June 26, 2005

Spanish in Charlotte in 1965

About a week ago, I expressed puzzlement that the Spanish name Oribe wound up (according to the New York Times) "pronounced OR-bay". It's not likely that there's a variant of Spanish in which a stressed penultimate vowel can be deleted, but this also doesn't seem like the sort of thing that the New York Times would get completely wrong. Today, Leslie Pressley McDonald sent email that clears up the mystery.

I went to high school with Oribe and his brother Cisco. We met in the 10th grade. From what I learned he'd been in Charlotte, NC since grade school.

Yes, Oribe is pronounced oh-REE-beh exactly as it reads, and as anyone who knows anything about Spanish knows, for the most part all vowels are pronounced. The "Orbay" came I believe because when he moved to Charlotte as a little boy there literally were no Hispanics in the area. You can imagine southerners trying to get the name right.

Teachers on the first day of school, all the kids asking "how do you say your name.. Orbay??"

It just became easier for people to say and less of a hassle for him to explain, so it stuck. It's not a hard name to pronounce but lots of people just don't read phonetically.

I'd bet my last dollar he always has been and still is called Oribe with the correct pronunciation by his Cuban relatives.  

Oribe graduated from Independence High school class of '75. In fact we are having our 30th high school reunion in October.

It's interesting that when Oribe Canales transformed himself into the one-name celebrity hair design brand Oribe, he decided to keep the mistaken pronunciation of his childhood friends in Charlotte, NC. And it's also interesting that the NYT reporter -- though giving the oddball pronuncation -- didn't ask the reason, or at least didn't tell.

Posted by Mark Liberman at June 26, 2005 06:47 PM