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Old 12-17-2010, 09:01 AM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 138
Did the pronunciation of "Genghis" Khan change? If so, when and why

When I was growing up his name was commonly pronounced Gain-gus, but twice in the last week I've heard NPR shows refer to him as Jain-gus. What gives?

(I also thought I knew how to pronounce "Hawaii" and "Pakistan" but now I hear those pronounced differently, too... I just can't keep up!)
Old 12-17-2010, 09:30 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Houston
Posts: 9,348
Until our Mongolian scholars check in, I'll give my opinion. I think that many names of "foreign" people & places we've been using in English-language countries have been pronounced as early explorers & scholars understood them. In some cases, they probably didn't hear what the "natives" were really saying. Also, languages change over time.

It's a smaller world now. Even those of us who remember John Wayne playing Genghis Khan can just check out Youtube.
Old 12-17-2010, 09:49 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2000
Posts: 7,851
Seems to me I've always pronounced with a soft g sound for both syllables - Jenn - Jis. I have no idea where I picked that up. I've also heard hard g variants for a long time, too.
Old 12-17-2010, 09:58 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: London
Posts: 345
Not been to Mongolia, but throughout Central Asia it's pronounced "Chinghis", with a "ch" sound, which I think is also close to the Mongolian pronunciation.

I'd also suspect Bridget is right in that we may have ended up with "Genghis" because of early western visitors hearing it as that and putting it as such into writing (or first being written down that way by someone they then repeated the name to in that way)

Last edited by Hallucinex; 12-17-2010 at 10:02 AM. Reason: [wag: possibly changed in stages? chinghis->jinghis->jenghis->genghis?]
Old 12-17-2010, 10:00 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 658
The only time I ever heard "Jenjis" Khan is back is 2004 when John Kerry ran for president.
Old 12-17-2010, 10:33 AM
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: La Rive Ouest
Posts: 9,704
Originally Posted by Hallucinex View Post
Not been to Mongolia, but throughout Central Asia it's pronounced "Chinghis", with a "ch" sound, which I think is also close to the Mongolian pronunciation.
That's pretty much on the money for a modern Mongolian pronunciation. The modern Mongolian pronunciation of "Khan" now ends in the "-ng" of English hang.
Old 12-17-2010, 10:46 AM
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Chicago,IL
Posts: 14,962
I have an old World Book from 1964 and it gives Genghis with a "soft g." I remember how confused I was as the World Book said soft G while everyone pronounced it with a hard G.
Old 12-17-2010, 10:53 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Lincoln, IL
Posts: 25,195
I've always pronounced it with hard G's, the way this authoritative source does.
Old 12-17-2010, 11:11 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Music City USA
Posts: 14,112
I never heard with a soft G until just this morning on NPR.

I was only half awake and don't remember why they were talking about him today, though.
Old 12-17-2010, 11:12 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Location, Location
Posts: 4,210
Originally Posted by C. Montgomery Burns View Post
The only time I ever heard "Jenjis" Khan is back is 2004 when John Kerry ran for president.
That was definitely the first time I ever heard it. Then some in the media began using his pronunciation........ perhaps so as not to embarass him?
Old 12-17-2010, 11:16 AM
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 909
"Jenghiz Khan" appears to exist as an alternate spelling too.
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