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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Invitation to collaborate on a pronunciation guide

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)

Mouille, Serge  (SAIRZH MOOY-yeh)

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

Risom, Jens (YENS REE-sum)

Rohde, Gilbert (GIL-bert RO-dee)

Rojle, Frem  (FREM ROIL)

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. There needs to be an award for the hardest working blogger and you need to win it! This is fantastic!!!

    1. Thanks for the kind words...but sometimes I think I just deserve the Get a Life award. I spend way too much time on this blog. :)

  2. Replies
    1. Whew...I guess that means I don't have to be faster than a speeding bullet or leap tall buildings at a single bound anymore. Compiling lists is much easier! :)

  3. An aside: I had been pronouncing Quistgaard as "KEEST-gard." I was watching a video of an interview with the late Mr. Quistgaard, which was interrupted halfway through when his phone rang. He made his apologies, got up and answered the phone "QUIST-a-gar." That's the only one I'm 100% certain is correct.

  4. I've been waiting for this post for SOOOO long. Glad I finally have my handy pronunciation guide. Bookmarked!

  5. hahaha..if you were to match the bollywood may have to sing and dance too :P

  6. I was 25 before I realized how to correctly pronounce my Danish middle name.

    1. Now I don't feel quite so dumb about my mispronunciations. The Southern drawl/twang is another thing altogether. :)

  7. "Conversations Regarding the Future of Architecture" 1956 LP mp3, Mies, Gropius, E. Saarinen, Neutra, P. Johnson: Not definitive but a pretty good verification.

  8. Replies
    1. Thanks so much! Feel free to add or correct at will.

  9. This is my first time seeing this and it's great. Thanks for doing the work!

    1. Having a store, we actually have to talk about these people as much as we write about them, so I figured it would be a good idea for us to know how to say the names correctly. However, so many commonly accepted mispronunciations exist that now people try to correct us...LOL

  10. Loved finding this in researching for a post of my own..will credit you/link back for your contributions - well done!

    1. Glad it was helpful! I've enjoyed compiling it. It's allowed me to "meet" and "talk with" some very interesting people, including relatives of the designers.

  11. I just stumbled on this. My mom and I argue about Eames. Thanks. I win.

    1. Some of my SIL's family members still insist it's Ames. He's given up trying to prove otherwise.

  12. I love this - we hear way too many pronunciations at our store - we will use this as our guide! Thanks, Bill

    1. Bill, there may be some that aren't correct, but most I really did go to great lengths to verify. Let me know if there are any you think I should add. I'm glad you found the list helpful.

  13. This is a great list! Once upon a time, I read an interview with Jens Risom that referred to how long he lived in the U.S. (since the '30s, if I remember correctly) and said he's been American so long he even pronounces his name the American way, with the hard J sound rather than the more "native" Y sound. But beyond that I can neither confirm nor deny. :)

    1. I can understand that. I have a last name that many people mispronounce. For almost 40 years, when I've said my name the way my ex-husband and former in-laws pronounce it, more often than not people have corrected me with an Americanized version, as if I don't know how to say it. I guess you either dig in your heels or give up.

  14. Thanks, very helpful, now I can stop mumbling so much!

    1. Love it! One thing I've figured out over the past few years is that hardly anyone...even people in the business of selling vintage furniture or college professors teaching about these people or even the most avid collectors...knows how to pronounce all these names. We all mumble through them, afraid to sound like an idiot...or loudly mispronounce them, thinking we know what we're talking about. :)

  15. Yes, you're right. When I first made this list back in 2011, I got the pronunciation from a scholarly video of a number of university professors discussing architects, which I thought would be reliable. Later, I discovered the correct pronunciation, but I forgot to correct it here. Over time, I've found that it's always best to get pronunciations from family members whenever possible. Thanks for the link to that video. It provided some real insight into Neutra.

  16. One of the best lists ever! Thanks for compiling this. I came across it because I was wondering about Gaetano Sciolari. I can guess at the pronunciation, but clearly names don't always follow the rules. Anyone know for certain about it?

    Oh, and in college I actually lived in Neutra building, so I've always had that one right. I did have the creative director of a major studio a few years back tell me to use that font NOO-truh for a marketing piece I was doing for them. I didn't correct her.

    1. This is what I've heard: Guy-TAWN-oh SHOW-lawr-dee. The Italian “r” is rolled so it sounds like a “d” sneaks in.

  17. Another grateful fan! I wonder if I will ever have the courage to say Milo BOFFman! (And somewhere here is a "man-on-the-(hipster designer)-street" interview begging to be made, methinks.) Thank you!

  18. WOW! Thank you so much for 1) caring about proper pronunciation, and 2) for creating this wonderful guide! Since the popular podcast, "Serial," hosted by Sarah Koenig, who pronounces her surname KAY-nig, I wondered if perhaps Pierre Koenig did the same and that I'd been misprouncing it all these years. Thanks for the confirmation that I have not!