As executive search professionals and recruiters, we often encounter names of candidates that may be common to other cultures but our own. We frequently recruit executives, engineers, and other professionals whose names we are forced to pronounce apologetically because we are likely doing so incorrectly. However, there is a better way, one that will establish greater rapport simply because we have taken a moment pronounce a proper name, well . . . properly. Our own name is music to our ears.
Before founding my executive search firm The Good Search, I worked as a television news reporter and anchor. Back then, I made sure a treasured reference book could be found within an arm’s length of my desk in the newsroom, a pronunciation guide published for broadcasters. As I prepared for the evening’s live newscast, I’d look up intimidating, unrecognizable words that would have been impossible to enunciate correctly without the guide. Still, I regularly confronted unintelligible proper names in news stories that were breaking during the newscast. Fortunately, I never was forced to attempt this:
These days, one can simply dial up the website PronounceNames.com on your browser. You enter whatever person’s name has you flummoxed, and the website pronounces the name out loud for you the right way. Voice of America has a similar site. And the AP Stylebook is now online now includes a pronunciation guide that speaks. In the increasingly global world of business, taking the time to show respect by getting it right can make all the difference. That is how one engages luminaries and rock stars.
Which brings to mind something that my husband, a renowned saxophonist, taught me. When a musician plays an incorrect note — much like mispronouncing a name — it is referred to as hitting a “clam”. When they play several wrong notes in a row, it becomes a “clambake.” If, as Dale Carnegie once said, “The sweetest sound in the world is a person’s own name”, then let us make music, my friends.