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Friday, July 21, 2006

Mr Chough and the Romanization of Korean names

Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax),
Fi. alppivaris, Kor. 붉은부리까마귀
Browsing quickly through the main pages of some of the Korean newssites, I saw the name Cho Sun-hyông (조순형) mentioned as a formidable candidate in the by-election of Seongbuk-gu. As someone who's paid some attention to the romanization of Korean names, I thought that wasn't that not Mr Cho but Mr Chough; yes indeed, Chough Soon-hyung (elected as the leader of Kim Dae-jung's old Millennium Democratic Party a few years ago ). When googling to find about his name, I learned that "chough" is actually a bird (see Wikipedia), pronounced [tʃʌf], as even I could have figured out, but not apparently Chough Soon-hyung, who with other Korean Choughs must have had the impression that "chough" rhymes with "though" and not with "tough". (What I'm not sure about is whether it can be made to rhyme with "though". In the NPR programs that are aired over here, the listeners who send in mail are asked to indicate how their names are prononounced; "my name's Chough, and it rhymes with "though.") Well, actually Mr Chough is not fully on wrong tracks here, as Wiki remarks that "its [the bird chough] name probably comes from the old Cornish pronunciation of chough - "chow" as in bough." But still, here would have been a good case for at least a bit of Romanization guidance, if not discipline. (In case Mr Chough ever makes it so big that his name is mentioned in Finnish news, it's conceivable that his name gets pronounced something like 코우그흐.)

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