Is Rick Hard?

Richard straussOne of my pet peeves is the way so many English speakers pronounce the German name Richard, as in the first name of two of my favorite composers, Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.

The German language ch “is pronounced as a rasping sound made in the back of the mouth something like clearing the throat before you spit” to quote the LearnGermanOnline website. And the d, when it is the final letter in a word, sounds more like an English t.

Here is the German pronunciation rendered in the International Phonetic Alphabet: ˈʁɪçaʁt
or an approximation in our alphabet: Reesch-art where the sch represents the throat clearing German ch.

Alas, nearly all classical music radio announcers, for reasons totally incomprehensible to me, choose to pronounce the name as “Rick-hard” or perhaps “Reek-hard”.

Not only do they get the German pronunciation wrong (they miss the rasping ch sound and the final d as t sound, and they often get the accent on the wrong syllable as well), but the pronunciation they use is neither an English nor a Germanic pronunciation, nor, as far as I know, one known in any earthly language.

Where it came from, I have no idea, but I wish they’d stop it.

Now, I’m sympathetic to those announcers for whom German is not their native language and who thus might struggle to get that throat clearing German ch sound. During my days as a classical radio host, I simply pronounced Richard as its English equivalent, and I’d rather hear that than the totally bogus pronunciation that sounds vaguely pornographic.

Here are two brief examples from the recent broadcast of a Philadelphia Orchestra concert on WRTI. The first voice is Yannick Nézet-Séguin who gives it the German pronunciation through his French-Canadian accent; the second voice is WRTI’s host Melinda Whiting, about whom I have nothing but praise except for this one tiny flaw, who gives it the wrong pronunciation.

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