BLOG Christopher Meredith

NWR Issue 98

How to Pronounce Jyväskylä

 Jyväskylä at Dusk

It was while eating a pizza that I worked out the best way to explain how to pronounce Jyväskylä.

 I was dining alone in Maria’s Pizzeria in the main street, a few hundred metres from the Writers’ House. It’s an unassuming place, mainly used by students. Great value. The pizza was brought to me on a very large plate which you couldn’t see because of the very very large pizza. I don’t like pizza much, but after a holiday in some swanky places in Italy where pizza was the only thing I could afford, I’d got resigned to them. I’d already helped myself to the help-yourself salad and coffee, twice. This thing, the area of a collapsed circus tent, had me worried. 

For a popular place, Maria’s can be surprisingly quiet in the evenings. I supposed that regular customers could only call every couple of months because after eating one of these and rolling home it would be that long before they could get out of the chair again. Luckily there were only a couple of students waiting for their takeaway to witness me staring at the pizza and the pizza staring balefully back.

 With the grim systematic logic of Finnish grammar I began carving it into segments and rolling them up. Imagining that it was the pie-chart of the workloads model for a university department made me feel happier about demolishing it, but even then I was daunted. About half way through it occurred to me that it would be quicker if I rolled pellets of dough and cheese into pencils, made incisions in strategic parts of my body and slid the material directly into my arteries.

 It was this that brought me the great insight that the key to pronouncing the name of this town was in the word ‘cardio-vascular’.

 Listen and learn. Say ‘cardio-vascular’ without the ‘card’. ‘Io-vascular’. Don’t sound the ‘r’ at the end. Make sure the ‘J’ (or the ‘i’) is a good ‘y’ sound, as in ‘your’. For the two y’s in Jyväskylä, think of the French ‘eu’, as in ‘feu’ and then of the French ‘u’, as in ‘aperçu’. To my ear, the ‘y’ sound is midway between these two. The ä’s are short, but nothing like as close to an ‘e’ as the ä you get in German. Now say ‘io-vascular’ again with those changes. There. Jyväskylä. With intensive practice I mastered this in under a week.

Now get me a crane.

Christopher Meredith is the translator of the Welsh-language novel Melog (Mihangel Morgan). His own latest novel is The Book of Idiots, and his forthcoming poetry collection, Air Histories, will be published by Seren this spring. His poem from that collection, ‘Twobeat Deathsong’ will appear in NWR 99 (spring 2013, published on 1 March).

This piece was first published online at Wales Literature Exchange and is published with the kind permission of Wales Literature Exchange.


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