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In Poland and many European countries Jonas is a popular name, spelled slightly differently in each language (Jonasz, Jonàs, Jonáš, Joonas). In most of Europe and Africa it is pronounced with initial /j/ sound (as in yes). But native English speakers use /d͡ʒ/ (joy). Polish people named Jonasz hate it when their name is pronounced this way, as it should be /j/.

How can I write this name to be read with the right sound? I think there are few obvious options:

  1. Spell it Yonas. Is pronounced correctly, but looks a bit weird.

  2. Spell it Ionas. Similar to 1.

  3. Spell it Jonas and correct everyone who dares to pronounce it with /d͡ʒ/.

  4. Write it in Russian alphabet as Йонаш or Ёнаш (would be pronounced correctly by Russians). No one will know how to read it, so they will have to ask for correct pronunciation. Disadvantages include being called a Russian spy and missing the point of even writing the name if no one can read it.

Is there a clever solution I haven't thought of? If not, which options looks best to native English speakers?

  • I wonder how it would be pronounced in France – Chris H Mar 17 '18 at 16:06
  • @ChrisH /ʒɔ.nɑ/, with /ʒ/ as in pleasure – Franz Wexler Mar 17 '18 at 16:10
  • That was my thought too – Chris H Mar 17 '18 at 16:39
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Nothing but Yonas will work here. English speakers will never know to pronounce the letter J any other way than like in judge otherwise. No native words use that spelling for IPA /j/.

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    I reckon most native speakers would expect the name Jan to have /j/ when applied to a man. Having known two people with Jonas as a surname, but pronounced both wrong initially: the first was indeed /j/ but the second was /d͡ʒ/. Both were English themselves. In other words you can't win – Chris H Mar 17 '18 at 16:06
  • @ChrisH The only Jonas that comes to mind is the biblical one who travelled in whales. You can't expect native speakers seeing an English word to imagine it isn't one. – tchrist Mar 17 '18 at 16:08
  • @ChrisH Are you saying that it is possible some English people will pronounce Jonas with /j/? – Franz Wexler Mar 17 '18 at 16:15
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    @FranzWexler only if they've been corrected in the past. As tchrist says, they can't be expected to know at first (and as there are people called Jonas who use /d͡ʒ/ for their own names, there's no hope) – Chris H Mar 17 '18 at 16:34

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