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Laos - Pronounce the 'S'? YES!

firsttimer_1980

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  • Added on: June 7th, 2008
Ok, here's the thing. There seems to be two camps backpackers fall into while in Laos. Either they pronounce the "S" or they say "Lao" making them sound somehow more into the locals and smug about their inside knowledge of country.

But the "S" is pronounced in English. Lao is pronounced as such in the Lao language, but it doesn't make any sense to pronounce it as such in English.

First, "Lao" in English refers to the language spoken in Laos, or the people living in Laos (like saying the Canadian people/the American people/the French/the Lao). So saying "I've been to Lao" is like saying "I am going to German" or "I am going to English," or a French dude saying "Je viens de francais."

Second, even if it's true the Lao people say Lao for identifying the name of the country in their own language, would English speakers analogously say "I am going to Deutschland?" When one speaks English, one says the English name for a country, regardless of how it is spoken in the country's native tongue.

Yes, the proper English name of Laos is the Lao PDR, but it doesn't follow that one can just shorten it to "Lao." It is "Lao PEOPLE'S Democratic Republic" -- as in, this Republic belongs to the Lao People. Laos (said with the "S") is still the proper shorthand.

And to top it all off, I was told explicitly by many Lao that the country is pronounced with the "S" in English. They said "Lao" refers to the people, not the country.

How did this happen? Why did it become so fashionable to just say Lao?

Someone else agrees with me.

Dharker

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  • Added on: June 7th, 2008
I'm English and would say Lao (without the s).

I am one of the few people that I've met on my travels who does though, everyone else seems to add the 's'

But then I've noticed on UK TV that they've started to say '7 June' or June 7' rather than manage the extra second it takes to add in the 'th'.

The world is getting stupider by the day, TV doesn't help, neither do magazines. Soon enough people will only use enough words to get by.

On The Apprentice in the UK at the minute there is a guy who had five spelling mistakes on his CV for the show - and this is meant to be the smartest Britain has on offer - a scary state of affairs.

Back to Laos, in English I don't think you say the 's' in North American English you do - there are more North Americans than British so that usage of the language wins out.

firsttimer_1980

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  • Added on: June 7th, 2008
Dude, it doesn't matter that you're from the U.K. and I'm from Canada -- we both speak English. My reasoning for saying Laos with the S is the correct pronunciation has nothing at all to do with different English accents.

In any case, I met lots of North Americans who said "Lao."

cmw1

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  • Added on: June 7th, 2008
I tend to say Lao. Nothing to do with smugness. That just tends to be how I pronounce it.

If people add the 's', well I can not say that I've ever been tied up in knots about it.
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EMH

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  • Added on: June 7th, 2008
I'm not going to pretend to know what the correct pronunciation is. But now I know why that British woman I met recently kept saying she had been to Lao.

billynomates

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  • Added on: June 8th, 2008
In Canada don't they spell 'doughnut' by missing out half of the letters?
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Joey

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  • Added on: June 8th, 2008
English tend to pronounce it "Lao"
American/Canadian "Laos"

It might be time to just, accept it. I don't think there is any hidden dark smug conspiracy.
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xoom

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  • Added on: June 8th, 2008
lol i didn't know this was such a hot topic for some people.

my friend from laos calls himself laotian. he refers to things as 'lao'.

i think the 'correct' way to pronounce something is somewhat influenced by culture. don't some english people say 'slippy' when american people would say 'slippery'? to us, slippery is correct. to them, slippy is correct.

to-may-to, to-mah-to.
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Dharker

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  • Added on: June 8th, 2008
Firsttimer - we may both speak English, but the world over not all English is the same.

American English is very different to mine, second language English too. In fact I'm from Yorkshire, so my English is very different from native Londoners.

Surely this is just a tomato/tomayto debate?

EMH

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  • Added on: June 8th, 2008
So I just met a Brit and a Spaniard who were just traveling in the country that no one can agree on how to pronounce. The Brit called it Lao, the Spaniard Laos.

Anyway, for those of you who say it doesn't matter, I assume you don't care if I come up with new ways to pronounce your country's name???

Madhu

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  • Added on: June 9th, 2008
Blame the french...they changed the original "Lao" to "Laos"
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EMH

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Ah great. I LOVE blaming the French for whatever I can. So much fun...

Michael C

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  • Added on: June 9th, 2008
If you want to feel extra smug, blame the Fren. Because only tourists and Americans pronounce the "ch."

And you'll get bonus smug points if you tell everyone you meet that Lao PDR is so much more authentic than Ratcha Anachak Thai.

Seriously, though, the name for every country varies depending on the language. And it's so situational, yeah? I don't care that they say Amrikee in Amman and Les Etats Unis in Paris.

On the other hand, if you come to Hawai`i you'll get extra special aloha if you spend the time to learn how to pronounce our towns and islands properly. And Japanese people I know wince if you say "Tokyo" with more than two syllables ("kyo" is one quick syllable. To-kyo. Same with Kyo-to. Not, as I grew up saying, To-kee-yo. Oh wee oh).

I digress. Everything is relative. Sometimes you are a total wanker if you try to give a place a local pronunciation, and sometimes you are showing respect.
Michael C

firsttimer_1980

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  • Added on: June 9th, 2008
Dharker: I get what you're saying, but I guess what I am getting at is that (IMO) this Lao/Laos problem isn't a quarky issue relating to minor differences seen between various spoken brands of English (like To-may-to/to-mah-to). Rather, I see this as a structural/linguistic problem. For instance, while US/Canadian English and UK English have different words and pronunciations, we still use the same grammar -- this is what I mean by a structural problem...the way I see it, this Lao/Laos issue is a matter of proper English language usage. While we all speak English differently (albeit you guys do it a little less coherently (jk!)), we still share common foundational rules of language usuage/construction/etc.

Chinamonty

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  • Added on: June 9th, 2008
Its called LaoWo in mandarin. As long as people know where you are referring to then dont stress. I used to think Laos and Lagos were the same place and one turned out to be a city!
I have fun with the Chinese (Zhong Guo Ren) as I call their leader Hu JinTao - Hugh Johnson, to any of them who refer to Kevin Rudd (the Australian Prime Minister as "LuKeWen" which is his adopted Chinese name. We call things by what we are comfortable with I think.
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