Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When in doubt, pronounce it how it’s spelled. It’ll work roughly 39% of the time.

So my last name is Karger. It's either Romanian or Austrian—no one in my family is sure. But what I do know is that people are often tempted to pronounce it as “Kar-JER.” More tempted, evidence shows, than they would be to pronounce it correctly.


Different Ways I’ve Heard “Karger” Pronounced in My Twenty-Three Years of Life

One friend in high school called me "Frogger." When I asked him why, he said, "Duh. Because it sounds like your last name."

So you see, it seems my surname has the power to confuse and perplex the masses. 

In case you guys were wondering: It's Kar-GER. Coincidentally, that's also how it's spelled.

But, shhh, it's okay if you didn't realize. Pronouncing things correctly is difficult. I say this with no irony or sarcasm whatsoever. I interned at a fashion magazine and tried to pronounce "Hermés" several times in my four days there.

I did not once pronounce it correctly.

P.S. Aaaand five years later I've realized that in a post about other people pronouncing my name wrong, I pronounced my own name wrong. 

The emphasis is on the first syllable, not the second: KAR-guhr.


  1. Is Hermes pronounced anything like herpes?

    One time, my Arizona buddy introduced me to his girlfriend, a Philippina girl called Charina. I wasn't sure if it was pronounced Karina or what. Turns out it was just Charina, like in CHAnge.

    Anyway. This point about pronunciation is particularly true when you're speaking in a foreign language, and both your mother tongue and your second one have similar words.

    My main problem with English, in my case, is always with the freaking stressed syllables.

    1. I think it's pronounced "Air-Mez." To be honest, I'm still not sure. I only lasted four days at that magazine for a reason. I probably would've given up on your friend's girlfriend and just called her "Chair." Close enough, right?

  2. It's probably because of German and germane and gerrymander and such... although those are at the front of the word, and Karger is obviously in the middle, and I dunno which I would say if I'd had the chance to not think about it and just say it, now.

    My name growing up always got mangled too. It was awesome for screening out telemarketers. "No, we don't want whatever you're selling. You don't even know how to say our name!" or better yet, "Sorry, the Coffin people don't live here." (It was a common mispronunciation.)

    1. I do feel like the hard "g" should be common sense, but I try not to get too angry since it would be so hypocritical--I have mangled many a surname in my time.

      For the next telemarketer, you should pretend "Coffin" IS your last name and that you are a family of vampires.

  3. Ever been told the way you pronounce your name is wrong? I have. Most irritating. I blame California, specifically Irvine, California. The fine citizens of Irvine, California, pronounce their city's name Ir-VINE, like the climbing plant, as do many people who share my surname. My family, however, pronounces it like there's no E on the end, in the way of "vintner". Both are fine, but having someone tell you that you've obviously got your own name wrong 'cause, hey, there's that city in California (with a branch of Cal State and everything!) is pretty damned vexing.

    Incidentally, for anyone calling me "IrVING", where do you see the ING? Eh? Where? +slow burn+

    For what it's worth, I somehow assumed your name was pronounced with a hard G. When you become a fabulously famous writer, everyone will get it right.

    1. Haha, your "Irving" is my "Carter!" Not that similar to our names at all, really, but they're the common names that our names sound most like.

      Good on you for getting my name right. And thank you for the kind words, though they might not prove true. You have no idea how many ways I've heard "Palahniuk" pronounced.

  4. Since my good friend is VERY fashion-designer oriented, Hermes never posed much problem for me. Oddly enough, I pronounced your name right, wow.

    If it helps, people mispronounce my last name fairly often. This wouldn't be so bad... except my last name is a first-grade spelling word. They also misspell it very frequently... I worry for the world sometimes.

    1. Aw, I could've used a friend like that at the time. All my friends are film nerds. Completely useless.

      Thanks for getting my name right! Ha, it does make me feel slightly better that people manage to butcher even simpler names than mine.