Register Friday | September 21 | 2018

You've Been Mispronouncing Don Juan, Just So You Know

Statue of Don Juan in the square of Refinadores in Seville. 

Apparently there's a movie called "Don Jon" coming out. Based on the trailer, it seems to be about a porn addict who's in love with Scarlett Johansson. It looks kind of bad. 

The only part of the movie I'm interested in is the title—it's a play on Don Juan, fiction's most famous ladies' man immortalized by the eponymous Lord Byron poem. 

Most people mispronounce the name of Byron's hero. This seems like a good time to set the record straight. Usually you'll hear "Don Wan." It's actually pronounced "Don Jew-One." 

I know: weird. But look at the words Byron rhymes with Juan. 

   Mine's Johnson, and my comrade's Juan   
   The other two are women, and the third    
   Is neither man nor woman.' The chief threw on   
   The party a slight glance, then said, 'I have heard   
   Your name before, the second is a new one:....

Never does Byron rhyme Juan was a "wan"-sounding word, like yawn, or dawn. 

The awkward pronunciation is part of a running joke in the poem, in which the narrator anglicizes foreign words, the irony being that the author of an urbane tale about a globe-trotting Lothario is actually a provincial rube. 

So, for example, the poet rhymes Guadalquivir—actually pronounced "quiveer"—with "river". Likewise "Seville"—pronounced "sayvee"—with "uncivil".

So now you can be an awful pedant whenever someone comments on a friend's romantic prowess or mentions a new movie about porn addiction.