How to pronounce PyeongChang

The Chang part of PyeongChang should rhyme more with tong or chong or bong than it does with tang or sang.  It’s ‘ohng,’ or, rather, the whole word is 평창.
It turns out that NBC Olympics commentators aren’t just being ignorant when they consistantly mispronounce PyeongChang to rhyme with one of Dracula’s teeth.  It’s a deliberate policy decision.

Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Broadcasting and Sports.  decided they should pronounce it the “American” way, rhyming with twang or tang because ‘it sounds cleaner.’


It’s not an English word. You’re not in an English speaking country.  You’re in somebody else’s home country so pronounce the name of their city the way they do- especially since it isn’t even that complicated.  I mean, I could understand if it was a city name that included a lot of Korean sounds the American tongue doesn’t even make, but this one is just not that hard at all.

I understand we don’t always use the local words for place names in foreign countries, usually for good reasons.  Koreans don’t call  their country “Korea” unless they are talking to English speakers.  They call it something more like daehanmingug (I hear this as more like day-ha-ming-go, but my hearing isn’t reliable). It wouldn’t make sense for English commenters to suddenly start talking about Daehanmingug because nobody would know what they were talking about (not even Koreans, because the Americans would blow the pronuciation to smithereens).

But… PyeongChang is different.  All of the sounds in that name are sounds our tongues can readily make.   We don’t already have a well known and understood and totally different pronunciation.  Most of us don’t have a pronunciation for it at all.  So use the correct one, not something you, in your American stubborn-ness, find ‘cleaner.’  What does that even mean?

Let me share a little story.  Recently, I went to a little coffee shop here in the PHilippines and ordered their toffee coffee frappe. I’m American so I read the menu aloud, and frappe has two syllables and the second syllable is ‘pay.’

My waitress said, “Whut?”  No, she didn’t. She just looked politely puzzled and asked me to show her on the menu.  I pointed, and she said firmly, “Oh, the toe-fee kah-pay frap.”

I agreed, but I thought smugly to myself, “How cute. She doesn’t know how to say frappe.”  I privately but generously conceded her pronunciation of coffee because the Filipino word for coffee is kape and the e in Visaya doesn’t ever have a silent form, it’s always pronounced as ‘e’. I decided to split the difference over toffee, as  the ‘o’ here sounds like something between oh and oo, and it just depends. On what, I haven’t figured out.

And then about three seconds later I gave myself a resounding mental slap for being provincial and American.  I am not in America or France, so if my hosts pronounce frappe with one syllable so it rhymes with slap, then that’s how it’s pronounced. I was being a jerk. At least I was only being a jerk by myself in my own head and I caught it and fixed it.

NBC made their jerkitude public policy and put it on the air.

And here’s what really roasts my transisters over the NBC thing.  They think they’re the ‘woke’ ones and assume the worst about the motives of everybody to the right of them.

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  1. Timotheus
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Actually, lots of Americans in New England also pronounce frappé with one syllable. and a short ‘A’ , but I think it’s used to refer to more of a milkshake-type beverage.

  2. Maggie
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    I grew up in Maine and NH, and we pronounce “frappe” like “slap” too. Never heard it any other way until McDonald’s came out with their “frap-pays”

  3. Gina Baynes Maserang
    Posted February 17, 2018 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Here in Missouri, we pronounce the name of our state Missour-ruh, but the rest of the country insists on pronouncing it with an “ee” sound on the end. It’s okay.

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