Phil on the Tour de Franth

OK, these are small things. But: Yesterday we noted Phil’s insistence on pronouncing Alejandro (ah-lay-HAHN-droh to most English speakers trying to respect the name’s Spanish origin) as “Alethandro.” At first, you think, no, he can’t really be saying that. But he is, most of the time, and he persists no matter how many times his broadcast partner, Paul Sherwen, gives the correct (or at least less ridiculous) pronunciation.

But there’s a method to Phil’s lisping. When he says the name of Juan Mauricio Soler, the climber who won last year’s Tour King of the Mountains competition, he usually makes it “Mau-REE-thee-oh.” When I heard him saying this last year, I wondered whether he was on to some unique personal pronunciation of the guy’s name. Sometimes, though, he would make it “Mau-REE-tsee-oh” (as Sherwen does). I can’t figure any reason it would be anything other than “Mau-REE-see-oh.”

One can only guess that somewhere in the dim past, Phil decided or told that Spanish “j” and “c” are pronounced “th” except when you want to throw in some random consonant sound. What’s amazing to me is that for as long as the guy has been working bicycle racing, no one’s been able to correct him.

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3 Replies to “Phil on the Tour de Franth”

  1. It’s even more complicated then that, I think. European Spanish speakers tend to use “th” for “s”, so “house” (casa) is pronounced “cathu” (using the u for a schwa). More on ‘Castellano vs. Español’ is here: .
    I think Liggett 1) Thinks of him as Alessandro Valverde (there are tons of Alessandros in the peloton), then 2) Euro-cizes the “ss” that only Phil puts in his name, resulting in “Aluthawndro”.

  2. Remember Guillermo Vilas, the great Argentine clay-court master? Back when I was a kid armed with two or three semesters of high school Spanish, as taught in California, I was aghast to hear the tennis announcers — I’m guessing Summerall and Trabert on CBS, calling the US Open — pronounce his name “Gee (that’s a hard g)-sher-mo,” not “Gee-yair-mo,” clearly unaware the Spanish ll is pronounced like an English y. I took this outrage to my Spanish teacher, who told me about castellano del Río de la Plata, the Spanish of Buenos Aires. Darned if those TV guys didn’t have it right.

  3. Isn’t it just the Castillian Spanish “c” and “z” that is pronounced as a “th” sound? For example, they say “Bar-thelona”, but i’ve heard cervesa pronounced “ther-vesa”, with only the first letter as a “th”, the “s” sounding like ‘s’. But maybe even in Spain there are regional differences!

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