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MMD > Archives > January 1997 > 1997.01.11 > 02Prev  Next

Pronounce 'Rockola' like 'Victrola'?
By Robbie Rhodes

I wrote to the pronunciation editor at Merriam-Webster:

  "The direct ancestor of the jukebox is the coin-operated piano,
   affectionately but improperly called the "nickelodeon"; these jolly
   instruments were made by both Wurlitzer and Seeburg before they
   turned to records.

  "Right around 1940, I believe, a new jukebox name appeared: Rock-o-la.
   Well, we all thought that it was an invented name, like Victrola and
   Coca-Cola).  But it isn't -- it's really the inventor's name: David
   Rockola, a dyed-in-the-wool American inventor of Italian heritage.
   The New York Times had a nice article about this man several years ago.

  "How shall we pronouce the names of the inventor and his jukebox?"

Here's the answer from the dictionary expert:

> Well, this is a poser.  You see, somewhere along the line Mr. Rockola
> modified his name, since 'k' isn't normally a letter found in native
> Italian words.  Perhaps this was done to his family name on Ellis
> Island.  In any case, if the original spelling was "Roccola," the
> pronunciation would be raw-CO-lah or RAW-co-lah: with Italian there is
> no way to tell where the stress goes in a name without asking the
> bearer, although in most cases it falls on the next to last syllable.
> I suspect that the anglicized spelling indicates an anglicized pronunc-
> iation for the New World as well, and the most likely anglicization one
> could choose would be rock-OH-luh.

Robbie Rhodes Etiwanda, Calif.

Key Words in Subject:  like, Pronounce, Rockola, Victrola

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