How Do We Pronounce Our Name?

If you have a name like Hasselbacher or something close, you no doubt have heard many pronunciations, seen many misspellings, and have developed your own method of helping people over the phone.  This problem has probably been with us forever, and was accentuated when our ancestors were funneled through the ports of America and into its workplaces.  Some of us chose, or had chosen for us, new ways of spelling or pronouncing our names.

My family pronounced it with soft “a”sounds:  “Hassel” and “bacher” like “father” or “Las Vegas.”  This is the only way I have heard it pronounced in Franconia although German speakers may sound the “ch” harder as in “achtung.”

Like you, I respond to many variations when called to my table at a restaurant. I lived in New York City for a while where harder “a” sounds are common as in to “hassle” someone,  and my “back” hurts.

I am told by one of the Illinois clan that their old-timers pronounced their Hasselbacher name with a long “a” sound for the first:  “hazel” as the hazelnut tree or the girl’s name; but with a soft “a” at the end like I do.

I met one of the Hazelbakers who pronounced his name like the girls name and a maker of bread-- just like it looks!

Some folks have trouble with the “ch” sound at the end.  They do not sound a harder “k” as in rock, but a “sh” sound as in wash.  In fact, they may even say “basher” as in someone who hits.

How do you spell and pronounce your name?  Do you have any stories that would educate or entertain the rest of us?  Leave a “comment” at the end of the Blog entry for this item, or email it to me and I will enter it for you.

March 20, 2007

Listen to German speakers pronounce our name

An Experiment with Audio.

I asked three native German speakers from Franconia to pronounce our name spelled in different ways." (For two of the speakers, "Hasselbacher" was their own name.) If this experiment in adding sound to my site works, you will hear each of the three speakers pronounce both "Hasselbacher" and "Haselbacher" in that order. You will then hear a speaker repeat the pair in the reverse order with an identification. I do not think you will have any trouble telling the difference in the sound of the "a" or the duration of the "s" sounds. Finally, you will hear one of the speakers pronounce the German word for hazelnut: "haselnuß" or "haselnuss". All three speakers made it clear that Hasselbacher and Haßelbacher are pronounced exactly the same way.

It does not take much rummaging through the old European records to realize that the process of jumbling the spelling of our names did not start at Ellis Island. The individuals writing in church books and other records over past centuries wrote what they heard spoken using the handwriting that they had been taught; processes that insured variation.

If this works, clicking the label in the left column will play the short segment of mp3 file. If it does not, try downloading the small file to your computer by right-clicking on the label (command-click for the Mac) to play on your own computer's mp3 player function.

May 4, 2007