How Do You Pronounce “Bon Iver”?

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 13 2012 6:44 PM

How Do You Pronounce “Bon Iver”?

138864643
Musician Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Vernon won the Grammys for Best Alternative Music Album and Best New Artist.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Last night Bon Iver’s Grammy win for best new artist left many Twitterers asking, “Who Is Bon Iver?“ But judging from the night’s frequent verbal stumbles—even rocker Jack Black mispronounced the name of the Wisconsin indie band—a better question might have been, “How do you pronounce Bon Iver?”

“Bone-ee-VARE.” The name Bon Iver is based on the French bon hiver, meaning “good winter,” but it’s not really French. Songwriter, singer, and founding member Justin Vernon explained the name in an interview with Pitchfork:

When I was living up north I wrote a letter. I’d come across a story about this Alaskan town that the people, the first snow of every year, they come out of their houses and gather in town square. They hug and kiss each other and they say “Bon Iver.” I was like, “whatever that is, that’s cool!” … Then I found out how it’s spelled and it was sort of disappointing. I didn’t like how it looked. It didn’t have any emotion. Looking at it didn’t make any sense. I wanted to look at it and feel something. It was sort of a compromise. I sorta wanted it to be like “Bon Iverre,” sort of like how I saw it, but that didn’t look good either, so I just decided to chop off the “h.”
Advertisement

So it’s not really French, and it’s not really English either—indeed Vernon himself has said, “I don’t mind if people say Bon Eye-ver or Bone-y-ver. It doesn’t bother me. Whatever people end up saying that’s fine.” Still, when Vernon pronounces the name he says “bone-ee-VARE,” and we trust him on that. You can hear Vernon discuss the pronunciation with Stephen Colbert starting at the 3:50 mark below.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Doublex

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Politico Wonders Why Gabby Giffords Is So “Ruthless” on Gun Control

Behold
Sept. 23 2014 4:45 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?