How Do You Pronounce "Gbagbo"?

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
April 5 2011 11:19 AM

How Do You Pronounce "Gbagbo"?

Today in the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan, strongman LaurentGbagbo is "huddled in a bunker with his family", accordingto the AP , and seeking to negotiate the terms of his surrender. (Gbagbo hasrefused to step down as president after losing the election last November.) Howexactly do you pronounce Gbagbo ?


When Brow Beat called the Ivorian embassy in WashingtonD.C. this morning, the person who answered said that "we pronounce it in French" (the officiallanguage of the Ivory Coast) that is, with a silent initial g : BAG-bo .


UPenn professor MarkLiberman offers a slightly more complex discussion onhis Language Log blog. Gbagbo is a native of Gagnoa , which would mean that hislast name presumably comes from the Gagnoa Bété language. Languages in that family (Eastern Kru) often have consonant soundsthat involve two simultaneous articulations, one with closed lips and one withthe tongue against the soft palate.

The gb sound thatbegins Gbagbo is a bit like the gu sound that begins the English word guava one part of the sound is made by pressingthe back of the tongueagainst the soft palate ( g ) andthe other is made simultaneously withthe lips ( oo ). If you can manageto close your lips fully, without pursing them, you'd be able to makethe gb sound in Gbagbo , too.*

Photograph of Laurent Gbagbo courtesy Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images.

  *Update, April 7, 2011 : This paragraph wasrevised to clarify some technical distinctions in the pronunciation.


Follow  Brow Beat on Twitter . For more culture coverage, like  Slate  Culture  on Facebook.   

Nina Shen Rastogi is a writer and editor, and is also the vice president for content at Figment.



The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee


The Simpsons World App Is Finally Here

I feel like a kid in some kind of store.


Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The Difference Between Being a Hero and an Altruist

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 11:40 AM The U.S. Has Spent $7 Billion Fighting the War on Drugs in Afghanistan. It Hasn’t Worked. 
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
Oct. 22 2014 9:51 AM What Was It Like to Work at NASA During the Challenger and Columbia Disasters?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Oct. 22 2014 6:00 AM Why It’s OK to Ask People What They Do David Plotz talks to two junior staffers about the lessons of Working.
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 9:19 AM Nine Actors Remember Their Famous Horror-Movie Deaths
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 8:43 AM Thunderstruck: Rock Out With Mother Nature’s Evil Side
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 9:39 AM Gertjie and Lammie, a Magical (and Bizarre) Friendship
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.