Inspired by a question from Matt of Built on Facts, I give you this.


  1. #1 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    August 16, 2008

    And here I always thought it was pronounced “pee-KING,” as in duck.

    I should do one of these for my hometown. TV and news always get it wrong.

  2. #2 greg laden
    August 16, 2008

    The difference between Peking and Beijing is mostly the difference of 400 years of phoneme shifts in the language. Four or five hundred years ago, “Pei-King” or maybe “Bei King” would have been correct and Bei Jing would sound funny.,

    I hasten to add, however, that when we say “The correct Chinese pronunciation” that is a bit funny, because there are many languages and within some languages differences in pronouncement, like anywhere.

    For example, how do you pronounce the ‘r’ in Washington (the cap. of the US)? Well, OK, there’s no ‘r’ there, but where I come from there is. But other Americans don’t know that.

    You’re from Hal Lock? Or is it Hal’s Luck…… (Up near Roo so, or is it Row Zo… ya?)

  3. #3 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    August 16, 2008

    C’mon Greg, I wrote a post about pronouncing Hallock 4 years ago. Weren’t you paying attention? 🙂 Hal-LOCK is how I grew up pronouncing it, but MPR and the local news channels have a pronunciation guide which dictates a clipped “Hallock,” trying to squeeze it into a single syllable.

    As far as Peking/Beijing, I had been under the assumption that Peking was an anglicization of Beijing, and that it was a change made by political agreement following the end of the Cultural Revolution and the opening of trade with China.

  4. #4 greg laden
    August 16, 2008

    Peking is what the western world used, but it was based on an early French (not British) mispronunciation . But the big part of the difference (K vs J) between Peking and Beijing is an authentic sound shift.

  5. #5 Irene Delse
    August 16, 2008

    French speaker here, delurking briefly… A few things:

    1) It’s “Northern Capital”, not “Northern City”.

    2) The English borrowed the transcription Peking from the French in the 18th Century. But at the time, the Northern Chinese did pronounce it more or less “PE-KING”, with a hard K, later softened to a “DJ” sound as in “blue jeans”. Lot of other Chinese words underwent similar changes. For instance the name of the Xinjiang province used to be pronounced”Sinkiang”. Hence its romanization in postal map spelling during the late Qing dynasty.