Can anyone pronounce crysanthemums?


Rather a comical situation yesterday at a press conference in London about a trade show being held in Frankfurt in January.

As with all trade shows there is great emphasis on design trends – consumer products of all kinds follow shortly after catwalk fashion and textiles and home interiors in terms of colour and style.

The German organisers were in London to talk to the press about the plans for the show and to outline the trends that we’re likely to see in consumer products over the coming year or so.

I won’t bore you with the colour schemes for now, but it seems that one of the “motifs” of the coming seasons will be flowers – in particular, chrysanthemums.

Now, these particular Germans have extremely good English, but the pronounciation of the world chrysanthemum rather baffled the trade show director, who came to somewhat of a halt in what was otherwise a very fluent presentation, when her Powerpoint presentation arrived at this puzzling flower.

Some tactful prompting from the audience didn’t entirely remedy things, her best shot being “chryseneia,” and she laughed it off and moved on. Unluckily, “chrysanthemum” came up again shortly afterwards and there was some laughter, of the “we’re laughing with you not at you” variety.

It rather reminded me of a Danish acquaintance who was unable to pronounce “squirrel” and rendered it as “squeel”, to everyone’s amusement. And of the English quiz night host who, as I may have mentioned in a previous blog, did his utmost on the subject of foreign cheeses with “Bry” and “Cambert”, to much cruel hilarity from the rather pissed contestants.

After the presentation as we all mingled about with a glass of wine and a bowl of trendy salad, as you do at these events, the Germans were discussing the whole chrysanthemum issue and pleaded for some assistance. Embarrassingly, neither myself nor the other English woman who tried to clarify matters were able to pronounce it correctly at the first attempt. We got there in the end but decided it was just one of those words that no-one can say – and full marks to the Germans for trying.

Anyhow, since there were Germans present, I thought this would be a good time to get the answer to a matter that had thus far eluded me – for reasons connected with my recent attempts at writing obscure song lyrics, I needed to know how to pronounce the name of the German philosopher Goethe.

How do you pronounce “Gertha”? I asked. Blank faces all round from the three Germans, all sat there rather like the judges on the X-Factor. “Gutta?” I hazarded. Nope. “The German philosopher?”

I felt I wasn’t going to be voted through to the next round with this performance.

“Ah you mean ‘Gertay’!” exclaimed one of the Germans, as light dawned. I couldn’t swear to it, as they were far too polite, but think they were trying not to smirk. Remind me never again to find amusement in anyone else’s pronounciation of chrysanthemum.

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