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Such an epic waste of MeFiFoo, but I must know: why does Brett Favre pronounce his name that way? Why, god, why?
March 10, 2008 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Such an epic waste of MeFiFoo, but I must know: why does Brett Favre pronounce his name that way? Why, god, why?!

I don't care at all about football, but whenever I happen to flip past any coverage about it (especially now, since he's retiring) there they are: legions of people pronouncing his name as if the "r" was before the "v". Well, I thought, maybe they're just attempting to pronounce this vaguely Gallic looking name and bumbling. Am I totally going nuts here? It's like trying to pronounce "chevre" cheese as "carve" cheese. If they must mispronounce it so badly, why not call him "Favor"? What gives?
posted by littlerobothead to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm not sure, but there's a cheeky little funny moment in There's Something about Mary in which Ben Stiller melds the right/wrong pronounciations of the name, beautifully underscoring how bizarre the currently accepted pronunciation is.
posted by dreamphone at 8:42 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Because rolling the French "r" properly is hard for most English speakers (but not Scots, I would assume). It might also be related to metathesis, where phonemes get swapped (also discussed here).

But yeah, it drives me nuts, too. And don't get me started on how Torontonians pronounce "Roncesvalles".
posted by maudlin at 8:44 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you axe me, people switch letters around all the time if pronouncing them correctly proves to be uncomfterble. "FAHV-ruh" is not the easiest word to say.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:46 AM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


(My quip to dreamphone read meaner than it was meant to be, by the way. The tubes doesn't do sarcasm...) And thanks, maudlin. Good stuff.
posted by littlerobothead at 8:48 AM on March 10, 2008


I know littlerobot, I was going to add that perhaps it was the only funny moment in said movie (TSAM). Anyway, perhaps Favre's mispronunciation is preemptive, taking into account how many other players' names get mangled by the announcers?
posted by dreamphone at 8:49 AM on March 10, 2008


To say it properly in French would require that spitty/gutteral noise that was easy to assimillate out of there.

So one, that's probably the way his family has said it for a long time, and two, it's similar to assimmilating Surnames from any other country of origin - especially things like r rolls and spitty sounds. Finally, while I don't know if he's in fact Cajun or partly so, that's a whole dialect in itself, so it's part regionalism.
posted by rainbaby at 8:49 AM on March 10, 2008


I've always kind of assumed that that wasn't how it was pronounced...but rather he just accepts that BOOM Toughactintinactin sports casters aren't necessarily known for their phonetic skills.
posted by TomMelee at 8:58 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Having, if not written, at least endorsed the Favre Family Cookbook: Three Generations of Cajun and Creole Cooking from the Gulf Coast, it seems safe to say that he's at least part Cajun.

In Louisiana I would hear Fabre pronounced as FAHB, Oubre as OOOB, so I'd presume that Favre sans Madden would just be FAHV.
posted by turbodog at 9:13 AM on March 10, 2008


You're asking two different questions.

Why does Favre pronounce it that way?
Why does everyone else pronounce it that way?

The answer to number two is because Favre does, although this Favre genealogy forum mentions families that do indeed pronounce it "favor" as well as "fave-ree," "fahve-ray" and more. This comment goes into detail about how the change might have happened. This one is from someone who blames Brett Favre for making the change to "farve" widespread. Also, the National Library Service has a Pronunciation Guide To Names of Public Figures, which mentions Favre in its intro:

But the major source, whenever available, must be the person him/herself. For instance, the surname Moreno is commonly said as either mor-EEN-o or mor-AIN-o, but Rita Moreno pronounces her name mor-ENN-o. And despite the spelling, Brett Favre says his name is pronounced FARV. So FARV it is, and mor-ENN-o it is, and that's that.
posted by mediareport at 9:15 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


[a few comments removed - no one cares who you want to assault, tis question is about pronunciation]
posted by jessamyn at 9:26 AM on March 10, 2008


Thank you so much for asking this. It's been driving me crazy, too (and I'm not a big football fan, either). It would make sense to me if it were pronounced "Fahv", with the guttural r getting dropped, but transposing the r just seems odd.

To each their own, I guess.
posted by rtha at 9:26 AM on March 10, 2008


Am I totally going nuts here? It's like trying to pronounce "chevre" cheese as "carve" cheese.

actually, it would be pronouncing chevre like sherve.

but yeah, farve bugs the crap out of me too. i have always assumed it's because americans have a hard time with the gutteral/rolling R.
posted by violetk at 9:30 AM on March 10, 2008


On the comparison to Rita Moreno: Moreno is a Spanish surname, so Mor-enn-o is the right way to say it. Mor-eeno or Mor-ai-no use English-language phonemes and so are out-and-out incorrect.

Which seems different than the Favre situation, where Farve doesn't appear to be the correct pronounciation in its native language.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:32 AM on March 10, 2008


I think generally if it's your name you get to pronounce it as you wish. My last name is French, and in English-speaking contexts I pronounce it flat and anglicized, while when speaking French I pronounce it correctly. Nothing as heinous as this Favre business though.

This is exactly how names evolve -- it's just that it's not as common as it used to be.

There are lots of examples in the US of this kind of thing though -- every time I hear an American say "Notre-Dame" I physically shudder. It seems to be French names in particular that take the worst abuse.
posted by loiseau at 9:46 AM on March 10, 2008


Favre is probably Creole. The Cajuns settled mostly in southwest LA and the Creoles are what they call the French who settled around New Orleans. Favre is from Kiln, MS which is approximately 100 miles northeast of New Orleans. If you go to New Orleans you'll find a lot of mispronunciation of French words. The best example I can think of is that Chartres Street is pronounced Charter Street by locals. If you pronounce it correctly when asking for directions no one will know what you're talking about.
posted by Carbolic at 9:50 AM on March 10, 2008


I was wondering the same thing when I heard Katie Couric pronounce it on the national news the day he retired. And, thank you for using your MeFi credits to ask this so I didn't have to. ;-)

Thank goodness he's famous. Can you imagine having to spell your last name over and over again whenever you said it? Of course, all the rest of his clan has this problem.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:29 AM on March 10, 2008


It's not just the French rolled r; it's the v-r combination. Vr doesn't work very well in English; I can think of a few names that start with Vr, and that's it. Plus, syllables tend to fit a certain sonority profile, going from low-sonority (consonants) to high-sonority (vowels) and down again (in "brand," for example, n and r are higher-sonority than b and d). That makes it hard for a syllable to end in "vr." (Most people don't pronounced the r in chevre, either; they say "chev'.")
posted by Jeanne at 10:36 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah...I don't think you can blame "most Americans" for the inablilty to pronounce FAY-VHOR or even FAHV-RRRE. Katie Couric, John Madden, etc. pronounce it that way because Brett pronounces it that way. I'd read through the interesting geneaology link to get more background on why.

After all, if we can learn to pronounce Houshmanzada, we can pronounce Favre the right way if he asked us to.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 10:42 AM on March 10, 2008


I know Bret Favre's cousin and wife. They pronounce it Farve as well; one's a pharmacist and one's a teacher, so no reason to pre-emptive mispronounce.
posted by phritosan at 10:58 AM on March 10, 2008


The first rule of name pronunciation is that the name is pronounced the way that the named says it's pronounced. So if he says that "Favre" is pronounced "Smith" then that's the way it is. All the other explanations only come into play if everyone is pronouncing it differently than Brett Favre pronounces it.
posted by winston at 12:10 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the "best answer" marks here (I would have marked mediareport's myself), though at least maudlin mentioned metathesis, which is what's going on. It's parallel to the name of the Pedernales River (in Texas) being pronounced "Perdenales" by locals; in English, rC (where C stands for any consonant) is easier to say than Cr, so you get that transposition a lot. And as Carbolic says, French names in and around New Orleans tend to be distorted in creative and unpredictable ways, so there's that as well.

On the comparison to Rita Moreno: Moreno is a Spanish surname, so Mor-enn-o is the right way to say it. Mor-eeno or Mor-ai-no use English-language phonemes and so are out-and-out incorrect.

No, Mor-enn-o isn't "the right way to say it" because it's Spanish. In the first place, the Spanish e is not like the English eh vowel, it's closer (more like English ay, without the -y glide); in the second place, the English and Spanish r's are utterly different. It's the right way to say it because that's how she says it, end of story.
posted by languagehat at 1:52 PM on March 10, 2008


More weird U.S. French pronunciation stuff: Calais, Maine, is pronounced Callis. Havre de Grace, MD, is pronounced something like Hahvur dee Grayss (I've also heard Hahbur, with a "b" instead of a "v").

I'm with the 'hat - I don't know why I got a best answer. Not that you should take it away or anything, though of course you're welcome to, but I don't know why my answer's a "best" one.
posted by rtha at 1:58 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


What about Havre, Montana?
posted by Flashman at 2:33 PM on March 10, 2008


This kind of mispronunciation is rampant in America. Anecdotally, in St. Louis, there's a Bellefontaine Road that's pronounced "Bell Fountain" by everyone who lives there.
posted by chrisamiller at 2:59 PM on March 10, 2008


This kind of mispronunciation is rampant in America.

Mispronunciation? Are you claiming Brett Favre mispronounces his own name? What an absurd idea. Please try to think more carefully about language.
posted by languagehat at 3:17 PM on March 10, 2008


Languagehat, I know you never miss an opportunity to condescend, but indeed I do consider the anglicised version of my French name to be mispronounced. I've used it that way all my life in Anglophone contexts, but I don't see that as its correct pronunciation. Surely if you agree this Brett Favre fella is allowed to pronounce his name as he chooses (and thus consider other pronunciations to be mispronunciations) then the opposite approach is also allowable?

rtha: More weird U.S. French pronunciation stuff: Calais, Maine, is pronounced Callis. Havre de Grace, MD, is pronounced something like Hahvur dee Grayss (I've also heard Hahbur, with a "b" instead of a "v").

I grew up about an hour from Calais and that one's always confused me. It's mostly just a bummer because the anglicisation strips all the beauty of the words. Havre de Grace is a really pretty name; "Hahvur dee Grayss", just not so much.
posted by loiseau at 4:19 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mispronunciation? Are you claiming Brett Favre mispronounces his own name? What an absurd idea. Please try to think more carefully about language.

You're right - mispronunciation was the wrong word to use there. Perhaps a better way of putting it is that these terms have been americanized? I only meant to imply that the word it's pronounced differently now that it originally was.
posted by chrisamiller at 4:26 PM on March 10, 2008


All the other explanations only come into play if everyone is pronouncing it differently than Brett Favre pronounces it.

Which is exactly what some of the folks at the Favre genealogy site are saying - that Brett Favre just kind of gave up on getting people to pronounce it the way his own family pronounced it and just went with "farve" to make life easier for sportscasters. Here's a piece by a second cousin of Brett's that makes the point:

I read recently that Brett said he gave up trying to tell people how to say our name correctly and went along so that now no one knows how. And just when did Brett Favre give up in anything else? Yes, I know, some of our Native American cousins in Oklahoma decided to give in and have their name changed legally to the Farve spelling. But others held tough.

I remember when Brett was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, our son, Jeff, called and said, "Dad, at long last people will now know how to pronounce our name." That dream...had a short life span. So, Brett, here's your chance. Set all of those sports broadcasters straight. Tell the world once and for all, it's not Farve as in carve. It's Favre as in suave.

posted by mediareport at 5:15 PM on March 10, 2008


chrisamiller: Sure, that works for me. Sorry, I'm so used to people pretending there's some One Correct Way and everything else is "incorrect" I tend to overreact. (Lest you think I have no basis, I was once involved in a thread where somebody literally did insist that everyone in some city was mispronouncing the name of their own street. Drove me right up the wall.)

loiseau: I'm sorry you feel that way; I never try to be condescending and don't want to come across that way. See above for context of my response. As for your name, without knowing the actual name and the anglicized version, I can't discuss the details, but would you agree that "americanized" is more accurate than "mispronounced"? I mean, most foreign names violate what linguists call the phonemic or morphophonemic constraints of English in one way or another (the French r is an obvious example of a sound English-speakers find difficult), and it seems unfair to accuse people of "mispronunciation" when they literally can't pronounce it "correctly" without special study.

As for Calais/"Callis," it's all a matter of what you're used to. It's exactly parallel to Paris (French/English versions), but I don't think anyone considers the anglicized Paris ugly. Pretty much all foreign geographical names used to have anglicized versions (Lyon was "lions," Livorno was Leghorn, etc.); they sound funny to us now, but they were just as normal in their day as Paris or Moscow are in ours. If our descendants take to saying pah-RREE and mahs-KVAH, they'll snicker at our "mispronunciations," and I'll shake my cane at them from beyond the grave. I wish people could get over the knee-jerk tendency to object to whatever they're not used to.
posted by languagehat at 5:16 PM on March 10, 2008


Another example, the town of Nacogdoches in Texas is pronounced Nac-a-doe-chez but the town of the same name in Louisianna is pronounced Nac-a-dish.
posted by tamitang at 5:39 PM on March 10, 2008


It's the modern incarnation of a process that has affected arrivals from other countries when they go beyond their linguistic peers. Put aside the Ellis Island myth: as we've discussed here before, when you have a name that's hard for others to spell or pronounce, or marks you as The Other during times of nativist reaction, there's a gradual erosion or a complete shift to something else. This is gradual erosion in strictly linguistic terms -- a flip akin to 'brid' becoming 'bird' -- but it's one that will affect every Favre in the country.
posted by holgate at 7:04 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Interesting that myth. My good friend's grandparents came here from Greece around the 10's or 20's. Their name was distinctly Greek, multiple syllables and whatnot. They've got the paperwork to show what their name *was*. When they got here, they said it to Ellis Island Man, and he is said to have shrugged and said "Ok, Morris it is!". Or something along those lines. I've seen the papers, and heard is grandfather tell this story. 4 rlz.
posted by TomMelee at 7:34 AM on March 11, 2008


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