# Most Commonly Mispronounced Mathematicians

1. May 2, 2013

### hsetennis

Title is pretty self-explanatory. I'm compiling a short list.
The ones I could think of:

Descartes = Daycart
Euler = Oiler
Erdos = Airdish
Riemann = Reemahn
Lie = Lee

2. May 2, 2013

### phyzguy

Are you saying your phonetic pronunciations are correct or incorrect?

3. May 2, 2013

### EvenSteven

So are you saying we need to enunciate their name like it sounds in their native language?

French is my first language and I wouldn't say Daycart is a wrong pronunciation. A lot of phonemes in french and other languages don't have an exact replica in english.

Descartes in french sounds like Dehhh-Kah-Hrt. Of course the r in french doesn't sound like "are" like it does in english, and it's kind of hard to explain through text for someone like me who doesn't know phonetic spelling.

Last edited: May 2, 2013
4. May 2, 2013

### hsetennis

I hope they're close to correct.

5. May 2, 2013

### DrewD

Those are the common Anglicized versions of their names. I assume hsetennis isn't expecting everyone to attempt perfect accents, but a lot of people pronounce Erdos err-dose which is not even close.

Fourier$\approx$For ee ay
but that one might be a lost cause

And for physics
Chandrasekhar=?

For Chandrasekhar, I had an Indian professor that was telling us about him and halfway through we stopped him and realized we actually knew who he was talking about, but none of us recognized the pronunciation. But then I forgot it.

6. May 2, 2013

### hsetennis

Not exactly enunciated, but I would like to provide an approximate English pronunciation for those who don't speak French/German/Dutch/Norwegian.

I am aware that the common french R is a guttural consonant, but this is uncommon to us Americans, so I didn't bother to go too deep into it.

7. May 2, 2013

### hsetennis

Ah, Fourier is another good one, thanks. As for Chandrasekhar, I feel your pain. Even as a native Hindi speaker, I had trouble recognizing his name in a spoken setting for two reasons. Between Indian languages, there is a wide variation in the pronunciation, despite having the same script. Also, there is somewhat of an over-anglicization of his name (not complaining, I'm guilty of this too), from the "t∫"[ch] to a "∫"[sh] and the "ər"[ur] to "ɑr"[are]. What has always irked me about the spelling is that the English spelling uses an "s" whereas the pronunciation is "sh".

8. May 2, 2013

### AlephZero

The basic problem is transliterating from a phonetic language with a huge alphabet (about 50 letters compared iwith 26)

It it was spelled Chandrashekhar, a "well informed" english speaker would probably read it as Chandras-hekhar. The same issue applies to "th" (as in lighthouse, not as in bathroom).

9. May 2, 2013

### hsetennis

I hadn't considered this situation. Now that you mention it, I can understand the difficulty if one mistranslated an aspirated labial "ph" to the labiodental "f".

10. May 3, 2013

### haruspex

11. May 3, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Here is a tricky one: Euclid

12. May 3, 2013

### hsetennis

It's not yoo-klid?

13. May 3, 2013

### Fredrik

Staff Emeritus
Last edited: May 3, 2013
14. May 3, 2013

### Fredrik

Staff Emeritus
I went to Wikipedia and copied the ancient greek version of his name, Εὐκλείδης. Then I pasted it into the box at google translate. It suggested that I change it to Ευκλείδης, so I did.

Sounds like eff-clee-these, or at least it would, if it hadn't been for the fact that the English L sound is pretty different from the L sound that most European languages have in common. I would however argue that "Euclid" isn't his actual name, but his English nickname, and that this makes it OK to pronounce it youclid.

Last edited: May 3, 2013
15. May 3, 2013

### SteamKing

Staff Emeritus
There is a variation in the sounds represented by modern Greek letters to the sounds which linguists think were represented in ancient Greek. If you were to ask an ancient Greek about the man known as 'Euclid' using the modern Greek pronunciation, he might find you hard to follow, although the written form of the name 'Euclid' has not changed.

16. May 3, 2013

### lisab

Staff Emeritus
17. May 3, 2013

### phosgene

Leibniz. It's Lyb-nitz, not Leeb-nitz! Somebody should start a similar thread for physicists. There are a few of those that I can think of..

18. May 3, 2013

### czelaya

When I took a course in General Relativity as an undergraduate I heard a fellow student call the Ricci tensor the "Rikki tensor".

19. May 3, 2013

### Fredrik

Staff Emeritus
I don't think there is an "americanization" of "Poincaré" that that sounds like the name, so it's understandable.

The only one that actually made me laugh was "Lebesgue", because Google pronounced it Leb-saig.

20. May 3, 2013

### Andre

Is there a point (pwhah in French)? We lived in Canada some 35 years ago and my spouse had to see the doc for a first time. So she waited patiently until her name was called. But that never happened. Finally the waiting room was empty and the assistant came to her asking whilst pointing to a name on a sheet of paper: "Is this you? ". Yes it is", said my spouse. But "why", said the assistant: "we have called you a dozen times". "No you didn't" said my spouse.

Last edited: May 3, 2013