It doesn’t seem like a topic that really needs that much explaining, but after suffering through this weekend’s MotoGP race coverage here in the United States, it would seem there is some confusion on how to properly pronounce “Lorenzo”, as in Jorge Lorenzo’s last name. Continue reading if you want to see a leviathan description of Spanish language and how it relates to motorcycle racing in an admittedly over-the-top and pretentious sort of way.

This Isn’t Mexico
The best place for us to start is with the fact that us Americans, by-in-large, are accustomed to Spanish with a Mexican dialect. This due partially to the fact that a large population of Americans don’t travel to Spain with any sort of regularity, but has more to do with the influx of immigrants from our country’s southern border, who have accustomed us to thinking of Spanish words in a particular way. As such, we are comfortable pronouncing names like Lorenzo, in a way that ends similarly to a fine Italian car: Enzo. This is actually an inaccurate pronunciation, but audibly indistinguishable by many non-spanish speaking Americans (the more proper pronunciation would be Enso, but close enough for government work).

Regardless of this slight mispronunciation, south of the border an American ear is going to have a hard time deciphering between words like casa and caza, as we don’t have the natal predisposition to these different phonemes. Unless you grew up with Spanish being spoken around you, you’re going to hear pretty much the same word, and will have to rely on context to dicypher what’s being said.

The Castillian Lisp
However European Spanish, as a general rule, noticeably differs in the pronunciation of these words, with casa being pronounced as you’d expect with an “s” sound, but with caza being pronounced differently. Replacing the “z” sound is what’s called an unvoiced “th” sound (think, theory, etc). Called the Castillian lisp, this difference in sounding is the case for the majority of Spain, and as such the casual student of European Spanish would pronounce Lorenzo with a “th” sound, or ‘Lorentho’ if we’re spelling things phonetically.

This is the same reason why you will hear the Spanish track of Jerez pronounced “Hereth” (the “j” being properly pronounced as an “h”, and the “z” pronounced as a “th” as we just explained) by international commentators. But these same announcers seem to flub the rule when pronouncing Lorenzo’s last name, so what gives?

As we said before the “th” pronunciation is only a general rule, and there are pockets of Spaniards who ignore this rule completely, or have varying forms of it. Primarily located in southern Spain, we have dialects that practice ceceo, seseo, and distinción dialects. These three dialects vary as to whether they pronounce words like casa and caza the same and with a “th” (ceceo), the same but with an “s” (seseo), or differentiate between the two with “s” and “th” (distinción). While the majority of Spain uses distinción dialects, the southern portion of the country sees the use of ceceo and seseo.

But Wait, There’s More
Knowing which regions uses what dialect helps us understand what people indigenous to that region use in their own speech, and for many linguists this is the measuring stick on how to assess the proper pronunciation of a local word or name. Since Jorge Lorenzo was born on the Palma de Mallorca, one of the Balearic Islands, it’s this geography that seems appropriate when choosing a dialect.

Since nothing is as straight-forward as it should be, it is of course unsurprising that the Balearic Island residents speak with a seseo dialect, and thus use an “s” sound when pronouncing the letter “z”. Thus the phonetic spelling would be “Lorenso” or “Lorenzo” for us Americans who still want hang onto those “z” sounds when speaking Spanish. So in a roundabout way, many MotoGP fans in the US have probably been pronouncing Jorge Lorenzo’s name properly (unless you’ve been calling him George all this time), but didn’t realize the complexity in the vocalization of the Spaniards name. So there you have it, it’s “Lorenso”, not “Lorentho” as we’ve been hearing as of late on certain TV broadcasts that will go unnamed. We hope that settles it, and if not take it from the man himself.

  • joe

    who cares? does lorentho know how to say Rossi?

  • Doctor Jelly

    I’ve been told too that Xaus is pronounced “Chow-s” and not “sauce with a Z”…

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  • Steve

    Yep…I’m sure of it…I could not care less. Let me see If I understand…Haay…DONe, Speeeezzz, Raw SEEEE,………. Yep, I think I’ve got it. Low Rent so….I guess I’m just a fast learner :)

  • wayne

    Okay, I’ll play along: last season I saw several podium interviews (Misano comes to mind) where Rossi, in recapping the race, called him (phonetically) YOR-gay. Do the Italian rules make J into a Y sound, or is Rossi just taking the piss?

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  • Italian is very similar to Spanish so Rossi is pronounced /Γossi/ and italians and spaniards pronounce the same. It’s good to read about how to pronounce Spanish names. I cna help you if you need help with other names.

    Last year I had to listen to the spanish speaker pronouncing “spais” (Spies) ¬¬ so it’s fun to see the Spies blackboard with “Speeeeeezz” on the top.

    Ps: and remember, in Spain we don’t speak like mexicans ;-)

  • jim

    i love how rossi mispronounces jorge .he does it on purpose to piss him off

  • TeeJay

    Rossi’s pronunciation is legendary…ridiculous. Practically he says “Yamakka” instead of “Yamaha” (imagine the right pronunciation here). Does he want to piss of the Iwata House as well? Or he’s just not a linguistic phenomenon…

  • But… what happens with Rossi’s pronounce? In spasnish tv he usually speak good, with italian accent, but good

  • Sean Mitchell

    I for one, was wondering about this, and appreciate the article. Sorry A&R, for all the “who cares” ulgy Americans.

  • patron

    Appologize only for yourself only Sean. We are not all “ulgy” americans.

  • patron

    redundant yes, but not ulgy. hahaha

  • Khayman

    there is only one problem: In USA dosen´t know how to say J sound in Spanish

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  • Kirk

    I actually don’t know any Mexicans but do know Puerto Ricans, Salvadorans, Colombians, etc and my wife is Chilean. There are actually other spanish speaking countries south of Mexico… I’m not so sure Americans are specifically used to hearing Mexicans so much as central and south Americans in general.

  • Ken

    Is it just me or is that pic kinda creepy??

  • Reed

    Thank you for this article!!!!

    Unfortunately after they have corrected the pronunciation, the viewers will no longer have the ability to tell that the announcers have never watched a MotoGp race that did not have Ben Spies in it.

    One more horrible broadcast like that, and I will be attempting to download a Eurosport feeds for the rest of the season.

  • Chuck

    It drives me crazy to hear the “American” announcer butcher a name during a race. Are they listening/watching the same race we are? Have they ever heard of studying up on their craft? If I were going to announce a sporting event you can bet that I would find different resources to listen to other announcers for the correct pronunciation or at least the most commonly accepted pronunciation. Hey Greg White, stop calling him “Vally”, it’s “Mr. Rossi” to you ya tool!

  • Khayman

    But Lorenzo is SPANISH from SPAIN in EUROPE not in South America

  • Steve

    That’s funny! I never gave it much thought when Rossi called him “YOR-gay” but now that you mention it….that’s pretty funny. Rossi is a crack up. And yes…. your right, that picture is creepy. Creepy or not, he (Low Rent so) rode like a demon in Spain. Bravo!

    These times are exciting. It was Rainey, Mamolla, Doohan, Schwantz, Kocinski, Gardner, Spencer and now it’s Rossi, Hayden, Padrosa, YOR-gay, Stoner and Spies. Sit back and enjoy….we are all in for a treat.

  • Dawg

    Just to be pedantic and bloody minded. I’m afraid I need to correct you on your geography. Palma de Mallorca is the name of the capital city of the island of Mallorca.

    In Mallorca they speak Mallorquín. The Mallorquín language shares features with Spanish, French and Catalan and is really a separate language, not a dialect.

    Mallorquín was banned under Franco’s régime and not taught at school during that time, which is part of the reason that the islanders speak mainly mainland Spanish or Castellaño. However, Mallorquín has been very much revived and is now being taught again so when you hear locals talking amongst themselves it could be in Mallorquín not Spanish.

    Complicated? You bet!

  • JMB

    This is a very interesting article. In that video you provided, it sounds to me like Lorenzo is saying “Lorentho”! lol

    This guy agrees:

    I agree the coverage of Jerez was odd. The “narrator” said it two different ways. Have no idea why.

    What really steams me is that Speed (in the USA) has cut out the interviews and podium celebrations. That blows! I wanted to see Lorenzo jump 5 feet in the air off the top step of the podium!

  • JC

    The price we pay for live coverage is that we don’t get to see the interviews. In Europe, ratings are such that BBC and Eurosport can burn 90+ minutes on a motorcycle race, whereas here there is always another NASCAR program waiting in the wings.
    It sucks, but I’d rather watch the race at the same time that the boys are on track and then read the interviews later, rather than having to avoid the internet all day Sunday before I watch the delayed coverage.
    Anyway, Live HD coverage is an improvement, so maybe Speed is starting to see that people like racing with left AND right hand turns. More proof of this is the new web-based Speed2, which will offer coverage of a bunch of non-stock-car racing.

    Oh, and, nice article. I’d wondered about which was correct (but I guess I still do, so…).

  • As long as we’re talking about pronunciation in motorcycles…
    Akrapovic = uh-CRAW-puh-vitch
    Termignoni = terr-min-YO-nee

  • Faceplanter

    Who gives a crap, really. If we have to start pronouncing rider’s names in their regional dialect, then I guess we have to start pronouncing everything that way… Rome is now Roma, Seville is Sevilla, Munich is Munchen, and let’s also bend over backwards for however Qatar, Motegi, Sepang, etc.. are pronounced locally.

    Btw, if you were saying Lorentho, you sounded like a pompous idiot.