I am not Iranian, but it has always bothered me when Americans and other English-speaking westerners mispronounce the name of the country as “Eye-ran” or describe the Iranian people as “Eye-ranian.”
During the time of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran when Ayatollah Khomeini returned to the country from exile, followed by the subsequent seizure of U.S. hostages at the embassy in Teheran, many American broadcasters pronounced the nation as “Eye-ran.”
Over the years, broadcasters in the west have thankfully stopped mis-pronouncing the name, although it still crops up occasionally.
At first, I though Americans pronounced it wrongly because (prior to Khomeini), most of them knew nothing about Iran and simply followed the ignorant, uninformed voices they heard on mass media.
However, later I decided that this mispronunciation might have been intentional – as a way to show disrespect and contempt to a country that has increasingly become a thorn in the side of the west. And it had nothing to do with “accents” either.
“Eye-ran” and “Eye-ranian” sound contemptible, almost like a menacing threat, in stark contrast to the more placid and pleasant sounding “Eee-rahn.”
To be fair, Iranians and other people in the Middle East, South Asia and other countries mispronounce America as “Amreeka” or derivatives thereof. But this is not done as a sign of disrespect at all, rather it is connected to the grammar and pronunciation of the local languages in these countries.
For example, in Spanish, there is no “J” sound as in English -- when a word or name begins with that letter it is usually silent or more like a ”Y” sound. Hence, Jamaica becomes “Hamaica” and Japan becomes “Hapon” – but in both cases, this is an innocent error that has nothing to do with abusing those nations.
Also, in some non-English languages, people mix up their “V” sounds with “W” and vice versa (in fact, “W” is quite troublesome for many non-Anglophones). So, English names like Victor and Valerie sound like ”Wiktor” and “Walerie.”
Again, this is not an attempt to make fun of those names, rather it is the result of one’s language and customs.
But “Eye-ran” is something else altogether. It is easy for any American to pronounce it correctly – but many choose not to for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with linguistic issues.
If it makes me annoyed and angry, imagine how Iranians must feel.
There are even Facebook sites that address this matter.
One of them clearly states: “This group does not support the government of Iran. It is trying to educate people to pronounce the name of the country correctly. The people of Iran do not represent the government of that country.”
Iran is one of the world's oldest cultures and boasts a fabulous civilization that stretches back thousands of years. Regardless of what you think of their present government, the Iranian people and their language deserve respect and admiration.
Interestingly, a few years ago, two NBA analysts who worked for FOX TV in Los Angeles were suspended for repeatedly mispronouncing Iran and Iranian and “Eye-Ran” and “Eye-Ranian.”
Ralph Lawler and Michael Smith were chastised after an Iranian season ticket-holder for the Los Angeles Clippers team complained about it.
Okay, that’s going too far. I doubt Lawler and Smith meant any harm, they were likely just repeating what they had heard for the past thirty years.
In any case, if “Eee-rahn” is too difficult, just use the other name for the country, Persia. That’s pretty easy to pronounce also.