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Reference Question of the Week – 4/10/11

   April 16th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Bryn TerfelThis question is actually similar to last week's Qatar question, but with a new resource.

A patron calls in and says needs to know how to pronounce the name of one of his favorite singers. He spells is out B-r-i-n-t-e-r-f-l, a name which didn't sound at all familiar to me. I search for that and get no results, but Google recommends "bryn terfel."

The first result for that search goes to Wikipedia, but I'm disappointed when I get there, because the Bryn Terfel article doesn't have a pronunciation audio clip.

It does give a pronunciation note of (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈbrɨn ˈtɛrvɛl]), which, on the surface, was not at all helpful. But, by linking to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) pronunciation guide, I can kind of sound out the unfamiliar characters:

IPA Examples English equivalents
ɨ̞ gwyn, punt pin
ɛ perth well

While I was sounding this out, and the patron was trying out various pronunciations (Brinn, Brine, Brian, Brianne, Bran, Brawn - I think he could have gone on for hours). After a bit of back and forth, we thought we had the first name down, but were still unsure about the second name.

I tried to find another authoritative source that gave pronunciations, but really couldn't. For pop culture questions, sometimes the best answer comes from polling the wisdom of the crowd - and there were lots of search matches for how to pronounce bryn terfel.

The most helpful website was http://www.pronunciationguide.info/thebiglist.html which is a long list of names, phonetic spellings, and an audio clip of the pronunciations. It sounded more or less like what I expected after reading the other websites, and I played it for the patron by holding the phone up to the computer's speakers.

What will the internet think of next?

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