[Guest Post] You Don’t Say?

[ I am pleased to present this guest post written by Matt Groom.]

For many of us, our window to the world of guns is books, magazines, and the internet. Unfortunately, when you see a word or a name that you aren’t familiar with, you tend to do what you learned to do in school, sound it out in your head. This has lead to a plethora of often mispronounced words and names in the firearms community, and it makes us all look like rubes. I would like to point out some often heard examples along with the proper enunciation of each. Please note that I am neither German nor Scandinavian and I speak no languages other than American English, but I have asked and been corrected by people who do speak these languages.

Heckler & Koch

Probably one of the most well-know arms companies in the world is known by its initials because nobody seems to know how to pronounce the last names of its founders. And everybody says their marketing department is SO great…

How most people say it: Heck-ler and C-au-k like “Cock”, or Coach, or KA-t-ch (?)

How it’s actually pronounced: “Heck-ler and Coke” Example: “Well, I’ll have a coke, then.”

Why is it mispronounced? “Cock” would be a very appropriate name for a gun company “Cock your hammer!” or “Those guys at H&K are a bunch of… Germans.”

Krag-Jorgensen

America’s first military repeater is also the most mispronounced of all service rifle names. No less and authority than the late great Col. Jeff Cooper corrected me on the proper way to say this name, and ultimately, he was incorrect.

How most people say it: Ker-Ag ,or Ker-egg Jor-gen-son

How it’s actually pronounced: Kr-Ah-g (like “Frog”) Yor-gen-sen.

Why is it mispronounced? A popular ballad during the Spanish-American War and the Pilipino Insurrection had a refrain that went “Underneath our starry flag, civilize ‘em with a Krag!” which certainly had a better ring to it than “If you want to eat a frog, do not shoot him with a Krag”. The proper enunciation may have been intentionally bastardized for pop-culture.

Makers of everything from Weed whackers to Motorcycles to full-auto military rifles, this name seems to dumbfound even the people who sell them. A Swede who was a former employee of the firm in the 1960’s told me how to say it.

How most people say it: Husk-a-varn-a, Husk-Q-var-na

How you’re supposed to say it: Who-sk-Var-na

Why is it mispronounced? It’s Swedish.

These Serbian makers of high quality ammunition available at bargain basement prices have rapidly earned popularity in the US. After being sold for a number of years under different names by different distributors, they are now selling ammo under their own name and confusing many people with their Balkan-esque spelling.

How most people say it: Pervy Party-san

How you’re supposed to say it: PR-iv-A Part-iZ-on

Why is it mispronounced? Triple Consonants don’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense to most English speakers.

I have it on good authority that these are correct, but nobody’s perfect. There are lots more of these, but we’ll save those for another post. Let’s hear some suggestions for gun related names and words that are often mispronounced or which are confusing in the comments!

UPDATE:

Roy recorded himself pronouncing Heckler & Koch, Walther, Sauer, Luger, Mauser, Blaser, Weihrauch and Schmeisser.

Stefan recorded himself saying Anschütz, Heckler & Koch, Mauser, Sauer, Steyr Mannlicher, Walther and Weihrauch.



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • I must admit to saying them all wrong. In general I avoided pronouncing any of the above names so I did not sound stupid.

    Matt, thanks for making me sound less like a moron when I talk 😉

  • steve

    How about the German sporting rifle manufaturer Weihrauch

    I pronounce it VI-row-k

    (that’s row, as in a fight)

    Is this correct?

  • Roy

    The “Koch” in Heckler & Koch rhymes with “Loch”, the Scottish word as in “Loch Ness”. The “ch” sound is a guttural kh that does not exist in the English language.

    Neither “Cock”, nor “Coke” are correct. I suggest to just call them H&K as this is easier for most English speakers.
    I am a native German speaker.

    Cheers

    Roy

  • Roy

    re Weirauch,
    yes, Vi-row(as in fight)-kh is correct, however, unfortunately the
    consonant at the end is the same as the one in “Koch”, so it is almost impossible for most English speakers to get it right without coaching. sorry 😉

    Btw, for bonus points, pronounce the “Sauer” from “SIG Sauer” like
    “sour” but with a “Z” at the beginning and a pronounced “e” before the r, ie
    “Zah-uer”

    • Roy, I pronounce Sauer as Sir (as in “Sir Lancealot”). Would “Zir” he more correct? I doubt english speakers would be able to tell the difference in causal conversion.

      How do y’all pronounce Saiga (as in the Saiga line of rifles and shotguns). I say it like Say-eee-gah. No idea if that is correct or not.

  • Stefan

    Weihrauch = why-ROW-ch

    “why” as in the question “why?”, ROW pronounced similarly to the bow of a ship, and the ch sound. The “h” in “why” is silent (which I guess some people pronounce). Your “w” is still gonna sound American though. We pronounce our “w” by putting the upper frontal teeth onto the lower lip. But the “w” is not nearly as important as the “ch”.

    As for the “ch”, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ach-Laut#Ich-Laut_and_ach-Laut or better yet, grab someone who speaks one of the languages in which this sound also appears, e.g. Welsh, Scottish, obviously German and many others. But Roy’s correct in that it’s neither “coke” nor “cock”.

    • I have an idea. How about a some of you Germans record yourself saying H&K on the computer, then send me the audio file (my email address is on the contact page). I will stitch them together and upload it to the blog.

  • Roy

    Steve, you mean just the “s” or the whole word?

    The “s” is a soft one as in “zoom” as opposed to a sibilant one in “sour”.
    The whole word is somewhat like Zah-uer.

    Whether most people can tell the difference? Not sure, I said it was for bonus points 😉 You’re gonna have a hard enough time pronouncing the r at the end anyway…

    Roy

    • Roy, I meant the whole word, but I will stick with zah-uer from now on.

  • SpudGun

    These are such tricky ones – I admit to pronouncing Koch as in Loch or former NY mayor Ed Koch.

    I used to pronounce it Sig Sour but now I just say Sig, everyone knows what I mean anyways.

    Saiga is Sega – which is only confusing if you are around video gamers.

    And it was on this very blog that my Vltor / Ultor pronounciation problems were solved.

    • SpudGun, is Vltor pronounced Ultor? I remember the discussion but I forgot the outcome.

  • Rasp65

    Matt John Garand the designer of the M-1 rifle name has been mispronounced. The way he said his name it would rhyme with errand.

  • Freiheit

    About every 6 months the correct pronunciation of “Mosin Nagant” is argued about on gunboards.com.

  • Clodboy

    I’d like to add:

    Steyr:
    How most people pronounce it: Steer, S-die-‘r
    How it is pronounced: Sch-tie-‘r
    Why most people mispronounce it: People forget that the German “St” and “Sp” are pronounced as “Scht” and “Schp” respectively (hint: think Yiddish, which is largely derived from German after all)

  • Jesse

    For me reading pronunciation guides helps me all of none. I have to ehar it or I’ll continue to pronounce it wrong.

    • I have updated the post with audio. Thanks Roy.

  • Roy

    Steve,

    I added “Luger” and “Schmeisser” to make you all feel good about pronouncing them correctly all these years 🙂

    • Roy, haha, I feel really good 😉

  • One time I saw a Russian guy order Stolichnaya in Boston. Three times, in a very quiet room. The waitress, who probably took orders for gallons of “Stoli” every day of her life, did not have the faintest idea how to interpret the noises he was making. He finally asked for “Russian vodka” a few times. He got Swedish.

    Pronounce it the way everybody around you pronounces it, even if you’re a native speaker. That way, you will communicate. Nobody in Maine knows where the hell “Firenze” is.

    Save your efforts at authentic pronounciation for travel, where the locals will probably appreciate it.

    Besides, if you don’t actually speak German (or Czech, or whatever), you’ll never impress a real German (or Czech, or whatever) anyhow. So: Nobody will know what you’re trying to say, they’ll all think you’re full of yourself, and if there’s a real native speaker in the room, he’ll still think you’re getting it wrong.

  • Mike Knepley

    How is John Garand’s name pronounced?

  • Heckler & Koch is pronounced: Because you suck and we hate you.

  • Sam

    CZ is not hard to pronounce, but Ceska Zbrojovka is. I’m not positive, but I have it on pretty good authority that it’s pronounced “Cheska zBroyovka”

  • anon

    Carbine:

    Kar-bine (long ‘i’ / the ‘i’ sounds like ‘eye’ )

    or

    Kar-bean ?

  • The audio files are correct, but Germans would normally say these words much faster and less clearly. The -er ending is often said (incorrectly) by Germans as -a (for the simple reason of being lazy).

    The correct way to say “Koch” was already an issue on the hkpro.com website and they had a good audio file there for years until finally settling with a two choices approach; “coke” for anglicized “Koch” and the real German sound.
    The problem is apparently that this version of the German “ch” doesn’t exist as sound in English. “ch” is a bit tricky anyway, for the sound of “ch” depends on the word. There are three main and one very rare sound for “ch” in German plus it’s no separate so8nd with a “s” ahead (“sch” ~ English “sh”).

  • How about Sellier and Bellot? Here at work we just call it “S and B” instead of try to mangle the pronunciation.

  • Mad Saint Jack

    Help wanted with:

    pachmayr

    leupold

    VALDADA

    Fabrique Nationale de Herstal

    I once talked to a cop who called his gun a Zig Zauer.

  • RoccoTaco

    As a native Serbian speaker:

    For your Prvi Partizan pronounciation its not PR-iv-A Part-iZ-on.

    Its actually more like your spelling of how people usually say it.

    I would try to explain it like this:

    Perv-e (say the letter E) Party-zen

    Meaning:

    First partizan/insurgent. The name is left over from when Yugo was communist.

  • steve h

    Finish rifle maker Sako – pronounced “Sah-koh” or so I’ve heared, but not sure. I keep wanting to say “Say-koh” like the watchmaker.

  • Freiheit

    Another one, the westernization is Molon Laabe.

    Retardo – haha. I had a similar experience in Dresden trying to buy Absinthe. Tried what I thought was the German pronunciation, then the American pronunciation, then scribbling it down in my notebook for the exact spelling. Eventually went into a shop that was way too high class for me and found a woman who corrected my German pronunciation and promptly sold me two bottles and put an order in for three more.

    Sometimes its a matter of changing your venue than changing your accent!

  • Don

    this is a really cool article!

    -Don

  • Matt Groom

    Oh, god! What have I done? I’ve broken the blissful ignorance of us all.

    I had a Staff Sergent name Hoch, it was pronounced like “Hoe-ck” as in Hokum, or Coke. I have been corrected by H&K reps at the SHOT show who said it was “like Coke”, so that’s all I have to go on really, but will I acquiesce to those who speak the language. Maybe I got bum scoop, or maybe I’m misremembering, or maybe my sounds aren’t translating well through text, who knows?

    I thought of about ten different words or so for this article, and I was frustrated I couldn’t think of more, but when I wrote up the first four, I realized how long the article would be if I covered them all, so I only did the first four. Here’s what I would have written for “Carbine”:

    How most people say it: Car-Bean

    How I say it: Car-bine, as in “Make MINE a CARBINE”

    How you’re supposed to say it: Car-bean

    Why is it mispronounced? Because usually “ine” sounds like “Line, Mine, Fine, Sign, Dine, Nine, Pine, Rhine, Vine, and Wine”. There are very few words in the English language where “ine” is pronounced like “Bean, Mean, Scene, and Teen”. One good example is “Magazine”, which we’re all familiar with. “I have a M1 Carbine Magazine”. This is because the word “Carbine” comes from the French “carabine”. I’ve been saying it wrong for so many years that I’m not likely to change and challenging me on it only makes me hostile.

    As far as I know, Garand is sounds like ‘Errand’. I usually say Gar-And, because nobody knows what an “M1 G-air-end” is.

    Pachmayr: Pack-My-err

    Leupold: Loo-Pold

    Valdada: I thought it was “Val-Dad-A”, but I don’t know for sure.

    Fabrique Nationale D’Armes De Guerre Herstal Belgique: Fab-reek Nat-e-on-ale Dee Arms Dee Grrrr Her-Stall Bel-jeek

    Fusil Automatique Legere: Few-sil Ah-toe-mat-eek Le-gair (I’m not 100% on that last part)

    FAL: FAL as in “infallible”, Foul or FALL, it doesn’t matter, it’s just an acronym.

    Hogue: Hoe-Geh

    Choate: Cho-te

    Gewer: Gev-air, as in “Sturmgewer 44”

    • Matt,

      “as in “Sturmgewer” … well that is a useful comparison, if I could say that I probably would be able to say Gewer 😉

      “I’m not likely to change and challenging me on it only makes me hostile.”

      Challenge accepted 😉

      I say Gar-and and I although I know it is wrong, I much prefer the sound of the word.

  • Matt Groom

    Steve H,

    I understand Sako is pronounced like “Sock-O”. I believe I read that in a David Fortier article. I have no idea how to pronounce his last name, though, and I’ve met him!

    Thanks, Don.

  • As a Swede I’ll gladly record Husqvarna and Sako correctly as soon as I can find a microphone.

    I’ll try to explain in text though:
    Husqvarna is the name of the city that the company comes from. It’s a composite word from “hus” (house) and “kvarn” (mill). If you say it with a very small pause, you should put it before the q and not after it.

    “Hus” is pronounced almost as “use” but replacing the initial j-sound with an H. “Kvarn” rhymes with “yarn”, the initial sound is NOT like quak or kvark, but rather like the word “variation” but with a K first.

    Sako is pronounced “Saa-koo” but with quote short vowels.

    It’s really hard to explain and I’ll try to record them ASAP.

    • Johannes, thanks. Just send them through to me.

  • “Guh-RAND”, yeah, in the last week I’ve had two different Old Guys gently correct me on that one. One of them also referred to his Winchester 1894 as a “CAR-been”. The other was in the Marines when Garands were still being issued, so I’ll go along with his version.

    However, Wikipedia seems to claim that John C. Garand preferred “GAR-and” (end of the second paragraph), if I’m interpreting their phonetic symbols right.

  • SeanN

    matt:

    Legere = lej-air. flow the “j” sound into the “air” sound. of all the places for french class to come in handy…

  • SpudGun

    Found this post by jcmiller from a little while ago –

    “VLTOR is the ancient Roman spelling for the Latin word ULTOR, meaning “Avenger”. This word was commonly used to describe the Roman God of War, Mars.”

    The University of Hong Kong says that “the letter U was often represented by V because it was much quicker and easier for a stonemason to make two straight strokes than to reproduce the round base of the letter.”

    So I suppose you pronounce it Ultor.

    • SpudGun, thanks for digging that up.

      • Any Frenchmen (or women) want to contribute a recording of “Lebel” (as in 8mm Lebel), Fusil Automatique Legere (as in FN FAL) and Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne (as in FAMAS).

        Any Russians want to have a crack at a recording of Mosin Nagant, Saiga and Snayperskaya Vintovka Dragunova (SVD Dragunov rifle).

        And if anyone from another country wants to contribute recordings of the names of locally produced arms, please do so.

        My email is on the contacts webpage (link is at the top on the page).

  • SpudGun

    Oh and can you get the German posters to record the following –

    ‘I will count to three…there will not be a four.’

    🙂

  • Dom

    Ah, ya know – like Matt, I’m a guy who values accuracy in all its forms. So I should point out that the word “reframe” is really “refrain.”

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refrain

    Great post, and thanks for the audio!

  • Anonymous

    Not Russian, but I watch a lot of Russkie war movies (surely a sign of legitimacy, no?) and know a little Russian

    Saiga = Сайга = sigh-GAH

    SVD = СВД = Снайперская винтовка Драгунова = SNI-pear-sky-ah veen-TOV-kah drah-gu-NO-va

    The Mosin-Nagant? Not sure, but I think the Mosin part is pronounced MO-seen (I believe the common form is Mosin rifle = винтовка мосина = ven-TOV-kah MO-seen-ah (?))

    The real problem with pronouncing Russian words is that the getting the accent correct is essential, and it’ll shift around depending on any number of reasons, few of which I understand.

  • Some Finnish Speaker

    Sako = SAH-koh
    Tikka = TEEK-kah (with a pause between the k’s)
    Vihta-Vuori = VEEHH-tah VOO-oh-ree (and, no, you won’t get the H sound right, even if you speak Swedish, which is entirely unrelated)
    Lapua = LAH-poo-ah

    The only one of those that has an “H” sound in it is “Vihta”; in the others, it is meant only to distinguish “SAH like saw” from “SAY like say”. In Finnish, the accent is always on the first syllable, and every letter is pronounced, even double consonants and double vowels.

    And, while we’re on the subject:

    Nokia = NOH-kee-ah
    Sauna = SAU-nah (the SAU is like the first part of “sound”)
    Karhu = KAR-hoo with a briefly rolled r (the word means “bear”)
    Tunturi = TOON-too-ree (it’s where the Lapps and reindeer live, something like “hilly tundra”)
    Iitala = EEEE-tah-lah

  • Snackeater

    Great article. How about “minimi”? As in the M249 squad automatic weapon? I’ve always wondered about that one.

  • Roy

    Matt, wrt H&K, I believe you just relayed truthfully whatever you were told. I think the issue is that the reps you talked to were (likely) Americans and, more importantly, were working for H&K USA. That means either they did not know the ‘correct’ pronunciation or they used the official one adopted by/for the American subsidiary of H&K. After all, if you’re trying to sell a product in an English-speaking market, it helps if your customers are physically able to pronounce the brand name. Other examples of brands that are ‘officially mispronounced for marketing reasons’ are Michelin and Hitachi.
    However, we should keep in mind that these are names of real persons we’re talking about here, and those, unlike geographic names, have no translations. I find it borderline disrespectful if a company deliberately mispronounces the name of one of its founders and would rather see them adopt H&K as their official English name (works for KFC), though admittedly, I don’t really know what their official policies are. And it really is a business decision.

    Sometimes I think one reason for Glock’s amazing success is that it is so easy to pronounce 😉

  • Roy

    SpudGun,
    I’ll work on my Brit-doing-a-German-accent impression and report back 😉

    BTW, a bit of trivia: In the German dubbing of Die Hard, Gruber’s first name is not Hans but Jack. Go figure… I guess the ‘evil German’ bit doesn’t work equally well everywhere.

    Ok, let’s get back on topic, that HK P7 is a beautiful piece of hardware, isn’t it?

  • Clodboy

    The “u” in “Fusil Automatique” is pronounced like the “ü” in “Anschütz” (which Stefan so kindly recorded himself speaking). Sort of like a slightly “whistled” cross between the English “u” and “e”.

    Speaking of which, I blame the heavy metal scene for giving English-speakers the false impression that the German Umlaut is there for purely cosmetic reasons.
    The German “ö” is pronounced like the “u” in “burn”, while the “ä” is pronounced like the “a” in “bad”.
    If you don’t have a “ü” key or the software won’t recognize umlauts, the ä,ö and ü are replaced by “ae”, “oe” and “ue” respectively. Merely replacing the Umlaut with the non-umlaut letter will often give rather comedic results:
    ex.:
    “Selbstlade-Büchse/Buechse” = “self-loading hunting rifle”
    “Selbstlade-Buchse” = “self-loading bushing”
    Then again, even H&K themselves probably wouldn’t want to lose too many words about the SL8 😉

  • SpudGun

    Thanks Roy, who said Germans don’t have a sense of humour? 😉

    Now if you could do a Frenchman impersonating a medievel Scottish warrior, a Scotsman impersonating an Egyptian Samurai and an American impersonating a Russian mercenary, then I’d be impressed.

  • SpudGun, LOL

  • Matt Groom

    Many thanks to the native speakers who have corrected my enunciation. This has been a learning experience for us all. I must say that I was WAY OFF on more than one name! But I think the main thing I’ve learned is that even if you use the proper form of the name, it’s possible that nobody will know what you’re talking about! “Val-ta? What’s a Val-ta? Oh! You mean Wall-thur!”

    The audio recordings are a big improvement. On some of the corrections, the way I read them is the way I try to say them, so I believe that the words I use to describe the sounds may be interpreted differently. Like SeanN’s example with the J sound in “Legere”, I do say it as a J-sound, and would read it that way, but I that’s just me. I can see how the way I wrote it would be “Grrrer” and not “J’air”, so his is definitely a better description.

    There are certain things that completely mystify me about foreign languages, like Clodboy’s example of Umlauts. I had no idea what an Umlaut was. If it sounds like a different letter, why spell it with that letter? How do you type that? It’s like that AE symbol that you see a lot in Gallic, Danish, and Norwegian texts. What the hell is that thing?! I’m not touchin’ that!

    At the end of the day, we’re all working from what we know and what we’re familiar with. Lacking knowledge of foreign languages, I have to rely on my familars who do. I doubt that very many gun nuts have enough functioning knowledge of German, English, Danish, Belgian, Swiss, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, Czech, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish to say all of the words and names that a commonly encountered accurately enough to satisfy everyone. This is globalization at it’s finest. The interchange of ideas, language, and products for the betterment of us all and I thank everyone who has or will participate in this discussion.

    -Matt Groom

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  • Hej

    Why is it mispronounced? It’s Swedish.

    Swedish isn’t that hard -_-
    Hus = House
    Qvarn is old Swedish, now spelled Kvarn = Mill
    Synonyms (Swedish) for “kvarn”: Mölla
    See any resemblance?

  • makeitshort

    of course ´ch´ exists in english. you guys can do this, i know! listen to darth vader´s famous breathing. that´s exactly this sound. now try to imitate him, it´s really simple ch….ch….ch no kidding!

    lol.

  • Cary Harrison

    For Mosin-Nagant, the complication is that it’s two surnames from different national origins. Mosin was a Russian designer and Nagant was a Belgian. Because they are proper names, the most correct pronunciation would be to use the respective linguistic pronunciations, so we get:

    “MOE-seen Na-GAHN”

    Léon Nagant’s name is practically a lesson in French letter sounds. It uses the French hard “g” (because it comes before the letter “a” – if it came before “i”, “e”, or “y” it would be pronounced with a soft “g”, like in “mirage”). That means it sounds pretty much like the English hard “g”, as in “goat”. The ending “t” is silent, since there is no “e” following it. The “a” in “Nagant” is pronounced somewhere between the English “a” and “o”. Basically, it’s like the second English “a” in “animal”.

    Two other Russian ones that come up are “Tokarev” and “Makarov”.

    What lots of people say: “TOKE-arev”
    What’s right: “TOH-a-rev”

    The “o” is actually more like it is in the English words “on” or “not”. The other Russian one is

    What lots of people say: “MAK-uh-rov”
    What’s right: “Muh-KAR-ov”

    Many Russian names accent the second or middle syllable, with “Tokarev” up there being an exception (of which there are a confusingly large number!). The poster who mentioned “Stolichnaya” earlier got a good example of this. Everybody in the US says “STOLIK-naya”, but the correct pronunciation is more like “Sto-LEECH-nai-ya”.

    Source: My old Russian friend, armed forces engineer, and vodka-drinking friend Gennady.