I must have had a puzzled look on my face, because he said, "I'm making myself say it that way, because that's how everybody who comes into the store says it, and they think I'm the one saying it wrong. I don't have time to explain over and over." (Same with Thonet, by the way. People will almost become irate about that one.)
A little over two years ago, noticing that the pronunciation of designer names was a frequent topic on many design sites, I decided to start researching names and come up with an unofficial pronunciation guide. I first posted the guide in May of 2011. Since then, it's grown to include almost 100 names of designers and companies.
The pronunciations are the result of my emailing companies and asking them for phonetic spellings of their company names or designers with whom they'd had close dealings. I've also emailed universities designers attended or at which they lectured or where experts on a particular designer are employed. Whenever possible, I've asked family members of designers. (To date, I've been in touch, either by email or by phone, with almost a dozen spouses, children or grandchildren of famous designers, many of whom have contacted me after reading one of my posts about a relative.) I've also used several sites that obtain pronunciations from native speakers of the countries where the designers were born.
Some of you might be wondering why I think BOFF-man is the correct pronunciation of the name. That's a fair question. In that particular case, I contacted Brigham Young University, where Baughman established the Department of Environmental Design in 1969. He served as chair of that department and adjunct professor for several years and later acted as a senior lecturer. Baughman's legacy is quite important to the school, and his death in 2003 leaves him in the very recent memory of his former colleagues. The school responded immediately...and emphatically...giving MY-low BOFF-man as the phonetic spelling of the name. Also, the Thayer Coggin, a company with whom Baughman had a 50-year relationship, shows the pronunciation of BOFF-man in his biography on their website. (I've also heard people insist that his first name is pronounced MEE-low, but BYU says no.)
Finally, you may be wondering why it matters. I've known people who have argued vociferously that Eames is pronounced AMES, although there are countless videos featuring people who actually worked in the Eames Office and knew the famous couple personally, and they all pronounce it with a long E.
|Ray and Charles Eames|
Also, ask 10 mid-century lovers how to pronounce Hans Wegner's name, and you'll get 10 different answers. In the case of Wegner, I contacted the firm of Carl Hansen and Son, a company that has produced his chairs since 1949. Their response to me was immediate and made the multiple pronunciation situation more understandable, since they admitted that outside Denmark they officially used VEG-ner, but inside Denmark, they officially pronounced it VEE-ner.
I've read comments from people who think it sounds snobbish and pretentious to pronounce the names the way the designers themselves pronounced their own names, but I disagree. I grew up with a name that everyone mispronounced. I've been called Danna, Donna, Deena, Dinah and Diana...and have never figured out how people get all that out of a name as simple as Dana (DAY-na). In fact, I have a former brother-in-law who still calls me Deena after 40+ years, so admittedly I may be overly sensitive, but I believe it shows respect for the memory of a designer, as well as to surviving family members, to give the original pronunciation at least a good try. How do you feel when people mispronounce your name? Do you correct them?
Where do you stand on the subject? Do you correct people when they mispronounce your name? Do you try to learn correct pronunciations of designers' names, or do you agree with the camp that says it doesn't matter?