Pronouncing Typefaces

cosmorphis's picture

I did a search for 'pronunciation' and found a couple forums with dead links. Does anyone know where that forum is which talks about the correct pronunciation of typefaces, or know where on the web I can find more information. Not any typeface in general, but more of a guide on all or a lot of typefaces. Thanks.

thierry blancpain's picture

mp3 of "das kabel", meaning "the cable" - just try to cut "das" away.

i couldnt find one for "univers".

maybe a little help in the case of frutiger: the german word "die frustration" (the same as the english word) has "fru" in it, pronounced similarly in frutiger.

MHSmith's picture

Sorry for Frutiger's Frustration, but U is long in Frutiger and short in Frustration. Same difference as between 'boot' and 'look'. Or is it different in Zurich, Kesh? (Closer to Frutiger's birthplace: my German is of the northern sort.)

SourisNoire's picture

I would have thought you glyph-loving people would jump at the chance to use IPA.
I'd hate to hear the average scot tackle LOO-BAAL-in...

twardoch's picture

You can listen to some typeface pronunciations in the MyFonts podcast:


Nick Cooke's picture

Having read an article in the September issue of Computer Arts Magazine (UK), I was amused to read Jason Arber's comments regarding the name of my typeface Chevin. He reckons that – "my grandmother could think of a better name than this bizarre contraction of Chav and Kevin".

I hadn't thought of that when I named it – it's actually named after the hill that overlooks the town where I live, as I couldn't think of a name and looked out of the window and thought 'That'll do'.

– See the time, effort and complicated tought processes we type designers put in to come up with a catchy name?

BTW it's pronounced 'Shevin' as in shout, not Chevin as in Charles. Oh, and while I'm at it; Houschka is pronounced 'Hooshka', not as in house.

Nick Cooke

MHSmith's picture

Here's a nice one, picked from the Bitstream song: Eurostile. Looks easy but... ever noticed it's stile with i, not y? That means it's Italian. So (deep breath): AY-oo-roh-STEE-lay!

pattyfab's picture

Nobel: NO-bull or no-BELL?

MHSmith's picture

Hmm. Never thought of this, but if it's named after Alfred Nobel, born in Stockholm, it should be... NOO-bull.

Eric_West's picture

Someone with authorization needs to put a Pronunciation link at the Wiki start page.

Jongseong's picture

I share SourisNoire's surprise that no one is jumping at the chance to use those IPA glyphs. Here is my take. I added what I took to be the original languages in parentheses. Of course, in English pronunciation, these will all be appropriately anglicised. I myself anglicise the words heavily when speaking in English. I must say though that I have hardly ever had the opportunity to pronounce many of these names in real life.

I made no effort to reflect regional variances in pronunciation (e.g. the dozens of varieties of Swiss German). Please correct me if you find mistakes.

Akzidenz Grotesk [ˈak.ʦɪ.dənʦ ɡʁo.ˈtɛsk] (German)
Avenir [av.ˈniʁ] (French)
Benguiat [ˈben.ɡæt] (English)
Berthold [ˈbɛɐ.tolt] (German)
Enschede [ˈɛn.sxə.deː] (Dutch)
Fraktur [ˈfʁak.tʊɐ] (German)
Frutiger [ˈfʁʊ.tɪ.ɡɐ] (German)
Garamond [ɡa.ʁa.ˈmõ] (French)
Gill [ɡɪl] (English)
Goudy [ˈɡaʊ.di] (English)
Kabel [ˈka.bəl] (German)
neue [ˈnɔʏ.ə] (German)
Peignot [pɛ.ˈɲo] (French)
Sabon [sa.ˈbõ] (French)
Tschichold [ʧɪ.xolt] (German)
Univers [ˈvɛʁ] (French)
Veljović [ˈve.ʎo.viʨ] (Serbian)
Zapf [ʦapf] (German)

Grot Esqué's picture

I’m no swede but I say no-Bell.

MHSmith's picture

Considering the font itself isn't Swedish, I must admit NOO-bull would be overdoing things a bit... So that leaves us with the Dutch pronunciation in memory of S.J. de Roos, and plain Font Bureau English. Which wouldn't make much difference.

Grot Esqué's picture

Considering the font itself isn’t Swedish

That’s what counts?

What if I made a font called Tschichold. Should it be pronounced like an average Finn would?

MHSmith's picture

Shouldn’t it? I suppose whoever designed the typeface and named it should know best. Which doesn't mean you should pronounce the French word Univers with a German-Swiss accent... Just splitting hairs for fun, you know. Nobel is a household word anyway in any country so the font can follow local custom too.

Tschichold would be a problem to transpose into plain Finnish phonetics wouldn't it (Sisold?)? But I know you're good at languages and would get the German pronunciation right. Anyway, if you named a font after Tschichold, you would be infringing Presence Typo copyright. Unless the court buys the argument that your Tschichold is pronounced differently :)

William Berkson's picture

Jongseong, I think you are right that pronounciation in many languages can only be done properly by using phonetic symbols--or by explaining which English letters you are going to use represent a specific sound or phonetic symbol.

However, as most people don't know the phonetic symbols--I only know a few--I think it is just too complicated to try to represent pronounciation in original languages accurately. What those who contribute to the wiki could do very helpfully is to indicate an appropriate or acceptable English pronounciation.

For example if you ask Zapf, my guess is that he would find zapf, with the z as in zoo and the a in father an acceptable English variant. But probably z as in zoo and a as in cat less acceptable. If Dan can ask Zapf--who has taught to English speaking students so he would have dealt with the issue--that would settle it.

An example of the difficulty of doing phonetics is your phonetic version of German names. You use the 'schwa', the upside down e that represents a sound* common in English and Hebrew. However, if I'm not mistaken the schwa is isn't officially part of German. So using it to represent German names is already 'Anglicizing' them. Of course there are many dialects and pronounciations of German, so it may be accurate in some, but I don't think in official 'high German'. Perhaps some German speakers who know phonetics can enlighten us on contemporary German pronunciation. --But it is an endless discussion, as this thread shows.

*In English, the schwa is the sound of the 'e' in 'the man'.

MHSmith's picture

The schwa is perfectly OK in Kabel and Neue, but in Akzidenz I rather think the stress is on the end, like this [ak.ʦɪ.ˈdɛnʦ ɡʁo.ˈtɛsk]. I may be proved wrong by a genuinely German forum-goer.

Typing in IPA is fun, but isn't it awfully time-consuming? I cheated for this post, it's all copy-pasted, thanks Jongseong.

Jongseong's picture

MHSmith, you're probably right about the stress being on the end in Akzidenz. That's why I probably should have had a disclaimer that I don't speak German (or Dutch or Serbian for that matter)--it's all educated guesswork.

I happen to be interested in pronunciation issues because when I write foreign proper names in Korean in the hangul alphabet, I have to know approximately how they are pronounced so I can transcribe them correctly. And I've found there is just no entirely satisfactory way of communicating pronunciations in writing, especially when different languages are involved. Things like regional variations in pronunciation in both the source and target languages, the degree to which the pronunciation should be adapted to the sound system of the target language...

So it's a hopeless task. But I'm used to the IPA (most dictionaries I have use modified versions of it), and they are certainly fun to type.

By the way, I did study Swedish in university and 'no-BELL' sounds like a perfectly good approximation of how Nobel would be pronounced in Swedish.

MHSmith's picture

Fascinating. I wish I knew more about Asian languages and scripts. But there's plenty of fun in our own little regional variations in the use of the Latin alphabet. About Nobel, shouldn't the O sound like a long OO even without receiving the stress? I admit my notions of Swedish are recent and vague. And about source and target languages, I have realised after a moment that my own proposals for pronouncing fonts were biased by British usage. When I say a cat, it may sound more or less like Zapf, but a Texan would disagree with my transcription.

Time for bed now in our corner of the world.

thierry blancpain's picture

«MHSmith, you’re probably right about the stress being on the end in Akzidenz.»

for the e, i'd rather say the sound like the e of "dentist".

but you're right, im pronouncing frutiger like i'd do in swiss-german, not high-german, where the u gets alot more emphasis than in swiss-german. i pronounce the u closed if that makes sense, and yes, there are so many swiss-german accents anyway. i grew up in zurich which has a short and un-melodical sound while frutiger grew up in the mountain region near berne (interlaken iirc), which features a very melodical sound.

Jongseong's picture

About Nobel, shouldn’t the O sound like a long OO even without receiving the stress?

Yes, you're right. According to my dictionary, it should be [nʊ.ˈbɛl], so the O sound is similar to the English long OO in quality, although not in quantity, as it is short, not long. I just meant it's a lot closer to 'no-BELL' than to the word 'noble'.

MHSmith's picture

A couple more before this thread dies out completely. Don't think they've been mentioned yet.

Poppl Exquisit is Ex-kvi-ZEET.
And R. Excoffon's Chambord is Shom-BORE (in case someone decides to digitise it).

Bleisetzer's picture

Its the first time I understood the acronym "rofl".
(I never ever thought about the problems you guy might have to pronounce german words, sorry).

But I like your olympic thinking: important is to be part of it, right?

Best regards from Germany
(I am joking and its phantastic from you guys to try to understand the difficult pronounciation of german words)


Eric_West's picture

Ooo ooo... here's one... Carolingian as in Carolingian scripts.

dezcom's picture

Pronownce the "Car" like they do in Boston" then "row" as in boat then Lingion.


Bleisetzer's picture

Send a list with all german font names and I read and speak it to a wave file to be downloaded on my website.

I see it seems to be important for you.

Okay: Where is the list?


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