Calling all Danes
April 18, 2005 2:59 PM   Subscribe

København, aka Copenhagen. Is it pronounced ko’p?n ha’g?n OR ko’p?n hä’g?n?

Is the 'a' in 'hagen' hard like the 'a' in 'haven' or soft like the 'a' in 'bra'? Webster's dictionary gives both pronunciations with ko’p?n ha’g?n listed first. However, my Dad says he knows people in Denmark who pronounce it ko’p?n hä’g?n. There's currently a bit of a healthy family debate occurring over this issue (I say it ko’p?n ha’g?n).

I will be going to Copenhagen on a student exchange next semester and I want to pronounce it correctly when I tell people where I'm going (as a sidenote, any advice/tips for someone traveling in Copenhagen are also appreciated).
posted by Crushinator to Writing & Language (22 answers total)
Sorry, that looked ok in preview. Metafilter ate my unicode. :o(
posted by Crushinator at 3:01 PM on April 18, 2005

When I was there last year people in the area pronounced it "shopenhaan" (I think - now I don't remember perfectly...)

Very cool city. Awesome art museum, and there's the tiny anarchic community up the hill... I was only there a few days but really liked it.
posted by mdn at 3:03 PM on April 18, 2005


Den er riktig god.
posted by RichLyon at 3:13 PM on April 18, 2005


Is that with a hard 'a' sound or a soft one?

Also, what does riktig mean?
posted by Crushinator at 3:24 PM on April 18, 2005

Both are acceptable in English. Merriam-Webster lists both. The most common pronouncation, in my experience, is this (Copen rhymes with open, hagen with raygun).

This is not exactly the native pronounciation, as it sounds like it's been read phonetically by a non-native speaker, but it's close enough.

In no way is it pronounced Sho-. Unless you're Swedish.
posted by gentle at 3:32 PM on April 18, 2005


Caveat: I speak Danish, but my vocabulary is limited.

København is pronounced "ku ben hown".

On preview: what gentle linked to.
posted by silusGROK at 4:12 PM on April 18, 2005

Unless you pronounce the capital of France as "Par-EE," then the correct pronunciation is any of the English ones, which you mentioned. What gentle said.

Whatever you do, just don't "correct" people's pronunciation though. I asked a girl I knew how her semester was in Budapest. She told me it was actually pronounced Budapesht. That's when I confirmed my long-held suspicions that she was a wanker.
posted by grouse at 4:20 PM on April 18, 2005

That's when I confirmed my long-held suspicions that she was a wanker.

She was a man in disguise??
posted by kindall at 4:53 PM on April 18, 2005

wanker, n. 2. An objectionable or contemptible person.
posted by grouse at 5:01 PM on April 18, 2005

Is correcting others' attempts at humor also a sign of wankery?

kidding, kidding
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:03 PM on April 18, 2005

What grouse said. You should make it clear whether you're interested in the Danish pronunciation (of purely academic interest until you arrive there) or the English pronunciation (which you will use when telling people where you're going), for which M-W is a fine guide. Me, I rhyme it with Reagan.
posted by languagehat at 5:15 PM on April 18, 2005

I'm looking for the English pronunciation to resolve a dispute with my Dad and to tell people where I'm going before I get there. Sorry I wasn't clearer.

There's seems to be some concensus on the Reagan rhyme which is the way I've been saying it.
posted by Crushinator at 5:32 PM on April 18, 2005

this thread has a lot to say on the subject of pronunciation of foregin words especially place names. I say Cope-En-Haygen [hard g]
posted by jessamyn at 5:56 PM on April 18, 2005

When I lived there, all the Danes referred to it as 'Co-pen-hah-gen' and 'Co-pen-hay-gen' in pretty equal proportion. In Danish, it's closer to 'Ker-b'n-hown'.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:16 PM on April 18, 2005

silusGROK is correct. Koo been hown.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:06 PM on April 18, 2005

If you want to pronounce it the Swedish way (always a good way to impress Danes) go with Shir - pen - hamn. The 'r' needs to be silent. The stress is on hamn, and the 'a' pronounced halfway between 'car' and 'happy'.
posted by Panfilo at 11:01 PM on April 18, 2005

RichLyon pretty much nailed the Swedish way of pronouncing it as gentle points out, which doesn't impress Danes in the least. ;) Danes will pronounce it ku-ben-havn.

So Crushinator, when are you coming here? :)
posted by dabitch at 12:24 AM on April 19, 2005

I want to go back to København
posted by growabrain at 12:31 AM on April 19, 2005

One of my distinct memories of early childhood is of my little record player and my little record of "Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen."

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen
Friendly old girl of a town
'Neath her tavern light
On this merry night
Let us clink and drink one down
etc., etc.

The singer pronounced it Copenhägen. As far as I am concerned, that is the definitive pronunciation.
posted by bricoleur at 6:45 AM on April 19, 2005

So Crushinator, when are you coming here?

I will be leaving early August for a pre-semester Danish language program and I'll stay until mid to late December. I've been waiting for three years to do this and I'm so excited to finally be going. Any advice for a first-timer?
posted by Crushinator at 8:48 AM on April 19, 2005

When I flew into there, the pilot called it Copenhagen in English and Shoppenhahven in, presumably, Danish. Having expected to hear Kobenhahven, I was a bit surprised; my Danish seatmate said that both are fine but Shoppenhahven is much more common in Sweden (where, he asserted, the pilot was audibly from). Also, it was a famous old mercantile city, and the Shop part is the same as in "shopping".
posted by Aknaton at 9:23 AM on April 19, 2005

It said "calling all Danes" so here I am... it seems like the question has been answered in every possible way. Advice for new comers? Get a bicycle!

And at some point you'll probably end up at the student house where a lot of foreign students hang out when they need to talk about how strange Danish people are :-) (check out the rest of the site too, it's a pretty complete guide to Copenhagen)

If Danish people seem a bit reserved at first, don't let it freak you out, it just takes a while to get us to open up (even though it's probably easier in the summer time) And if you have any specific questions feel free to contact me directly (webpage address on profile page)
posted by bering at 10:13 AM on April 19, 2005

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