If you live in America and have been paying attention to the 2018 Olympics at all, you have no doubt heard the name of the host city “Pyeongchang” repeated endlessly. And by repeated, I mean purposefully mispronounced by NBC.
See, there’s been some confusion regarding how to say, “Pyeongchang,” and as a result, earlier this week the Asian American Journalists Association set the record straight.
Rather than “pyeong” as in “song” and “chayng” as in “P.F. Chang,” the proper pronunciation is “pyung- ch-ah-ng.” You can find a number of other video tutorials on the subject here, here, here, and here. Seems simple enough, right? Apparently not! As the Washington Post highlighted today, NBC has actually made it its official policy to keep using the wrong pronunciation. The paper’s Erik Wemple dug up a November article from Sports Business Journal laying this out:
As it turns out, NBC’s official position is “chayng” (“bang”), according to Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Broadcasting and Sports. It was a relatively recent decision, he said, after some debate internally.
“It’s cleaner,” he said.
Nice try, Mark LaZarius. The report mentioned rumors that NBC initially attempted to have the official pronunciation be the correct one, but changed course after attempts to train people to use the correct pronunciation failed.
An NBC spokesperson told Wemple, “We heard a variety of ways to say Pyeongchang during our preparation for the Games, and ultimately decided on the version in which the second syllable sounds like ‘twang.’” Which is weird, because all those videos I linked to have the exact same pronunciation!
You know what’s even “cleaner” than willfully mispronouncing the name of a city for absolutely no reason other than laziness or perhaps a subconscious impulse to assert Americanness at any given moment? Pronouncing “Pyeongchang” correctly, even if it takes a few practice runs because language is a learning process. It’s never too late to change, Major Lazer.
Correction, 11:14 PM: This post inaccurately stylized the spelling of “Pyeongchang” as the Olympics does for its branding (“PyeongChang”).