Silly transliteration

A Bulgarian footballer Bontcho Guentchev played for the English club Ipswich Town from 1992 to 1995. Many people wondered how to pronounce this odd looking name. This strange combination of letters was supplied to the club by the Bulgarian football association. It was supposedly a transliteration of the player’s actual name, which in the Cyrillic alphabet was Бончо Генчев.

This transliteration was unhelpful for English speakers, though it would have been a good choice for French speakers. The trigraph tch tells French speakers that it stands for the sound spelled ch in English, rather than the sound spelled sh. And the u in the sequence gue tells them that the g is pronounced as in English get, rather than as in the English name Geoff. But adding those extra characters just confused English speakers.

The player had no obvious connection with France. Before joining Ipswich, he played only in Bulgaria and then, briefly in Portugal (for Sporting Lisbon). Maybe the transliteration works for Portuguese speakers as well.

News organisations in other countries used transliterations more suited to their own audiences than the official one used in the UK: Bontscho Gentschew in Germany, Boncio Ghenciev in Italy, Bonczo Genczew in Poland.

Nowadays, the player’s Wikipedia entry uses a more sensible English transliteration: Boncho Genchev. And according to the Ipswich Star, a local brewer produces a beer called Boncho named after the player. Beer dedicated to Ipswich Town legend Kevin Beattie will raise money for statue appeal | Ipswich Star

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