My name is obviously problematic for English speakers (or indeed for Russian speakers), so I’m just putting this up for future reference.
In Russian, my surname is Иосад, pronounced in Modern Standard Russian as something like [i.aˈsat] — that’s two onsetless syllables in a row, plus final devoicing. English speakers rightly ignore the final devoicing, but the two first syllables can still be a problem. The suggested version for English speakers is [ˈjɔːsəd], with the vowel of thought.
In a sense, this is nothing but reverting to the historical origins of the name. It is originally Jewish, possibly deriving from Hebrew יסד, and pronounced with an initial [j]. In pre-Revolutionary Russia, ‘my’ version of the name would have been written Iосадъ, because of the rule that prohibited writing any version of И (including Й, the expected spelling for [j]) before a vowel (see e.g. this Wikipedia page. After the spelling reform which abolished I/i in Cyrillic, the name was automatically respelled as Иосад rather than the more correct Йосад. (The same fate befell the words for ion and iodine, which are still spelt ион and, occasionally, иод, despite being pronounced with [j].) I suppose at some stage my family gave up on correcting people and adopted the spelling pronunciation. So, now you know.
Thanks to David Erschler for help with the Hebrew.← Back to main page