Rotifer asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 1 decade ago

Why do Americans pronounce Van Gogh like "Van Go"?

When everyone else especially the Dutch know it's pronounced with a CH like in Scottish loch, which is soft, not like in lock. And a G in dutch is pronounced like an H. I get why you have different pronunciation for words from British English, that's just normal divergence of language. Do you also pronounce Scottish surnames the way you read them, like the English do ? - such as Dalziel (should be pronounced Dee-yell), Menzies (should be pronounced Ming-iss), Lamont (should have stress on first syllable).


I would like an answer rather than an anti-British rant.

Update 2:

Would like to hear if any Americans with these Scottish names mentioned pronounce them as we do? I thought maybe people's names were less likely to change pronunciation over time than other words.

27 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favourite answer

    It is one of those things, I mean they call a bum bag a fanny pack! What's that about

  • Neilly
    Lv 4
    5 years ago

    It depends. In Spanish, "ana" is pronounced "ON-ah." If I know a family is familiar with Spanish phonetics, or the name appears to be Spanish, I would say ON-ah when i see Ana or -ana. However, it's used pretty frequently in English names interchangeably with Anna, and I know that. So if I see an English name in an English family, I tend to assume that -ana is the same as -anna. For example, Anabel, Liliana, etc. Bottom line: I have a guess in my mind before I try to pronounce the name, and if I'm right, great. If I'm wrong, then I correct it and move on. But I recognize that people can pronounce them differently. I would definitely pronounce Kianna as key-ANNA, while Kiana could potentially be key-ON-ah, or it could be key-ANNA as well. I would have to ask the person to be sure of the right pronunciation.

  • 1 decade ago

    Every time I've heard something about Van Gogh on say the History Channel, that is the way it has sounded (Van Go).

    As far as the other names, how would English speaking Americans know not to pronounce them as they are spelled?

  • 7 years ago

    maybe because there is a fricken ocean between the lot of us "ignorant" Americans and the rest or you "informed" Europeans. and for folk like me, the entire American continent as well (California if you couldn't pick that up). We base how we enunciate words off of linguistics not culture. Just because the whole of the worlds media has so much influence over your noggin (making you "informed" i guess), doesn't put you all any higher up on the social totem then us. the whole planet are morons, us and you alike.

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  • 6 years ago

    Because a glottal sound required to pronounce his name properly is not in either American OR British English, though it can be found in come dialects of Welsh and Scottish.

  • 1 decade ago

    Hiya; I'm a Brit married to an American, and I just asked her this question. She said "we don't see it written down that often, as we're not particularly exposed to European culture. And everytime we hear it pronounced, we hear it as 'Van Go', because the guttural 'gh' is not something we're familiar with."

    My darling girl has really had to deal with a lot of bizarre English since she came over here. I used to work in Southwark - Pronounced Suthuck - and London's full of places like Chiswick - Chizzick - and so on...

    I know that someone's name is someone's name and should probably be pronounced as they pronounced it really, but in terms of pure linguistics, there's no more reason why Van Gogh shouldn't be "Van Go" than the word sigh should be "siff".


  • 5 years ago

    Do Americans refer to the "Lo Ness Monster"? If they can approximate "Loch", they, like most Brits, can approximate "Gogh". And what about the great composer, Johan Sebastian Ba?

    Give me a break!

  • 1 decade ago

    I have to say that for those who live in Europe, it is much more common, and indeed nessecary to know bits and pieces of other languages.

    In America however, one can speak only English one's whole life and not have the slightest problem. So that's the reason for the ignorance of other cultures and language - not arrogance, Americans just aren't used to it.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    If I said Van Gock, people over here wouldn't know who the h-e-double toothpicks I was referring to. I pronounce it Vayunn Gauww anyway so I'm doubly wrong.

    I also call petrol gasoline, the bonnet of a car a hood, and a pocket torch a flashlight.


    Just American english.

  • JP
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    How do the French pronounce Van Gogh? He was famous for his paintings while living in France, not in "dark, cold" Holland. He even signed his paintings "Vincent" because the French could not pronounce his last name correctly...

    At any rate, I think the English pronounce it "Van Go" as well. The Scottish can pronounce it correctly because they have a guttural 'ch' sound as well.

    Mispronunciation is not only a matter of ignorance. How do Scots pronounce Milosevic, Mao Tse-Tung, and Li Ka-shing? I'm sure the vast majority would "mispronounce" all of these names.

    As for those names you wrote at the bottom, they are basically unknown in the US but this is how we would pronounce them:



    la-MONT (much more common among Black people)

    Similarly, the Irish name Caitlyn, pronounced kath-LEEN, is often pronounced KATE-lynn in the U.S., which I think sounds awful!

  • 1 decade ago

    Its always fun to discuss one of the least significant questions of the day. Some of us put the hock in Gogh. Ignorant Americans? No, were just busy.

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