcaster, this one a bit more famous: Stephen Metcalf, one of three hosts of The Slate Culture Gabfest, whose podcast I saw recorded live here in Melbourne. I thought "Oh, what a shame, Stephen Metcalf has embarrassed himself in front of the world by saying her name wrong."

The third time I heard the correct pronunciation of her name, it was the same speaker as the first time, this time during our Wonder Woman podcast. This time, I called him on it. "Are you sure you're saying that right?" I said, a smart allecky condescension dripping from my voice.

"Yes, I am. I googled it," he responded. "It was a YouTube video which just had her name spoken over and over again for about 50 seconds, by different reporters and herself."

Pretty definitive proof.

Yes indeed, you say the T. It rhymes with "vote," though how much it rhymes depends on exactly how much you are trying to approximate an Israeli accent.

Part of the reason we gravitated toward "Gadot," rhymes with "snow," was because the only other alternative our dumb American (or possibly dumb Australian) brains could imagine was to say it as "Gadot," rhymes with "hot." But because our dumb American brains are trying as hard as possible not to sound like dumb American brains, we recoil at anything that makes us sound uncouth, and "Guh-DOTT" definitely would do that. "Guh-DOH" saved us from that problem.

But, it's wrong.

The thing is, Gal Gadot is going to have to become a lot more of a household name before anyone will really believe it's wrong, in any widespread way. Our ingrained European snobbery will still make us want to say it with the French silent T, if only because it sounds right, and we want to avoid having to explain ourselves in sophisticated company, who won't yet have been confronted with its correct pronunciation and will assume we're saying it wrong. Either that or we will need to double down on the kind of wanky over-pronunciation of the Israeli accent, like people who try too hard to correctly say Spanish names and geographical locations, which, while wanky, will also make it clear we're not just saying it wrong because we're yokels.

At least puckering up your lips and saying it in the Israeli way, which sounds a bit like the sound a drop of water makes when it drips from the tap, will sound fancy.

Maybe we can just call her Gal, like Cher.

1 comment:

Wendell Ottley said...

Thanks for writing this. I was definitely, and firmly, on the Guh-Doh bandwagon.