By Hamish Johnston
Like many disciplines, physics incorporates words from a number of different languages – and this can often leave a physicist tongue-tied.
How should a native English speaker pronounce Einstein, for example? Should it be the Germanic “Ein-shtein” or the anglicized “Ein-stein”? How should one say De Broglie, Raman or Bernoulli? Should a native English speaker even attempt zitterbewegung, or translate it to “trembling motion”?
I’m sure that some physics terms of English origin are tricky for native speakers of other languages, and their pronunciations are sometimes adjusted accordingly.
Some believe that making an effort to use the original pronunciation shows respect and knowledge of the origin of a word. Others are happy to use the pronunciation they are most comfortable with.
In this week’s Facebook poll, we want to know what you think.
Do you try to pronounce physics terms as they sound in their language of origin?
It depends who I’m speaking to
Have your say by taking part in this week’s Facebook poll. As always, please feel free to explain your answer by posting a comment on Facebook or below this post.
In last week’s poll we asked whether you agree with the principle of academic boycotts. The question arose in response to Stephen Hawking’s decision to boycott a prominent conference in Jerusalem in protest against the policies of the Israeli government. The outcome of the poll was very close, with 51% saying “yes” and the remaining 49% saying “no”. The poll also attracted a lively discussion on our Facebook page, with several people expressing disappointment that Hawking will not be attending the conference in Jerusalem. One Facebook follower, Frank DiSalle, wrote “I view it as an oxymoron. The purpose of attending a scientific convention or seminar is either a worthy one or it is not. Where it is being held is irrelevant.”
Hawking had been set to talk at the 5th annual Israeli Presidential Conference but had changed his mind following correspondence with Palestinian academics. This U-turn disappointed another of our Facebook followers, Jefferson Stafusa Elias Portela, who wrote “I think Hawking should have gone and made the declarations against Israeli politics he meant to do…or not. If other scientists are boycotting it and asking him not to go, his mere presence there would seem to have more of a meaning than anything he said.”
Thank you for your participation in the poll and we hope to hear from you again this week.