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Van Gogh Museum Wishes For Artist’s Name To Be Pronounced The Right Way
By Mikelle Leow, 10 Feb 2020
Image via Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
The way you pronounce Vincent van Gogh’s name apparently differs based on where you live. Americans, for instance, are more likely to say “Van Go,” while the British tend to say “Van Goff.” The French often use the term “Van Gog,” and the Japanese find that the phrase “Van Goho” rolls off the tongue most easily.
A new exhibition at London’s South Bank called Meet Vincent van Gogh hasn’t helped with the clarification, as critics pointed out the use of the “Van Go” pronunciation in its audio guide prepared by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
The confusion soon sparked a conversation between Simon Smits, Dutch ambassador to the UK, Adriaan Dönszelmann, managing director of the Van Gogh Museum, and Van Gogh’s great-grandnephew, Willem van Gogh, at a news conference.
The Dutch ambassador said the last name was a strong guttural “khokh,” while the museum’s managing director enunciated it with a softer “hokh.” Van Gogh’s own relative switched from “Go” to “Khokh.”
According to The Times, the Van Gogh Museum has called for art enthusiasts to pronounce the post-Impressionist’s name “in the real Dutch way”: “Van Khokh.”
“I would like to suggest that from now on we will say Van Khokh, the real Dutch way of pronouncing it,” Dönszelmann said, though he mentioned it was “understandable” if people read it in the “way they feel most comfortable.”
Martin Bailey, author of Starry Night: Van Gogh at the Asylum defended to CNN Style that the “English or American… just don’t have that sound,” which explains the varied ways of saying the painter’s name around the world.
He furthered that Van Gogh sometimes signed his paintings with just “Vincent” because “the French and English couldn’t pronounce his name.”
[via CNN Style, cover image via Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)]
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