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The Wikipedia page for "Naomi (given name)" says "pronounced nay-oh-mee" which is how I pronounce my daughter's name, but quite often people pronounce it "nigh-oh-mee" (that is, with a long "i" instead of a long "a" in the first syllable). Is there a reason why so many people pronounce it in this way? I live near Boston, in case that's a factor.

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Some extended discussion on this here. –  Callithumpian Jan 2 '12 at 23:14
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I'm in the UK, and I'd be quite likely to repeat back "Hi, Nigh-oh-mee!" even if you'd just introduced me to your daughter as Nay-oh-mee. Probably because I'm a lazy "Estuary English" speaker (Americans, read "Valley-speak"). If I can truncate an awkward triphthong into a fairly easy diphthong I will tend to do this unless Naomi complains. –  FumbleFingers Jan 2 '12 at 23:16
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I think FumbleFingers has nailed it. In general, we all gravitate towards whatever is easier to roll off the tongue. In fact, our family's "Nigh-oh-me" is usually just "No-me". And her Dad is a scholar of ancient languages. –  mickeyf Jan 3 '12 at 0:25
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@Fumble: that could be an answer. Admittedly, in Estuary English you're more likely to talk about Dive than Nighomee... –  TimLymington Jan 3 '12 at 0:30
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I am a Naomi of 43 years and have always been called Nigh-oh-mee by most people - All over the U.S., UK, etc. I usually don't notice it anymore, but it still irks me. I just don't understand this strange linguistic phenomenon (which is why I finally googled it tonight!). Even when people read my name, like on my driver's license, they will sometimes say "have a good day NIGH-oh-me." Ergh. It's tempting to move to Germany, or South America, or elsewhere where I've been and had it pronounced "Nah-oh-mee," for some reason that feels acceptable. (cont.) –  user19405 Mar 26 '12 at 23:03
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3 Answers

up vote 18 down vote accepted

I think this is a mild hyperforeignism that comes from an attempt to pronounce “Naomi” more like the original Hebrew: nah-oh-mee [na.o.mi]. The [ao] sequence is uncommon in English—and because there are two separately stressed syllables in this case, they cannot merge into ow [aʊ]. Thus an epenthetic /y/ [j] sound appears, giving nah-yo-mee [na.joʊ.mi]. This is just like someone saying “drawring” instead of “drawing”: the transition between a certain pair of vowels is uncommon, so a consonant appears to simplify pronunciation.

The reason you hear it as nye-oh-mee then becomes clear: an [a] sound followed by a [j] sound approximates the regular English “long I”, which is in fact a diphthong, and not a single vowel. As a similar example, consider the word diode, which could be rendered as dye-ode [daɪ.oʊd], but also as dah-yode [da.joʊd].

So it’s a matter of principle: call your daughter by the name (pronunciation) she was given, but also acknowledge that neither pronunciation is really any more “right” than the other. If someone wants to name their daughter Naomi (or son, whatever, it’s a free country) but pronounce it “squeemdge”, then that’s their problem, and they’ll just have to correct people. Often.

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I've heard at least four pronunciations of "Naomi". As I've indicated, I say "Nay-oh-mee". The second most common is "Nye-oh-mee" (really!). A native Spanish speaker says "Nah-yo-mee" (the epenthetic y sound you suggest). A native Polish speaker says "Nah-oh-mee" (closest to the original Hebrew, perhaps). All this said, now that you've brought this to my attention, I'll listen more carefully for "Nye-oh-mee" versus "Nah-yo-mee". –  Philip Durbin Jan 4 '12 at 4:18
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+1 just for the last sentence (though if we ever meet, I shall certainly say "Hello squeemdge") –  TimLymington Jan 4 '12 at 23:22
    
+1 Great answer. –  Jimi Oke Jan 7 '12 at 17:33
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Nobody has a problem saying “They owe me”, so why would they have a problem here? It’s just sloppiness. –  tchrist May 1 '12 at 14:20
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@tchrist: I don’t understand your comment. My answer claims that the “nigh” pronunciation is epenthesis occurring as a result of trying to follow the original pronunciation. Your example seems…completely unrelated. –  Jon Purdy May 1 '12 at 19:38
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I'm a Naomi and my family pronounce it "Neh-me" or "Naya-me". No one else does though and I've never heard it pronounced this way with any other Naomis! When meeting new people I say "Nay-oh-me". I dislike "Nigh-oh-me" and even more so "Nee-oh-me" which seems to be common here in the UK.

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The name Naomi is commonly pronounced nay-OH-mee in the United States. But as with all Hebrew/Biblical names, one will find several variations in pronunciation since they are not originally English names. Apparently, nigh-OH-mee is also accepted, according to Behind The Name. In my view, this is less common, but I do not have an answer for why some people would choose to pronounce it this way. I grew up in church in Nigeria, and we always called it nah-OH-mee in Sunday School. If you do some research, you will find that this is closer to the actual Hebrew pronunciation.

Another popular Hebrew/Biblical name is Aaron. In America, these days, it is pronounced almost like the name Erin. But some swear by AY- for the first syllable. Apparently, AH- is closer to the original Hebrew.

As with all names, I would go by the commonly accepted pronunciation or stick with how the owner of the name (or their parents) addresses them[selves].

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My wife is named Naomi, and almost every person she has encountered who pronounced it "nigh-OH-mee" was either Jewish from the Northeast U.S. or from the Southern U.S. Most people she has encountered from Central and South America generally conflate her name with "Noemi". –  user362 Jan 3 '12 at 1:02
    
The Hebrew pronunciations are nah-OH-mee and a-ha-RON (long o). –  Monica Cellio Jan 3 '12 at 3:39
    
@MonicaCellio: "nah-oh-MEE," technically (the accent is on the last syllable Biblically, and I think also in modern Hebrew). –  Alex Jan 3 '12 at 4:23
    
@Alex, you're right -- my mistake. –  Monica Cellio Jan 3 '12 at 4:26
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Although our Israeli friends usually call my Naomi just Nomi, or even Omi, accent first syllable, I believe the first vowel is a kamatz katan, and would have been Naw-‘oh-mee (glottal stop) if we've reconstructed Early Hebrew pronunciation correctly. –  Andrew Lazarus Mar 13 '13 at 6:15
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protected by RegDwigнt Sep 30 '13 at 9:57

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