Monday, November 28, 2016

Beli-chick or Beli-check?

Linguistics and the NFL - that's the sort of unusual combo you come to AVI for.

Switching between the local stations and ESPN on the radio I have noticed that locals, both sports jockeys and callers tend to say "check," while the national commentators tend to say "chick."  It's hard to measure because it goes by quickly, there is something of a continuum between the i and e, and I do hear exceptions on both fronts.  I also think I am hearing an age difference, though I don't actually know the ages of the speakers, and I might be fitting the data back into my theory.

Still, here's my thought: John Havlicek. Not only was he a New England legend and likely to bleed over into anything similar, but we were much more used to Czech names and pronunciations than Croatian ones in this country until the 1990's. Dubcek, Hornacek. Even though younger New Englanders might not be familiar with Havlicek, the older sportscasters could have influenced them right out of the gate with that pronunciation. I keep saying "check" and have to work to say "chick," myself.

I don't know how the man himself pronounces his name, even after browsing youTube.  If he uses the "eh" sound himself, that would shoot my theory to the ground. Wikipedia does give an "ih" for Bill and an "eh" for John, though.  Presumably on the basis of something.

I'd be interested what other people hear out there.

6 comments:

RichardJohnson said...

Still, here's my thought: John Havlicek. Not only was he a New England legend and likely to bleed over into anything similar, but we were much more used to Czech names and pronunciations than Croatian ones in this country until the 1990's. Dubcek, Hornacek.

Sounds plausible. My NE hometown had a lot of people of Slavic origin, from Poles to Czechs to Russians to Slovaks to Ukrainians. When I read Willa Cather's My Antonia, I heard whispers of my hometown when Cather had a Czech immigrant to Nebraska say "I want you should." Just like home,for me.Cather also used a phrase that I had heard only my Great Plains grandmother say: baching it [a bachelor keeping house]. Cather had a fine ear for dialogue. She could paint a good landscape, also.

I say "Belicheck."

Sam L. said...

No idea, no opinion; I don't watch baseball, basketball, or football. And I'm on the other side of the country.

herfsi said...

you're good at noticing things! noticing too much can lead to having non "correct-think" opinions:)
the wikipedia entry on bill b's impressive father steve says latter was born in croatia with the last name Biličić

Murph said...

I looked at Wikipedia as well, and saw the original name, Biličić.

Tidbit of Croatian info: My father was born in Croatia, & came with his mother to the U.S. in 1904, at the age of 2.
His surname was Sepić, in which the "ć" was pronounced somewhere between an "sh" and a "ch". Coming through Ellis Island, the accent over the "c" was dropped and the name became Anglicized into Sepic, pronounced "Sepp'-ick". I have also seen people named "Sepish," and "Sepich." I presume that they all derive from the same Croatian surname, and the discrepancies come from how the name sounded to the Customs agent writing up the paperwork.

(All of which explains nothing about how to pronounce the "i" before the "ć." :-)

Texan99 said...

People are always asking how to pronounce my name. It's "Laubach," which often comes out something like "LOO-bahsh" or "Luh-BAHSH." It's not my family name. My husband's family say "LAH-bahk." I tend to Germanize it and say "LOW-bahk," with the "low" rhyming with "cow." I don't try to give it the gutteral [ccchhh] sound at the end, though I might when I'm pronouncing the name of the composer "Bach." Anyway, "LAH-bahk" seems easier to remember and is what most people drift to even after asking me, so I never mention it again. I don't want to be like one of those silly news anchors who've been taught to linger over "Nicarrrrrrragwha."

Proper names lose the pronunciation of their countries of origin pretty quickly. I try to use whatever pronunciation the owner of the name prefers, if I can pull it off.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I would pronounce Laubach as you do, because that is what the German pronunciation would be (plus the ccchhh) and I took highschool German. It matters when a foreign name came here and what we learned as authentic. People outside Kentucky snigger at the town ver-SALES, believing it should be pronounced ver-SIGH, as in France. Yet everyone in American says PA-ris, not pa-REE.