A Weiner By Any Other Name...

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Shall we add to Anthony Weiner’s listofsins the mispronunciation of his own name?

“It’s pronounced ‘wy-ner’ or ‘way-ner,’” my Austrian grandmother insisted, when I asked her what she thought about the scandal engulfing the New York representative. “Wiener” — pronounced wee-ner — “like my cousin, Herbert, that means Viennese; Weiner, like the congressman, that’s Eastern-European.

Curious about my grandmother’s assertion, I asked the Forward’s language columnist, Philologos, to weigh in on the derivation of these common, if unfortunate-sounding, Jewish last names. (There are some 17,211 U.S. residents with the last name Weiner, and 6,027 with the last name Wiener, according to this website, which draws on data from the 2000 census.

Here’s what Philologos had to say:

Let’s just say that if the disgraced congressman pronounced his name as it is apparently supposed to be pronounced — that is, vay-ner in Europe, or wy-ner or way-ner in America — this whole sorry chapter would not have yielded such funny headlines and punch lines.

Written by

Gabrielle Birkner

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