The Legend of John Cloudy Bucket

We were at the gate in Chicago O’Hare airport one day waiting for a flight to Phoenix when they announced: “Will John Cloudy Bucket come to the gate please”. I turned to my French colleague and said "I guess that’s for you Jean-Claude".

There was a time when he would have stormed to the counter and explained exactly how to pronounce Jean-Claude Bouquet, but now he just sighs and says “I’m Cloudy Bucket”. I see where he’s coming from. Explaining it a thousand times will never change anything, and in the end you get used to hearing their version. I even think it sounds better.

Maybe I can understand their problem. I’ve lived in France and I speak French so I would never make a mistake like that. But I wonder how I get on with names from say Uzbekistan? Working in an airport like O’Hare you probably get a fair assortment of challenging names to read every day.

But I do not understand the lazy radio journalist from the famous broadcaster who talks about French president Nicholas Sarkozy making his name rhyme with cozy. There is simply no excuse for this carelessness. Mr Sarkozy has a fairly high profile job; he is not just a goat cheese exporter from Macedonia on his way to the Goat Cheese Expo in San Diego. He is not even just a rank and file member of the French parliament with a tricky name. He is the President of the French Republic, a post that doesn’t change every year and has a fairly high status.

If you’re not sure how to pronounce the word you could simply ask the first French person you see, hoping she didn’t vote for Ségolène Royal.
Or you could listen to any French radio station and sooner or later they will mention him. These radio stations are mostly streamed through the Internet so you can listen everywhere. And you can also listen to a pronunciation file on the Wikipedia at

Would the famous broadcaster think it reasonable if French radio stations referred to the prime minister of the United Kingdom as Mr Brovven? Actually I think that it sounds better than the real thing. “Brown” sounds like something invented that you find on a board game. "Brovven" is a non-nonsense power broker and statesman.

(Some names and details have been changed.)


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