April 27, 2016 by AK
I have little patience with people mocking Trump for saying Tan-ZAY-nia rather than Tan-zah-NEEah. Fifteen years back, some of these folks bent over backwards to prove that George W. Bush’s “nucular” was exactly the way true and genuine Americans had pronounced the word since Enrico Fermi loosed a torn-up piece of paper into the radioactive wind near Alamogordo.
I knew the capitals of most African countries by heart at age six, so I don’t think I qualify as a redneck – yet Tan-ZAY-nia is the first thing that comes to mind at seeing the word in print, since it rhymes neatly with Albania and Lithuania and Romania. It’s simply natural. On second thought, OK, perhaps it’s Tan-ZAH-nia. Only then, I would vaguely recall having heard Tan-zah-NEEah, an attempt at imitating the Swahili pronunciation.
It’s an artificial name created in the 1960s, when Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form the new country. I have seen old posts at various forums claiming that people in Africa, even in Tanzania itself, say it in all sorts of ways, including Trump’s way. I’m willing to bet that millions of English speakers, not all of them rednecks, also pronounce it like Trump. [Added later. Actually, I knew at least two students from Tanzania back at graduate school in the US but for the life of me cannot recall how they pronounced the name of their country.]
In contrast, “nucular” is a sign, at least, of a certain lack of refinement, disappointing in a graduate of Yale and HBS and the scion of an unmistakably patrician family. (Akin to an educated Russian, unless from the South, saying zvOnit’.) It’s a marker: you grew up privileged and went to the best schools but were too lazy to learn the basics.