Briefly noted: pronouncing Lutz

A note on the pronunciation of actor/model Kellan Lutz’s family name. This is so uncontroversial that sources seem never to comment on it: it’s /lʌts/, with the vowel /ʌ/ of luck. But where I grew up, in Pennsylvania Dutch (i.e., Pennsylvania German) country, where there were a great many people with the family name Lutz, it was uniformly pronounced /lʊts/, with the vowel/ʊ/ of look — following German pronunciation rather than the English spelling.

The difference is systematic, but with complications. Take the name of the town Kutztown, roughly halfway between Reading and Allentown (and the site of Kutztown State, now a branch of Penn State University). The only correct local pronunciation has /kʊts/ as its first syllable; outsiders who say /kʌts/ are speaking risibly, since /kʌts/ (usually spelled kutz and homophonous with standard English cuts) is Pennsylvania Dutch English for the a verb meaning ‘vomit, puke’, or the corresponding noun.

So it is with the regional name for a Christmas village, or crêche, which is putz /pʊts/. The pronunciation /pʌts/ would be risible, because it represents Yiddish English putz ‘penis’ or ‘idiot, asshole’. You don’t want to erect a penis for the baby Jesus.

One Response to “Briefly noted: pronouncing Lutz”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    There’s a major league pitcher )currently with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he’s played for a number of teams) named J. J. Putz, and announcers have displayed some uncertainty in the past as to how his surname is to be pronounced; they seem to have settled on /pʊts/, presumably for the same reason. (It’s not clear to me, in any case, why the Yiddish word isn’t pronounced that way.)

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