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June 6, 1977

Pronunciation of Dr Georges Guillain's Name

JAMA. 1977;237(23):2470. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270500022009

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To the Editor.—  The mispronunciation of Dr Georges Guillain's name by English-speaking physicians has bothered me for many years. Even the medical dictionaries (eg, Dorland's) give the pronunciation as "ge-yan," which is incorrect.This pronunciation is based on a misconception that all ill sounds in French are "liquid." Prominent exceptions are mille, ville, tranquil, and their derivatives (eg, million, village). In all these cases, the sound is the hard L (similar, but not exactly the same, as in English).Furthermore, proper names, as in almost all languages, do not follow any rule (eg, the English name Chaulmundely, which is pronounced "Chumly," or St John, pronounced "Sinjin").I was Dr Guillain's extern in 1939, and I never heard him called anything but "ghee-lain" (with the final ain nasalized).If Guillain wanted his name pronounced thus, why should we insist on changing it?