Husband grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where there are lots of people with German, Dutch, and Eastern European names. That does not help him for my challenge to try and pronounce names in the Rock County Star Herald. This week the paper listed all the high school graduates in the county, and he again marveled at the weird and contrary ways names are pronounced in southwest Minnesota.
There are a lot of people of Dutch and German heritage in the area, yet the rules for name pronunciation are different than in Sheboygan. Why, for example, is Stenenga pronounced “sten en gay”, yet Steensma is pronouced just like it is spelled? Other vowel combinations with “ui” also are also different than in Wisconsin. He finds the pronunciation of “ue” even more vexing. In Sheboygan, the “u” would invariably be silent, and the pronunciation would be the same as long e. In Rock County, the “e” would typically be silent, with a long “u”. Names with two identical vowels, like “aa” and “oo” are pronounced the same in both places. I think one reason is Rock County’s settlement by immigrants from Ostfriesland, in northern Germany/Netherlands, where the language is a mixture of Dutch, German, and old English, and where Plattdeutsch is a popular dialect. There are also lots of people of Norwegian heritage in Rock County, unlike in Sheboygan. Husband grew up with people who had names like Hopfensberger and whose ancestors came from Bavaria. I find the lingering linguistic differences fascinating.
Husband noticed, too, that many of the graduates had East Asian, South Asian, and Hispanic names, and he described Rock County as a crucible in which disparate peoples are all mixed up together to make something good. He just wants to make sure that if we move there, he will know how to pronounce the names.
Tell about your linguistic challenges and the linguistic oddities you notice.