Pho Pronunciation: You Can Say It, Pronounce Pho, Say: Phở...
@Huh Pho: I agree. I think Americans are smarter than we give ourselves credit for when it comes to foreign language, and we (I count myself as American) can do as much or as little as we want. Those who can do and want to, can really do a lot of great things. Those who won't do much will find excuses for not doing much at all. Glad you find this post helpful.
I understand where the anger from 'stop being so pretentious' came from. It's reached a point in middle-class American interactions where people pride themselves in not only pronouncing "pho" more or less correctly, but in correcting people despite their preference in pronunciation. It's hardly the same respect, as many of said vain fools, deliver in pronouncing any other word or phrase appropriated from other languages into English and commonly morphed in pronunciation.
While I understand the concern over proper pronunciation in general, I completely relate to the aforementioned frustration given how hypocritically and self-righteously corrections are delivered. "Pho" has now absolutely become one of pronunciations to boast about now that the the successful propagation of Tex-Mex pronunciations left us with, again, more or less correct pronunciations of "quesadilla", "chipotle", "guacamole", and "jalapeño".
Regardless, I am very appreciative of this post and the recorded pronunciations for our ease of consideration. It was very helpful in cutting through the crap and getting to the point.
@John: Thanks for your comments. Maybe some readers misinterpret my intention from the early part of the article. To some it may sound snobbish, but in fact it's all tongue-in-cheek, evident by the word 'slanderous' being in quotes. I saw a great opportunity and an excuse for me to help those who cares or are curious to know, and I took it.
Of course, I can't force others to say things correctly; I can only help by putting this post out there. Correcting others for proper pronunciation is a sticky business, unless you know the person well. On the one hand, you risk alienating people by acting like a know-it-all. On the other, the person may be very appreciative to know the correct way so he/she does better next time.
I hear you about the frustration you described and also from a few others. I think it's not much different than the word "nuclear" being pronounced nuke – you – lerr. To many it just doesn't sound right on the ear. And one can't anglicize everything. I'll throw my first name out as an example. In Vietnamese it's written as Cường with certain pronunciation that's almost impossible for Western tongue, so it had to be translated to "Cuong" for convenience and use in the states. And it's still not easy. Don't even mention the numerous times it had been butchered 😉 There are times when a new friend tried so hard to correctly pronounce my name that I felt guilty for putting him/her through such ordeal. Regardless, he/she didn't mind.
And that's the key point. Those who don't mind, won't mind regardless. And those who mind will mind regardless. Why would a Westerner ask me how I pronounce my name? Isn't it because he/she cares and doesn't want to disrespectfully mispronounce someone's name? One has to see the extra effort, and hopefully sincerity, being put forth by the inquiring person. It's all about understanding and expanding one's own horizon. I see phở the same way and that is the point of all these pronunciation guides.
Anyway, I'm glad to hear your viewpoints. Let's all go and have some pho?
Thanks for the pronunciation help!
I have to take exception however, to your calling the Americanization of a word, "butchering" - it's normal, and it's done by every language on the planet. And I have to admit, I like the way a word changes as it moves into new territory. And it changes not because Americans (or Japanese, French, Vietnamese, etc) and cultural bigots, it changes naturally. The Japanese don't say "television" or "tv" they say something that sounds kind of like "tereby". It sounds a bit funny at first, until you realize that it fits perfectly with their language - it's a borrowed word that made itself at home in a new place, with a new pronunciation. Likewise, saying "Pho" like "faux" isn't really butchering to me, just different. Still, I'll work at remembering to pronounce Pho closer to the original.
Hey @Marty: Thanks for the feedback and all points are well taken. I wrote this article with a bit of tongue in cheek, and I guess I still need to work on doing it better. I totally agree with your point about words moving into new environments or territories.
When something becomes popular and globalized, it's really out of anyone's hand or control, and it will go where the mass will take it. I've come to the realization (with reluctant acknowledgement) that this has happened and is happening to pho and there's nothing anyone can do about it. There will be fusion pho and fusion banh mi and on and on. Heck there's already Vietnamese food/restaurants opened by non-Viet people. There's a "pho banh mi" done by none other than a Vietnamese chef! Likewise there will be zillions of ways that people will pronounce pho and make pho themselves. Oh how I hate it and how I love it at the same time :P!
In the case of pho, I think we're still in the early transitional phase with lots of dynamics still going on, and I just want LovingPho to be in there mixing things up a little bit while trying to maintain at least some traditional aspects of pho. I don't consider myself a pho right-winger who can't face changes. I'll go where the money is lol.
Nice response, Cuong! Both thoughtful and funny ("pho right-winger" - that made me laugh).
@Marty: It was a pleasure receiving your feedback! Drop by and share more viewpoints anytime.
I have to say that even your attempt at the Northern accent still sounds very Southern, Cuong 😛