December 2012: A Spyder Dilemma
How’s your French accent? Mine’s awful. Not surprising for someone living in Australia, where French is not spoken.
I am very impressed with French-Canadian company Bombadier Recreational Products ( BRP ), who have rightly become an icon for Canadian business success. They’re a class act. BRP manufactures the Lear Jet, Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea-Doo jet-skis, Can-Am off-road vehicles, Evinrude outboard motors, Rotax engines and... most importantly: the Can-Am Spyder that I ride. BRP makes great equipment. But I have often been annoyed at their persistent protests about how we MUST pronounce their name – they insist that it must be in the French manner, not English.
Bombadier: Is it ‘bom-ba-deer’ ( English ) or ‘bom-bah-dee-ay’ ( French )?
It’s bom-bah-dee-ay, I’m afraid, against all my instincts, and here’s why:
The company was named after Joseph-Armand Bombardier who, in 1937, patented the first snow vehicle, later to become the Ski-Doo. In 1969 the company went public and, although the company name – Bombardier Recreational Products – is definitely in English format and spelling, not French format and spelling, the fact remains that the word ‘Bombardier’ remains a Proper Noun. It’s the name of the company founder. Although this word is also a legitimate English word ( ironically, adopted from the French at about the time that those two nations were aiming the first primitive cannons at each other! ), Proper Nouns must be respected. In this case, Bombardier should be pronounced in the French manner.
Sadly, potential customers living in English-speaking countries – people like me – see the occasional French word in recipes, perhaps, but are unlikely to have the faintest idea of correct French pronunciation anyway, nor the slightest interest in learning it. It’s irrelevant to us. We never need French for anything except trivial things, so our attempts at French pronunciation are almost certain to be wrong, and what French-speaking people living in other parts of the world might think of that is about as relevant as an ashtray on a motorbike. So... it’s inevitable that most native English speakers will pronounce Bombardier in the English manner.
Sorry, Joseph-Armand, please excuse our ignorance.
__ It’s ‘Bom-bah-dee-ay’, ok?
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