« Now That's a Bargain | Main | Open Mike: What's That Smell? »

Monday, 03 September 2018


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

This reminds about the old joke about the US, UK, and Australia being separated by a common language.

Say Beacon aloud and change the B for a N.

There are so many things Americans do wrong, dont make me start on that...

Well I’m glad you got this “sorted”, Mike! Actually yes, I learned that “NEE-cawn” was the Japanese pronounciation during a visit to Japan. During an impromptu evening visit to a long, narrow camera shop in Shibuya I also learned that the Japanese pronounciation of Canon sounds like “CAH-no” with a mostly silent end N.

That aside, I don’t think any country enjoys its cameras more than Japan. They are fiends for optical perfection in ways we don’t understand in America. Rather like Leica but on a wider social scale.

How to remember the “correct” pronunciation of Nikon? Think of an unscrupulous orthopedic surgeon trying to drum-up business by offering cut-rate joint replacements. He might be called a “knee con”. (Sorry)

Nikon bokeh. So how many pronunciations of this two word sentence has it?

Apparently the folks at Zeiss think it rhymes with Ikon, hence the German market Nikkor F cameras in the 60s

And I'll just leave this here


BTW, I am often startled by some people's attempts to pronounce my name.

I hope it’s not me that’s upset you — I did include something about that in a comment which I think you have censored (or more likely not got around to moderating) but it was only meant light-heartedly!
I’m fine with Anglo-Americans (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Americans) murdering (haha) the English language and in any case in many instances they are using the older form. I wasted quite lot of time listening to Kentucky accents on YouTube following your links — they have a great collection of neologisms.
The sole exception which grates every time I hear and read it is referring to the English as Brits and that is insoluble as as its tangled up with history and usage and we have the same problem within the British Isles. And BTW many Irish object to Ireland (island of) being included in the British Isles despite the fact that (some of) the Irish are arguably the most British (as ‘the ancient brits’) people living here :-( .

And, importantly, in the case of either 'Los Angeles' or 'Nikon', the Mexican, American and Englishman would understand what the others were referring to, regardless of pronunciation.

As a native (northern) Californian baby boomer I and almost everyone I grew up with referred to Los Angeles by its initials: LA. We were seldom, if ever, misunderstood in what was meant. Like FBI or IRS, LA is difficult to misinterpret. At least to norteamericanos.

Now that you mention Los Ángeles, in Spanish the pronunciation of Nikon is the same as in Japanese.

Fair position.
I’m in a quandary every time I talk about my man Vincent van Gogh. “Van go”? “Fan Hroghrh”? “Fan Goff”? “Fan Gok”? (The last on is the Danish one I grew up with.)
And of course that’s why he signed himself “Vincent”.

Please accept my apologies on behalf of my more pedantic compatriots in the UK. It is perhaps a symptom of our national wobble in self-confidence that some Brits are obsessed with the "correctness" of our ways, and feel the need to call out deviations from them, in particular those emanating from North America (to "call something out" being one of them, obviously).

My heart sinks whenever I read one of these parochial comments, which often conceal their resentment behind a passive-aggressive jocularity about "yanks" and things on "this side of the pond". You'd think being able to walk into pretty much any hotel, restaurant, or bar pretty much anywhere in the world and be understood in your native tongue would be compensation enough, but no...


Locally there is Tucson which is TOOson here but it's Spanish origin is TUXon.
Then there is New Orleans. There must be 10 ways to say that.

Fortunately English is a sufficiently undisciplined language that varying pronunciations and accents are usually understood.

I ni on agree with you.

Why are we discussing how to pronounce Nikon, when the most important breaking news of the day is that Canon appears to have leaked the photos and the specifications for the new FF mirrorless EOS R and four new killer EOS RF lenses?

We've got a second "1-slot gate" scandal in as many weeks!

Well I can't speak for Sheffield, England, but in Edinburgh, Scotland, where I spent my first 30 years, I was not aware of any other pronunciation than "NIGH-kon". (I could not afford one and so had to be content with a Cosina, pronounced "COS-eena"), but was finally able to buy a Pentax, pronounced "Pen-tax", before coming to Canada, pronounced "Who do we hate in Washington!"

(I quite understand if this comment fails to appear.)

I got a KneeKong camera -- Paul Simon

Perfect, now I need a refresher on how to pronounce Bokeh!

I've always considered myself a NIGH-Kon guy.

I lived in Japan for many years and picked up the Japanese pronunciation, which now just comes out naturally. In a darkroom course this summer I always got funny looks whenever I said 'neekon.'
But no one commented... or asked why I pronounced it that way. They just moved their eyebrows.

The same thing happens when I say 'toe-yo-tah' instead of 'toy-Yoda.'

In Japanese-to-English transliteration, and "i" is pronounced "ee" (except sometimes when it is part of a vowel pair) and an "o" is pronounced "oh."

If Nikon were a word ("nikon") and not a name ("Nikon"), then the correct Japanese pronunciation everywhere should be "NEE-cone" -- like some cone you may wear on your knee.

Names are different from words. They are pronounced the way the name's owner says they are. In the USA, Nikon USA (the name's owner) says it is "NIGH-kon" -- that is therefore the only correct way to pronounce it in the USA. Nikon's international subsidiaries use other pronunciations in other countries, as is their right.

Even with common nouns, technically incorrect pronunciations may come to be correct in some places. For example, the Japanese word "karaoke" is technically "kara-okay" but in America it has become correct to say "carry-okie." We just have to go with it.

I recall my maternal grandfather, whose origins had been in California long before (and this was itself long ago), speaking of that city as "loss ANguh-lees".

And my paternal grandmother, whose origins were in rural Scotland before extensive travels, used to say "margarine" with a hard G, too - she even retained, until derisively corrected by her progeny, a hard C for "cinema": as, Kinematograph.

I think NICK-on is corrrect everywhere, including Chicago, Mike.

[I'm not going to corrrect that! :-) --Mike]

Add New Orleans to the list. Stationed in Biloxi in the early 60s, not far from the Big Easy, I learned from a native of La to say (what sounds like to me) Naw'lins.

USAF when the draft still existed was a huge mix of regionalities. From a Long Islander:

One of the beautiful things about English, as a language, is its democratic nature. Other languages such as French and Mandarin are regulated and users must abide by its rules. However, English belongs to humanity. Nikon, Nikon, Nikon... it doesn’t matter how you say it, what matters is we are communicating.

"It's just an accepted fact that people from different places can have their own pronunciations for some words."

I'd love to see an American's reaction to a Mancunian saying 'Couldn't'
You'd try your best to figure out whether you'd just been insulted, but you c*** be sure about it

Bravo, Mike. The Brits can't even pronounce English words correctly half the time. "Clerk" and "derby" spring readily to mind. And don't get me started on place names like Greenwich. :-)

I've lived in L.A. since 1941. When I was young, adult locals pronounced it lohs-ANG-a-les. I still do, when I don't say El Lay.

When my father worked uniform, tourists were always asking him directions to Van Nuys (van-naiz) which they called van-new-ez 8-)

Like Porshe vs Porshaa for Porsche. The latter is the correct Swabian pronunciation. :)

A linguist I once took a college course in writing with told the class that names are an exception to normal pronunciation rules. The correct pronunciation is whatever the owner of the name says it is. I.E. There was an attorney I encountered int he course of my state career whose name was spelled Crapser but he said was pronounced Kras-per. I can see why he would prefer that pronunciation and according to my linguist professor, it was his nome so he gets to decide. Based on my professor's rule though I'll have to say that all Americans are wrong whether they say Nick-on or Neigh-kon. The owners of the name are right.

Onto German: "Messsucherkamera" (rangefinder camera); love those three esses.

cool, it means I have always done it right, but that is because the Japanese pronounce it exactly the same way as the Dutch.....

I have this really sick joke I pull on friends: How do you pronounce the capital of Florida, Mee-ami or Migh-ami? They quickly respond one way or the other and I say, “Neither, it’s Tallahassee”

A city by same spelling located in Missouri (the ending “i” pronounced similar to “uh” by my mom) was pronounced always by a another native family member as Mee-am-uh. My now all gone family considered themselves “Southern”.

I know the Japanese pronunciation is knee cone or thereabouts but I will stick with nick on. The mirrorless cameras are the Zed series and the German discount supermarket is lee dull not liddle, although I suspect I may be onto a losing wicket there as they mispronounce their own name in the TV ads.

Forgot to mention. If you want a US city almost no one in the UK Can pronounce correctly then Chicago is your fellow. In the main we say she cargo and the soft ch is almost inaudible to our ears and impossible for our lips to form correctly. Then there's booger. You might suspect my partner is American. Although curiously she says nick on.

The advantage of such a name is that it works in any language. Including the french pronounciation which is diferrent from american or english or japanese (?). That's good for the owner of the name.

Oh, touchè.

Touche, Mike!

Long may the differences in pronunciation and grammar live. Why would anyone expect us all to be the same? The French don't say Paris, they say Pareee, but if I said it the French way in the UK or the USA I would be thought very odd.

Although I'm an American and learned to pronounce Ny-kon when in high school, I have always referred to their underwater cameras as "Nick-onos". No one has objected yet.

Reminds me of the following. Many years ago when I was doing a postdoc in New Brunswick, Canada a group of us (3 postdocs and a PhD student) went to a conference in Ontario. On the drive back (our supervisor was too cheap too fly us out), we spent the night at the student's parent's house in Quebec. We 3 postdocs were from Australia, US, and England. The student's mother couldn't speak English, so she asked her son, with a twinkle in her eye, whether we could understand each other. The 3 of us simultaneously said NO.


My American wife at an English restaurant asked the waiter for some water. Her pronunciation: "wah-der." The waiter's response: "I'm sorry. We don't have any of that"

It was in the early decades of the 20th century. The common pronunciation of angeles in Los Angeles was with a hard G, so the name of the city was pronounced as Loss angle us.

From Wikipedia the Wise (with minor elisions).

"Founded in 1917 as Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha, the company was renamed Nikon Corporation, after its cameras, in 1988.

"The name Nikon, which dates from 1946, sounds like a merging of Nippon Kōgaku ("Japan Optical") and Zeiss's brand Ikon.

"This would cause some early problems in Germany as Zeiss complained that Nikon violated its trademarked camera. From 1963 to 1968 the Nikon F in particular was therefore labeled 'Nikkor'." [From Wikipedia's "Nikon" entry.]

"Japan (Japanese: Nippon or Nihon...formally Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku, lit. "State of Japan") is a sovereign island country in East Asia." [From Wikipedia's "Nippon" entry.]

It's Nippon, folks, except when it's Nihon. Or something else. More pronunciation: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2e/Ja-Nikon.oga

As a native Angelino, I thought I might give you a little more on the name of our fair city. The original name used by the indigenous people of the area seems to have been lost to the mists of time.

The name given by the Mexican settlers who came to the area in the mid-1700s was "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles," (in English, "the town of our lady of the angels," quite a mouthful!) It was shortened at some point, as we Americans tend to do, to simply "Los Angeles."

IMO, the worst mis-pronunciation (now very rarely heard) was "Lahs Angle-us" (with a hard "G.") Rather ugly sounding, it was somewhat common in the immediate post-WWII era, when the area was experiencing tremendous growth. You can hear it now and then in old movies.

Of course, never being content with four syllables when two will do, most of the world now just knows it as "LA."

Wrong debate. The cool kids are arguing about weather you should say zee seven or zed seven.

My pet peeve is 'Lafayette', having had a very incomplete education in French from second through tenth grade and a year in college 50 years ago. To locals in St Louis and North Miss. lă FĀ yet approximates it, not LĂ fī ette . For some reason it just grates.

And do not get me started on Kosciusko, MS (Tadeusz Kościuszko an American revolutionary war hero,Polish). Not only do they use a poor replica of pronunciation they do not know its origins. I polled some of my patients randomly, especially those living closer or in the town. Without fail, they told me it was a Native American name. Chief Kosciusko I guess, from Warsaw. KOZ ē essʼ kō vs I cannot even begin to parse the pronunciation out in Polish. But I can fake the sounds somewhat, having grown up in Pittsburgh.

I cannot speak French much(at all?). A French exchange student guffawed at my speech 30 years ago while some visitors in a national park said 'pas mal' at my pronunciation 20 years ago.

see: https://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?t=306393

Both Nikon USA and Nikon UK are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Japanese Kabushiki-gaisha Nikon.

But the real reason to defer to the nee-kon pronunciation is that it preserves the original intent behind the name - of having it sound similar to the Japanese terms for Japan itself which are pronounced nee-pon or nee-hon.

I actually like learning how all words are pronounced differently, to me it is what makes living life interesting. Just go to different areas of America and ask them how they pronounce 'Pecan'. If the English get high and mighty, have them watch My Fair Lady. When I visited Germany in the 60's, I left the US somewhat fluent in "Hoch Deutsch" and landed in Munich. I may as well have learned a total different language.
Kind of topic, but I found this a long but interesting read https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/09/03/the-mystery-of-people-who-speak-dozens-of-languages

And while we're at it: "like-a" is the name of the first dog launched into orbit while Leica is pronounced more like "leyka" - with the e sounding like it does in mExico.

I always have to cringe when some douchebag says 'cannon' when Canon is what he means.

Mike, you as a Mazda driver might be surprised (or perhaps you already know) at how the Japanese pronounce Mazda. You can find it on the Net but it's pronounced "matsuda". Regarding that part about the Englishman, American and Japanese all understanding each other, well, I wouldn't be too sure about that. I've been to Japan many times and I can tell you if you speak Japanese to a Japanese you will most likely get a very blank face for your efforts. The Chinese language is even worse.


Dear Maiku

This is one of those silly arguments we have to endure nowadays for some reason. The folks who make this argument do not seem to understand how languages work. How do you say McDonalds in Japanese? Ma-ku-do-na-ru-do. Do people come to Japan (or anywhere) else and correct people for not using the proper native pronunciation? Do any words imported from a foreign language that retain their exact native pronunciation? I'd guess very few.


Are they made from alumineeum?

If I (a native British English speaker) were to pronounce 'Paris' In casual English conversation the way a native French speaker would I'd be being absurdly pretentious. So for 'Nikon': it depends who you are and in what context you are speaking.

(But, in fact, it's the way it's pronounced in 'Kodachrome', obvs.)

On top of all that, most Japanese words aren't accented - that is, the different syllables have the same weight. So "neekon" not "NEEkon", for example. And when we Americans do hear what seems to be an accented syllable, it's probably actually a tonal change instead.

The way Paul Simon Says it.
If I was Japanese I would say it differently.
But I'm not, I checked.

> names are an exception to normal pronunciation rules. The
> correct pronunciation is whatever the owner of the name says
> it is.


The UK pronunciation (Nick-on) is actually pretty close to the Japanese one — listen e.g. to the pronunciation of the company's name by a Japanese Nikon employee:


The American pronunciation (Neye-kon) sounds as benighted as saying peye-ano, as if "piano" was assonant with "Miami".

Or saying beye-kini, as if "bikini" was assonant with "bicycle" or "bike".

Or saying eye-diot, as if "idiot" was assonant with "idea".

You have to say Nī-kon, or you can’t sing the Kodachrome song!

Pronouncing "Nikon" is kind of like pronouncing "Hyundai." It's a can of worms. Personally, I shoot Canon and I drive a Subaru. I've successfully avoided the minefield.

You say Cannon, I say Kay-non, let's call the whole thing off.

I've thought about this a few times over the years. Most recently with the unavailing of the Z7 and Z6. I have decide to pronounce it 'neekon.' I know it will get under the skin of friends who use Nikons. If they give me any trouble, I'll just say it is the way it is pronounced in Nippon.

I love that new Canon Aye-D-D. 😂

(Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.) There's enough variation in accent and dialect around the globe for it to be unreasonable, perhaps even impractical, to expect the exact same pronunciation of just about any given word. Listen to someone from France say "Chicago", with the typical French emphasis on the second syllable in a three-syllable word, rather than first and third. Heck, there's a lot of variation in accent within most countries.

I think what grates for most non-US listeners on hearing Nigh-kon, and it does every time I hear Paul Simon sing it, is the size of the gap between that particular variant and most of the others. But it's not something I would normally bother to comment on - I'm not going to change anyone's pronunciation and they're not going to change my reaction.

What I do try to do when abroad is adopt local pronunciations, simply to be understood. I have to say toe-may-toe, since you won't understand toh-mar-toe with my accent. But I still can't bring myself to say Nigh-kon when in the US. Just as well I shoot Fuji now rather than Nick-on, and so rarely need to.

I pronounce it the way Paul Simon pronounced it in Kodachrome.

How about NE-kon, like Saint Nikon Metanoeite ("The Preacher of Repentance")?

How do you say "Nambia?"

But, most Americans pronounce is laws-AN-jah-lis, and no one would think that this is a 'wrong' way of pronouncing the name. To complicate matters, almost every time I've heard someone from the UK say Los Angeles, he or she has pronounced it lohz-AN-ja-leez.

At least one American, Arlo Guthrie, pronounced it Lohs-an-JA-leez, and to great rhyming effect.


Nighkon Zee. You've gorra larf!

But we’re all agreed om how you pronounce Canon?

My pet hate.
Sess, Feff, Memm, Nenn, Lell, Rarr, Wubble-wu.

Not to mention the moronic interrogative:

My take is pronouncing "to my best knowledge" is good enough. When I meet people I make sure how their name is pronouced - and use their way. English speaking people, considering the world language today is bad english,often dont bother. (Mumbai - Bombay) As from Sweden being used to non-Swedish languages, for me it is natural to adopt to , for me, strange prenounciation.
When it comes to Nikon and similar - asked a Japanese friend.
The best practice is to use the local's prenounciation. For Los Angeles prenounciation would vary depending who you talk to. Enlish? Spanish?

Any country that calls Leicester 'Lester' and Gloucester 'Gloster', can't decide how to pronounce 'bath' or conjugate the verb 'to be' in any of its many regional dialects*, and adopted a spurious letter 'u' in many words that did not previously require them, such as 'color' and 'flavor', is probably in a weak position to dictate to anyone on pronunciation, spelling or grammar.

An example of the most indecipherable English dialect...

Geordie Lessons

*West country tradition conjugates the very 'to be' thusly...

I be, you be, he be, we be, they be.

And the negative:

I ben't, you ben't etc. (pronounced beent).

Then you have Estuary English (South East) which adopts a similar simplification.

I is, he is, you is, we is, they is.

I ain't, he ain't etc...

And that only covers a handful of the 30 or so recognised regional dialects in England alone. One of the best books on the subject is 'Mother Tongue' by Bill Bryson, who is American (of course).

By comparison, having travelled around at least 20 US states, and only once getting slightly out of my depth in New Jersey, the general uniformity is striking.

"Douche" is pronounced like 'doosh'.

So, how do you pronounce 'Canon'?

Oh, for goodness sake! You say tom-ay-to. If ever so fortunate, I will refer to my Nickon Zed. Are we confused? In any case, there is an extent to which attempting the native pronunciation of common foreign proprietory names is just a bit affected. Folksvaagn, anyone?

This reminds me of an interview I once heard with Arnold Schwarzenegger, where he was asked how to pronounce his surname. His take was that people in different countries pronounced his name differently, but he didn't mind as long as they were saying his name.

Of course the English cannot be taken seriously about names. Beauchamp is pronounced Beech-um, Saint John becomes Sinjin. I grew up with two friends whose last name was Taliaferro. Of course it was pronounced Tolliver.

A few years back Nikon launched a TV campaign for it's mid range DSLR cameras and the on air pronunciation was Nigh-kon.
I would assume their marketing department had some say in how their name was pronounced so at least for the American market that's what I'm going to use.
In the Army I would have called it -. .. -.- --- -. but that's another story.

When I was living in the UK almost everybody asked me how to pronounce my name correctly.

So while there's nothing wrong if you mispronounce someone's name, there's also nothing wrong if you politely ask them if you're not sure how to pronounce it correctly.

After all "Ni" in "Nikon" is from "Nippon"...

[My tax guy's name is "Paulo," and the correct pronunciation is pretty subtle. I tried my best to mimic him, and he smiled and said "no, try again." So he tells everyone his name is "Polo," a word Americans (and Ralph Lauren) already know how to say. --Mike]

Having lived almost 40 years in Japan, I can confirm what Scot says.


Mike, those distributors are mere hirings. What do they know? ;-)


I grew up in New Zealand. We pronounced it Nic-con, but then again we always called Subaru's Su-bar-roo's.

Accents/words/pronunciation are great things. I remember once flying into JFK and being greeted at passport control by what I thought was "Wellcumt'Nork". From later experience I learnt that was probably three words, "Welcome to New York".

I now live in Hong Kong, I find myself repeating what I say at slower pace often. Oh, and here they say 尼孔 for Nikon.

Somewhat relevant:

We stayed at an old country manor house turned B&B in the wilds of Scotland, with a name containing way too many consonants and oddly placed vowels. We asked the young woman at the front desk to pronounce the name, and she did.

Then the phone rang, and she answered it with the name of the place, but pronounced entirely differently.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007