Experts Have Pronounced Differences Over 'Ukraine'

By Rob Kyff

December 4, 2019 3 min read

Today, some random dispatches from the Word Front ...

— Scratching Our U-craniums

Recent testimony in the impeachment hearings has left many of us asking a big question. No, not the quid pro quo question, silly. We want to know how to pronounce "Ukraine."

Most witnesses, interrogators and media commentators have been placing the accent on the second syllable ("yoo-KRAIN"), but several have been stressing the first syllable ("YOO-krain"), and some have been switching between both versions. While most dictionaries list "yoo-KRAIN" as the only pronunciation, some also include "YOO-krain" as an alternative.

My advice about all things involving Ukraine? Stick to your story, and stick to "yoo-KRAIN."

— Chicken "Keeve"?

Another question about Ukraine that surfaced during the hearings was how to spell and pronounce the name of its capital city. Why were some people saying "kee-YEV," while others were saying "KEEVE" (rhymes with "sleeve")?

Traditionally, English has used the Russian spelling and pronunciation: "Kiev" and "kee-YEV," respectively. But when Ukraine, once a republic of the Soviet Union, gained independence in 1991, English soon adopted the Ukrainian spelling "Kyiv," which derives from the name of Prince Kyi, who, according to legend, founded the city.

Meanwhile, many English speakers started trying to pronounce "Kyiv" as Ukrainians do — roughly, "KEE-yiv." The closest approximation they've been able to come up with is "KEEVE." (I always say "kee-YEV" because I'm too afraid to try pronouncing "KEE-yiv." Call me "Chicken Kiev.")

— Frank Lloyd Wrong

Have you noticed that no one ever speaks of a "structure" or "design" anymore? Now it's all about "architecture."

Last May, for instance, Matthew Goodman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that Japan and the U.S. had differences over the "architecture of the agreement" being negotiated between them. And in October, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine referred to working with other nations to design the "architecture" of a plan to return to the moon. I can't help envisioning a lunar Epcot, with pavilions nestled in craters.

What's next? You guessed it, "architect" as a verb. The venerable New York Times took the plunge on its website last summer, telling its subscribers, "A lot has changed in the years since we first launched the paywall, especially with how we architect our applications."

All the news that's fit to blueprint?

Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your language sightings. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to [email protected] or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Photo credit: WikiImages at Pixabay

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