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I have a non-German family name structurally similar to Meyer. People often mispronounce the ey as ay1. Can I use a vowel hiatus to indicate the desired pronunciation with e and y? Is Mёyer correct? I first thought of Meӱer, but ӱseems to be used to indicate an y that replaces ij. But, I have seen little uses of ӱ in German language.

1 Sorry for not using IPA

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  • 1
    Pronouncing names is always difficult - they follow the rules of their native spelling, and sometimes not even that. So either one can change ones name to keep the sound, or keep the spelling - and accept that some people will mis-pronounce it sometimes. That can be a fun conversation starter (if you are relaxed enough about it to handle it the right way) Jan 30 at 13:40
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    Here in Vienna, we have lots of people with Slavic or Hungarian family names without their original diacritical marks (obligatory Telefonbuchpolka link), so you can never be sure how to pronounce c/cz/cs/s/sz/etc. If there were an easy notational solution to this problem, I'm sure we would have found it by now.
    – Heinzi
    Jan 31 at 7:35
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    I do not understand what the intended pronunciation is. Is it French, as if it were méyère?
    – mach
    Jan 31 at 17:18

4 Answers 4

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Comedian Bernhard Hoecker —pronounced Ho-ecker– doesn't want to be called Bernhard Höcker. As oe is also an alternative writing of ö. That's why he writes his name as Hoëcker. Though Höcker would be funny, given that he's a clown and also rather short.

Now people call him Hö-ecker instead because they are unsure were the dots should go.

It's somewhat common for the Umlaut reason above, but also after i as ie is a way to mark a long i. Ferdinand Piëch wrote his name with ë because of that.

But even that ë is uncommon. Many people in Germany don't get what it means and would assume that person is French. You don't have to start with ÿ. Germans would assume it's a weird way to write ü. As y sounds like ü in German anyways.

Here's some French people who took the reverse approach.

In conclusion: Give up.


EDIT: If your name is Dayan you don't have to worry too much as Germans speak that as Da-yan by default. We know who Moshe Dayan was. Also how that name is spoken.

You could write it as Da'yan as well. German speakers are somewhat used to that marking from place names in Israel.

If it's not written in Latin usually so you are free with the transliteration, you could write it as Dajan instead. As we use j instead of y in German if you mean the consonant.

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  • Thank you for your answer. I understand that people wouldn't get the ÿ, but could you still please elaborate on that for completeness' sake? Is there a diacritic tool to break up the e from the y in Meyer?
    – mike
    Jan 30 at 13:51
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    No. German doesn't use any diacritic markers but the Umlaut dots and German speakers are clueless about any other diacritics. That ë is next to unknown already. The best you could do really is using J instead of Y. As that's a consonant. That's why I go as Janka not Yanka. It's the same thing in Hebrew.
    – Janka
    Jan 30 at 14:29
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    "Ferdinand Piëch wrote his name with ë because of that." —— It is unlikely that Ferdinand Piëch chose that spelling of his familiy name, because the family name of his ancestors was already spelled that way in the 19th century, as books from that time that mention members of his family verify.
    – user57303
    Jan 31 at 1:13
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    @mike I agree with Janka's general advice. My two cents: In a semi-formal written context such as e-mail, you could add a suggestion after your signature. For example: Beste Grüße / Mike Meyer / ("Me-yer"). The fact that you are "repeating" your name and it is in quotation marks signifies that you are drawing attention to the pronunciation; this gives the separator - (or maybe ') a fighting chance – and the reader some pause to consider a different pronunciation than they'd initially assumed.
    – marquinho
    Jan 31 at 7:35
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    Gibt es einen historischen Beleg für die Aussprache "Hoh-ecker"? Ich bin hier in der Unibibliothek gerade alle Namenslexia durchgegangen und finde keinen Hinweis auf einen Namen mit dieser Aussprache. Es schient ihn nur als Schreibvariante von Höcker zu geben, mit derselben Aussprache. Ich frage mich, ob der Schauspieler und Komödiant Hoecker diese Aussprache nicht einfach als Bühnennamen und Alleinstellungsmerkmal erfunden hat. Die Familie scheint ja aus dem Frankfurter Raum zu stammen und nicht etwa aus den Niederlanden.
    – user57303
    Jan 31 at 9:08
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Dominique Meyer is a French manager who was director of the famous Wiener Staatsoper in Vienna from 2010 to 2020. His last name is pronounced [mɛˈjɛːɐ̯] since it is a French name. I'm pretty sure that many people in Austria, who have never heard his name, but only read it in the newspaper, mispronounce it as [ˈmaɪ̯ɐ] because Meyer is one of the many variation of the German names Meier, Maier, Mayer, Meyer, Mair, Mayr which all are pronounced the same (as [ˈmaɪ̯ɐ]).

But those people who heard his name on the TV or on the radio, or who even had to deal with him directly, quickly learned how to pronounce his name correctly. People just needed to know that [ˈmaɪ̯ɐ] is wrong and [mɛˈjɛːɐ̯] was correct, that's all. Any additional diacritics would have caused even more confusion, because nobody who is a German native speaker knows how to pronounce ӱ and I'm sure many people would have guessed that Maӱer should be pronounced like Maüer, i.e. as [ˈmayɐ].

So, I think the best is just to tell people how to pronounce your name correctly, but do not change the spelling of your name.

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You want German speakers to pronounce your name correctly, and you are willing to change the spelling of your name (with diacritics) to further that aim. But you can't just invent a new diacritic and expect people to understand you -- if correct pronunciation is your goal, spell your name Meher.

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  • My German grandmother always wrote my name as Meikel to ensure that it was pronounced the English way, not the German way. Jan 31 at 17:22
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If your name is supposed to appear in legal documents such as a passport, your name will be spelled in German documents exactly as it is spelled in the documents of your home country. If a transliteration (from a non-Latin to the Latin alphabet) is necessary, the transliteration follows ISO norms. You cannot choose the spelling of your name.

You can legally change your name only if the name causes you serious disadvantage, for example if it has an obscene meaning and you are being harassed for it. Difficulties in pronunciation and spelling can be a reason for changing your name, if the handicap caused by it is "not insignificant". It is unlikely, though, that you will be allowed a spelling of your name that is equally or almost as difficult as the original one.

If you use your name in documents such as contracts or certificates, it must be written exactly as it appears in your passport, otherwise the document may not be legally valid.

Everywhere else (that is, outside of legal contexts), you can write your name however you want.

There are German names that are written with a diaeresis, such as Piëch or Meÿer, foreign names that are written with a diaeresis in German, such as Noëlle or Croÿ, and so on, so the use of the diaeresis will be familiar to some Germans. Unfortunately the diaeresis does not always signal a vowel hiatus in German above a y, so that spelling will not clearly indicate the pronunciation of your name for most Germans. (See the answer by Hubert Schölnast for more details on this.)

Given the many names of foreign origin in Germany today, many people have to explain the pronunciation of their names. My own name is not German in origin and everyone who sees it for the first time asks me how it is pronounced. It doesn't bother me at all.

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  • "You can legally change your name only if the name causes you serious disadvantage" - well that depends on the country. The rules in Austria or Switzerland differ from the rules in Germany.
    – Hulk
    Jan 31 at 3:47
  • @Hulk As Mike's profile says, he lives in Germany. I don't suppose Swiss and Austrian laws are relevant for him.
    – user57303
    Jan 31 at 11:06
  • "You cannot choose the spelling of your name". Hmm. I have a relative born as a German citizen in Argentina who was officially Riccardo in Argentina and Richard in Germany. If your name is registered with different authorities with different spellings, then you pretty much HAVE to choose the spelling you are going to use. Jan 31 at 17:20
  • @MichaelKay I am not convinced you have managed to present all the relevant facts concerning that special case in your comment.
    – user57303
    Jan 31 at 18:29
  • @Ben, Indeed I made no attempt to do so. Feb 1 at 8:32

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