When I was researching the etymology of blasé yesterday, I found an interesting tidbit about historical pronunciation of Don Juan. Today, most English speakers say something sounding like Don Wan, although there's been an increasing amount of people saying don hwan because of familiarity with Spanish. However, in Lord Byron's version of the Spanish story (the first major English adaptation), he rhymes the name with words like ruin and true one, leading linguists to believe that he meant it to be pronounced with three syllables, as don jew-ahn or don zhu-wan. Apparently this was an intentional literary device meant to highlight the irony of an uneducated, rustic narrator telling a grand, cosmopolitan tale, but it seems like some people genuinely did pronounce it that way for a while. Byron also rhymed the city name Seville (which is supposed to sound like se-bee-ya in Spanish) with "uncivil" and the Guadalquivir river with the word "river", despite it being supposed to end with a quiveer sound.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University, where I founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. I also have disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.