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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pronunciation guide redux

Back in May of 2011, I posted a pronunciation guide for the names of several mid-century designers, manufacturers and architects that frequently give people problems. Since that time, I've included a link to the original post whenever I've written about a person or a company whose name I thought might be difficult to pronounce. (I've even slipped in a few modern designers here and there that I believe will eventually join the ranks of iconic 20th century designers.)  Over the years, the list has grown substantially. Some of you were around for the 2011 post but haven't seen the list recently. For many of you, the list will be new. In honor of the recent 100+-name milestone, I thought I'd repost it today and see if it answers some of your questions...or if you have any suggestions for names to add.


Who, me? Mispronounce a designer name??? Never!!!

I've lost count of how many times I've heard or read, "Someone ought to compile a pronunciation guide for mid-century designer names." In fact, I've lost count of how many times I've said so myself. I don't know why there aren't several floating around the Internet, but if there are, I certainly haven't found them...and, trust me, I've looked.

A few months ago, I started compiling a list. Let me say immediately that this list is not exhaustive, nor is it authoritative. It most certainly is not meant to be prescriptive. I have gathered the pronunciations from video interviews with museum curators, university professors, people who have worked directly with or for the designers, representatives of factories where the designer's furniture was or is still made, as well as relatives of the designers. I've found other pronunciations in forum discussions and sites that offer pronunciations by native speakers. I have emailed universities and corporate offices and museums. Still, I'm sure the list contains inaccuracies, and I welcome corrections and additions. If you have researched a name and can document where you found it pronounced, by all means, let me know. (I wish I had documented my sources as I went along. At some point, I will go back and find them again.)

Once more, let me stress that this is only a first draft, and a very short one at that, containing names I researched as I posted here about a designer or as we had a designer piece in the store. Many more names need to be added. And it's conceivable that a totally authoritative list may prove almost impossible to compile. I was watching a video interview recently with Knud Erik Hansen of Carl Hansen and Son, a company that has produced Hans Wegner chairs since 1949. Erik Hansen should know how to say Wegner's name, right? In the course of the brief interview, he pronounced the name "WIG-ner," "WEE-ner" and "WEG-ner," while the interviewer, at various times, pronounced the name "VIG-ner," "VEG-ner" and "WEG-ner." And then there are those who insist it's "VINE-er."

In addition to a sharing of information, I hope this is the beginning of an ongoing discussion of many topics. For instance, there are two distinct camps on the issue of "Americanizing" the names of designers from another country. Some say it is perfectly acceptable, even preferable, to pronounce names such as Georg Jensen's as "George Jensen" with a soft G and a J, instead of "GYOR YEN-sen" with a hard G and a Y sound. They say it comes across as pretentious to use the native language pronunciation. The other camp says that a name, if possible, should be pronounced as the designer would have introduced himself or herself and that it's arrogant to think that making a name sound American is somehow preferable. This is one of many discussions that could yield some interesting opinions. (Another topic that readily comes to mind is why I chose not to use the International Phonetic Alphabet in my pronunciation guide, even though I did a semester's worth of college classwork on the IPA. However, the long and short of it is that I was simply too lazy, so that discussion would be over fairly quickly.)

All that said, here's a start....good or bad. At least now we won't have to bemoan the fact that no one has made an attempt. I hope you will collaborate with me in compiling a much longer and more accurate list...and that we won't take ourselves too seriously while doing it. After all, the earth won't spin off its axis if we get some of them wrong.


Aalto, Alvar (AHL-var AHL-toe)

Aarnio, Eero (AIR-o AHR-nee-o)

Arström, Folke (FOLK-eh AR-strahm)

Auböck, Carl (KARL OH-bach)

Bagni, Alvino (al-VEE-no BAH-nee)

Balazs, Howard (HOW-ard BAHL-ahsh)

Barovier, Ercole (air-co-LAY bah RO-vee-ay)

Baughman, Milo (MY-low BOFF-man) Per email from Brigham Young University and

Bauhaus (BOW-hows) The vowels in both syllables rhyme with "wow."

Bertoia, Harry (HARE-ee ber-TOY-ya) 

Boeri, Cini  (CHEE-nee bo-ED-ee)

Bojesen, Kay (KY bo-EH-zhen)

Borsani, Osvaldo (ōs-VAHL-do bore-sah-nee)

Bouroullec, Ronan and Erwan (ro-NAHN and air-WAHN BOO-roo-lek)

Bozzi, Augusto (ow-GOOS-toe BOT-zi)

Braun - (BROWN) Per interview with Dieter Rams

Breuer, Marcel (mar-SELL BROY-er)

Briard, Georges (ZHORZH bree-ARD)

Buffa, Paolo (POW-lo BU-fah)

Caldas, Jose Zanine (zjos-EH ZAH-nee-nee KAHL-dahs)

Capron, Roger (ro-ZHAY cap-RONE)

Castiglioni, Achille (a-KEE-lay cas-tee-lee-O-nee)

Ćmielów - (ch-MEL-oof)

Coggin, Thayer (THAY-er KOG-in) The person and the company, per phone call to company

Colombo, Joe (JOE co-LOME-bo)

Day, Lucienne (LU-see-en DAY)

Ditzel, Nanna (NAN-uh DEET-zl)

Eames, Charles and Ray (EEMS)

Franck, Kaj (KY FRAHNK)

Frey, Albert (AL-bert FRAY)

Gropius, Walter (WAL-ter GRO-pee-us)

Halabala, Jindřich (YIN-jee HAH-luh-BAH-luh)

Henningsen, Poul (POLE HEHN-ing-sehn)

Hundevad, Poul (POLE HOON-da-vahd)

Husted, Wayne (WANE HUE-sted)

Hvidt, Peter (PE-ter VILTH) Recently, I heard a native Danish speaker say VEET.

Jacobsen, Arne (AR-nee YAK-ob-sen)

Jalk, Grete (GRAY-tuh YELK)

Jensen, Georg (GYOR YEN-sen)

Jeré , C. (a copyrighted pseudonym formed by combining the names of Jerry Fels and Curtis (Kurt) Freiler of Artisan House, undoubtedly to create the illusion of having a French designer on staff) (SEE Zhair-AY)

Jongerius, Hella  (heh-la yon-HEER-ee-us)

Juhl, Finn (FIN YOOL)

Kagan, Vladimir (VLAD-uh-meer KAY-gan)

Kåge, Wilhelm (VIL-helm KOr-guh)

Kahn, Louis (LOO-ee KAHN)

Kaipiaisen, Birger (BEER-yer KY-pee-i-sen)

Karasz, Mariska (mah-REESH-kah KAHD-ahs)

Kjaerholm Poul (POLE CARE-holm)

Klint, Kaare (KORE-ah KLINT)

Koenig, Pierre (PEE-air KONE-ig)

Kristiansen, Kai (KY kris-tee-AYN-sen)

Kroehler - (KRAY-ler)

Kvadrat - kva-DRAHT (The "k" is pronounced by Danish speakers, and the "kv" blend is very slight. Most English speakers will probably opt for "kah-DRAHT.)

LeCorbusier (LUH car-BOO-see-yay)

Liebes, Dorothy (DOR-o-thee LEEBS)

Loos, Adolf (A-dolf LORS)

Maharam (mah-HARE-um)

Matégot, Mathieu  (mat-tyoo mat-tay-GO)

Mathsson, Bruno (BRU-no MAT-son)

Mogensen, Borge (BUR MO-en-sen)

Neutra, Richard (RICH-ard NOY-tra)

Noguchi, Isamu (ee-SAH-moo no-GOO-chee)

Norell, Arne (AR-nee NORE-el)

Palmquist, Sven (SVEN palm-KEEST)

Panton, Verner (VAIR-ner PAN-tun)

Pearsall, Adrian (A-dree-an PEER-sall)

Pei, I. M. (I. M. PAY)

Piva, Paolo (POW-lo PEE-va)

Poli, Flavio (FLAH-vee-o PO-lee)

Ponti, Gio (JAH POWN-tee)

Probber, Harvey (HAR-vee PRO-ber)

Quistgaard, Jens (YENS QUIST-a-gar) Per video interview with Jens Quistgaard. He answered the phone, and that's how he said his last name.

Rams, Dieter - (DEE-ter RAHMS)

Risley, John (RIZ-lee) (short i) Per email from Wesleyan University

Rohde, Gilbert (GIL-bert RO-dee)

Risom, Jens (YENS REE-sum)

Ruscha, Ed (ED roo-SHAY)

Saarinen, Eliel (AY-lee-el SAHR-e-nen)

Saarinen, Eero (AIR-o SAHR-e-nen)

Sarfatti, Gino (JEE-no sar-FOT-ee)

Sarpaneva, Pentti (PEN-tee SAR-puh-nev-a)

Sarpaneva, Timo (TEE-mo SAR-puh-nev-a)

Sauze, Max (MAX SOZE)

Seibel, Ben (BEN sy-BELL)

Simmulson, Mari (ma-REE SIM-ul-son)

Sognot, Louis (loo-EE sone-YO)

Stam, Mart (MART STAHM)

Starck, Philippe (Fil-EEP STARK)

Thonet (TAWN-at)

Toikka, Oiva (OY-va TOY-ka)

Van der Rohe, Mies (MEES VAN der ROE)

Van Koert, John (JON von KOORT)

Vautrin, Line (LEEN vo-TRAWHN)

Vignelli, Massimo (MAHS-ee-mo veen-YELL-ee)

Volther, Poul (POLE VAHL-tah)

Wegner, Hans (HANS VEG-ner) Per an email from Carl Hansen and Son

Wikkelsø, Illum (il-LUM vi-KEL-so)

Wirkkala, Tapio (TAH-pee-o VEER-ka-la)

Wormley, Edward (ED-ward WORM-lee) The first syllable of the last name is pronounced with a long O (wōrm), rather than the O in "earthworm."

Wyzenbeek Method (WI-zen-beek) The first syllable rhymes with "my," and the last syllable rhymes with "week," per email from Bill Schap, whose company manufactures Wyzenbeek machines.

Zeisel, Eva (A-va ZY-suhl)


  1. Replies
    1. I hope this list will make the names roll off the tongue a little easier. :)