H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
for Pfannenbecker, Crile for Kreil,16 Swope for Schwab, Hite or Hyde for Heid, Andrews for André, Young for Jung and Pence for Pentz.17
The American antipathy to accented letters, mentioned in the chapter on spelling, is particularly noticeable among surnames. An immigrant named Fürst inevitably becomes plain Furst in the United States, and if not the man, then surely his son. Löwe, in the same way, is transformed into Lowe (pro. low),18Lürmann into Lurman, Schön into Schon or Shane, Günther into Ginter, Suplée into Suplee or Supplee, Lüders into Luders, and Brühl into Brill. Even when no accent betrays it, the foreign diphthong is under hard pressure. Thus the German oe disappears and Loeb is changed to Lobe or Laib, Oehler to Ohler, Loeser to Leser, and Schoen to Schon or Shane. In the same way the au in such names as Rosenau changes to aw. So too, the French oi-sound is disposed of, and Dubois is pronounced Doo-bóys and Boileau acquires a first syllable rhyming with toil. So with the kn in the German names of the Knapp class; they are nearly all pronounced, probably by analogy with Knight, as if they began with n. So with sch; Schneider becomes Snyder, Schlegel becomes Slagel, and Schluter becomes Sluter. If a foreigner clings to the original spelling of his name he must usually expect to hear it mispronounced. Roth, in American, quickly becomes Rawth, Ranft is pronounced Ranf; Frémont, losing both accent and the French e, becomes Freemont; the names in -thal take the English th sound; Blum begins to rhyme with dumb; Mann rhymes with van, and Lang with hang; Krantz, Lantz and their cognates with chance; Kurtz with shirts; the first syllable of Gutmann with but; the first of Kahler with bay; the first
Note 16. I suggest that the eminent American surgeon, George W. Crile, may be a descendant of some early Kreil. His mothers name was Deeds. During the World War, when an American officer named Deeds was under attack, it was alleged that the original form of his name was Dietz. [back]
Note 17. A great many more such transliterations and modifications are listed by Faust, op. cit., particularly in his first volume. Others are in Pennsylvania Dutch, by S. S. Haldemann; London, 1872, p. 60 et seq., and in The Origin of Pennsylvania Surnames, by L. Oscar Kuhns, Lippincotts Magazine, March, 1897, p. 395. [back]
Note 18. I lately encountered the following sign in front of an automobile repair shop: