Monday, January 18, 2010


In the days and weeks after Katrina hit New Orleans, one thing really made me, a native New Orleanian, emotional: hearing the local accent on television, one I rarely hear in Europe. I felt like I had personally been hit when I heard everyone talking about "water" in the Orleans accent.

So while it may seem trivial in light of the seriousness of what is going on right now in Haiti, I nonetheless wondered -- given all the various pronunciations I am hearing of "Port-au-Prince" on the news -- how that capital is pronounced. The Germans are mispronouncing Prince to rhyme with the French pronunciation of France (it is closer to a nasal version of the English "prance") in formal French (short audio clip here), which of course is not spoken by most people in Haiti. So I tried to find an example of the local pronunciation and came up with this video in Haitian Creole, where the speaker pronounces the name of the city at around 3:29. It is essentially what is given at Wikipedia: Pòtoprens, with "Prince" sort of rhyming with the English "fence."

In proper French, the -t is not pronounced at the end of Port; generally, there is no liaison after singular nouns. See this old video of the place from half a century ago, in which the narration begins with the French pronunciation of the town's name (though the speaker almost swallows the "au" entirely).

If you are in the US and wish to donate to a relief organization, texting "Haiti" to 90999 will automatically donate 10 dollars to the Red Cross -- this is not an urban myth. Note also that T-Mobile, a German firm, is allowing calls to Haiti to be made at the US rate, not the international rate.

I haven't seen any way to text a donation in Germany, but you can visit the German Red Cross here.

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