Judge John Hodgman Episode 129: Lingua Fracas


Doug brings the case against his best friend Ty. Ty insists on pronouncing foreign words with the proper accent when speaking in English. Doug says this is pretentious, and that Ty should just accept the common pronunciation of words when he's Stateside.

Thanks to Michael Davidson Jr for suggesting this week's case name! To suggest a title for a future episode, like us on Facebook at Judge John Hodgman! We regularly put a call for submissions.

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The main thing I can't stand

The main thing I can't stand is when this is done selectively, especially on the radio. People will pull out all the stops to say Mehico or Cooloombya, then don't bother to pronounce France with a French accent. If people want to try and show everyone how smart they are by pronouncing words/proper nouns with the native pronunciation they should be forced to do it with every single word they say, not selectively.

fete vs fete

English town festivals with games, wares, etc -usually during the summer, are called fetes and pronounced like "fates." I realize we are discussing American pronunciation of the word, but this tidbit may explain why Doug pronounces it the way he does.

My simple rule

A friend of mine came back from a trip to Europe doing what Ty does. Particularly with "croissant" - which was coming out as "cwah-soh". Such as "G'day mate, could I have six .. cwah-soh .. please." This is similar to the "Chechnya Technique" of SBS newsreaders who will actually stop and make a sneering Transcaucasian Republics expression before saying "CHuchNYAAAAAAH".

My simple rule is: if you wanna go all 'correct pronunciation' on it, you have to say the whole sentence in that language. Otherwise it sounds stupid. Possibly related: my in-laws pronounce "restaurant" as though it is a recently arrived French word, with a silent T.

Johm Hodgman's pronunciation of Uluru

Interestingly, in an episode about correct pronunciation, Mr Hodgman pronounced Uluru incorrectly.

He said ul-LU-ru (like Uhura in Star Trek), when it's pronounced UL-lu-RU (like kangaroo)

Sorry to be a pedant, but I've just been retrenched and have little else to do with my time but listen to Judge John Hodgman, and it upsets me when he gets something wrong.

Richard from Sydney

Gyros pronounciation.

Ty was closer, the g is soft. But, include the final s! ghEeros is the correct pronounciation! (I'm greek)

See-ree-al and milk

I was born and raised about 30 miles west of Billings and never heard anyone pronounce "cereal" or "milk" the way Ty does. Montana is filled with folks who came to the state from various regions/states/countries only one or two generations ago. The end result is a lot of transplanted regionalisms which vary from household to household and don't apply to Montana, or even the Billings area, in general. So when I hear Ty say "melk" I wonder if his family comes from an ethnic Norwegian region in, say, North Dakota. I don't think of "melk" as a Montanan pronunciation.

So if you want to fit in when going to Montana don't try using any of the regionalisms mentioned here. Instead take your favorite ethnic joke and alter the wording so it makes fun of North Dakotans. The locals will think you're a native. With a juvenile sense of humor.

Pho King

On a hunch, I did a Google search ... There seem to be a lot of actual restaurants, and joke-y t-shirts, using the phrase "Pho King".

On an unrelated note, Apple Records pressed a record in 1969 called "The King of Fuh" by an artist credited as "Brute Force".


I live in Montana, born and raised. I listen to the Honorable Judge Hodgman regularly on my travels around the state.

I have never heard the pronunciation "gooms" for gums.

As another poster mentioned, the most common regional pronunciation, I think, is "crick" for creek.

Another is "kye-oat" for coyote ("kye-oatee").

A friend of mine from Nebraska (as if THEY know anything) says we say "howlin" instead of howling, as in "the damn wind is howlin' as it always is."

Finally, I agree with the other poster. PLEASE COME TO MONTANA, JUDGE HODGMAN!

Homage pronunciation

In response to one pronunciation of homage being "more than wrong", this link has a good discussion: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/07/magazine/07FOB-onlanguage-t.html?_r=0

I would have expected the judge to rail against the snooty modern French pronuciation. C'est la vie!

Candygram for Mango?

Is there any chance the Mango thing was actually a Blazing Saddles reference?


Certainly what instantly struck me!


My husband is from Montana. While I've never heard him say "gooms" in reference to the tissue holding his teeth, I HAVE heard him call my favorite candy "goomies" instead of gummies. Maybe now I know why...

Episode 129

Dear Judg Hodgman,

For some time now, I have been an avid follower of your podcast, and have enjoyed many hours of deftly dispensed fake justice. Until now, however, I had not found a case in which I had a personal interest compelling enough to write you. While listening to the case of Lingua Fracas this evening, I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to see if a certain word would enter the discussion. Alas, it did not.

Some time ago, my girlfriend and her brother had a testy disagreement on the pronunciation of the word macarons, the egg-white-and-almond-based, buttercream-filled cookie currently very popular in New York City and elsewhere. While my lady pronounced it, much in the style of Ty from the aforementioned case, in an approximation of the original French, her brother, a usually haughty person who enjoys correcting her to show his imagined superiority, insisted that the word be pronounced macaROON. I had always understood this to be the name of the perennially disappointing coconut confection found usually around the year-end holidays, a far cry from the delicious macaron.

It would be my contention that in such a case, the use of the two distinct pronunciations would be useful to distinguish one sweetmeat from the other. A friend, however, disagrees because, as she says, "everyone calls them macaROONs."

I hereby respectfully petition your honor for a supplemental judgement - How should we here in the United States pronounce the word macarons?


J Ellis

What about this word PLEASE…

The word "Niche" as in Niche Advertising.

It's a beautiful word when pronounced, "Neeesh" but I hear it pronounced, "Nitch". It sounds so vulgar as "Nitch".

I live in english speaking Canada but still think the French Influence makes "Neeesh" the most common pronunciation around here, but I often hear "Nitch" (Mostly from my American neighbours) and it sounds so wrong.

What is the right and wrong way?


Regional Accent - Montana

I just to confirm the Judge's claim, all of Montana is listening. We all rode our horses into city hall where our only computer with internet connection is hooked up. I thank the Judge for the acknowledgment. I have lived in Montana for 90% of my life and I have never heard of "gooms", that must be a Billings thing. Also the most "common" regional pronunciation is creek, for most proper Montanans creek rhymes with stick. Another one is roof, I hear more people pronounce it like it rhymes with tough.



Okay, Doug, for real, Ty is showing respect to the original inhabitants of Alaska by calling it Denali instead of Mt. McKinley, so get off his back about that one!

a member of the First Peoples of North America

PS - Judge John Hodgmen, you are wrong about "Pho"..."Faux" is not standard in North America. I don't go for "Faux", I go for "Fuh." You were also wrong about "Bonafides." Please distinguish that you are referring to American English, and not speaking on behalf of English speakers everywhere.

On the subject of Pho...

I have to share this great recipe for those of us that do not live near a place that serves Pho, and to clear up the pronunciation. Jaden Hair is a wonderful cook and blogger who has appeared on television and written very successful cook books. Her recipe is simple and just as wonderful as going out. She also makes the pronunciation of the word Pho easy for us 'muricans to understand.


Just say "fuh"

It's widespread enough here in Northern California, at least, that you just pronounce it "Fuh"! Both pronunciations were pretty irritating. Don't try to add the nasal twist.


I utterly adore this podcast and have recommended it to everyone I know; and I usually agree very much with the Judge's sage rulings. However, I have to say as New Yorker/Brooklyinte who hails originally from Michigan, I think the Judge is deeply wrong about the future widespread pronunciation of the excellent Vietnamese soup. Not knowing what it was called the first time I encountered it I pronounced it more like "faux" and was first corrected by my brother who lives in LA, but then shortly after by my New York friends while going to get some at spot in Chinatown. I was corrected one more time by a friend of mine from Michigan. I recognize my evidence is purely based on my own singular, personal experience, but it seems to me that if people from three different areas of the country can come together on a pronunciation without having any contact with each other, it counts as widespread already.

Thanks again for the excellent show!

It's totally "fuh"

I have never ever heard it pronounced "faux" by anyone until this podcast. Maybe it is a west vs. east coast thing, since I'm in AZ, but to say that "faux" is going to become standard is a stretch at best and offensive at worst. There's just too much pushback on the west coast to such ignorance. I think the judge got this one totally wrong.



Uluru vs Ayers Rock

In Australia I have not heard anyone say Ayers Rock since the 90s and it is now commonly considered offensive or at least disrespectful to say Ayers Rock in my experience. I think the name still stands just for tourists from outside the country so they can find the advertisments and usually it is written 'Uluru (Ayers Rock)' to try to guide them to say Uluru.

Considering the really dreadful things done to Aboriginal people, and especially since they still suffer from a lot of racism and land rights issues today, I would really strongly suggest only saying Uluru if you're inside Australia and/or talking to someone who identifies as aboriginal. In this case it really is an issue of respect.


I agree, Uluru is not only more respectful, but more common, so that one should have gone to Ty.