A pronunciation guide to great men (and the obligatory token woman)

April 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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If you’re like me, when you’re reading about someone it helps to know how their name’s pronounced. Just seeing it on the page isn’t enough; there’s always that slight mental hiccup as your inner voice tries to say the word, and fails.

And for some of the great names who’ve shaped the history of Western thinking (see the slideshow below), pronunciation ain’t so easy to figure from the letter mix. If you’re learning about them in lectures and seminars, well and good, but what if your first acquaintance is purely visual?

To help out, and maybe raise a smile along the way, I’ve done a little guide to some of the trickiest stars of philosophy, psychology and literary theory. If there are other names, from other disciplines, whom you’d like to see included, let me know!

A pronunciation guide to great men (and the obligatory token woman)

Since the Enlightenment

Great Western thinkers

Tearing down blinkers

In all sorts of ways

Leading to modern days’

Growth of technology

Many an -ology

Students’ delightenment


Some, when first met,

Give the speaker no harassment

Some, though, sound weird

And can cause embarrassment


Foucault may worry

The young and unwary

Nietzsche – don’t hurry –

Can look rather scary

Foo-coh and Neet-shuh

Will do, though the subtleties vary


This is a guide

For interested parties

On how to pronounce

Names like Barthes. Yes, you already know

It’s not going to be Bart-ees


Starting with Weber,

Who Maxed sociology

Make no apology

This is some guy!

Protestant, rational

Soon international

Ethics, economy

Much more on his CV

You could try Way-ber

American flavour

But purists like Vay-ber

And yes, so do I!


Dilthey’s not filthy

Sounds pharmaceutical?

No, hermeneutical

Don’t call him Dill-thee

Better say Dilt-eye

Better not ask why


Then there’s Saussure

Seeking a cure

For linguistic perplexities

Structural complexities

Influenced everyone

Under the Western sun

Since then much taughted

And much rethoughted.

Language now sorted?

Don’t be so sure


Social psychology

Asked about attitudes

Which, said these groupy dudes,

Change imperceptibly

Minimal group effects?

Clearly no trifle

Who you’re with changes you

Said Henri Tajfel


Merely exposed

To a new point of view

You’ll start rethinking

A feeling or two

How do we know?

Sceptics enquire. Such defiance!

Through the appliance of Zajonc


Meanwhile in France,

Not entirely by chance

The aforementioned Barthes

Was challenging art

Saying authors were dead

(He was very well read)


Must have a woman!


Plus feminism

Bound to confuse

Try Hélène Cixous

Sneeze an “Ah-tee-shoo!”

Cixous! God bless you!

You’ll need all the help you can use


Derrida’s easy

Habermas too

But I’d stick to pronouncing them

If I were you

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  1. Clever!

    • Silly! But I can’t resist playing with words …

      • And you have a familiar way with them! (smile)

  2. Very funny, couldn’t stop laughing while reading 😀

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    Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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