July 26, 2006

The Perils of Transliteration

Just now on Jeopardy the question was "Who is Park Chung-Hee?", the President of South Korea from 1961 until his assassination in 1979. Alex Trebek pronounced it incorrectly, with an r, like the English word "park". Actually, the family name of 朴正熙 (박정희) is pronounced [pak], roughly like English "bock". In the current official South Korean romanization it is rendered Bak. Trebek's error is as much Park's fault for choosing a non-standard romanization as Trebek's. I suspect that the romanization with an r, which is pretty common, was based on an r-less dialect of English, probably British, and was meant to prevent it from being interpreted as [æ], as in "back" and "Mac".

Posted by Bill Poser at July 26, 2006 10:55 PM