How do you say Hyundai?

Hyundai i10a Image copyright Hyundai

Hyundai is sponsoring Tate Modern's Turbine Hall for 11 years. But how do you pronounce it, asks Tom de Castella.

Visitors to Tate Modern are used to wrestling with tricky names. Does Paul Klee rhyme with plea or play? Now there is a new challenge. Korean car giant Hyundai is to sponsor the gallery's Turbine Hall from 2015 for the next 11 years, exposing modern art fans to one of the most mispronounced company names in the world. In its own marketing, the firm has riffed on people's phonetic confusion. During the Super Bowl a few years ago, it ran an advert that imagined angry executives at BMW and Lexus screaming the name Hyundai in ever increasing volume. A voiceover signed off: "Win one little award and suddenly everyone gets your name right. It's Hyundai, just like Sunday."

Or is it? It depends where you are, says Jo Kim, a linguist and Korean specialist at the BBC Pronunciation Unit. The original Korean pronunciation is closest to HYUN-day (-hy as in Hugh, -u as in bun, -ay as in day, stressed syllables shown in upper case). Hyundai UK, including its adverts, has a different way of saying it: high-UUN-digh (-igh as in high, -uu as in book, British anglicisation).

Hyundai UK press officer Laura King says this is the traditional British way to say it. But you'll hear two different versions used in the UK HQ, she adds. Those dealing with the domestic market will use the anglicised sound. But employees dealing with the global business will use the Korean version. Hyundai's US operation, true to the Superbowl advert, uses the pronunciation HUN-day (-h as in hot, -u as in bun, -ay as in day, US anglicisation). But in a Californian dealership's Spanish language advert there's another version, sounding something like Han-die.

All clear? That'll be the Daewoo. Which is another question entirely.

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