I was listening to NPR yesterday, and there was a story on about the big toy fair in NYC. One of the people interviewed was an executive with the Danish company LEGO. My son was in the car with me, so we listened intently: he is a huge LEGO fan.
Throughout the piece, the interviewer referred to the gentleman in question, a Senior Vice President at LEGO, as “Soarin’ Torp Laursen.” Drove me nuts.
Søren. The name is Søren. Not “Soarin’.” I’ve heard people who ought to know better refer to the Danish philosopher as “Soarin’ Kierkegaard.” Søren. Søren.
The beginning “s” in Danish has a “z” sound, just as it does in German, Dutch, and pretty much every other Germanic language except for English. The ø sound is similar to the German ö, not exactly the same, but similar. “Sören” would be a rough approximation: certainly much better than “Soarin’.”
I know. You’re probably thinking, “The interviewer was not Danish: how could she be expected to know how to pronounce a Danish name?” Well, the man was right there, and I’m sure they introduced themselves to one another before the interview, and I guarantee you he did not introduce himself as “Soarin’ Torp Laursen.”
I know a Søren. When I met him, I had not seen the name in print before. I said the name back to him until I got it right. It took a few tries, but I guarantee you that not once did my attempts at the name sound anything like “Soarin’.”
A name is important. Not bothering even to try to get someone’s name right is insulting to that person.
Just ask Soarin’ Kierkegaard.