Spanish sportsmen


What is it about Spanish names that sports commentators can never get them right? For the past four days, not a single BBC sports reporter or commentator has pronounced Sergio García’s first name correctly (let’s leave aside for the moment whether the second name ‘should be’ garssee-a or garthee-a). They seem to have no problem with the name José – the first sound doesn’t come out as a full-bodied velar fricative, but there is an attempt at it – so why have they decided that Sr García’s first name is Italian? Inevitably, they don’t even get it really right as an Italian name either, saying ‘serji-o’ rather than ‘sairjo’, but can the golfer really want them to say it that way? Brian Perkins, the incomparable Radio 4 newsreader, is the only broadcaster I’ve heard all week end pronounce it in a Spanish manner. He ought to live up to his “Dead Ringers” reputation, and deal severely with the sports people!Another golfer whose name is mangled by the reporters and correspondents is Miguel Angel Jiménez. This time it’s the surname that causes the problems. Most often it comes out as ‘HIM-enezz’, but one poor soul last week thought he would try to be clever, and pronounce the final Z as -th (as it should be in Castilian), but he made it sound even more ludicrous: HIMMeneth.

The Head of BBC Sport is Roger Mosey, who according to his BBC biography has a degree in Modern Languages. Perhaps he should put it to use by holding remedial sessions for his staff.


  1. I don’t think it’s just the Spanish names the commentators struggle with!

  2. You say that “They seem to have no problem with the name José – the first sound doesn’t come out as a full-bodied velar fricative, but there is an attempt at it”. Actually the S is almost always voiced (“Hoe-zay”) by English speakers, whereas in Spanish it’s unvoiced.

  3. In response to Nigel, my point was that sports commentators cope with an unusual (for English speakers) sound at the beginning of “José”, so why do they not offer the same courtesy to Sergio García? The voicing of intervocalic S is a different problem.

  4. Hey!…I Googled for sergio garcia, but found your page about sh sportsmen – Linguism…and have to say thanks. nice read. Lilian Garcia

  5. Actually, I heard Renton Laidlaw (long time European Tour commentator) saying that M.A. Jimenez requested that they say his name with the ‘th’ at the end. Apparently, this is the way people in Southern Spain (where he is from) pronounce the z.

  6. BL – In standard Castilian Spanish, the final -Z would be pronounced like an English ‘th’, but in Andalusia (or Andalucía in Spanish), it would be an English ‘s’ sound. Most English commentators have mispronounced Jiménez’s name in a different way: they have stressed the first syllable rather than the second, which is correct (the acute accent over the first ‘e’ gives it away).

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