Over the last two years, I’ve been lucky enough to be interviewed on perhaps three or four dozen radio shows. During these interviews, a lot of the same questions crop up – stuff like “Are you bothered by ‘between you and I’?” (Yes.) And, “Is it wrong to say, ‘try and’?” (It should probably be avoided.)
But only one question is guaranteed to come up every time. It’s the one that precedes the formal interview: “How do you pronounce your name? Is it CAAH-sa-GRAHN-day or CASS-a-GRAN-day?”
In other words: Should we pronounce the A sounds as we would in Spanish or Italian, or should we anglicize them? Both are correct, obviously, but I opt for the latter pronunciation. When saying my own name, a Latin A sounds downright pretentious. The anglicized Cassagranday sounds to me more relaxed and less affected.
It’s the same reason I don’t roll my Rs when I order a burrito or belly up to the barista at my local Starbucks to order a “cwoissan.”
The way I deal with foreign/adopted words is: If there’s an accepted American pronunciation, such as “cRoissant,” I use it. For less common words, I try to observe true-to-their-mother-tongue pronunciations only to the extent they can be spoken in an American accent.
I happen to know the correct pronunciations of “Al Qaeda” (the Q part, anyway) and Kadafi. But they both involve consonant sounds that don’t exist in English. So I pronounce both Qaeda and Kadafi as if they started with a K sound, and thereby eliminate the danger that someone will try to perform the Heimlich maneuver on me.
Foreign words in English are wonderful when we can reach a sort of harmony with them. But “haute,” to me, just doesn’t sit right on an American tongue.
Don’t construe this as anti-French sentiment. I love French. In fact, French class is where I first discovered my passion for English grammar. So my dislike of “haute” is in no way a lack of appreciation for the French language.
Say “haute couture” with a French accent and it sounds nice. Say it with an American accent and it sounds not just silly but self-conscious. Compare this to, say, “aujourd’hui” – pure music in a French accent and good clean fun in an American accent as well. But “haute” is another beast.
I suspect I'm not alone. This would explain why why, though I often see “haute” in print, I almost never hear it spoken. Most telling of all, this may be why the how-to-pronounce-it recordings of two major dictionaries disagree.
Click the little sound symbol on Dictionary.com’s pronunciation for “haute” and you’ll hear “ought.” Click on the entry below, the one authored by the American Heritage Dictionary, and you’ll hear a slightly fancified version of the word “oat.”
And that, to me, is why we haute to find a replacement for this word.