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Anglo-mangling of Polish surnames in the US/Canada

Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446
24 May 2013 #1
Rusisans, Urkainians and others using the Cyrillic alphabet are fortunate in America because their surnames have been transliterated to make them pronounced close to the original.

So those names end up as Pavlovich, Dombkovsky, Sharakovsky, Hurchinsky and Yablonovich which even the dumbest Anglo
can more or less handle.
Not so with Polish names. If left intact, the above Polish equivalents would end up as Paula-wits (Pawłowicz), Dab-COW-ski (Dąbkowski),
Sarah-COW-ski (Szarakowski), Chur-ZIN-ski (Churczyński) and Jab-LA-nowits (Jabłonowicz). A real doozy is Wojciechowski which may end up as wodge-si-CHOW-ski.Even the seemingly straightforward Nowak comes out as NO-whack. The Czechs and Slovaks spell it Novak and have no such problems.

Ergo, PolAms have the following options:
1. Simply bite their tongue and patiently grin and bear the Anglo-mangling;
2. Correct each Anglo-mangler until the correct pronunciation sinks in;
3. Phonetically respell their surname, eg Yablonski, Hominski, Voyda, Shibilski (Przybylski - the intial 'p' is barely heard anyway), etc.

Has anyone on PF had similat expereinces they can share?
delphiandomine 88 | 18,446
24 May 2013 #2
2. Correct each Anglo-mangler until the correct pronunciation sinks in;

This is what people with foreign names do in Poland.

Changing it because of stupid people is absolutely idiotic. I have a golden rule - can't pronounce my name? I'm not doing business with you.
24 May 2013 #3
Has anyone on PF had similat expereinces they can share?

I once had a girlfriend in Poland whose surname was spelt Patska after her father got sick of being called 'Paki' in the USA when he lived there. The best one, however, was missed: somebody who went to uni in the US didn't think to respell his name L'Sheq and so spent all his time there being called Leech.
Polson 5 | 1,770
24 May 2013 #4
Changing it because of stupid people is absolutely idiotic. I have a golden rule - can't pronounce my name? I'm not doing business with you.

You're a bit harsh. It's not really about being stupid, or idiotic, or anything. You can't expect the rest of the world (non-Polish people) to pronounce such names as Błaszczykowski correctly.

As Polonius said, you either adapt, or if you're patient enough, explain people, over and over again.
bledi_nowysacz 2 | 53
24 May 2013 #5
This is what people with foreign names do in Poland.

Once here in Krakow I had to "change" my name into £ukasz because I didn't have time to explain to the drunk guy who asked me for a cigarette where I come from and why my name is so weird ( for poles ).Funny thing though, he said that I have the same name as his brother so he stayed there talking and talking till the time somebody proposed him a bottle of vodka.
jon357 72 | 21,239
24 May 2013 #6
In 13 years in Poland I've only come across one person (a retired Colonel) who pronounces my name correctly and frankly it isn't at all hard to pronounce.
jon357 72 | 21,239
24 May 2013 #8
First and last names. Remember my username ain't the real one, and on FB it's obviously only part of the story....
delphiandomine 88 | 18,446
24 May 2013 #9
Have you ever actually been called Yon by anyone?
jon357 72 | 21,239
25 May 2013 #10
Frequently. And Johann.
25 May 2013 #11
These are all concessions to monolingual "Anglogance" (Anglo arrogance), plain and simple! OVERsimplifying, for example, S - £ - A -
W - O - M - I - R W - I - E - R - Z - B - I - C - K - I into "Sam Wirshbin" or the like is plain ridiculous and denegrates the native language of the poor soul whose name has just been hopelessly mutilated (:- Translating names too in order to fit certain Anglo-Saxon norms is equally idiotic, e.g. "Godfrey Gains" > Bogdan Gański etc...

One hope that the Ellis-Island mentality were diminishing and that most of us had become more multi-culturally sensitive.
Sparks11 - | 335
25 May 2013 #12
I've recently had a Korean student in class who calls herself by a "traditionally Polish" first name. Granted, we could pronounce her first name with just a little bit of effort, but I think that many people try to be culturally sensitive to the citizens of the place they live. Not doing so is called being a "dick" or "American/British". Of course, everyone is an individual and worthy of maintaining his/her given name, but what's wrong with trying to make life a bit easier on the citizens of one's host country? I see nothing wrong with being adaptable.
25 May 2013 #13
It depends though on to what extent we "adapt" as opposed to "sell out" to convention. A Korean named Soo Young changing her name to Zdidsława, Danuta or the like merely to sound traditionally Polish in a way devalues her native heritage and marginalizes herself in order to simply please the majority. It's not enough to CALL yourself Danuta, you must act like a Danuta.

A cow born in a horse stable will always remain a cow, not a horseLOL
Rysavy 10 | 308
25 May 2013 #14
Aww com'on. Not only anglo countries are guilty; to be fair it would be better titled "mangling ethnic names by new countries". And it is not always caused by Anglophonic spellings.

Ellis Island you had not so cream-of-the-crop(not intelligista) trying to mark "X" on the what was hopefully the correct spelling of their name was dictated by generally educated english speaking person (but possibly not native English themself).

Sometimes your ancestor may had purposely anglized his name to fit in his new home, yet avoid losing it totally by transliterates like "Mr Brown" for "Moreno".

And before we were all numbered and scanned-changing name was simple.

My father changed his name in the Army in 1941. His given name was Ruby and he changed it to Richard purposely.
The Army mispelled my grandfathers middle name of Anselm to Ancil and it ened up in all ID afterwards making his middle name spelled different first time in 6 generations.

My one family had such competition for inheritance that each branch purposely changed the spelling from 3 full brothers so you knew WHICH son they came from ( Pruitt-Pruwett-Prewitt with variances in "t"s)

My Maternal side went traceably though countries from (Prague)Baginski>Bagneski>(France)Bagnes>(Portugal then Spain) Baggones which became in (in Brasil before split when some stayed in Mexico) branch 1Bageus/Bagne 2Basqez 3Borgues then the US the youngest 6 are Borquez (pronounced "bor kay") except oldest son's family who are Bagne. My family was easy to trace because the size and peculiar first names.

However my own birthname was changed from Gwynfyddyr for anglo-mangling (my mother couldn't say it nor my middle), then at 16 I changed it again to my nickname, a shorter name that sounded like my grgrandmothers Cherokee name as bonus. I disliked the anglized version since it didn't have the same meaning and I was afraid to change it back since my paycheck had simple Guinefer mispelled often as well or only my common nickname used.

I mean honestly..what would my name have become in Polish? or Finnish?
as for a non native english speaking person with an impediment..I'm just glad I can almost say Dobrzynski more Polish now

(hunny said I was saying it like czech -and definitely better than how our other non-Polish friends say
OP Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446
26 May 2013 #15
Very interesting. Of course, all countries have problems with foreign namews. In Argentina Koszucki (kaw-SHOOT-ski) comes out sounding like ko-SOO-gee. The Chinese will break up your surname into syllables, so Prudnicki might sound something like pu-ru-du-neet-si.

And in the US Army someone named Chrzęszczykiewicz often evoked: 'Hey, alphabet, get over her on the double!' John Grzycz was often called 'John needs some vowels'. A common practice has been to call Mrs Tomczykiewicz Mrs T or Mr Przybyszewski -- Mr P.

A lot depends on the surname itslef. People named Sobek, Poremba (as long as it's not spelt with the 'ę'), Talaga and Tanalski usually encounter no problems.
26 May 2013 #16
Good point indeed, Rysavy!

I mentioned the name of the great Welsh author John Llewelyn to a bunch of Welshmen one day with an American pronunciation LEW ELLEN, and I though they'd bust a gut laughingLOL
OP Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446
26 May 2013 #17
What is the proper Welsh pronunciation of Llewelyn?
Patrycja19 63 | 2,699
7 Sep 2013 #18

Familiar to me.

Nowak comes out as NO-whack

never seen nor heard people mangle it like that.. unless your in first grade and are just learning to spell and sound out words.

can't pronounce my name? I'm not doing business with you.

you must not do much business , its kinda rude to expect someone from another country to know how to say much less pronounce your name if they have never heard of it IMHO. I would just shake their hand and smile and apologize for my pronounciation of it and let them teach me as I would them of how my name would be said.. unless you were born with the good ole pronounciation book attached to your brain and dont need it cause you know everything...

yes I know you missed me haven't you ;)

also during the Massive Immigration from late 1890's to 1920's everyones Name was mangled, only because so many came, high volumes of people passing thru the gates, who is gonna sit and try to spell or say someones name correctly when they have so many people to deal with on a daily basis. and the immigrants English was so broken or heavy accents, they didnt understand..

so for me, only an idiot would be upset , my thoughts are GET OVER IT ALREADY.

WOW.. lol that felt awsome.. I miss you guys
20 Aug 2017 #19
What the hell is your point, Patrycja?
RubasznyRumcajs 5 | 492
20 Aug 2017 #20
that dolphia's point isn't the best possible?
and yeah, I see no reason why to make the name (and surname, if necessary) a bit more familiar to the locals- at least if one cares about the integration/assimilation.
13 Dec 2017 #21
My great grandparents came to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the 1870's. When my father joined the US Navy in 1943 the Navy decided it didn't like how our named was spelled and they changed it. It was impossible to get the Navy to correct the change so my father ended up legally making the change permanent.

So my grandfathers name is different than my fathers and so it goes. I had thought of changing it back before I die but that would create problems for my son and grandchildren.

The funny thing is back in high school my teacher told me my name was spelled wrong and I laughed. He had the last laugh.
pawian 202 | 21,173
18 Mar 2020 #22
When in the USA, my nick was spelled pavian, not pawian.

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