July 23rd, 2008
Pronouncing Beijing / having said that
by Barbara Wallraff
James Newton, of Middleton, Wis., writes: “Who put the ‘beige’ in Beijing? Although foreign correspondents for broadcast networks have no trouble with the letter ‘j,’ the anchors are increasingly using the ‘beige’ pronunciation. The first person I heard use it was Dan Rather. Did he invent this pronunciation?”
Dear James: Goodness, no. “Beige-ing” is the old pronunciation -- older, at least, than “Bay-jing.” However, before we said “Beige-ing,” we said (and wrote) “Peking.” Before that, we had “Peiping.” With each change, we’ve come a bit closer to the way Beijingers say the name.
Toni Keim, of Chelsea, Mich., writes: “A few weeks ago I read in your column that you don’t approve of the expression ‘having said that.’ For days, I hung my head in shame because it is an expression that I frequently use. As I thought about substituting ‘however’ or ‘nevertheless,’ as you recommended, I realized that I use ‘having said that’ to mean ‘I’m going to contradict myself now.’ It is to let my listener know that I am of two (or more) minds about something -- either that or to let them know that I’m a flake. The terms ‘however’ and ‘nevertheless’ don’t convey that flakiness. Is there ever a time when ‘having said that’ can be used correctly?”
Dear Toni: If you want people to think you’re flaky, don’t bother using correct English! But maybe what you really want is to sound more relaxed than “however” and “nevertheless” suggest. If so, may I suggest you try “Then again” or “On the other hand”?
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