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Niger and its Pronunciation

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Geography Guy
1175312.  Sun Feb 07, 2016 7:06 am Reply with quote

Niger is an impoverished landlocked nation in West Africa, nearly twice the size of France, with over 17 million people, and just about as dry and Saharan as a country can be. It has a rich, troubled history, and the lowest Human Development Index ranking in the world; half of the country is aged 15 or younger, while 8% are estimated to be in slavery.

And despite all that, the Internet seems to be more focused on how to pronounce the country's name (Exhibits A, B, etc.). Some have been known to go with "nye-jur", though "nee-zhair" is probably more accurate for the former French colony. Understandably, there is a general consensus not to pronounce Niger with a double-g (with the exception of these gentlemen).

Regardless, there is reason to believe that Niger and the similarly-spelt ethnophaulism have quite different etymological histories. The latter is derived from the Spanish "negro" and the French "nègre", meaning "black". These originated from the Latin word for black, which was in fact "niger" (pronunciation unconfirmed). However, the nation of Niger takes its name from the Niger River, which Europeans likely adapted from a local language. The most likely candidate is the translation for "river of rivers", which the mighty Niger certainly was. The Berbers pronounced this "ger-n-ger", while the Tuareg used the similar "egerew n-igerewen".

That six-letter word has caused a stir Down Under as a location name. Since the British supposedly referred to coral outcrops as "ni**erheads", you'll find this island off the coast of Far North Queensland. New Zealand, meanwhile, has a trio of offensively named locales on its South Island.

 
suze
1175369.  Sun Feb 07, 2016 10:06 am Reply with quote

I have little of value to add to your post, but may I congratulate you on getting the word "ethnophaulism" into it?

De facto, don't the media practically always use "nee-ZHAIR" by now? It was "NYE-ja" when I was a younger woman, but there is another issue with that quite apart from it not corresponding to the French. Nigerians (not to be confused with Nigeriens) often refer to their much higher profile country as "Naija", which is pronounced "NYE-ja".

 
PDR
1175370.  Sun Feb 07, 2016 10:09 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
It was "NYE-ja" when I was a younger woman,


You mean it's changed over the last few months?

PDR

 
suze
1175372.  Sun Feb 07, 2016 10:11 am Reply with quote

Flattery will get you everywhere!

But I reckon that the default pronunciation used by the likes of the BBC has been "nee-ZHAIR" since the 90s.

 
PDR
1175375.  Sun Feb 07, 2016 10:15 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Flattery will get you everywhere!


So I was always told, but I've now got six full albums and never noticed the slightest benefit from all those stamps.

PDR

 
duglasbell@hotmail.co.uk
1388133.  Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:44 am Reply with quote

In the late 1950s, shortly before his appointment as presenter of BBC Radio 4's Today programme broadcaster Jack de Manio had been dismissed from one radio position for caling an important radio talk, 'Land of the N****r' rather than 'Land of the Niger'.

 

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