(A message to Bill Simmons.)
Bill, over your many podcast and television appearances you have shown a willingness to accurately pronounce the names of European NBA players. You don’t ignore entire syllables, you usually pronounce J’s as Y’s, and you usually get the emphasis right, even with such names as “Vitaly Potapenko”. But there’s one thing you do which is sometimes so irritating that it seems like you’re doing it on purpose. And that thing involves the letter C.
In Slavic languages, a C is not pronounced as a K. There’s no debate over this. It’s simple. If a C has a diacritical mark above it (Ć or Č), it sounds like “ch”. If it doesn’t, it sounds like “ts”. This is true in Czech, Slovak, all former Yugoslavian languages, and Polish. It’s also true in Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, and Hungarian, which aren’t even Slavic. C sounds different in consonant clusters “cz”, “cs”, and “ch”, but that’s irrelevant right now.
No Eastern European athlete pronounces the C in his name like a K. Not Drazen Petrovic, not Stojko Vrankovic, not Toni Kukoc, not Vlade Divac, not Peja Stojakovic, not Nenad Krstic, not Nikola Pekovic, not Nikola Vucevic, not Darko Milicic, not Zarko Cabarkapa, not Zoran Planinic, not Zeljko Rebraca, not Mladen Sekularac, not Nedzad Sinanovic, not Dragan Tarlac, not Dalibor Bagaric, not Igor Rakocevic, not Gordan Giricek, not Goran Dragic, not Roko Ukic, not Mile Ilic, not Ante Tomic, not Marko Jaric, not Sasha Pavlovic, not Sasha Vujacic, not Aleksandar Radojevic, not Vladimir Radmanovic, not Radoslav Nesterovic, not Primoz Brezec, not Donatas Zavackas, not your soccer team’s stars Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar and Vedran Corluka, and not Gregor Fucka.
Most of the C’s, in most of these names, are actually Ć or Č and therefore sound like a “ch”. Ć sounds slightly different from Č but they’re both basically “ch”. A couple of them are merely a C and therefore sound like a “ts”, as in Vlade Divac or Primoz Brezec. If you don’t know whether the C in somebody’s name has a mark above it, check his Wikipedia page.
But one thing you can be sure of is that it doesn’t sound like a K.
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Also, when you’re expressing your uncertainty with how to pronounce something, don’t act like nobody else knows how to pronounce it either. You always say things like “Nikola Pekovich … Pekovik … have we figured this out yet? I’ll just call him Pek.” What this means is “Have we average Americans figured out the latest crazy pronunciation that the latest crazy European wants us to use?” Yes, we’ve figured it out. He uses the same pronunciation rules that the last 50 Serbian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Bosnian/Macedonian/Slovenian NBA players used.
And one more thing: in German, W sounds like V. Dirk Nowitzki has been in the NBA for 14 years, and everyone else realized it was pronounced “Novitzki” by the ’06 Finals at the very latest. You’re embarrassing yourself with this “Nawitsky” business.
Thank you for your time, and enjoy watching the performances of Pavlović, Vučević, Gadzuric [who DOES pronounce it as a K, because he’s from the Netherlands and went to high school in Massachusetts], and also all the various non-Slavic players in this year’s playoffs.